Opinion: Music in the Classroom Should be Encouraged

Walking through the crowded halls, I take a second to observe the sea of students and I notice one common feature amongst many of the people around me: several Francis Lewis students with their headphones plugged in and their favorite song playing in their ears. As I approach my classroom, my classmates patiently sit in their seats. With their phones cupped into their hands, they listen to music to pass the time before class starts.

The silence fills the classroom and I sit and wonder why students must take it into their own hands to listen to music. With music being such a prevalent activity among teenagers, teachers could help further encourage this healthy habit by playing music in the classroom.

Certain songs and artists have the ability to speak to teenagers and their emotions. And even science agrees with this. A Northern Ireland study found that music therapy helped increase self-esteem and reduced depressive symptoms in children. Another study has also shown that experiencing calming music can reduce aggressive behavior and feelings of anxiety and stress.

Hydroponics teacher Mr. Schwartz is known for playing music during his classes.

I love music, I find it relaxes everybody,” Mr. Schwartz said. “I think it’s important for everybody to be exposed to music. I like turning on music because it opens your head, it opens your mind. Music can get you out of a funk, and if you’re mad, listen to crazy music, don’t go hit someone. There’s ways to get rid of pent-up energy by listening to music.”

So how come, despite the proven benefits of music, music is hardly implemented into our daily school life? Although music has the powerful ability to distract you from strong, negative emotions in a school environment, the last thing a student might need is a distraction. Some studies have shown that it can actually hinder concentration and learning skills, while some state music is okay– under certain circumstances. 

“Im not teaching calculus,” Mr. Schwartz said.  “When I was doing science I sometimes had music on during the do-now, but not during the whole class.” 

University research in France, published in Learning and Individual Differences, found that students listening to classical music during a one-hour lecture scored higher on a quiz than the subset of students who heard the same lecture, with no music. The researchers believed that the music influenced the students’ motivation to remain focused during the lecture. 

Classical music appears to be the least distracting form of music to use while studying. But let’s be honest, most teenagers aren’t exactly playing Beethoven while doing homework. Many are drawn to more upbeat songs that they can sing along to. 

Several studies have shown that lyrical music can affect working memory. Working memory is used for tasks that are vital for problem-solving, learning, and other cognitive tasks.  This might apply to school subjects like math. 

Mr. Schwartz claims he has no preference for the kind of music being played but he would rather have everyone listening rather than listening on their own phones. Being on their phone causes them to be “in their own world” as he states.

“I like music,” Mr. Schwartz said. “It’s like going to a concert and everyones listening to their phone.  I tell the students, we’ll listen to your music I’m not trying to hog, I’ll listen to anyone’s music, as long as we listen together.”

So how can we keep students motivated to learn and stay present in class, without using tools deemed as “distracting”? 

Schools can start by considering playing music during calming class activities that dont require much focus, such as the do-now that students are assigned at the beginning of class. And since students perform better when listening to music they perceive as calming rather than music perceived as more aggressive, teachers can play some calming tunes during work time which may help keep students concentrated. Allow the music to help students to get lost in their studies while also improving their overall mood.