People find comfort in a variety of ways. They might read, take a walk, or play with a pet. My comfort comes from playing a musical instrument. I began playing piano very late compared to many people. A lot of kids begin playing an instrument at a very young age, whereas I started in March of my fourth grade year.

At first, I played songs from a variety of Alfred’s Basic Piano Library lesson, recital, and music theory books. However, as I got older, I started to transition into playing more traditional classical pieces and modern pop songs. My piano lessons were at 6:30 every Wednesday morning before school, and they were held at my piano teacher’s house. Her piano was beautiful, with the most elegant ivory and ebony keys. Her house was very inviting, and I felt at peace when I played there.

Once a month, on a Saturday, we would gather at her church or at one of her other students’ houses and every student would play a song at a monthly recital. Recitals made me nervous, but as I listened to the other students play, I felt more at ease. Music had a way of doing that to me.

As I got older, I quit lessons, but I still made time to play during the week. Eventually, I quit playing altogether, and I never realized how much it had affected me until I sat down again one day and began to play. Immediately, I felt calm. I became lost in the music, and it felt like I had never quit.

Playing piano ultimately became a de-stressor for me, and it was nice because I could play whatever I wanted. As I grew older and became better at playing piano, I was able to branch out and play songs that were popular in mainstream culture. I began to play more complex classical songs like Für Elise and pieces by Russian pianists. I had an obsession with Harry Potter for a while, and I bought a book that contained almost every song from the movie soundtrack.

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Since I was no longer confined to the songs in my lesson and recital books, I began to see why piano was such an enjoyment for others. What once was a weekly practice routine became a regular therapy session for myself. If I had a stressful day, I would go to my living room, shut the door, and play a song that reflected how I felt.

Playing piano became a regular activity over quarantine. With no one to see, no sports to participate in, and with virtually no schoolwork, I had a lot of time to explore different kinds of songs, and figure out which ones resonated with me the most. When school started again, and the homework began to pile up, I found myself frequently in the living room, pouring my inner stress into the melody of the music.

It wasn’t long before my near daily sessions at the piano were noticed by members of my family. My mom would listen to me play as she cooked dinner, and would hum along to the tune of the song. Sometimes my dad would come and sit in the living room, just wanting to be surrounded by the music. I was never interrupted, as it became normal that whenever I had a bad day I would sit at the piano and play a song.

To this day, I continue to play piano whenever I need to relax. Although it began as a weekly lesson, it has turned into a source of comfort for me that will hopefully last a lifetime.

Ava Gustafson is a senior at Mayo High School. Send comments on teen columns to Jeff Pieters,