While some students use journaling, physical activity or art projects to help improve their mental health, other students like kinesiology freshman Lance Evensen turn to music as their outlet. 

Evensen said he writes music, “to categorize” how he feels.

He’s been writing music for nearly three years. Comparing it to recording thoughts in a journal, Evensen said music helps him to better process his emotions and destress during the week.

Evenson has 12 years of guitar experience and has gone through multiple different teaching styles, from classical to jazz.

According to a peer review article by Frontiers in Physcology, “Music education can promote students’ mental health, enable students to relax themselves, express their feelings, release bad emotions, build harmonious interpersonal relationships, and help students establish a good mental health system.” 

Agriculture engineering freshman Brook Brower has recently gotten into playing guitar over the past five months and has found similar results.

“Whenever I play guitar in the morning with friends, I notice I have a much better quality day,” Brower said. “[I] feel more prepared to take on the stresses of college.”

Anxiety and stress is something highly present in college students. A survey done by the Association for University and Counseling Center Directors in 2021 found that 61% of college counseling clients deemed anxiety to be the most frequent concern, followed by stress at 47% and depression at 44%. 

Associate music professor at Cal Poly, Jim Bachman, said learning an instrument can improve self-discipline, focus and concentration. In turn these traits work as tools to better cope with anxiety, according to Bachman. 

Along with the Guitar Ensemble instructed by Professor Bachman, Cal Poly offers a beginning guitar class fulfilling one unit of credit.  

Bachman teaches a class of 25 students one day a week on Wednesdays from 5 to 7 p.m. He said the class is mostly seniors, but is open to all students and is available every quarter. 

It’s a collaborative class where all students work together. He starts the class by teaching technique and then moves on to teaching cords and songs. The class has two performance tests where students get to choose their own song they want to play. 

Bachman said by the end of the course he often gets to hear songs he would not have heard otherwise.

While the class has a structure, ultimately students are able to come out of it with a new hobby or pastime. Bachman said he encourages his students to keep their guitars out of the case in their rooms and ready to play in the middle of school work. 

The Cal Poly Music Department even rents out 10 guitars available to students every quarter for a $20 fee.

“I think [music] is a really good way for students in these really stressful curricula to kind of decompress throughout the week,” Bachman said.