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By Ben Rasmussen

Reunions, Ruminations, and Mixtapes

September 17th, 2023

I was recently surprised to receive an invitation to my 20-year high school reunion. Needless to say, I filed a complaint with the proper authorities, which was denied on the grounds that I indeed graduated high school 20 years ago.

I was honestly shocked anyone from my graduating class 1) had my contact info, and b) the stomach to reach out and invite me with the knowledge that if actually show up, it’s their fault. After all, in high school we’re all figuring out who we are and how to interact with others. In my case, those years were marked by academic mediocrity, acne, and extreme awkwardness. My hair cut was ridiculous, outdone only by my lack of fashion sense and lackluster personality.1

Perhaps the only notable habit I formed in those four years was creating mix tapes2. At the time it was a unique way to express admiration (or affection) for someone. It didn’t matter the occasion: a first date with your crush, a gift for graduation, or a road trip with your best friend to see your favorite band. Sometimes it was “just because.”3

The music I’d choose would depend on the recipient. Sometimes I’d pick songs we both enjoyed or that had associated memories. Other times I tried to introduce them to music I found personally meaningful and that I hoped they would, too.

I approach my radio program on KVNO, The Midday Mixtape, with the same mentality. Each playlist is a blend of music I hope will be meaningful for you. Some pieces might be among your favorites, while others are underappreciated gems I want to share with the hope you will find them uplifting.

Not only is there (potentially excessive) intention and deliberation behind each choice, but also in the assembly of the final list. The combination of pieces and composers, textures and colors…often, it’s difficult to describe what works and why. There’s an alchemy to a Mixtape, one that I’ve come to appreciate even if I don’t understand it myself.

In the end, it doesn’t depend on my ability to explain why or how each piece is important; instead, the music speaks for itself. Each day when I step into the studio, I am comfortable in the knowledge I’ve created a unique and potentially transformative playlist. More comfortable than I will be reintroducing myself to my former peers. If only I could find someone to speak for me at the reunion…maybe Otis is available?

  1. I’d love to think my classmates would have voted me “Most Likely to Work in Classical Music Radio.” Alas, that was not a category they considered our senior year. I did manage to avoid being voted “Most Likely to End Up in Prison,” though no one voted me “Most Likely to Succeed” or “Most Likely to Cure Cancer,” either. If “Most Likely to Work with Otis XII” was a category, I doubt I would have received a single vote.
  2. I say mix tape, though by that time most were burned CDs.
  3. By graduation I created over 200 individual, personalized mix tapes. (For the record, I only used music I purchased and that allowed for a number of duplications.) Some of them remained in storage for years, ungifted. In those cases, the sadly neglected mix tape was either a) for a girl I was too nervous to approach with my humble offering, or b) a victim of a perfectionist streak that sadly didn’t carry over to my schoolwork.