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What’s on Your Playlist? USU Students Use Music to Help Study while COVID-sequestered

A photo of Derrick Knox

By Vivian Mason


Music is medicine. We’ve all heard that music soothes the savage beast. It’s also been touted as having healing powers and being a kind of refuge. Many people agree that music can lift your mood and act as therapy for the mind, heart, and soul. According to the late Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, “Music is transporting….It’s uplifting, …encouraging, and …strengthening.”

All of those things are sorely needed in these trying pandemic times. And, despite what’s happening in the world today, medical school life – and studying -- goes on for students at the F. Edward Hébert School of Medicine at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USU).  

So, what’s the secret to their productivity? Can music help them with studying and memorizing material? Can it help them with relaxing and forgetting about the pandemic chaos for a while? What about when they have a serious case of cabin fever? 

For many USU students, it’s all about the vibe and getting into the zone to optimize results. Their favorite playlists and/or motivating tunes take over to do the supercharging. So, let’s take a look at what works for a few USU melophiles.


A photo of Alex Dunaway

Melophile (a music lover): Air Force 2nd Lt. Alex Dunaway, Class of 2022

Music Playlist Name: Video Game Study Lounge

Number of songs: 291

Tunes include: Stickerbrush Symphony, Aquarium Park, Lavender Town, Sky Chase, Astral Observatory, Hypervigilant Hero, Dearly Beloved, Into the Light, Game Over, Ballad of the Wind Fish, National Park, Aquatic Ambience, Pokémon Gym, Relic Song, Sky Chase, Gusty Gardens, Astral Delusions, Dark World, Lost Woods, Flying Battery, Mario’s Rooftop Pool Party, Diggin’ Til the Very End, Funky Robo, Dungeons, Mountain Range, The Bubbledrome, and more

What Alex says: “When I study, I usually like to listen to Video Game Study Lounge. It consists mainly of video game soundtracks. The playlist helps me to focus and not get distracted by lyrics.” Video game soundtracks are designed to enhance your focus and performance. This genre of music was created to simultaneously stimulate your senses and blend into the background of your brain.



A photo of Tora Cobb

Melophile: Air Force 2nd Lt. Tora Cobb, Class of 2022

Music Playlist Name: Just Go Run

Number of songs: 61

Artists include: Quinn XCII, Taylor Swift, Lizzo, Foster The People, David Guetta, The Rubens, Hippo Campus, The Chainsmokers, Mike Snow, Billie Eilish, Panic! At The Disco, Demi Lovato, The Vamps, Kacey Musgraves, Marshmello, and others

What Tora says: “This is my running playlist! I listen to it when I just need to run and clear my head after a long day.”




A photo of Derrick Knox


Melophile: Navy Ensign Derrick Knox, Class of 2022

Music Playlist Name: Str8 (with flame emoji x3)

Number of songs: 4,579

Artists include: Fitz and The Tantrums, Frank Ocean, Eli Young Band, Neon Trees, The Flaming Lips, Calvin Harris, Maroon 5, No Doubt, Kendrick Lamar, Kid Cudi, Kanye West, Ellie Goulding, Ed Sheeran, David Guetta, Loreen, Kenny Chesney, OneRepublic, Blake Shelton, Rhianna, The Killers, Train, Pink, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Ludacris, Kelly Clarkson, The Weeknd, Pitbull, will.i.am, Imagine Dragons, Green Day, Kesha, TI, A$AP Rocky, Arctic Monkeys, Taylor Swift, Linkin Park, Lana Del Rey, Alabama Shakes, Ballyhoo!, Olly Murs, Vampire Weekend, Sara Bareilles, Idina Menzel, John Legend, Grouplove, Enrique Iglesias, among others

What Derrick says: “I listen to music a lot. This playlist is quite haphazard and heterogeneous. I've had it since my freshman year of college. Also, there are a wide range of genres, from musical show tunes to Disney music to Kanye West to Travis Scott. But, I like this diversity because I can put it on shuffle and always find something to listen to, regardless of my mood. When I'm working out, I like to listen to high-energy, upbeat music. When I’m studying, I gravitate to the more somber and tranquil tunes.” 



A photo of Pollara Cobb with her mother

Melophile: Air Force 2nd Lt. Pollara Cobb, Class of 2022

Music Playlist Names: Calm Vibes, Piano Comfort, and Peaceful Piano

Number of songs (total): 619

Artists include: Leyton Stills, Tomasz Kraal, Ever So Blue, Valbona Ceferin, Ruben Galloway, Peter Sandberg, Kolorascze, Mia Strass, Elliot Ziegler, and more (Calm Vibes; 188 songs); Joaquin Mans, Leon Noel, Borghild Wenn, Ricki Westberg, Way Beyond, Nel Brim, Franz Gordon, Ben Evans-Parker, Vala Capon, Aenor, and more (Piano Comfort; 163 songs); and Moux, Eric Badanti, Jef Martens, SYML, Davorka Polijak, Snow in April, Tristan Eckerson, Sabine Paulet, Figgy Malone, 8th Floor Wide, and more (Peaceful Piano; 268 songs)

What Pollara says: “I love sharing music and discovering new sounds! When I’m studying/relaxing, I love to listen (and I MUST) to contemporary piano music (sometimes classical). I interchange among Calm Vibes, Piano Comfort, or Peaceful Piano playlists. When I was training for my first half marathon, I religiously listened to my Longruns Playlist (75 songs). It includes artists such as John Mayer, Khalid, Gaullin, OneRepublic, Gorillaz, Ingrid Michaelson, Klingande, deadmau5, Calvin Harris, SOAK, and others. Also, I’m from Guam, and it’s a rightful must to have an Island Jams playlist. Whenever I feel homesick or the sun is shining bright (or not), I always find myself listening to the sounds from the islands on the Island Music (Hawaiian & Reggae Blend) playlist (380 songs). It’s a really good mix of island music. The playlist includes artists such as Likkle Jordee, Tessanne Chin, The Holdup, Kolohe Kai, MAGIC!, Nesian N.I.N.E., Rebel Souljahz, Fiji, Common Kings, and others. One of my favorite songs is Sunshine by Maoli. It's such a happy, lovey tune. Hearing it always puts me in a good mood. I also have a soft spot for older artists such as Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Nat King Cole, and Frank Sinatra. However, I also enjoy alternative neosoul/jazz artists such as Tom Misch and Mac Ayres.”



A photo of Jonathan Yu


Melophile: Army 2nd Lt. Jonathan Yu, Class of 2020

Music Playlist Name: Lofi Hip Hop Music—Beats to Relax/Study to

Number of songs: 208

Artists include: Brenky, fantompower, Fortnight, Idealism, Kasper Lindmark, Nymano, HM Surf, Milkz, Jinsang, Kalaido, SPEECHLESS, Pandrezz, and others

What Jonathan says: “I usually like playlists labeled ‘lofi hip-hop’” on music sites.


What’s on your playlist?