Live piano sets study tone in Student Union

(Archive photo by Katelin Woods | Collegian Media Group)

Settling into a plush purple chair, cracking open your textbooks and pulling out your array of colored pens for notetaking, the Kansas State Student Union welcomes you as you begin your homework for the day.

Adding to the atmosphere, music from the piano begins to play, filling the space with relaxing tunes to aid students in their lengthy assignment endeavors.

The pianos throughout the Union are available anytime for anyone who wishes to play. With no organized scheduling of performers, you never know when or what songs you will hear.

“I like when people play the piano in the Union because I like to listen to piano anyway, so it kind of works out for me,” Kirsten Gross, senior in history, said. “Usually, the people playing are really good too.”

For many people, music can have a positive effect on them while studying to get the wheels turning. Sally Bailey, director of theatre graduate studies and the drama therapy program, said it depends on the person. For some, music can be a distraction. However, it can boost concentration for others.

“[For] a lot of people, it helps them focus because it just works with the way their brain works, and a lot of times if you have some kind of positive sensory thing going on in the background, whether it’s smells or colors in the room or music or sound effects like a waterfall, it helps you remember things,” Bailey said.

She said learning new information can be overwhelming, especially when the load seems infinite. Bringing music or an aesthetically decorated room into the mix can lighten the atmosphere, making a study space more comfortable and helping students absorb information more efficiently.

“The senses are really tied up with memory, and if you bring that sound or smell back into your mind when you are taking a test, that helps you bring the material back into your memory,” Bailey said. “It’s not a guarantee, but it helps because it gets connected in a pleasant way in your brain with the material that’s going in. So, if you’re reading a book, it gets connected with that sensory input.”

Bailey said it is hard for information to become a long-term memory when someone is anxious, so if music can calm the person down, it can aid them in their studies.

“When I’m studying in the Union, listening to the piano performers helps me focus and relax,” Ethan McMullen, freshman in civil engineering, said.

In the Union, many people have different music tastes, so choosing a classical instrument like the piano could support the outcome of a majority of people being positively affected.

“I would think that most of the time, really jarring music or out of tune things get in the way, but anything relaxing or flowy [produces a] positive feeling,” Bailey said.

Something as simple as hearing a piano can change how people view working on school work.

“I think music is so fascinating how it can just reshape people attitude’s, people’s approach to things; it’s really wonderful,” Bailey said.