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After visiting Van Gogh and the Seasons at the National Gallery of Victoria and watching teen drama series The 100 on Netflix last week, it triggered a thought about piano as therapy that I want to share...

So, what’s the connection between these two very different topics?

Well to start - in the Van Gogh exhibition, I found myself drawn to pieces painted during his recuperation in the asylum - so colorful yet also somehow exuding beauty and calm.

Next, to a scene in The 100 where Van Gogh’s paintings are paired with Chopin’s Prelude in E-Minor (op. 28 no. 4) during a character’s clinical therapy and recovery.

Van Gogh’s art and that piece of piano are so heartfelt. In fact, since watching I’ve been playing the song often to capture the emotional journey.

Turns out the link between music and positive emotional changes has solid grounding in research - playing music turns out to be one of the main expressive arts therapies.

According to a literature review conducted by Psychotherapy and Counselling Federation of Australia (PACFA), expressive arts therapies are effective for physical and psychological conditions including stress, anxiety, depression, autism, dementia and other illnesses.

Playing the piano offers different physical and physiological benefits to players of all ages. Besides stimulating cognitive and intellectual abilities that I mentioned in the previous blog, it encourages self-expression, emotional fulfillment and self-esteem which are our basic human need [See Maslow Hierarchy of Needs for more details].

I’ve observed that my students often feel more comfortable to open up about feelings after learning piano. It has a calming ability to help reduce our stress and anxiety levels.

I still remember that one my student’s mother said to me, “I don’t need my son to become a concert pianist. I just want him to feel relaxed and happy while playing the piano.”

Music makes us happy, so let us be!

Grace Newstead is a qualified piano teacher based in South Yarra, tutoring in English, Cantonese or Mandarin. To get in touch please click here

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