I made the mistake of asking my students what songs I should play at the homecoming football game. I am being sarcastic of course but it opened up a world of music for me! I used to think I was up to date on my music taste until I asked that question to my students. When I got over feeling old and defensive for the first minute as students began hollering names of artists and songs, I began to learn something new.
Let me backup a moment and let you know that I am 50 years old. In my 20 plus years as an educator, I have listened and empathized with my students as much as I could to change my outdated curriculum and attempt to put it into their world... which is so different than mine as a teen! I have the awesome job of playing the hype music for our home football games on Friday nights. Our football team struggles in their conference and I try to make the crowd happy and stay in the game to support our team as much as possible. It's a little something I learned to do in my college years as a broadcast journalism major as well as growing up in a sports family of coaches and athletic directors.
Last Friday, our homecoming game was coming up and I wanted to hear from the students about what type of music they wanted to hear. Names like Lil Baby, Lil Durk, Lil Yachty, Nardo Wick... are every new artist called "Lil!?" Occasionally I heard names like Drake and Kanye. Those were familiar to me but 98% of them were artists I have never heard of.
I felt lost and out of touch!
As the list grew, I asked one student to do me a favor and find the YouTube videos to the songs listed and make sure to link me to the CLEAN versions. Of course there was some grumbling about the clean versions but they eventually understood. Like clockwork, by the end of the day, I had a list of songs I've never heard before from the student I asked for it. I only have so much time to play songs between downs and timeouts, so I listened to the first minute or so of each of the songs prior to the game. I made notes on which ones worked well. One student who was a football player (a starter) asked me to play Dreams and Nightmares by Meak Miller for their running on the field song. I can do that! We also have a large Polish population at our school so I asked about any songs in Polish they liked.
"Ona by tak chciała!"
I cued it up on my computer. The students laughed a little and let me know there were a few curse words in it... actually the third work was a bad one! I looked up a clean version and found it. The beat was great. It pumped up the kids in the class. "This song is GAS!" said a few students. I quickly learned that "GAS" was good. This was definitely on the list to play during a timeout.
Near game time rolled around and it was time to play the Dreams and Nightmares... the clean version.
A coach came up to me and told me the team was going to enter this game a little differently. They were going to walk in front of the crowd around to the end of the field then run on the field. This would work perfect for the song. It has a storyline that builds for about a minute before it pumps up and the beat drops. As the team walked past, I started the song. I could see their walk get a little more confident. They heard the song. They were reacting to the power of the lyrics. When they turned the corner and ran on the field, the beat dropped and the lyrics intensified. As they began their first warm up, you could definitely notice it.
Our team was getting hyped up big time!
Off to a good start. As the game progressed, I dropped some of the newer songs. They had a pretty good response with the crowd. I wish I could say our team was winning the game. We were not. So I wanted to keep it light and happy with the crowd and keep everyone up for the team. By the third quarter, we were down big. It was homecoming. Our players were working hard out on the field. The crowd was getting restless as the sun went down and it was getting cold. I looked over at the song list and staring back at me was Ona by tak chciała.
This was it, the time to play the Ona by tak chciała!
After the first beat, the crowd erupted. It was like we were scoring in the game! The cheerleaders and poms squad started dancing. The cheer block full of students got loud and started dancing. Parents were even dancing. I couldn't believe it! Even some of the football players on the sidelines were tapping their feet. I looked to the other side of the field at our competitors... Even though they were winning, we were louder on our side. It was amazing!
At the end of the game, I always go out on the field and talk to a few players I have in class. I found the player who helped me choose music for the game. He was the one who suggested the walk out music. He was defeated. They had lost to a great team who blew them out on the scoreboard. I could tell he was emotionally drained as well. I patted him on his shoulder pad and told him I was proud of him. He loooked at me and had a tear in his eye and said, "I have worked so hard. I am a senior and we deserve better than this!" I could feel his pain and anger.
I just walked with him a few more yards quietly. I told him he does deserve better and to keep going. Try to have fun in the moment. I then asked him, "But was the intro music good?"
He smiled and looked up and said "Hell yes it was! Thank you for playing that!"