The Pianist’s Emotions

Our Piano Journey in its Living Context
Written by ANDREW EALES


Emotions are an essential aspect of our basic humanity. But when they are out of balance they can become problematic, with the potential to leave us feeling shipwrecked and adrift.

The Problem for Pianists

Of course this is true for everyone, but for piano players (and performers in general) there can be some additional challenges, and the back-and-forth swing from over-excitement to terrible disappointment can become our daily emotional landscape:

  • We are exposed to powerful and profound emotions, communicated wordlessly by some of the most creative people in history
  • We must engage with our own emotions, those of the composer, and in performance with those of our audiences
  • We work often in solitude, with few alternative emotional outlets beyond musical expression
  • The touring of the concert pianist, and the long, often antisocial hours of teaching can strain our physical and social wellbeing
  • The piano world can be a hyper-competitive one that leaves many with low self-esteem, feelings of inadequacy and a crippling sense of failure

We contend with all these issues as an added factor on our journey through life, alongside the same emotional challenges that everyone else has to cope with in their personal lives, family, security, and health .

It is little wonder that so many pianists sustain significant emotional damage and suffer from mental health problems. A recent survey by The Stage suggested that seven out of ten musicians report mental health problems, while a study conducted by Entertainment Assist in Australia found that musicians are up to ten times more likely to have mental health problems than the general population.

What we need is emotional wisdom: the self-awareness that helps us keep our emotions in check, balanced and healthy.

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