What Does Music Mean to Mendham?


Nate Schoenbrodt, Freelance Writer

Music means something different to everyone. To poet Peter Porter, it was a “marriage made in heaven”; to Harvard professor and writer Henry Longfellow, it was the “universal language of mankind”; commenting on the art’s powerful ability, philosopher Karen Marie Higgins wrote, that despite its myriad forms, music communicates “the sense of shared human experience.” With thousands of genres, millions of artists, and streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music becoming increasingly popular each year, it’s safe to say that we live in an era where music is more accessible for both creators and consumers than ever before. 

I recently polled our Mendham High School student body to find out what music means to them. Students were asked what their favorite musical genres were, how much time they spent listening, and ultimately what music as a whole meant to them (why they listened, how it made them feel, etc.). I found that music acts as a comfort device, providing Mendham students with nostalgia and a sense of safety. Junior Luke Telloni defined music as “sitting in the passenger seat on a long road trip listening to my favorite songs from 2013”. 

In the past decade, surveys have shown that anywhere from 70 to 90% percent of Americans listen to music daily, with the highest numbers reporting an average listener reaching twenty-five hours per week. My Mendham sample size found that 10.5% of students listen to music for less than an hour a day, 47.4% listen between one and two, and 42.1% listen for more than three. The most popular genre was found to be rap/hip-hop, making up 84.2% of all answers. Pop, rock, country, EDM, indie pop, folk, R&B, indie rock, jazz, heavy metal, theater/soundtracks, orchestra/big band, and classical music all trailed in respectful positions. 

Like all art, the emotions music makes us feel are constantly changing

Music makes us feel alive, plain and simple. One senior described it as “therapy”; another wrote, “Music to me is just something to take you out of the real world for a little bit of time.” Personally, I can’t go more than a few hours without putting in my earbuds and listening to whatever I love that week. I have specific playlists for exactly how I’m feeling, whether it’s a state of hopeless blank stares or smiling so long it’s starting to hurt. I find it funny and slightly depressing how many nights I’ve spent just staring at my fan as I lay in bed with headphones on, volume all the way up. How I feel depends on the circumstance, but for the nights that have been spent worrying and punching my pillow, there’s an equal amount that I’ve had butterflies out of eagerness. My own experience with music has always made me believe that listening to and creating it is the most human thing we can do. Junior Thomas Gangemi put it perfectly when he responded “Out of everything that humans have produced with our time on Earth, I think music is our crowning achievement”.