Classical Music Saved My Life

John A. Sarkett

With special contributors:

James Kent, director, CHOPIN SAVED MY LIFE
Rachel Barton Pine, violinist

Len Mullenger, founder, Music Web International
Nicholas Reed, producer, THE LADY IN NO. 6
Academy Award, Best Documentary, Short Subject)

38 chapters, 204 pages, powerful and moving personal experiences of composers, artists, amateurs, students, teachers, critics, audience.  Amazon Kindle version as well.

Readers say: 

"Beautiful....thank you John Sarkett."  Los Angeles, California

"I read it in two sittings! Extremely enjoyable.  Some of the stories are so very moving and it gives great insight into how difficult it is to be a composer and the travails in finding continued inspiration (I think so many people think you just sit down and write a tune)."  London, England

Take our Quiz, join our list.

Quotes from the book, table of contents follows:

Quotes from Classical Music Saved My Life

Buoyed by the commission, by the prospect of creation, Bartók had literally
left his deathbed to write what many cite as the foremost work of
twentieth-century orchestral repertory.

"I felt I was coming to the end of my life, but now I feel as if
I’m just beginning. I feel as if I’m living my life in reverse."
Minna Keal, composer

As a final act of generosity, Handel left in his will a fair copy
of the Messiah score to the governors of the Foundling Hospital,
thus enabling the charity to continue staging the benefit concerts.
This act saved countless lives.

After the Japan debacle, Horowitz’s manager, Peter Gelb, proposed
making the documentary Vladimir Horowitz: The Last Romantic.
This provided the spark and motivation he needed. Horowitz
left his antidepressants and lost weight, but most important,
he got back to the keyboard. A friend said practicing helped him
keep his grip on reality and helped save his life.

When added up, violinist Bronislaw Huberman had saved the lives
of some 1,000 Jews: 70 musicians at its core, plus their families.

"... it was music and it did things to me that nothing has ever
been able to emulate, no drug, no girl, no amount of money,
none of that. I just knew that was what I wanted to do.”
James Rhodes, pianist

"I think a lot of the kids in my country haven’t found the meaning
of life. They get into drugs and alcohol because they don’t know
what to do with their lives. Music is something that helps avoid
all these things." From documentary,
The Landfill Harmonic

“I had to have a certain amount of illogical faith to continue in
the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles,” she said. “My
primary motivation was sharing music with others, not as another
entertainment option but as something deeper.” Rachel Barton Pine, violinist.

"I have come to love classical and opera an enormous amount and
although I still have much to listen to and much, much more to learn,
every time I sing in this genre -- I literally feel like I’m flying.
There is absolutely no way to describe it. It makes me feel unimaginably
happy and I wish I could live in the scary, nerve-wracking, beautiful
wonderful space I’m in when I’m singing an art song or aria." Anna Mosoriak,

"Listening to music, taking in a show, passing an evening alone
with a piano – these things have all served as constant reminders that
there is too much beauty to quit." Diana C. Hereld, singer and psychologist

"Now when it came to the Ballade, I can look at that piece and say the
Ballade saved me." Paul Murray

“It’s hard to determine what makes a man survive, but I suspect that
the music helps him tremendously. The will to sit behind the piano
again in front of a huge theatre were definitely motives that would
help him to survive.” He continues: “Having learned that his family
is dead, what do you then live for? You live for something that is
your passion. I think that the music played an enormous role in his
survival.” Roman Polanski, Academy Award winning director, The Pianist

“It illustrates the strength of music and how one man’s love of music
helps him survive.....and (portrays) the survival of the human spirit.”
Adrien Brody, Academy Award winning lead actor,
The Pianist

"I feel as if he’s (Mahler) talking to me, living my life, not just his.
I feel like I can see what he sees, the darkest and brightest elements
of this life, the glimmers and shadows and promises of the next one.”
Tim Smith, music critic, Baltimore Sun, and his favorite Mahler:

I am lost to the world, where I used to waste so much time.
It has heard nothing from me for so long that it may very well believe
that I am dead. That is of no consequence to me ... for I really am dead
to the world, dead to the world’s tumult. I rest in a quiet realm.
I live alone in my heaven, in my love and in my song.

Ruckert Lieder, Mahler, “Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen”
“I am Lost to the World”


1. Bartók, Béla: Leaves his death bed to write, in his words, the “life assertion” of the Concerto for Orchestra 11
2. Bliss, Sir Arthur: “The saving power of beauty” 13
3. Handel, Georg Frideric: How Messiah saved orphans’ lives from deprivation and want 18
4. Keal, Minna: A Life in Reverse 22
A retirement gift of music lessons led to a late outpouring of high voltage classical compositions 31
5. Lloyd, George: His music proved a life force of its own 36
“Extraordinary patience and endurance win the day” 45
6. Rachmaninoff, Sergei: His regenerative Piano Concerto No. 2 46
7. Shirley, Ben: “We Need Darkness to See the Stars” 48
8. Barton, Rachel: “Too much yet to do on planet earth to die this young” 51
Rachel Barton Pine on Serving Others through Music: 53
9. Carreras, José: Saving his life the business of doctors, nurses, family, friends and fans 57
10. Golan, Lawrence: “I Was a Bad Kid; How Classical Music Changed My Life” 59
11. Gupta, Vijay: “Music is medicine, music changes us” 65
12. Horowitz, Vladimir: Music vs. purposelessness 70
13. Huberman, Bronislaw: He founds the “Orchestra of Exiles,” saves 1,000 lives 72
From Doris Straus, film producer, Orchestra of Exiles 80
Why is Huberman forgotten? 81
Quotes from and on Huberman 82
The mystery of the stolen Huberman Stradivarius resolved 82
14. Perlman, Itzhak: Music as compensation for life’s inequities 85
15. Rhodes, James: The new “bad boy” of classical says “music saved my life” 86
Classical so out-of-favor it’s now cool.... 94
16. Rosenberger, Carol: “The masterpieces have seen me through recovery” 96
17. Nodine, Robert: A psychiatrist’s personal voyage of discovery 104
18. Palmer, Brian: Empowered, and on high 107
19. Chávez, Favio and the Orchestra of Recycled Instruments of Cateura, Paraguay: Reclaiming and rejuvenating discarded lives 109
20. Dudamel, Gustavo: El Sistema transforming lives in Venezuela 112
21. Lauk, Natalia: “Music is your shelter” 117
22. Marquez, Dinorah: Mixes Classical and Latin to transform young lives 121
23. Grim, the forum-poster: “Music saved my life” 125
24. Miguel: How Music Saved My Life, and Why Music Education Should Be Taken More Seriously 126
25. Mosoriak, Anna: How Music Saved My Life, How I Became Myself 129
26. Catterall, James: It is not unusual to hear someone say, “Music saved my life...” 131
27. Hereld, Diana C.: There is Always Hope: How Music Saved My Life 133
28. Whitfield, Rosanna: Music Saved My Life ... Now I Want To Pass It On! 139
29. Classical KFAC: How Classical Music Changed My Life (humor) 142
FILM 146
30. Sommer, Alice Herz, The Lady in No. 6 (film): “Music is saving me still” 146
Selected Quotes from Alice Herz-Sommer 149
From Nick Reed, producer of The Lady in Number 6 150
31. Helfgott, David: Shine (film): music keeps the mental illness at bay 154
32. Ayers, Nathaniel: The Soloist (film): music as an “invisible pharmaceutical” 159
33. Lawrence, Marjorie, Melody Interrupted (film): Singing for troops catalyzes rebirth for polio-stricken opera star 162
34. Szpilman, Wladyslaw: The Pianist (film): Survival of the human spirit 165
35. Chopin Saved My Life (film): “We are transported to another level of existence” 168
36. Smith, Tim: How Gustav Mahler saved my life, and other reflections on the composer’s 150th birthday 179
37. Iannucci, Armando: Classical “The love of my life,” and book review, Hear Me Out 181
38. Sarkett, John: On Music, Molecules and Kant’s Noumenons 188
Music’s spiritual connection 193
Requiem, Frederick Delius 194
Selected Bibliography 199
About the author 203