（Wan Ying uses music therapy to comfort people in Wuhan, Hubei province, the epicenter of the outbreak.[Photo provided to China Daily]）
Programs ease stress in locked down cities
For most people, music has the power to communicate joy and sorrow in ways unmatched by words.
As the Danish fairy tale writer Hans Christian Andersen once said, "Where words fail, music speaks."
Amid the novel coronavirus pneumonia outbreak, soothing music and voices are bringing comfort to those in Hubei province cities where lockdowns have been imposed.
"Many emotions, such as confusion, fear, grief and anger, have been caused by the epidemic among people from all walks of life," said Wan Ying, a professor of music education at the Wuhan Conservatory of Music, located in the city at the epicenter of the outbreak.
Wan, who is also a music therapist, has teamed up with her colleagues and students at the institution to prove that music can actually ease pain.
On Feb 1, Music Therapy Radio Show, an online music program, was launched by the conservatory. The episodes have specially designed segments for mornings, afternoons and evenings to help alleviate stress, calm troubled minds and improve sleep.
Under the guidance of the show's hosts, the programs－with each segment lasting about 20 minutes－use a range of genres, including classical, folk and light music, to connect listeners emotionally with sound and make them feel better. The first program had about 7,000 views, far beyond Wan's expectations.
In addition to the conservatory's social media platforms, the programs are available on Netease Cloud Music, one of the country's major music streaming services. The shows are also used by doctors to treat infected patients at three mobile hospitals in Wuhan.
Wan said she has been told by doctors, nurses and infected patients that the music helps soothe them.
"Some doctors and nurses only have 30 minutes to take a break while working shifts at hospitals in Wuhan. They told me the programs quickly made them feel relaxed and less anxious," Wan said.
She added that one listener in Beijing posted on a social media platform for the program that the music makes her forget the stress caused by the outbreak.
Since 2003, Wan, 56, has been learning from renowned music therapist Gao Tian. Obtaining a master's in psychology from Central China Normal University in 2008, Wan furthered her studies of music therapy and education at State University of New York in the United States in 2011 and 2012.
After returning to Wuhan in 2012, Wan, who was born and raised in the city, co-launched a music therapy major at the Conservatory, which was established in 1953 and is one of the nine major such institutions in China.
With the outbreak delaying the start of the spring semester, the Conservatory, which has attracted thousands of student applicants, has had to reschedule its tuition plans like many other academic institutions. On Feb 24, it opened online courses for students.
Wan said that for nine years, students and teachers at the conservatory have been providing music therapy programs to people with disabilities and children with special needs. In addition to offering free music therapy to the public, the students and teachers at the Conservatory can also receive such treatment from students majoring in the subject.
（Zhang Le uses music therapy to comfort people in Wuhan, Hubei province, the epicenter of the outbreak. [Photo provided to China Daily]）
Zhang Le, one of Wan's students who is working as a music therapist at a hospital in Wuhan, joined the online music therapy program. Along with other team members, who are working from their homes located across the country, including Chengdu, Sichuan province, and Hebei province, Zhang, who lives and works in Wuhan, collects music material, writes scripts and designs music programs.
"People's lives have been changed due to the viral outbreak, which has led to some emotional and psychological problems. When we listen to good music, it gives us room to address our emotions," said Zhang, 27, who learned to play piano when she was 5 and graduated with a master's in music therapy from Wuhan Conservatory of Music in 2018.
He decided to study music therapy when he was a junior student at the conservatory majoring in music education.
Attracted by the notion that music has the power to trigger a range of emotions and can also offer significant health benefits, Zhang is glad to see that music therapy has been widely accepted among people facing great pressure from the outbreak, especially mood swings.
"We feel happy and satisfied that our profession can help at such a time," Zhang added.
（Yang Cheng rehearses a new song at his musical instrument store in Wuhan.[Photo provided to China Daily]）
Rock plans change
For Yang Cheng, a drummer with the Wuhan rock band Risky Joy, the outbreak has meant an abrupt change of lifestyle.
Yang, who lives in the city's northern Huangpi district, which despite being home to some 1 million people, is a relatively small, quiet area, owns a musical instrument store and teaches guitar. Risky Joy, which was established in 2012, is well-known among local rock fans.
Comprising four members, the others being vocalist Victor－who only uses one name－guitarist Yang Wan and bassist Qiu Yilin, the band had just wrapped up a nationwide tour, taking in more than 20 cities, and planned to release a new album this year. However, due to the outbreak, plans have been put on hold and the four are staying at home.
Yang Cheng, who was born and raised in Wuhan, said: "We started writing new songs at the start of this year. We work from home, discuss new ideas for the album through the internet and practice our songs."
On Jan 20, when leading respiratory expert Zhong Nanshan said novel coronavirus pneumonia could be spread among humans, Yang Cheng said Wuhan suddenly became the epicenter of the outbreak and appeared to be the "most-mentioned city in the world".
Shows have been postponed at venues in the city where local indie rock bands have emerged over the years, including Vox in Hankou district.
Yang Cheng said the outbreak led to him making a major decision.
"I used to struggle between my passion for rock music and the reality of being the breadwinner for my family. As it's hard to make a living from being a rock band member, I thought about giving it up at one time," he said. "But now, I'm not worrying about this problem anymore. I know what I love. Life is short, so I will make music my lifelong career."
（Liao Huixian uses music therapy to comfort people in Wuhan, Hubei province, the epicenter of the outbreak. [Photo provided to China Daily]）
In addition to practicing guitar and drums for hours, he is still assessing the impact of the outbreak and discussing writing new material with his fellow band members about the sudden changes brought to their lives.
"I listen to lots of music every day, from heavy metal to blues and funk, which helps calm my nerves. We formed the band because we consider music our way to communicate with the world. It heals people－anyone who plays music knows this," he said.
"Isolation gives us the urge to write and play music, and although we don't know when our lives will return to normal, we have time to think."
A self-taught guitarist and drummer, Yang Cheng became interested in rock music when he was 18. After graduating with a major in architecture from Wuhan University of Technology, he worked for a local real estate company.
As a new act with few opportunities to perform, Risky Joy still managed to enjoy life. In 2016, the band had two original songs recorded for compilation album The Sound of Wuhan 4, dedicated to new indie rock outfits based in the city. In March last year, its debut album, Back to the Golden Times, was released.
In 2015, Yang Cheng led four of his music students in launching a rock band called X-boys. Last year, the lineup finished in the top 10 in the Midi Kids Band Competition, an annual event organized by the Beijing Midi School of Music, one of the first contemporary music schools in China.
All four, whose ages range from 11 to 16, are from Wuhan, but due to the viral outbreak, they have had to postpone their plans.
Cai Yucheng, 16, the band's songwriter and guitarist, said: "Music is like a friend, especially amid the outbreak. I wrote lyrics for the first time when we competed in the Midi Kids Band Competition, and I love this way of expressing myself. Now, inspired by the outbreak, I want to write more."
Yang Cheng, who is conducting music courses online and guiding his students in practicing at home, said he misses the bustling streets of Wuhan.
"When the outbreak ends, I want to go to some popular scenic sites in the city, which I rarely visit as they are too crowded. I also want to play basketball and play music with my friends. One of my dreams is to open a live house venue, providing a stage for more young local rock bands."
Shen Lihui, who in 1997 founded Modern Sky, now one of the biggest indie record labels in the country, said, "Wuhan has a young, vibrant music scene and many acts from Hubei province have performed at the annual outdoor Strawberry Music Festival."
The outbreak means the label has had to delay plans for the festival this year, which was due to open in Wuhan.
On Feb 8, Modern Sky announced it had signed the Wuhan punk rock band Happy Wheel following the release of a single titled Self Isolation. The song's lyrics include: Hold on my lover, I will meet you after the winter again. Hold on my brother, the fire of hope is still burning in your heart.
The band's lineup comprises vocalist Hu Yang, bassist Liang Jiaman, guitarist Wang Jinyu and drummer Yin Kuoshuai.
"We become restless, fearful and disappointed when we are forced to be isolated," Yin said. "After the outbreak, I want to meet the other band members to rehearse."
（Ye Xinyu uses music therapy to comfort people in Wuhan, Hubei province, the epicenter of the outbreak. [Photo provided to China Daily]）
Reactions on radio
On Jan 17, Wu Siwei a 48-year-old radio show host in Xiangyang, Hubei, received a message from a bus driver who had been quarantined after returning to Xiangyang, his hometown, from Wuhan.
Wu, 48, who has worked at the Xiangyang Radio Station for 27 years, said: "He was very nervous and I invited him to share his life with the listeners through the show. Talking calmed his nerves. We also listened to music together to make him and others with the same anxieties feel relaxed at such a difficult time." He added that the bus driver is not infected.
Six months ago, Wu launched a channel on the popular podcast platform Himalaya FM, providing two hours of programs every day to an audience of about 10,000.
Like Wu, many radio program hosts in Hubei have launched channels on podcast platforms to communicate with and relax listeners during the outbreak.
In 2003, Ba Chao, a radio show host at Wuhan Broadcasting and Television Station, reported on the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome. Now, the 39-year-old has a travel program on Himalaya FM, in addition to his regular work.
During the viral outbreak, despite a hectic schedule, he has been constantly updating the travel show.
"People read news about the virus every day, which makes them nervous. I use my voice and my show to offer them a corner to relax, which is my role in this battle," Ba said.
Some people in Hubei are also working as amateur hosts on podcast platforms to share their experiences and offer listeners encouragement.
Li Ying, 28, who lives in Jingmen and owns a gift shop, has seen trade fall due to the outbreak, but has been even busier than usual.
She talks with listeners to her online shows, which she has hosted on Himalaya FM since 2016. One of her main focuses is giving lessons to children staying at home due to postponement of the spring semester.
She works with Dingxiang Doctor, an online health information sharing platform, to record news about the outbreak. As a part-time voice-over actress, she also records stories for children's books.
"The city is empty, but many people listen to my shows, which keeps us close," Li said.