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Interview with M'elle Pirri-Lee

Dublin Core


Interview with M'elle Pirri-Lee




DS 113A: Storytelling Interviewing, Skidmore College.


Oral history




Amanda Peckler


Saratoga Springs -- Beekman Street Arts District -- History


M'elle Pirri-Lee, a licensed physical therapist at the Saratoga Healing Arts Center located right on Beekman Street, takes us into the realm of alternative medicine. She shares the importance and power in healing using methods such as physical therapy especially in times of hardship from her experience helping those with developmental and traumatic physical and emotional experiences. M'elle's narrative is one which brings great value to the evolving community that Beekman Street has always been known for. She also provides us a deeper look into providing and helping upkeep a safe emotional space in her practice and in the world around her.

Date Created



46 minutes

Oral History Item Type Metadata


Amanda Peckler


M'elle Pirri-Lee


62 Beekman Street


47 minutes

Time Summary

Interviewee- M’elle Pirri-Lee
Interviewer- Amanda Peckler
Location of Interview: Saratoga Healing Arts Center on 62 Beekman Street
Date of Interview: 12/3/2016

00:00 Header
00:25 Introduction. Born May 1962 Denver, Colorado.
00:47 Lived in Denver until 9 years old. Grew up w parents and little brother. Parent divorce and mother lost job. Mother and her moved to Schenectady, NY. Family already lived in Northeast.
02:07 At 9 years old in 1st grade, family would travel to Adirondacks. Describes beauty of trees of NE that she wasn’t used to in Colorado.
02:50 Lived in Schenectady until age 22. Moved to Syracuse, Poughkeepsie. 2000 moved to Amsterdam. 2001 moved to town of Glen. Moved to Saratoga a few years later.
03:35 Describes her interest in alternative health and how it led her to Saratoga Springs. Originally on Region’s Street, which used to be Skidmore’s theater where current Bloom yoga studios are.
04:46 Met Joanne Halloran, a naturopathic doctor in Saratoga, who enabled M’elle to start up her private practice.
05:37 Discusses the spiritual healing history of Saratoga and the mineral springs. How it drew people to Saratoga because of the Saratoga Resort and the mineral healing baths.
07:12 Tells us about her specialized practice of myofascial release, similar to a massage bc used hands on body for healing. Discusses what fascia is and its purpose in and on our body.
10:59 Tells story of what inspired/ influenced her into this practice. Picked up on it in P.T school. Put this interest aside after graduating until 9/11. Just married to husband who was in National Guard, got called to be on duty during 9/11. Describes the stress and trauma of the situation being apart from husband. In order to stay busy, she would spend time doing agility classes w/ dog. On her ride home one day after being bombarded by people asking how her husband was doing when she had no way to contact him/ know how he was doing, realized she wants try something “fun and new”. Gets letter about taking classes on myofascial release.
14:44 Worked at a Developmental Center with people with developmental disabilities. Helped w/ those who had limited range of motion physically. Had one patient who was blind & suffered from spastic circumduction gait. Could not walk. Doctor would get mad at M’elle saying she was not “aggressive” enough when treating his range of motion. As gentle as she was, he would whimper and show signs of fear whenever he would hear her coming or hear her voice. When she started using myofascial release concepts and allowed time rather than simply stretching do the work, she saw positive results & less fear and pain felt by patient.
16:59 Husband went to Iraq w/ National Guard Unit. M’elle continued to take classes to keep busy. Set goal to start private practice that would deal solely w myofascial release.
17:56 Discusses how Beekman street in particular enabled her practice to blossom/ be made possible for herself. Found a home on Beekman once she visited the space for the first time. Felt it was an open and warm place, well-suited for the safety she wanted her patients to feel who she aims to help them through the healing they need. Loved the small community of the Arts District.
19:15 15 years ago, movement created to make this area into the “Arts district” to counter the “unsafe” reputation she describes the location had prior due to drugs. The locals wanted to “take back their neighborhood” and create space for artists to come and find live/work situations and produce art. Buildings became reclaimed. Named the building “Saratoga Healing Arts” so, they would fit in with the Arts District.
21:00 Discusses her personal connection to art through the non-traditional and complexity involved with the healing arts. Views every patient as an individual, can’t make assumptions about what they will need. Talks about perspective on different types of healing being their own kind of “art forms”.
22:50 A challenge she runs into on Beekman street is that she doesn’t take insurance & people are not used to that. Parking is also an issue because of restaurants. People who have trouble walking will have issues w/ physical access to getting to practice.
25:16 Agrees with the notion that Beekman street is a location where outsider’s come and find their own place within. Describes the eclectic mix of personalities and neighbors along the street, both in businesses and people who live there. Street fair in June, showcases the community and the artist district.
26:33 Tells story about the time she broke her wrist in May & couldn’t work. Set up a go-fund me account to pay for meals & many friends and neighbors on Beekman donated $$, gift cards, delivered food, help with anything. Felt strong sense of support and being included in the community.
28:40 Describes the openness she sees in the Saratoga area to alternative spiritual practices. Open churches & meditation sessions for anyone no matter their faith or even no-faith. Yoga in the park. Library meditations post 2016 election. Talks about that this is a call for Saratogians to take a stand for what is right, say no to discrimination and racism, and say yes to inclusion.
30:34 Creates a safe space in her practice especially in light of the election. Deals w/ physical trauma which is tied to emotional trauma. Creates a judgement free zone for patients to process whatever emotions may come up during a session. Tries best to keep politics out of the conversations she’ll have during sessions w patients so, that no matter who the person is & who they voted for, it is a safe space for them to process.
32:39 Recounts moments she had to handle situations where patients were emotional during a session. Things like mourning a death of loved one. Had to understand how to handle it if someone is vulnerable especially young people campaigning during the election who felt disenfranchised afterwards.
34:01 “Any emotion you express is a good emotion”
34:17 Discusses the importance of creating a safe emotional space for other human beings. Explains her feelings on those who are in chronic pain are held back from total healing due to this societal trend which encourages us to bottle up our emotions. “Big boys don’t cry.” “Big girls don’t get upset or get angry” There are physical implications tied to containing our emotions. “Issues are in our tissues”
35:48 Words of mentor, John Barnes “If you know what you’re doing before entering the room, you don’t know what you’re doing” (in regards to emotional knowledge of patients beyond their physical condition). Discusses how she handles having patients explain their stories to her that have led them to seek out her practice.
38:43 Always been part of a community even as she moved to a new place bc of family connections. Reflected on her difficult time connecting and believing in the “specifics of the Presbyterian church” which she had to join as a 13 year old girl. Believed in a higher power, but questioned the belief in the father, son, and holy ghost components of the religion. Felt guilty & couldn’t lie. Mother was accepting of this and encouraged her to explore other churches/ places of worship in neighborhood. Never really found anything she felt most connected to, but still remained open until this day.
41:46 Felt part of church community and events & singing. But, reciting prayers she didn’t believe in didn’t sit well with her. Would come to coffee hours and come to services for her joy of music, but never joined church.
43:19 Discusses her love of learning about other religions and cultures. Also, likes to focus on what makes those different practices similar to one another rather than the differences as a way of making the world a better, more harmonious place. “To have small differences in dogma or doctrine become so divisive in our country, I find very sad.”
44:44 Some of the similarities she found as a result of exploring different faiths as a 13 year old girl and throughout her life consist of: there is a higher power no matter what the name is, caring for fellow human beings and animals of this planet, being of service is important, and not judging.
46:00 Shares thoughts on positive experience living and working in Saratoga. Small town w/ many different amenities.
47:14 End


Amanda Peckler, “Interview with M'elle Pirri-Lee,” Skidmore Saratoga Memory Project, accessed May 30, 2024,

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