Story Ideas: “Musical Snapshots of My College Career”

This occasional CMM series features a sampling of crazy cool, highly relevant or offbeat stories by student journalists that can be localized for different campus audiences- along with suggestions on ways to create and present that content. Next up…

A Student’s Soundtrack

Come commencement time, glimpses back at the highlights and lowlights of the previous two semesters or graduating students’ four-year college careers appear as predictably as senior pranks.  Many show up as straightforward lists. Some run as photo collages or slideshows.  And a few appear as more personal reflections, most frequently via the sign-off columns penned by student media staffers themselves.  Almost all deal with major milestones or news events.

But what about the music? A pre-commencement piece published by TommieMedia at Minnesota’s University of St. Thomas provides one of the more intriguing “glimpse backs” that I have come across this year.  Its most appealing quality is its point of entry. The writer, a graduating senior, offers a “musical snapshot” of his undergraduate tenure, summoning up memories via the songs that were playing at the time.

As he writes at the start, “Unlike photos, which do a great job of capturing single scenes, songs can attach themselves to certain times and take you back years later when you revisit them. . . . As my classmates and I prepare for graduation, I’ve begun to look through my music library, trying to find the songs that will take me back to the college days when I put them on years from now.”

The piece’s ultimate execution is admittedly a bit spotty (some of the reflections are blah, too vague or self-indulgent), but the overall idea has real merit. Whether it’s via an iPod, laptop, dorm stereo, house party DJ or the radio blasting in the bar, music is a significant, inescapable accompaniment on almost every student’s collegiate journey. Certain songs frame certain moments better than almost any other artistic rendering or journalistic write-up. And they are an excellent trigger for a “glimpse back” piece at semester’s or year’s end.

Two related ideas: 1) Conduct a survey and then run a general list of the songs that defined your class year’s collegiate existence.  2) Put together short profiles or video reports centered on students’ individual memories about the songs that hold special meaning to them.  The key: It’s not about the songs. It’s about the life stories to which they served as soundtracks.

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