Mozart vs. Manson: Should Students Do Homework with Music Playing?


Picture by Cody Wilson

As we get into the second month of school, we can witness the slow slope of increasing work and practically feel the whites of our eyes bulging out of our heads as teachers slap yet another mound of homework on our heads. This can make us question if we even know how to “student” correctly. Now, the majority of high school students envision the perfect student as a kind, generous being who is not only at the top of their class, but also part of student government, every club and sports team known to man, and somehow, someway manages to find the time to color code their notes and still throw a party. This image of a perfect student does not exist.

Teachers and loving family members attempt to throw tips and tricks to their children for what worked “when they were in school,” but the truth is: they don’t really work. One of these “tips” many find themselves getting from their parents is that there should be only complete silence when work is being done. This is one of those age-old pointers on how to survive your schooling, but it only works for an elite 1% of students (let me once again toss a bone to our 1%) who can actually keep their sanity while sitting in a dead-silent room with only oxymorons and the French Revolution to keep them company.

For the masses, the peasants and the plebes, music is the only way to get anything even remotely work-related done. But even this simple need must be challenged. Some say you should only listen to classical music or quiet, softly-composed instrumentals, while others say any music is fine, as long as they can have the background noise.

Jolena Kelley, a 9th grader and an extremely talented bass clarinet player, allowed herself to be harassed into an interview. When asked if she enjoyed listening to anything while working, she responded with an affirmative: “I don’t find myself distracted with my music, but it honestly depends on my mood.” I then asked what genre of music she finds most effective in helping her in her endeavors, and she replied “classical” without a second thought. Keeping in mind that she is in band, I had to ask if that affected her decision at all. She explained, “I have always loved music; band just increased my love for music.” Jolie served as my control, telling me that she, a classical music lover, spent an average of two hours on homework.

Katelin Checkwood and Sarah Weber were the next to be interviewed and could not have been any more different from Jolie. Katelin prefers listening to musical theater soundtracks (specifically naming Hamilton and Heathers: The Musical as two of her favorites.) She commented that she enjoys singing along with the characters because it keeps her feeling motivated and moving at a faster pace. Sarah is similar to Katelin in that she enjoys music that includes lyrics and incites you to sing along. I asked if she believed classical music helped her more than other types, and she replied, “Nope. Not at all. I prefer Disney music. It helps me focus, somehow.” Both Katelin and Sarah take about four hours to complete their homework.

From there, I moved on to room V12, where I found and interviewed two members of the elusive 1% of students who refuse to listen to music while studying: Jacqueline Gracey and Kellee Olmedo Sevilla. I had intended on interviewing the two separately, but seeing as how they were sitting right next to each other, the interview quickly dissolved into an open conversation, a debate, and eventually a rant.

To summarize, the two find it hard to listen to music while studying because they are easily distracted and caught up in singing along to the music. Jacqueline, now a sophomore, learned from freshman year that if she was attempting to memorize something, she was limited because all she could think about were the words of the song, and not the material itself. Additionally, she often found herself falling down a social media rabbit hole whenever she listened to music. From Spotify, she would end up on the explore page of Instagram, and then just as quickly transfer herself over to Twitter, and from there, she completely lost any will to pick back up working again. Mrs. Bertell adding in her ten cents from there, stating, “Kids should not listen to music when studying, unless it is soft music in the background, but not heavy rock or anything.”

But, despite these many clashing opinions, it all really depends on the particular person and their preferences. Some of us were just never meant to be in the prestigious 1%.