In 2003, Chuck Brown had a lot going on in his life. His father’s health was in decline and had been for a couple years. It seemed like he was suffering setback after setback. This meant that Chuck was spending a good deal of time every day in hospitals, convalescent centers, doctor’s offices and at physical rehab…and therefore, around people whose lives were in some level of crisis. And he began to notice a common thread: “Everywhere people were spending lots of time, especially as their health declined…there was music. People whose active memories had broken down and whose ability to communicate had seemingly completely failed them would begin singing along with songs on the radio from their much younger days. A man who had become unable to take any further nourishment (but who had also asked that no heroic measures be taken to keep him alive) was alone in a room accompanied day and night only by beautiful music playing at a rather high volume on a boom box. It was all really quite striking.”
Chuck Brown had been writing songs at that point for nearly 30 years…releasing two albums of solo piano music along the way, with a third one in the works. Now, if there’s a style of music that travels really well, appealing to all ages and to fans of most musical styles, it has to be solo piano music. The new age style of piano music had taken form in the early 1980s with the release of George Winston’s album, December…a collection of Christmas standards rendered in gentle, flowing piano arrangements released on the newly-formed Windham Hill record label. Others had followed over the years, including John Tesh and Jim Brickman. And Chuck Brown…who had found it a perfect vehicle for his melodic, inspiring compositional style.
He was sitting in his father’s hospital room when the thought came to him: “Why not a gift of music…for those who are going through the kind of struggles that often separate us from human contact? Those who are sick and bed-ridden at the hospital or at home…those who are caring for someone, or who have recently lost someone and are grieving…”. And as he sat in the chair next to his father’s bed, he logged on with his PDA and discovered that the domain name HealingPiano.com was available. He registered it then and there….and over the next few days, put together a simple web site featuring free MP3 downloads of some of his solo piano music.
By this time, his first album (released in 1997) was nearly out of print. His second album had found a friendly audience in new age radio, and he was trying to find time to finish his third album while his father was still around to hear it. Soon he had added 16 songs to the site…and over the next few months, those who had visited the site and downloaded the music started sending in their comments:
“I listened to your piano solo ‘remind me to breathe’ and it brought tears to my eyes. (hard for a guy to admit that)”
“Thank you for your gracious gift of love through your music. I work with Alzheimer’s patients and the soothing sounds you’ve enabled me to give to them is not only extremely therapeutic, but truly a gateway to the soul. Your music has given a greater gift than you could know. Peace and tranquility is a rarity amongst my friends at Emmanuel. Thank you!!!”
“I’ve enjoyed hearing you play. It is very soothing and relaxing and your sound is very beautiful. I’ve had a tough time since my surgery and my Mother has lost her Mother in death this year and her Father is on his death bed. This music is very comforting right now. Thanks so much.”
“I teach emotionally disturbed and behaviorally disordered high schoolers. The power of your music I downloaded from Healing Piano has an almost magical effect on my students. I’ve bought countless classical CD’s, but I can put on one of these when I sense their tension rising and a peace comes over them, anger dissipates and the most hyperactive and attention deficit of them all are just…calm. I thank you.”
There’s no mystery here to Chuck Brown: “When I write music, I honestly am only a part of the process of creating the music. Music comes from somewhere else…someONE else, I believe. I am touched so often by it myself. It’s just a delight to hear from people who are touched by something that I was a part of creating. And I love the fact that the internet means I can make it available without an admission fee. We get gouged everywhere these days. Sure, it costs money to have a web site. But I make a little bit of money back on the site…and that’s enough for me. The comments I get back about the music and the site are worth much more than big dollars or big record sales ever could be!”