Artistic expression valuable for stress reduction

There is nothing quite like the rush of applause at the end of a concert. You cut off the air that was supporting the last booming chord and you sit there, frozen, waiting for the conductor to lower their baton. You sit in your chair, red-faced with sweat beading on your forehead under the hot lights. You stay motionless in your own puddle of pride while your ears ring in the silence that precedes the crashing waves of applause. When the baton finally lowers and everyone releases their collective breath, a surge of euphoric hoots and hollers, whistles, bravos and claps fill the room. You stand as an ensemble. You let these waves wash over you. You let yourself breathe in the deep simplicity of artistic expression.

The experience becomes even greater when you descend from the stage and begin mingling with the source of the applause, the audience, spotting familiar faces brimming with joy and congratulations. Friends, family and every relationship in between swarm you, armed with hugs and praise. There is nothing quite like the gratitude that loved ones express, grateful for a pure and rejuvenating experience.

These addictive feelings are just a glimpse of my favorite moments as a student musician as well as what drives me to keep up with art. Having an engaged audience can make or break a concert. Just as an audience is moved by a performance, the performers are moved by the audience. I never quite understood the depth of this feeling until I found myself hopelessly searching for a familiar face at the conclusion of a concert. My parents were both busy at home, and while they promised to stream the concert when they could, there was still an emptiness to the crowd. It worsened when I found myself aimlessly weaving amongst foreign faces with a growing desperation to find any familiar smiles. That was the first concert where my personal audience had been waylaid by work.

It might sound greedy at first, my abhorrence towards my friend’s and family’s absences. But there are more layers to the story. As a musician, I love to play music and listen to the different conversations between instruments in music. I love how music makes me feel, how it can lift spirits and lower them, how it can make you daydream, plan, imagine and think within a single piece or across many movements. I love how music can steal a mind. I love how it can return a mind changed. Mostly, I love how I can share my own obsession with any ear that will listen. When I found myself wandering among unfamiliar people, I thought myself a failure. I couldn’t grant my loved ones access to my auditory paradise. They were too distracted, too busy, too deafened by their own lives to sit still for an hour or so and listen.

I strongly believe that sitting in the presence of an artistic performance of any kind is a cleansing experience. To simply sit and allow art to dictate your mind is, in my opinion, the source of great ideas and solutions. I urge you to put away all distractions, whether they be the vibrations of your buzzing phone or in the constant murmurs in your head. I urge you to attend a concert, an art exhibit, a dance performance or theater production. Let the artist embrace you through sound and sight. Let them heal your omniscient worries or choking responsibilities. Give two hours to support those you love, and let them support you in return. Sit there with nothing in your head and let your senses observe everything happening outside of your mind. Sit there, still and vulnerable, waiting for the baton to drop and the applause to begin. I promise, there is nothing quite like it.

Rachel Gessner ’19 ( is from Plymouth, Minn. She majors in biology and concentrates in environmental science and biomolecular science.