Using classical music to escape the "Inferno" of high school

by Leora Eisenberg, Special to MPR
August 27, 2014

ST. PAUL, Minn. — It's just 7:00 on a Tuesday night and I haven't done my (two hours of) homework yet. It looks like we'll be stuck in traffic for another half an hour at the very least. Not that I'm stressed or anything.

"When are we going to be hooooooome?" I whine. "I have homework to do!"

An essay on the 15th canto of Dante's Inferno, a history research paper, 30 math problems, a chemistry lab, a Spanish practice session on Skype, voice practice, and, if I'm lucky, half an hour of yoga. I repeat, I am definitely not stressed.

My mom — the musical one, the pianist, the piano teacher, the one who always knows what to say — simply says, "listen to the music."

Being a rebellious teenager, I am loathe to actually do what my mother says, but since I can't do my homework in the car and my phone's battery is long dead, I have no choice but to give in.

So I listen to the music.

And for a moment, I remember that homework is not everything, and indeed, I traveled with Liszt through the Inferno. I performed with Khachaturian's saber dancers. I danced across the keyboard as Yundi Li played Chopin's "Fantasie Impromptu."

I just listened to the music, and felt my stress levels subside.

By the time we finally got home, I had traveled to Bald Mountain with Rimsky-Korsakov, played on the Magic Flute with Mozart, and visited the sea with Ravel. It was late, but the music had taken me so many places and had me do so many things, and doing just a few more didn't seem like such work.

After that experience, I knew that I'd found a way to escape my stress. Listening to classical music is a way for me to enjoy life that allows me to get my work done, but not to be over-stressed as I'm doing it. Classical music for me, a busy high-schooler, has become a way to feel accomplished, so to speak: with it, I can do so many things and travel so many places before I even start to do my homework. After a trip to the Inferno, writing a paper on it is so much easier.

Leora Eisenberg is starting 11th grade at Nova Classical Academy in St. Paul. She enjoys doing yoga, learning foreign languages, singing, and experimenting in her kitchen.

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