Taylor Swift to Mozart: What people in New Bedford are listening to during their workday

NEW BEDFORD — Phish, Jack Johnson, classic jazz and Russian symphonies — these are only some of the types of music playing in the ears of local workers during the day.

But does it help with productivity, or is it a distraction?

A recent USAToday article listed 20 science-backed health benefits of music such as improving cognitive performance, help people perform better in high-pressure situations and reduce anxiety as much as a massage.

And 90% of workers perform better when listening to music, and 88% of employees produce more accurate work when listening, according to a recent 2020 study on music and productivity.

As for what type of music works best, 58% of people completed tasks more quickly when listening to pop music, according to a study, while 20% people reported that dance music helps improve proof-reading speed and 92% reported ambient music improves accuracy of data entry.

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Wendy Hall, executive producer of New Bedford Festival Theatre said she listens to specifically Russian symphonies. "They give me just the right amount of energy but without distracting my focus," she said.

Conee Sousa, director of marketing and public relations for the New Bedford Symphony Orchestra, said the office listens to various playlists by classical composers as well as classic rock, soul, plus a little jazz and folk.

"We find that classical music works perfectly in the background for most of our tasks as it’s calming and keeps up focused when working at warp speed to try to keep up," Sousa said.

Listening to classical music, in particular, can increase focus according to a study by the Stanford University School of Medicine.

Scientists revealed it could help the brain absorb and even interpret new information more quickly than people who do not listen to songs.

The New Bedford Symphony Orchestra (NBSO) with Maestro Yaniv Dinur, front.
The New Bedford Symphony Orchestra (NBSO) with Maestro Yaniv Dinur, front.

"We try to keep the mood lighter on Fridays with the other genres, often playing favorites of whoever is in the office that day," Sousa added.

"Some of us have been known to get up and dance for a few minutes, just to relieve stress and recharge."

Listening to Frank Ocean and Phish

Lindsay Miś, executive director of the Massachusetts Design Art and Technology Institute (DATMA), said that in her art studio she is either listening to Little Dragon, a Swedish electronic music band, or Frank Ocean.

"They both have chill R&B and pop vibes that energies and helps me focus simultaneously," she said.

However, in the office she said she has to listen to "brown noise," a type of low-frequency sound, or NPR. "I need to keep my head down. No fun," she said.

Anne Louro, assistant city planner, said because of their open office layout her sound-cancelling Apple AirPods were the best Christmas gift ever.

"I do a lot of writing, so I listen mostly to acoustic and Apple Chill music," she said.

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"I'm also not embarrassed to say that I am still hooked on Taylor Swift’s "Folklore" and "Evermore" albums. They seriously got me through working remotely during COVID- and are my steady go to when I need to get something done on a deadline."

Stephen Silverstein, owner of The Black Whale, Cisco Kitchen + Bar and the recently opened Sail Loft in Dartmouth, said he likes to listen to soft rock and acoustic pop musician Jack Johnson.

Emily the elephant likes her tunes

Jennifer Smith, the superintendent of New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park, said she likes to listen the band Phish — however she doesn't like to listen to music often as it can be distracting to her and the others in the office.

Joanne Murray, director of the Women's Fund SouthCoast said she doesn't like to listen to music either when working, but listens to a playlist in her car while driving to work which includes Van Morrison, Bonnie Rait, Lyle Lovett, James Taylor, Stan Getz and Mozart.

Emily the elephant roams her enclosure at the Buttonwood Park Zoo.
Emily the elephant roams her enclosure at the Buttonwood Park Zoo.

At the Buttonwood Park Zoo, Executive Director Sarah Henry also doesn't listen to music because it can be distracting while event and marketing manager Kris Caisse said she listens to podcasts such as "That’s Messed Up" or "Girls Gotta Eat."

However, according to Assistant Director Shara Rapoza, zookeepers at the Buttonwood Park Zoo use a variety of enrichment with their animals, and that sometimes includes music.

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"Emily, one our resident Asian elephants, loves the sounds of drumming and will often spend time testing out various rhythms on items in her habitat — barrels, gates, those sorts of things — mimicking the sounds she hears," Rapoza said.

Meanwhile, when BuyBlackNB founder Justina Perry isn't blasting Beyonce's newest "Renaissance" album in her car, she said she goes with something high vibration or instrumental to help get her in the right headspace to focus.

Music that gets people in the mood

She said she also uses the meditative InsightTimer app as well which has many free energizing songs to get her in the mood.

Justina Perry checks in on all of the various areas she organized for the BuyBlackNB hosted event at the Rotch-Jones-Duff house in New Bedford.
Justina Perry checks in on all of the various areas she organized for the BuyBlackNB hosted event at the Rotch-Jones-Duff house in New Bedford.

Margo Saulnier, New Bedford Creative's director of creative strategies, spent most of her career in the music industry trained as a professional clarinetist

"If I’m stressed, classical or jazz will bring me peace and balance. If I want to get pumped up, I rely on ‘90s hip-hop faves De La Soul, Missy Elliott, Beastie Boys or current pop icons Lady Gaga and Lizzo," she said.

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There are also two songs by local artists Saulnier said she's been listening to a lot lately. One is Candida Rose’s “Love Each Other Through” because she said it’s a love letter to the world.

"I've also been listening to Scapeghost’s “Dark Star” because it’s a love letter to me by my husband, Scott Bishop," Saulnier said.

Standard-Times staff writer Seth Chitwood can be reached at schitwood@s-t.com. Follow him on twitter: @ChitwoodReports. Support local journalism by purchasing a digital or print subscription to The Standard-Times today.

This article originally appeared on Standard-Times: Taylor Swift, Frank Ocean, Phish: music New Bedford workers listen to