Making a “Life Soundtrack”


A family dancing.At the beginning of each year, I ask my tenth graders to write about music for their first assignment. They can pick a song, artist, album, or composition that speaks to them, and through their writing, I get to know more about them personally and academically.

Every year, without fail, students choose to write about the songs that were part of their childhoods. The song that their dad sang to them before bed, the one they listened to on the way to grandma’s house, the one their mom put on while cooking. 

For me, I cannot hear the song “Cecilia” by Simon & Garfunkel and not imagine my mom in the driver’s seat of our station wagon, her fingers tapping the wheel as we sing along together, miles of the East Coast highway behind us and hours to go before we arrive in the Outer Banks. 

My husband and I are not music geeks, although there was a time when he worked in the music industry. There are only so many times one can listen to the soundtrack from the Teen Titans Go! Movie (yes, that’s a thing). So, instead, we set out to introduce our kids to music that we listen to not only to broaden their musical interests but also so that we can actually enjoy a long car ride to my in-laws in Brooklyn or Long Island.

The ones from our own childhoods, new songs that aren’t terrible, songs that would lull them to sleep. Now, our road trips are much less unbearable, and the only annoying noises are the fights they have about whose playlist will come through the speakers (even though they are almost identical). 

All of our senses help us to remember things; a certain smell, a photo, or a melody can transport you to another time and place. Every time Alexa plays my sons’ latest request and we dance around the living room, I know we’re creating a beautiful life soundtrack. 

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Juliana is an English teacher, aspiring novelist, and mother to redheaded sons. (No, her husband doesn't have red hair. Yes, it was a surprise!) She grew up in Scarsdale and now teaches at her rival high school - Mamaroneck - where she also lives with her (brown-haired) husband, Mike, and their two (orange-haired, according to Noah) sons, Noah (2016) and Simon (2019). When she has a free moment (haha) she is reading something: YA Romance, humorous essays, poetry, thrillers, student work, and, sometimes, her own works-in-progress.