Do You Play Music in the Art Room?

Today I’d like to discuss the topic of playing music in the art room while your students work. In my opinion, silence is best for concentration and productivity. The reality is, however, many art rooms are far from silent. My art room is bustling with commotion, filled with students talking, collaborating, sharing, and helping each other.

Since silence isn’t the norm, and sound is, I like to fill my classroom with music. Over the years, I’ve experimented with what kind of I play in my classroom, when I play it, and how often.

music in art

When I taught elementary art, I played Greg Percy CDs a lot. However when I started teaching middle school art, I didn’t know what music I was going to play. As much as I loved Greg Percy’s music, I was fairly confident my middle school students wouldn’t be as interested in hearing his catchy songs as my elementary students were.

My first year, I played the local pop hits radio station.  I quickly learned that playing pop hits turned my classroom into a scene from a middle school dance. Students got riled up.  After looking into the topic, I found that researchers investigated the effect pop music has on introverts and extroverts. They found immediate memory recall was worse for both groups when pop music was played than if it was silent.

Bye-bye pop music in the art room!

Currently, I use Pandora to play music while my students create in my classroom. Generally, students work just as well, if not better, while the music is playing versus when it is off. Sometimes if the students are too loud, I shut it off. When students are taking a quiz or writing about their art, the music is off as well.

I rotate between stations but my most played stations are Two Cellos, Feist, Mumford and Sons, Florence + The Machines, Lana Del Ray, Bon Iver, Coffee Shop, Smooth Jazz, Classical Guitar, and Solo Piano.

Although some students refer to my music as “weird,” those same students are the ones who request I turn it on if I’ve forgotten. One girl said, “I like listening to your music because I don’t know the words, and sometimes when I know the words to music I get distracted and don’t play attention to what I’m doing. Plus, it’s relaxing.”

If students prefer to listen to their own music, I allow them to use their personal electronic devices with ear buds. They know they need to take out their ear buds when I’m giving directions and keep the volume low. This method works well for us.

How about you, do you allow your students to listen to their own music?

What is your opinion on playing music in the art room?

Cassidy Reinken


This article was written by former AOE writer and life-long learner, Cassidy Reinken.


  • Mrs.C

    I stream Pandora in my elementary art room also! I have several stations that I have made up, some being Quiet meditation and George Winston… my youngest students call it the “fancy restaurant” music and remind me when its not on. My oldest students will sometimes ask why we listen to such mellow music… the insightful students will will comment back,” She’s trying to calm us down, not make us rowdy!” They will also remind me if I forget to turn it on though, lol….. :)

    • Cassidy Reinken

      “Fancy restaurant”- I LOVE it!

  • Dan Ng

    I’m all for chill music in the classroom, studio, etc. An interesting thought is that many of us have memory associations with music or certain songs. Being exposed to new types of music through teachers or peers in art class gave me a lot of art-music memories that I don’t think I could undo if I tried. For example, every time I listen to Sigur Ros I immediately remember hours in college spent smoothing strokes on canvas oil paintings in a large studio with evening sun coming through huge windows where I could see the clouds gently drifting past.
    All that to say I think music adds something to the artistic experience.

    • Cassidy Reinken

      Great point. When I was in college I listened to the Garden State soundtrack for hours while painting. To this day I still thinking of Painting 2 when I hear a song from the movie!

  • Susan

    I also play music in my classes. I use it to introduce some quiet time when they are working. Students also remind me to put on the music when I’ve forgotten. Also, I’ll sometimes gear music to integrate with what they are learning. For instance, when creating an abstract painting with a jazz theme, the students listened to jazz stations that I streamed.

  • Jane Langenfeld

    I have played concentration level music (music set around 80 beats a minute) for my high school students since I completed my masters thesis on creativity and cognition many years aga I specifically play music with no recognizable words to keep students working in thier R-Mode. Some students are resistant but when they see their concentration level improve, and feel that their artwork is easier to do and looks better, the complaining usually stops! I have 3 mp3 cds that I burned with days worth of music on them. Most of my students are fine with the variety of songs but I’m getting a bit tired of the same ones. I’m always on the outlook for good stations on Pandora or spotify but I find it hard to find stations with no words at a working tempo – many are too mellow and they put everyone into sleepy time! I’d welome any station suggestions!

    • Cassidy Reinken

      Your thesis sound so interesting! I go back and forth between words and no words. I’m always looking for new stations as well. Definitely don’t want to put my students to sleep!

  • roxyarc

    I also play music in my middle school art room/studio. I started playing music really for me more than the kids. For me the music helps keeps me calm and relaxed. I find that it can have the same effect on my students. Music is therapy-especially while creating art it can help inspire and motivate. I also play a lot of similar music as you stated- jazz, chill, classical, etc. I have also had the same issues with pop music. Music without lyric is better. Pandora is great. I do allow ear buds only listening but usually only during studio working time.

  • april

    I started to play music in my elementary art room 2 years ago. I play classical, jazz, new age, and music of other cultures. I refer to it as “art music”. I like introducing them to other kinds of music besides rap. Some students would ask if we could play what they call regular music, but I say no only art music. I do not want to deal with the swears and inappropriate subject matter in popular music. What I found interesting is how much they enjoyed it saying how, “it made them feel calm” reminding me it I forgot put it on, they started to have their favorites and requesting them, and how many classical songs they recognize because of cartoons. I had one students who would put the cd cover by his seat and look at what song was playing. His favorite was Vivaldi’s Four Seasons and whenever I put that one on he knew what movement was playing and would announce it. I had another boy who loved Beethoven and called it “George Washington” music. I had to ask him what he meant by that so he hummed the tune dahdahdahDAAH from the 9th symphony. Oddly enough I do not play music in my middle and high school classrooms (I teach k-12 at an alternative school for emotional and behavioral students).

    • Cassidy Reinken

      This is interesting to me. Why do you only play for your elementary students? Do you allow your older students to listen to their own music?

  • John Post

    Every class, every day listens to music in my K-6 art room. I use streaming music from iTunes on my Apple computer. My favorite stream is VeniceRadio – a classical station from Venice Italy. When I was in college, the wood shop instructor always had classical playing in the shop – the music made the experience of working in that woodshop memorable. And Sherm Handy was a gem of a woodshop instructor…

  • Kim

    I play music most all the time during studio time {not during lessons or quizzes} and it really has helped to keep my kids focused and calmer! I play Irish/Celtic, Native American Flute or other instramental music. I also love to play Enya because most of the lyrics are background. Though they wouldn’t play “my music” for themselves, if I forget my kids will ask for it.

    • LB

      I love playing Native American Flutes…it seems to calm my elementary students (and me!)

  • Dawn Kruger

    I use music often. One group I never tire of is Ladysmith Black Mambazo.

    • Cassidy Reinken

      Thanks for the suggestion!

  • Laurissa Kovacs

    That is exactly what I do. While they are working I play the Bon Iver station on Pandora (Don’t forget to go into your settings and filter explicit content) When they take a quiz there is no music or if they are too loud then I turn it off (that usually get their attention and settles them down.) I do allow my students to listen to their own music if they have headphones. (I teach 7th & 8th Grade)

  • Beth

    I have a spotify playlist of songs that they seems to like and that I can tolerate and enjoy.

  • kelleypen

    Yes, I allow music, but music without lyrics. I’d rather they not have the distraction of the words framing their ideas, if that makes any sense.

  • Pingback: A Simple Strategy to Control Volume in the Art Room - The Art of Education University()