In 2018, IMSA student Henry Wittich’s article, “Music Tastes of IMSA!,” was published in The Acronym. The data collected included time spent listening to music per grade, genre preferences, artist preferences, and song preferences. Current Co-EIC of The Acronym Liz Alcala sent an updated version of the survey out to the IMSA community in 2020 to see how IMSA’s music trends were changing through quarantine.
We have now spent the past year and a half in quarantine, away from our peers and away from campus. We baked bread, finished one-thousand-piece puzzles, and watched pretty much everything on Netflix. We also listened to a lot of music. With 77 students participating, this year’s “Music Tastes of IMSA!,” focused not only on how IMSA students listened to music before and during quarantine but also how their music taste progressed through the many months spent in lockdown.
Similar to respondents last year, most IMSA students listened to music for either less than one hour or one to two hours per day before quarantine – perhaps while walking from class to class, during meals, or while studying. 50% of seniors stated that they listened to music for one to two hours per day before quarantine compared to only 30.3% of sophomores and 23.5% of juniors.
Time spent listening to music underwent a dramatic spike during quarantine. Many students began listening to music for four or more hours per day – nearly half of all junior respondents said they did so. The increase in time spent listening to music helped students find new singers and genres. One respondent mentioned that they discovered ninety new artists through Spotify over quarantine.
Aside from having more free time, the increased uncertainty and anxiety due to the pandemic also led to students seeking out more tunes. From hit songs released in quarantine like Olivia Rodrigo’s “driver’s license” or Conan Gray’s “Heather,” we found solace and comfort in the music we listened to. Senior Oliver Ni touched on this idea stating, “Now, there is a distinct physical barrier between people[,] and I find myself alone for large spans of time. Music helps me partially fill this hole in my identity and also cope with some of the loneliness that I have experienced throughout the pandemic.”
A common theme amongst survey respondents when asked whether music is a form of expression was the idea that music conveys emotion. An anonymous respondent stated, “Music allows us to express our feelings. If we’re feeling sad, we seek out sad songs. If we want to celebrate, we listen to happy songs. It allows us to find songs that convene our feelings, which is why it feels great when someone makes a playlist for you.”
Music even became a form of communication for some and resulted in increased emotional awareness. An anonymous respondent said, “Music during quarantine has made me more open to feelings and better displaying them. Music between my friends and I became a form of expressing words. If we felt that we couldn’t express something or that a song did it better we would send it and give a short explanation about how it applies.”
For some students, free time during quarantine was spent enhancing one’s own musical talents. Junior Lily Powell discussed how she learned two instruments and wrote several songs. She stated, “Listening to music was a great way to make sure I didn’t go crazy or get super bored super fast.”
Country was least preferred amongst IMSA students with 35% of respondents saying they hated the genre. Electronic also came out on the bottom with only 10% of respondents saying they loved the music genre. 42% of respondents stated that they loved indie music compared to the 33% who said the same last year. The increased interest may be due to artists like Taylor Swift and Olivia Rodrigo releasing chart-topping indie pop albums this year. Taylor Swift, specifically, never seems to get old amongst the IMSA community. Roughly one of every eight survey respondents listed Swift as one of their favorite artists.
One respondent touched on the relationship of an artist to their music saying, “Music can be used to convey an artist’s meaning and connection with the music, or their situation themselves. An artist involves us in their life occasionally when writing music, and can be seen as the artist expressing feelings through their music.”
When asked about how important music is to us, students had a lot to say. One anonymous respondent touched on the immersive wonder of music stating, “[Music] is my own personal escape. I can travel back in time or to other worlds. I can be an epic bounty hunter or a princess. It gives me a means to connect with other people, or maintain solitude.” Former student Francesca Dumitrescu (‘21) talked about the bonds she has formed with her peers because of music, writing “Music has provided so many communities for me, from band and choir to SMAC to people who just have the same tastes as me. It brings me comfort, it amplifies my emotions, and tells me stories I never thought I’d hear.”
A huge part of why music can impact us so greatly is the positive effects it can have on our mental wellbeing. Music can put words to intense feelings we otherwise could not express. It can comfort us through the toughest of times and energize us during the happy moments. Junior Echo Mudro discussed the positive effects music has had on her mental health writing, “I have an anxiety disorder and usually when things get to be too much I can just put in my earbuds and things calm down for me.”
If one thing’s for certain, it’s that over the past year and a half, we spent a lot of time listening to music while discovering new artists, exploring various genres, and being comforted by emotional tunes. Junior Nat Gao’s passionate words sum up how music has affected so many of us through what has arguably been one of the most challenging years of our lives: “I live music, I play music all the time, I’m thinking of music all the time, I want to create music and put it out for the world to hear.”