The Free Press, Mankato, MN

February 28, 2014

Psychiatrist/pianist explores creativity, mental illness in MSO performance

Psychiatrist/pianist explores creativity, mental illness in MSO performance

By The Free Press
The Mankato Free Press

---- — Richard Kogan is a practicing clinical psychiatrist. He's also an award-winning pianist.

In 2001, the American Psychiatry Association asked him to give a lecture on musical creativity and mental illness, and that event launched Kogan into a new way of combining his passion for medicine and music. The result was a successful lecture-recital series that Kogan now embarks on around the world, offering psychiatric insight into composers such as Schumann, Gershwin, Beethoven, and Tchaikovsky.

The Mankato Symphony Orchestra hosts Kogan for such an event at 3 p.m. on Sunday at Mankato West auditorium that focuses on the genius and madness of Sergei Rachmaninoff.

The lecture and accompanying performance will shed light on the depression and mental breakdown Rachmaninoff experienced after the poor reception of his First Symphony, Op. 13. With the help of his psychologist, Nikolai Dahl, Rachmaninoff overcame depression and wrote Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor, Op. 18. Kogan will perform the concerto in its entirety following his lecture.

In addition, Kogan will be giving a separate lecture and performance at 7 p.m. today in Minnesota State University's Wiecking Auditorium. The free event — jointly sponsored by the Department of Psychology, College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, and the College of Arts and Humanities — is titled "The Mind and Music of George Gershwin." Kogan will shed light on the psychiatric illness, likely cause by an undiagnosed brain tumor, and creative output of Gershwin. After the lecture, he will perform Gershwin’s "Rhapsody in Blue" and "Porgy and Bess."

In a 2010 article published in the Psychiatric Times, Kogan further discussed his research and observations into the link between creativity and psychopathology:

Psychiatric Times: There seems to be a disproportionately high incidence of mental illness in creative people. To what do you attribute this association between psychopathology and creative genius?

Kogan: Creative people tend to see the world in novel and unconventional ways, and they often seek out intense and destabilizing experiences. Creative ideas are frequently generated during chaotic mental states characterized by loosening of associations that resemble the psychosis of mania or schizophrenia.

Psychiatric Times: Is madness a prerequisite for creativity?

Kogan: While studies by psychiatrist Nancy Andreasen, psychologist Kay Jamison, and others demonstrate that writers and artists have mood disorders in greater proportion than the general population, mental illness is not a prerequisite for creativity. There have been examples of great composers, such as Bach, Haydn, and Mendelssohn, who seem to have been relatively free of significant psychopathology.

More about Kogan

Kogan is a clinical professor of psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medical Center as well as the artistic director of the Weill Cornell Music and Medicine Program. He also practices psychiatry in the private sector in New York City. Kogan began music lessons at the age of four and was enrolled at the Julliard School of Music, pre-college, until 18. Instead of attending a music conservatory, he attended Harvard College as a music major, where he also completed pre-medical curriculum. Kogan was accepted into Harvard Medical School after receiving his bachelor’s degree. There, he participated in a specialized five-year plan that allowed him to keep performing concerts.

The question-and-answer with Richard Kogan was excerpted with permission from a Nov. 29, 2010, article that appeared in the Psychiatric Times. To view the full article, visit

If You Go What MSO's "Deconstructing Rachmaninoff" When 3 p.m. on Sunday Where Mankato West auditorium Tickets $15-$25, available through, the TRCA Box Office at 507-387-1008, and at the door. Additional performance Richard Kogan will give a free lecture and performance, "The Mind and Music of George Gershwin," at 7 p.m. today in MSU's Wiecking Auditorium.