You’re at your desk, trying desperately to finish an audit on time. Cubicles line either side of the aisle, as far as the eye can see. Unfortunately the florescent lights above and the constant humming of the printer behind you is not enough to keep you focused on the task at hand. Numbers start to melt together and your once beautiful spreadsheet starts to look more like a contour plot. While fingers on other keyboards are clicking away and providing some type of white noise; it isn’t enough. You decide it’s time to plug in the IPod and tune into your trusted favorites. As the soothing sounds of those jazz melodies take over, your contour plot becomes the spreadsheet you were so desperately trying to read not ten minutes ago.

Many people benefit from having music quietly playing in the background while they work. While some professionals- production, writers, and athletes, prefer music with lyrics that inspire. Others, such as accountants, financial analysts, other writers, and doctors, prefer music with softer tones, percussions; melodies. Arguments can be made for and against whether certain professions are drawn more toward a style of music versus other professions. But it truly is a personal preference. Many in mathematical professions may be drawn to jazz standards due to its freedom of expression. With instrumentals whirling around them; jazz music leaves much to the imagination. Allowing one to express their own musical voice or story; organizing internally motivated, stimulus independent behaviors. This stimulus activates certain cognitive operations that may allow numbers and equations to flow freely; giving mathematicians and accountants alike a reason to gravitate toward such styles of music.

With the stress that many in the financial world feel, it’s no wonder so many may gravitate toward the soothing sounds of jazz music. Jazz music can provide an ebb and flow that keeps us engaged at a very high neurophysiological level. Dr. Richard Randall, from Carnegie Mellon University, studies the neurological responses to expectation violations in Western-tonal music. He states that “very complex styles of music like hard-bop Jazz would likely show greater activations in specific brain regions than listening to the Mamas and the Papas. This is because your brain is always trying to figure out what’s going on and to make sense of the sounds we’re hearing. The more complex the stimulus is, the more likely it will violate one or more of the expectations.” He goes on to say that Classical and Jazz music will strike a balance between various expectations.

This balance is something musicians and mathematicians alike strive to find.  But where jazz standards (and music in general) are creative and raw; math is abstract and linear. For those in the mathematical world, an answer at times is easy to see; at other times perseverance and training are needed to obtain it logically. Whether a CPA, mathematician or analyst, it’s not enough to just “see” the answer, you need to prove your conclusions. For those who love classical and jazz music, it’s not enough to just listen to the music; you must truly hear the variations in style; feel what the melody is saying; liberate the story from the heart and convey it to the rest of the world. And while the road to finding balance in each seems parallel and contradicting, there are similarities between them.

For there is math in music and music in math; both determined to get a message out. Whether it’s turning notes into lyrics and melodies that evoke an emotion or turning numbers into complex equations that give assurance and proof of financial information- both are telling us something; both are striving for balance; both are representing information in their own way.


A fan of music and math alike, Freed Maxick CPAs will have their “Freed Maxick Jazz Tent” at Rochester’s Little Theater during Rochester International Jazz Fest June 21st-29th! Make sure to stop by during the festival and surround yourself with the soothing sounds of live performances, food, and a cash bar. The Little Theatre, a new club venue for the Festival, will also have ticketed events inside. Check out the schedule below:

  • Fri., June 21, 5:30-7:30: Josh Netsky l 8:30-10:30: GRR Band
  • Sat., June 22, 5:30-7:30: Connie Deming l 8:30-10:30:  Annie Wells
  • Sun., June 23, 5:30-7:30: Stoney Lonesome Band l 8:30-10:30: Harmonica Lewinsky
  • Mon., June 24, 5:30-7:30: Maria Gillard l 8:30-10:30: The Jane Mutiny
  • Tues., June 25, 5:30-7:30: Steve Grills and The Roadmasters l 8:30-10:30: Significant Other
  • Wed., June 26, 5:30-7:30: The Russell Fielder Trio l 8:30-10:30: Margaret Explosion
  • Thur., June 27, (PRIVATE EVENT) l 8:30-10:30: The Pickpockets
  • Fri., June 28, 5:30-7:30: Josh Netsky l 8:30-10:30: GRR Band
  • Sat., June 29, 5:30-7:30: Michalea Davis l 8:30-10:30: Annie Wells

Artist highlights here: http://interactive.wxxi.org/jazzfest