The Power of Music

It Soothes the Soul but Can Making Music Actually

Guard Against Mental Illness?


How does a full time fourth year university student who is also a professional musician with a full performance schedule at more than 100 concerts annually, stay mentally healthy and not succumb to the pressure?  The inspiring nature of music, that’s how.

Michael Bridge, the Canadian Accordion Champion, winner of the University of Toronto Concerto Competition and winner of the 2013 Stampede Talent Search is also in his final year at U of T, studying music, philosophy and psychology.  As many of his fellow graduating students begin to feel overwhelmed by the mountain of pressure that final exams can bring, Michael embraces the hectic schedule and academic demands of university life.  Add to the academic pressure, the strain of looking for and starting their professional careers and many young people find the stress just too much, but for Michael, the soothing quality of music, plus the reward of performing and the discipline it requires all help him to keep life and his mental health in balance.

In my experience, most artists are very emotional people and that in part is what makes them good musicians.  But it can be this sensitivity that makes them more vulnerable to mental illness.  As a musician, I have spent years learning how to deal with my emotional side and how to stay calm under pressure and it is this highly developed sense of control that allows me to manage multiple demands and rather than succumb to the pressure, my music helps me thrive,” says Bridge. “Plus being surrounded by music, which we all know lifts your spirits, just makes me feel good and that always helps.”

While we all believe that music can positively impact a person’s emotions, their thoughts and actions, Sunnybrook Research Institute Scientist, Dr. Joyce Chen, who studies the effects of music on the brain, confirms it.  “Music can regulate our feelings and our moods and there is a lot of behavioral literature showing that how you feel can influence how you perform and make decisions,” says Dr. Chen.

For Michael Bridge and people like him, it is not just listening to music but the act and discipline of creating it that provides the greatest natural therapy.

On May 2, Michael is joining an all-star lineup of performers at the second annual High Notes for Mental Health concert, a night of music and spoken word that aims to raise awareness and help to de-stigmatize mental health challenges, which is a cause close to Michael’s heart.  “I am happy to participate in the High Notes for Mental Health concert, because we all know someone struggling with a mental health issue and so the more people that reach out for help, the easier it will become for everyone.”

“It will be quite the experience to hear Tchaikovsky’s 1812 overture performed on the accordion which is an instrument I personally always associated with my two uncles getting together after a few beers ,” says Ingrid Taheri, Artistic and Executive Director of High Notes Avante Productions Inc. “The overture is one of Michael’s signature pieces and I wouldn’t be surprised if his performance leads to some aspiring accordion players picking up the instrument after hearing it taking on the role of a whole orchestra. Tchaikovsky is also a composer known to have said that without music he would go insane.”

Taheri was inspired to launch the High Notes concert as a way to raise awareness and de-stigmatize mental illness when a member of her own family suddenly faced their own mental health crisis.  “One in five Canadians will experience mental health challenges in their lifetime and almost everyone has someone in their life who has been touched by this,” she says.  “We need to remove the shame that surrounds a mental illness diagnosis so that more people reach out for help when they need it.  Help is there – you just have to ask for it and telling the stories of the 80 per cent that do get better goes along way in saving lives,” Taheri adds.

The second annual High Notes for Mental Health concert takes place at the Flato Markham Theatre on Saturday, May 2, 2015.  It will be an evening of music, hope and inspiration and will feature a stellar line-up of musical and spoken-word artists, including Royal Canadian Air Farce veteran, Luba Goy as host, acclaimed tenor, Richard Margison and his daughter Lauren Margison, the St. Michael’s Choir School, violist Alex McLeod, pianist Charissa Vandikas, Dr. Rustom Sethna, Chief Psychiatrist, Markham-Stouffville Hospital, Orlando Da Silva, head of the Ontario Bar Association and mental health advocate, Canadian conductor and motivational speaker, Boris Brott, spoken word poet Julie Everson and of course Canadian accordion champion, Michael Bridge.

For more information please call 416.605.8915 or visit our website at www.highnotesavante.ca.  For tickets please call The Markham Flato Theatre at 905.305.SHOW (7469).


Media Contact:

Lisa Boyse




Ingrid Taheri

Artistic & Executive Director, High Notes Avante Productions Inc.