The healing power of music


    From Beethoven to the Beatles, music has the unique ability to uplift people’s hearts and provide a sense of hope as they travel on an often-difficult road. Without a doubt, the most rewarding concerts we’ve played over our careers have been during the two years we volunteered at Connecticut Hospice in Branford, Conn. The peaceful, serene and intimate setting overlooking the ocean moved us to write and perform music that would uplift and soothe patients and their families.

    By performing for residents at the nation’s first hospice, we hoped we’d be able to provide a sense of much-welcomed solace. But we had no idea just how much of an effect it was going to have – on patients, their families, and on us. The music, whether it was upbeat or relaxing, had an incredible impact on the patients, and only reinforced our beliefs about its power to heal.

    You could see people’s faces light up as soon as our fingers hit the keys. They hummed and sang along. The songs elicited mixed emotions – from great happiness over hearing a familiar tune, to a deep sadness as they realized that they were nearing the end of their journeys. But even when a song brought up a bittersweet memory, it allowed them to connect with fond memories from their past, or re-experience long-hidden emotions. "As Time Goes By" from Casablanca was a particular favorite, and it seemed to allow people to turn inward and reflect on their lives.

    One patient’s daughter told us that her mother had been a musician decades before, and hearing the piano music transported her back to the happy days of her childhood. Another family member told us that their father looked forward to our weekly performances more than words could ever describe.

    We’ve had doctors tell us they play CDs of our relaxing piano music in the hospital to calm patients before surgery. They say the gentle melodies alleviate anxiety, and that if someone is relaxed, they need less anesthesia. Hearing familiar tunes can trigger strong sensory images and feelings. Music can wrap a person in a calming blanket of memories.

    When our own father was ill, he listened to our music in the hospital, and it brought him a great sense of peace. And for us, his family, it warmed our hearts to know he was experiencing tender memories and feelings, even while he was in great pain.

    We’re convinced that music has an amazing ability to offer a tangible sense of hope and encouragement for people dealing with the difficulties of life and death. Whether it’s coping with the illness of a loved one, or trying to understand a tragedy that doesn’t seem to make any sense at all, people remind us time and again about music’s power to soothe, heal and help them get through difficult times.

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    Tim and Ryan O'Neill
    Tim and Ryan O'Neill have sold more than one million of their relaxing piano CDs. The New Prague, MN, natives have written music for HBO, NBC and ESPN, and have performed for President George H.W. Bush. For more information or to listen to samples of their music, visit Copyright


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