Students find harmony in music during pandemic

By Anel Ceballos-Caldera, March 23, 2021

Balancing work, school and pandemic-related stress, Cal Poly Pomona students have become more attuned to music as a form of therapy.

Last March, many forms of entertainment — including campus events, amusement parks and movie theaters — temporarily closed and unexpectedly turned the lives of students. These limitations allowed for many Broncos to not only use music as a form of entertainment but to also find comfort by releasing stress and uplifting their spirits.

Living through a global pandemic with social distancing regulations and over 500,000 American lives being lost to COVID-19, life has been difficult. For second-year hospitality management student Justin Mo, music helps brighten up his days.

“The pandemic is not a plus, so I try to listen to more upbeat, more poppy stuff to lift my mood,” Mo said. “Music is important to me because it brings people together and can help someone mentally and emotionally. It speaks to many listeners because of how deep the lyrics are written.”

Like Mo, first-year business student Thomas Phan shared that music has been essential in enduring the pandemic.

“The pandemic has been a really weird time, so I listen to more comforting and upbeat music to just lighten up the mood,” Phan said. “Music has helped me a lot. When I’m feeling stressed, it calms me down. When I’m feeling sad, it brings me up. Any feeling that I’m having, there’s always a song for it. It’s like medicine honestly.”

Through emotional lyrics or cheery beats, students are able to relate and resonate with the feelings expressed in songs, which serve as a reflection of how they feel while socially distancing at home.

According to the American Psychological Association, psychologist Daniel Levitin and fellow researcher Mona Lisa Chanda found that music improved the body’s immune system function and reduced stress through the meta-analysis of 400 studies in 2013.

Music therapy is a health profession that fulfills physical, emotional, cognitive and social needs by producing, singing or listening to songs, according to the American Music Therapy Association.

“Music influences health,” Levitin told the American Psychological Association. “The researchers found that listening to and playing music increases the body’s production of the antibody immunoglobulin A and natural killer cells — the cells that attack invading viruses and boost the immune system’s effectiveness. Music also reduces levels of the stress hormone cortisol.”

During the pandemic, Spotify, the world’s leading music streaming service, increased in active monthly users to about 345 million users by the end of last year, jumping by 27% from the previous year, according to Spotify Investors. With its positive association to mental and emotional health, more people are seeking music through various streaming platforms.

Streaming songs can also prevent students from feeling lonely amid the socially distanced world. Fourth-year graphic design student Melody Bando emphasized the impact music has in her daily life, describing its role as a “coping mechanism to help pass time or a filler for background noise.”

“Music is so versatile,” Bando said. “There’s music you can listen to match that moment or mood. It’s probably a nice balance for me. In a chaotic schedule, I can be calmed with the right music or get pumped when I’m feeling low. Music helps any situation and is just another language.”

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