Half-watching television last night, I was drawn in by the image of renowned Australian pianist David Helfgott. The program was about Helfgott’s contribution to a study that is showing how music can help relieve stress for children with autism.
The word inspirational is used a lot these days, but there is little about what Helfgott does and says that doesn’t fit this description. Helfgott became a household name following the release of the award-winning movie Shine, which portrays his life story.
Here is a short excerpt from last night’s program:
LEIGH SALES, PRESENTER: If you’ve seen the movie Shine, you know the story of David Helfgott and his struggle with mental illness. His life is an extraordinary testament to the healing power of music. Now the internationally-acclaimed concert pianist is helping young children with severe autism find peace through the classics.
DAVID HELFGOTT, PIANIST: Music’s everything to me. When something clicks, when you get in the zone, you know, it’s a wonderful – you have that wonderful winning feeling, you know. And if you’re sharing with everyone else, they can feel the radiation, feel the – what’s the … ?
GILLIAN HELFGOTT, WIFE: The healing.
DAVID HELFGOTT: The healing or feel the – they can feel what’s happening. They can see if you’re getting inspired a bit, you know. And is it a nice feeling? It’s a nice feeling. Like an athlete when you’re running. … It makes you feel euphoric or accelerated. You can get a high on classical music, natural, you know, that’s better than – much better than smoking or alcohol.
Helfgott was approached to select pieces of music that could be used in musical therapy to help autistic children. His wife says:
And having watched David over so many years that the music was such a healing part of his life, we were delighted to do this. And so David sat down and looked at the music that he felt had a very strong calming effect, and of course, the Pathetique Second Movement is renowned for being one of the most beautiful …
Asked about his motivation for being involved in the program Helfgott said:
If you want to lift yourself up, lift someone else up
A wonderful way to live your life!
Until next time, go well