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Music & School: A Note-worthy Combo?

What are you listening to? A question I’m sure many CB students are familiar with, whether it be the countless posts from various social media creators on TikTok or even from the Talon Morning News. I am no stranger to this question. In fact I was on KBFT answering it two years ago as a […]


What are you listening to?

A question I’m sure many CB students are familiar with, whether it be the countless posts from various social media creators on TikTok or even from the Talon Morning News. I am no stranger to this question. In fact I was on KBFT answering it two years ago as a sophomore. While my music taste has certainly changed since then — for the better in my opinion — these segments highlight a portion of students on campus who listen to music all day, in class or not. Although I do the same most days if I remember to bring my headphones, it’s not because I don’t want to talk to people or engage in my surroundings. It’s more to do with the fact that listening to something usually helps to keep me focused on work. And during breaks I just keep it rolling.

Back when I was asked what I was listening to on KBFT. I vaguely remember this happening.

Even though I have my headphones in for a majority of the day, there are certain classes where I am not allowed to indulge in working with music. Having a mix of teachers who allow their students to work with music and those who do not as well as seeing a majority of those on campus have various models of AirPods and headphones made me start to think: What is the appeal of having music during school? Does it have any benefits? Why do so many students plug in during breaks and in class? Are teachers doing us a favor by telling us to press pause on our music and listen to them instead?

There is a time and place for music during school hours, mainly during independent work periods given by teachers. Having headphones in makes it seem like you aren’t as tapped in with what is going on around you, almost like someone who would be on their iPad during a lecture. Trying to focus on a lesson while having artists that range from Lana Del Rey, beabadoobee, Mitski, Daniel Caesar, and many, many more in my ears is not the easiest thing to do. However, I think the type of music is the difference maker — jamming to pop and R&B while trying to make sense of a new language or the United States government can make it tricky to keep your mind focused on one thing.

I probably feel that way only because I seem to be more productive with music when it has no words and is purely an instrumental. Even then it becomes easy to get lost in the ethereal and calm vibe produced by these musicians. Something about how empty the song feels with the absence of vocals yet full of emotion and power with its instruments seems like a recipe for success. It feels like school isn’t entirely the best place to mix music streaming habits, but there are still a number of students who walk around all day with their ears occupied by their favorite tunes. Fellow music fanatic Parker Clymer-Engelhart (‘24) takes the opportunity to do so when he can.

A couple of my go-to study tracks from video games and other media. Mostly piano instrumentals, which really seem to help me focus.

“I listen to music when we are allowed in class like during breaks or free periods, and I do listen to music in the halls most of the time,” he shares. Parker’s music listening occasionally results from him not taking a few seconds to remove it from his ears in the halls. “Sometimes I can be too lazy to take my headphones out, though.”

His main reason to jam, however, is to give him a little push to get through the day. “I listen to music because it gives me something else to do than homework.” That or he wants to indulge in the discography of his favorite artist Kanye West, whom Parker declares to be the “best artist of all time.” Everyone has their own taste, and Parker has now spoken his own potentially controversial opinion.

Parker’s Spotify Wrapped for the last two years. I think he might like Kanye West.

When it comes to combining music and work, Parker, like me, has a difficult time with focusing on two things at once.

“Music definitely makes it worse when I study because I get distracted by the music and want to sing along to the lyrics,” he says. His choice of artists ranging from Tyler, the Creator to Kendrick Lamar in the rap genre might not be the best study music, but his enjoyment of their art doesn’t stop him despite how inefficient it is for his studies.

Parker thinks the right to listen in class should be an option — just not one for him. “I feel like a lot of people can work better if they have music to listen to,” the senior says. “I’m just not that kind of guy though.”

Someone who is that kind of person is Katie Jones (‘24), who shared with me that music is a big help to her. “I think teachers should allow music more in class because I know I would enjoy it and it would be useful to my attention and overall focus,” she says. For her, it’s all about the situation. Directly in the middle of a lecture while teachers are conveying information is not the best time to open up Spotify. 

“I think music definitely helps with school,” Katie stated. “It limits the outside distraction and general hustle and bustle of the campus.” For Katie, music in the halls is the perfect distraction from the vast amount of noise around her. Trust me, as someone who has tried to talk to her while she’s listening, she won’t hear you until it’s paused.

“I listen to music as much as I can at school,” she says. “If I am doing something where I could be using my headphones and playing Spotify, I definitely am.” 

Though a day without music is one that Katie doesn’t want to experience. “It’s a sad day when my AirPods aren’t charged, I forget them completely, or Lucas Calderon (‘24) doesn’t bring an extra pair.” At least she has someone to rely on for a backup.

Joey McCloskey’s (‘24) approach is to simply use the noise as a way to keep him going through the day. “I listen to music at school because it helps me stay awake and more alert to what’s around me,” he says. It also helps him be a better student, making his study sessions just a bit more peaceful and less stressful. “When I study, music helps me calm down and allows me to be more efficient with what I get done.”

His final verdict is that boppin’ to bangers should be allowed for quiet study time and work periods, but nothing beyond that. He says that it would be a distraction for test-taking, which is a valid argument, seeing that it’s very hard to even think back and remember what’s on the test in front of you, let alone with music potentially distracting you.

I always see Sebastian Fernandez y Garcia’s (‘24) headphones on his person throughout the many classes we share, and I even have been privy to some of his music choices. He likes movie scores while studying, as they not only stimulate his brain, but his output. “Movie scores make me mad productive,” he says. “They’re interesting enough to drown out noise and boring enough to not make me focus too much.” An interesting combo, but I’m glad it works for him.

Sebastian has different choices depending on where he’s at on campus. “Right now, walking around the halls, it’s Jimi Hendrix. Studying is The Life of Pi score.” Sebastian says his listening habits change as his taste evolves, so if you’re curious in a few months, check back in and it might be different.

Although he has his limits, Sebastian doesn’t want to stray too far away from his movie scores. “I’m not trying to listen to some Urban Outfitters music while I’m working,” he says. I’m inclined to pick up what he’s putting down — corporate music doesn’t seem to fit the studying vibe.

Taking their answers into consideration, it seems like music is popular in and out of the classroom, which is to be expected. It’s accessible and easy to find what you like. But teachers, for the most part, have their mind made up and are very clear about music in the classroom. It’s a distraction, much like the games and movies we watch in class, which teachers are all too aware of. We aren’t as sneaky as we think we are.

Religious Studies instructor Mr. Chris Symkowick-Rose is certainly aware, which is why his classroom is one of the many music-free environments, barring extra individual work time.

“We as human beings don’t do well at multitasking,” he opens with. A strong argument, as that is my main struggle with music while studying. “Having music play in your ears is not going to enable you to focus and concentrate on the task at hand.”

Mr. Sy-R doesn’t have a problem with music and headphones during independent work time as long as it’s the right kind, which he has his suspicions about. “If I thought that kids were listening to lo-fi or instrumental music, it would be one thing, but I know that’s not what you’re listening to in your headphones.” He’s probably right about that one.

Mr. Sy-R’s policy on music and electronics in his classroom.

The act of wearing earbuds in general seems to give off a certain message. “They’re too easy to hide, and it becomes problematic because the act of wearing earbuds is a conscious way of telling people that I don’t want to interact with you,” Mr. Sy-R states. Even though he admits he does the same in the teacher lounge sometimes, it’s for the purpose of getting work done without any interruptions.

He continues passionately with how earbuds are a very distracting element for students in class. “Sometimes when kids have earbuds in, they’re watching videos. I mean we’re not naive to that.” Maybe save the movie watching for when you get home, guys. The teachers are on to us.

Mr. Sy-R closes with a notion that all electronics are distracting and that music and work together don’t bode too well for us. “We are one-trick puppies. We don’t multitask.”

It’s become a little hard to disagree with that statement, coming from my own and other students’ experiences. But we all work differently. Some things work better for others, and we all succeed under varying circumstances. If music helps you study, stream away. If it is too much of a distraction, however, maybe leave Spotify closed and save your playlist for a different time.

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