Arts and Entertainment

Music lovers exchange more than just CDs

By Leigh Alon
Published: December 2009

Two years ago, South graduate Ally Bernstein thought of a new, creative way to spread both holiday cheer and school spirit around Newton South: a Secret Santa Mixed CD Exchange. A CD exchange is an inexpensive and easy way for students to share music they are passionate about with peers.

When Bernstein began the event in 2007, however, it occurred mainly between herself and her extended group of friends.

At the same time, it was still a success. “I really liked the idea of giving a little part of you to someone else and hoping they enjoy it, Bernstein said.

In 2008, Bernstein tried to expand her idea to become a more inclusive event. Since it was based out of the photo room, at first mainly students from surrounding art classes joined in the event, but soon the CD drive spread to other social groups.

“The seniors were really starting to come together as a grade so a lot of people who didn’t take art classes also participated. It was great having people I didn’t know come up to me and telling me that getting a mix from a stranger had made their day, Bernstein said.

This year’s Secret Santa Mix CD Exchange has 156 participants, much more than the previous two years, and is run by senior Will Radin and junior Pat Colin-Walsh.
The large number of people exchanging CDs allows for greater musical and social diversity, as well as unity among students who would not normally interact with one other.

“A lot of the people involved may have been assigned a person that they don’t know, or have never talked to. I think it’s awesome to be introduced to new people and have such a large group of students come together and participate in something so creative and fun, Colin-Walsh said. “Ideally, not only will kids be making new friends, but they’ll also be introduced to new music and share their music with someone else.

Bernstein also appreciates the connections among people that the CD Exchange fosters. “You’re thinking about what they might like, you’re wanting to share what music you like with them, and it takes you outside of yourself. I didn’t intend this at all when I started it, but I think that’s why people were able to get into it, why it feels so good to get a CD that someone put time into, she said.

Junior Sarah Geist is one of the participants this year and has experienced the unique challenges of making a CD for a student she is unfamiliar with.

“I’ve never talked to her before so I don’t know what she would like. But I’ll put a mix of different things so that she’ll hopefully like some of it, she said.

While Geist appreciates the one of a kind experience, she does not believe the exchange will lead to the formation of any new friendships.

“I think it is good for connecting through music, but I don’t think it is likely to meet many new people, Geist said.

Junior Max Carter was assigned a person he knows fairly well, but he still appreciates the opportunity to do something thoughtful for a friend.

“I tried to choose songs that I really like, but I think she would enjoy. I was incorporating as many different artists as possible so there would be lots of variety, Carter said.

Yet another benefit of the Mix CD Exchange is the release the exchange gives from Newton South’s famously competitive and pressure-filled environment. When school becomes too stressful, focusing and putting effort into something not academic can be greatly refreshing and rewarding.

“There are a lot of talented, smart people at South, but the school puts so much pressure in the wrong areas, and there’s really nowhere to let off steam. I realize now that caring about something, putting effort into something else’€even if it’s only a mix CD’€is infinitely more valuable than a five on an AP. The Secret Santa ended up being a good idea because it was so accessible, it made people think about someone else, Bernstein said.

While seemingly a small event in the college-crazed lives of Newton South students, the Secret Santa Mix CD Exchange is a way to momentarily forget the pressures that plague the lives of today’s teenagers and come together as a school united under the common language of music.

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