If you recorded the audio inside a cafeteria during lunch time, what would it sound like? You’d probably hear the clinking of trays and silverware, the shuffling of feet through the serving line, the gentle murmur of students chatting and the scraping of food into the trash can.

But if you recorded the audio inside Streamwood High School or Alice Terry Elementary School, you’d hear something very different.


“Play Me, I’m Yours”

A social experiment borrowed from the “Play Me, I’m Yours” artwork movement resulted in Streamwood High placing a piano in the middle of the cafeteria. Students at this Illinois high school are invited to showcase their musical talents and entertain their peers during lunch time.

Bringing an instrument into the lunch room invites students who may be shy or haven’t had the opportunity to share their abilities to show everyone what they can do. Streamwood High School music teacher David Hain told the Daily Herald that the entire cafeteria has joined in on renditions of songs by popular artists Adele, Beyoncé and Rihanna.

Jazz in the Cafeteria

Ami Hall, music teacher at Alice Terry Elementary in Colorado, also believes in the power of music in the cafeteria. She informed students that they would occasionally have “silent” lunch breaks, then called on the help of saxophonist Harold Rapp to play for the students while they ate lunch.

Rapp entertains the students as they chow down, playing the scales and beautiful jazz melodies as he walks up and down the rows of children. Students have praised this lunchtime performance, saying Rapp’s music calms them down and makes them want to dance.

Inviting musicians to put on live performances in the cafeteria

  • invites students to keep their voices at a reasonable level
  • exposes students to live instruments and different types of music
  • provides a calming atmosphere
  • offers mealtime entertainment and a break from the norm

Benefits of Music Exposure

According to Dr. Diane Bales, music helps the brain process information better. She told Consumer Affairs that children who grow up listening to music “develop strong music-related connections”, and that some of these music pathways “affect the way we think.”

By bringing music into the cafeteria, you’re not just fueling their bodies with the nutrition they need to succeed in the classroom. You’re also helping improve students’ spatial reasoning, introducing them to other cultures, and building their tolerance and respect for others, according to Dr. Bales.

Other Ideas

If bringing in instruments or a live performer just isn’t feasible for your program, consider these other ideas for introducing music into the cafeteria.

  • Invite the school band to have a performance once a month, or even once a week, in the cafeteria. This welcomes music into the lunch room without the cost of bringing in outside performers, and allows the band an opportunity to practice, get exposure and earn praise for their hard work.
  • Make a playlist of appropriate songs to play over the loudspeakers when students come in for meals. Have a box for song suggestions at the end of the serving line, and encourage students to submit their favorites. Keep the music at a reasonable level – loud enough to hear, but not so loud that it makes students noisier.

Do you currently use music in your cafeteria? If so, in what way? If not, why not? Share your comments and ideas below!