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Condoleezza Rice: How the piano helps me deal with being the Secretary of State

I have to work very, very hard and I work a lot of long hours and I travel a lot. But I still try, in all of that, to have a balanced life.

I try to make time for my friends and my family. I try to make time for exercise – even if it does mean 4.30 in the morning to do it, I try to make time for it. And I try to make time for things that feed my soul, and music feeds your soul.

It's not that it's relaxing – people say, well is it relaxing to play the piano? Well, it's not. If you're sitting there struggling with Brahms it's not relaxing. But it is transporting.

While you're playing Brahms or Mozart you can't think about anything else. Everything else has to clear out of your mind and you're just in that moment.

In doing that you have an opportunity to really clear your mind of anything extraneous and you have an opportunity to clear the stress, because instead of worrying about what you're going to do tomorrow, or what that paper's done, or what that negotiation is going to do, you have a chance to be within yourself in a different place in your mind, and a different place in your soul.

When you're done with that, I'm actually pretty tired after I've played, but it's a good tired. And I usually find I'm able to sleep.

The other thing that I do is that I have a regular music group that I play with. It used to be once a month but now it's been kind of every six weeks, I've been travelling so much. But they come over on a Sunday afternoon and they're all very good musicians. It's a quartet, and with me it's a quintet.

We've been playing together now for about four years and it's like having family. You know, you get to squabble about whether or not the first violinist was too quick with that entrance, or, since they're string players, they usually say that I'm too loud.

You know, that's always what string players say about piano – that you're too loud. But those people have become among my best friends. And so you make time for your music and let it take you to some other place. That's what music does.

Condoleezza Rice is the outgoing US Secretary of State. This is an extract from an interview at the Council on Foreign Relations last week