Category Archives: 14 Songs in 14 Days

14 Songs in 14 Days: Day 4, Middle & High School Band

Recap: I was challenged by one of my friends in EMU Choir to participate in one of those “14 Songs in 14 Days” kind of things, where you list or discuss 14 pieces of music that have had a profound impact on your life! Seeing as to how I have an abundance of time on my hands that I’m using only semi-usefully to this point in the quarantine/ isolation, I figured why not step up my game a bit and use this challenge as the theme of a blog post series. For the entire series, click here.

I actually had a hard time thinking of what to pick for my self-imposed chronological trip through my personal musical memory lane today! I’ve been trying to think up what music from my middle school years made a lasting impact on me or shaped my life in some way, and I’m kinda coming up dry… (and can we all agree that middle school is the most awkward time for all humanity, and thus it’s okay that I’ve done a good job of blocking it out of my mind?!)

But I must prevail for you, o valiant few readers! And so I’ve come up with a couple of ideas.

Middle school was the time when I started to develop my own musical identity, somewhat separate from the musical influences of my family and church—and even my early schooling, come to think of it, because we did have music class and choir in K-5, but it was all largely in the same genre of music that’s developmentally appropriate for young children. But by middle school kids are wandering around trying to find their place in the awkward world and starting to branch out, and for me that took a couple of forms that would have lengthy impacts on my life: 1) I joined middle school band in 6th grade and started playing the trumpet (and became no small obsession from then until college…) and 2) at the encouragement of one of my best friends, I picked up the bass guitar sometime in either 7th or 8th grade, though I didn’t really become decent at it until high school. Perhaps I’ll delve more into the rock, funk, blues, and other music that shaped the bass guitar playing (and high school garage band days!) in tomorrow’s post?

But I’m not sure any one (or two) songs stand out from that period. Early band is all about learning the fundamentals of music and how to play your instrument, and nothing that came out of the 6th grade band book is going to qualify as “life changing!” (With my apologies to Mr. Tucker and Mr. Farmer…)

But beginning in 7th grade, due to either a shortage of competent high school band kids or maybe the directors’ seeing some future potential in me (or some combination thereof) I was selected to join the high school marching band, not unheard of for select 8th graders but a pretty rare thing at that time for a 7th grader! Suddenly I was thrust into the world of very old and very scary high schoolers [never mind the fact that they were mostly just angstier/horomonally challenged versions of middle schoolers—they were so big.] But I took a plunge and ended up, by the time high school was all said and done, one of the biggest band nerds in school: marching band for six years (so many that I lost track of which fieldshows went with which year…), high school jazz band from 8th grade on, 1st chair and trumpet section leader all four years of high school… Dang, I was such a nerd. (And really, what’s changed?)

So since I can’t settle on just one song from that period that greatly shaped my musical life, I’m giving you a couple different options for your listening pleasure tonight.

The first, in keeping with my incredible love of jazz during that time period (though ironically, this phased out as I’ve gotten older and shifted more and more toward classical music!), I give you one of the most challenging pieces we ever attempted to tackle in jazz band: Buddy Rich’s jazz standard Channel One Suite. It. Was. Tough. We asked Mr. Farmer (the jazz band director) if we could play it…probably every year. I think we pulled it off maybe twice during my time there, and I don’t have a recording of it from then. So enjoy this amazing (24 minute! ours wasn’t nearly so long…) version played live by the Buddy Rich Band.

The second option I’m going to leave with you as indicative of the entire trumpet-playing, marching band period is the one marching band field show I happen to know is on YouTube (because I had a recording of it from some video project in high school and I uploaded it to my own YouTube channel a while back!) Enjoy the 2003 Westview High School field show called Song of the South. For the record…I won’t feel bad if you don’t listen to the full versions of either of these! 😆😂

14 Songs in 14 Days: Day 3, The Most Epic Mannheim Steamroller

Recap: I was challenged by one of my friends in EMU Choir to participate in one of those “14 Songs in 14 Days” kind of things, where you list or discuss 14 pieces of music that have had a profound impact on your life! Seeing as to how I have an abundance of time on my hands that I’m using only semi-usefully to this point in the quarantine/ isolation, I figured why not step up my game a bit and use this challenge as the theme of a blog post series. For the entire series, click here.

Today’s song will bring to an end the posts about songs from my early childhood that had a profound impact on my life, as tomorrow I’ll start to transition to a little bit of the “in-between-times” (I’m thinking specifically of this as the middle/high school age range). But before we move into the “not-quite-a-child” and “nowhere-near-an-adult” times, let’s celebrate one more song that brought me (and my sister, and perhaps an entire generation of kiddos in the early 1990s!) unabashed joy…so much so that my family entertained our seemingly insane requests to tape it from the radio, local Martin radio station WCMT 101.3 FM.

That song, of course, would be the first hit off Mannheim Steamroller’s 1984 (!—how did we not learn about them, at least in Martin, until the early ’90s?!?!) 6x platinum album Mannheim Steamroller Christmas, “Deck the Halls.”

Just go ahead and let that YouTube video start rolling. I’ll wait.

I simply cannot adequately express the SHEER THRILL of hearing that song on the radio for the first time.

“You mean…Christmas songs… can sound fun? Funky? Synthesizers?!

Nevermind I had no idea what a synthesizer was at age, like, 5. That’s beside the point. I was in awe. We really did wait for it to come on the radio and then recorded it to cassette tape, like people did in the days when the Internet was still in its super infancy and if they didn’t sell things at Walmart or in a catalog, we likely didn’t know about it in Martin, TN. I still sometimes think that the end of this particular track is supposed to be followed by the radio interlude music (or maybe it was an ad or a station identification?) that came on right after “Deck the Halls” on our recorded cassette. Because, naturally, we just kept recording the radio station until the cassette ran out of tape! I still remember the song where it ended (and then we started anew on the “B” side of the tape)… good ol’ Johnny Mathis’s “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year.” Before Pandora became a thing, I don’t think I’d ever heard the entire version of his song before… the tape side ended right around the 1:35 mark, during the brass interlude!

Eventually, of course, my family went on to purchase all (I think?) of the Mannheim Steamroller Christmas albums as they were released, even switching at some point to CD! We listened to those albums in the car (see the Day 2 post for more on just how long those car rides were!) every Christmas season so much, I’m amazed they never broke. These albums stayed with us year after year, holiday drive after holiday drive, right up until I went to college and met Karen, who—also being the same age and having a musically responsible family—ALSO loved and owned ALL the Mannheim Steamroller Christmas albums (and her mom still has a lot of their non-Christmas, classical albums, which I never knew were a thing until Karen and I met!) It is now our tradition to start listening to the Mannheim Steamroller Christmas albums, in chronological order of their release, every year on our drive home from Thanksgiving, which is the appropriate time for Christmas music to begin (fight me on it…) This song just sticks with you—for life!


Oh, and in case you thought we were done here…. Oh…no, no. I JUST FOUND OUT TONIGHT while searching for a YouTube video of the audio (for ease of sharing the audio recording with you) that Mannheim Steamroller made music videos in the ’80s and it’s either the greatest thing I ever seen (well, okay at least since binge watching all of Stranger Things earlier this year—can you tell I’m on a bigtime ’80s kick right now?) or incredibly scary for small children. I’ll leave it up to you to decide!

TTFN! Can’t wait to see what craziness we find ourselves in tomorrow!

14 Songs in 14 Days: Day 2, Songs from the Car Rides

Recap: I was challenged by one of my friends in EMU Choir to participate in one of those “14 Songs in 14 Days” kind of things, where you list or discuss 14 pieces of music that have had a profound impact on your life! Seeing as to how I have an abundance of time on my hands that I’m using only semi-usefully to this point in the quarantine/ isolation, I figured why not step up my game a bit and use this challenge as the theme of a blog post series. For the entire series, click here.

As I mentioned in my first post, in my quick brainstorm yesterday for this series, I came up with way more than 14 songs that have had a substantial impact on my life. In an effort to combine some of these (though I’m open to the idea of keeping this series going beyond “14 songs/days”), I started thinking about how I might organizing some songs based on the time periods in which they first had that impact or the major activities that were going on during those periods. Today’s two songs are a good example of that combination.

Those two songs, at first blush, wouldn’t seem to have much to do with each other or have much in common! The two are Larnelle Harris’s “I Miss My Time with You” and “Take Me in Your Arms” by the Doobie Brothers (though really, these two songs are taken from the respect albums From a Servant’s Heart (1986) and Best of the Doobies (1976). See what I mean?! Not a lot of similarities here, on the surface!

But I join these two songs (as representative of the full albums) together as having been some of favorites as a young kid because we listened to these albums (on cassette tape, naturally!) seemingly non-stop in the van while I was growing up…and my family drove places in that van a lot! I already mentioned in yesterday’s post that I grew up in the Southern Baptist Church, a music minister’s kid, but what I didn’t mention is that the church where Dad worked was something like a 40- or 45-minute drive from our house, and we went, usually, three times a week from about the earliest memories I have (maybe Kindergarten-ish?) until about sixth grade! So that was a lot. Then you add on the many trips to see grandparents, who all lived around a two hours’ drive away (maternal and paternal grandparents in somewhat opposite directions, mind you!) and you start to see how I think back on my childhood as being shaped by music on cassettes and a lot of library books. It’s almost like I was destined to become a singing academic…

[Ironically enough—and I’ve remarked on this quite often in recent years—despite the fact that my a lot of my research interests falls under the subfield of Geography called “geographies of memory,” my own personal memory of a lot of my childhood is rather limited. Maybe I just haven’t put enough effort into trying to recall a lot of the details (there are only so many hours in the day, after all!), but so much of my early life seems to have faded into mist (if I may be permitted to sound a bit Tolkien-esque for a minute…)]

Anyway, to the music!

Larnelle Harris’s 1986 album, From a Servant’s Heart (entire album on YouTube can be found here), while a bit short at only 9 songs amounting to 41 minutes of music, is nonetheless a masterpiece of 1980s early Contemporary Christian Music, before it largely devolved (in my “now-opinion”) to the more praise-chorusy, guitar and drums-driven simplicity of the ’90s (though at the time when I lived through it, I was very much in love with dc Talk…it’s so funny how tastes can change!) From a Servant’s Heart has very high production value, incredibly soulful singing (perhaps why Dad owned it and another Harris album on Cassette, though which one I’ve forgotten…), and excellent orchestration. Coincidentally, it was not until I researched David Phelps for yesterday’s post (after finding his video of “His Eye is on the Sparrow”) that I learned that both Phelps and Harris were one-time tenors for the Gaither Vocal Band, AND it was not until today—when looking up more about this particular album—that I remembered Harris has a version of “His Eye is on the Sparrow” as the last track on the album. The particular song I chose as representative of the album and this time in my early life is “I Miss My Time with You,” which Harris also released as a highly successful single. If you’ve never heard it before (entirely possible, as I would imagine it’s a bit obscure among mainstream music listeners?), get the Kleenex ready. 😉

The second song/album, to help you recover from ol’ Larnelle up there, is completely different! So much so, in fact, that I’m not even sure if the album was bought by one of my parents or both of them together or what! (Their musical tastes, as evidenced by their wide-ranging LP and cassette collection I recall seeing growing up, were quite varied.) The Doobie Brothers, if you’re not familiar with them, are a five-decade-spanning American rock band (so where’ve you been if you don’t know them?), but also with folk, blues, and soul influences/sounds over the years. They are one of those groups whose music is so popular that you “probably would recognize some of their songs, even if you couldn’t quite put your finger on the name of the band.” I’m actually not that familiar with their wider discography, having only every really listened to the greatest hits album, The Best of the Doobie (the earliest of their greatest hits albums, since they’ve gone on to continued success since it’s release). But what makes this whole album memorable (and this one I now own) is the combination of ear worms, contagious enthusiasm and largely upbeat (nearly all the songs are on my running playlist), and the excellent examples of how an ostensibly “rock” band can still have incredible vocal harmonies! Oh, and in the music videos, the AMAZING hair/facial hair! 😂🤣

Enjoy this one on full blast, and I’ll check in with you tomorrow for (at least) one more round of the soundtrack of Dr. Matt’s childhood!

14 Songs in 14 Days Facebook Challenge: Day 1, “His Eye is on the Sparrow”

In the midst of our ongoing COVID-19 shutdown, I find myself drawing inward, and while I am still perusing social media somewhat regularly (namely, Facebook and Twitter), I find that most of what I see there falls into one of three categories: 1) the news (which is generally terrifying), 2)  inane drivel meant to occupy the mind for a few minutes before moving onto the next shiny thing, or 3) brilliant posts from kind, generous, lovely people doing things to make the world a better place in whatever way they know how to do and can. I’ll let you guess which of these three keeps me coming back for more… 😁

Anyway, more to the point—I was challenged by one of my friends in EMU Choir to participate in one of those “14 Songs in 14 Days” kind of things, where you list or discuss 14 pieces of music that have had a profound impact on your life! Seeing as to how I have an abundance of time on my hands that I’m using only semi-usefully to this point in the quarantine/ isolation, I figured why not step up my game a bit and use this challenge as the theme of a blog post series. After some brainstorming, I came up with, well, far more than 14 songs, so some may be combined into the same day based on the time period in which they were most meaningful to my life. I’m thinking it makes sense to organize this roughly chronologically, so I’m starting out with the first piece coming from my early childhood—”His Eye is on the Sparrow.”

There are only about half a million video recordings of this song to choose from out there on the Internet (at least according to a Google search!), and that’s not including audio-only versions! Clearly it’s a popular song, and if you’re reading this, chance are you’ve at least heard it before. If not (or if you need to hear it again), enjoy this recording of David Phelps (fittingly chosen, he’s a tenor of Gaither Vocal Band fame):

This song stands out as one of many that I recall hearing on a regular basis growing up in the Southern Baptist Church, as a music minister’s kid (hi Dad!) It was one that he sang at various points as a solo, though I can’t remember what the occasions would be. Eventually, it became one that my sister would sing as well. I’m not really sure why (problems with nerves in front of audiences, perhaps!), but I never did much in the way of solo singing until I was in high school. Thank goodness I got over that. Mostly… 😁

As hinted at above, there’s more to come in this blog series, so I’ll be back with you tomorrow! I guess 2020 will be the most active year of my blog in a loooooong time!