Darren Belanger’s College Essay


Every morning before a speech tournament, in order to get properly pumped to compete, I listen to the Sound of Music soundtrack. While other competitors are jamming out to Drake and Dua Lipa, I’m getting hyped with Julie Andrews. And no matter how many times my friends and family tease me for it, “Do-Re-Mi” will always be a part of the pre-tournament routine. It’s just a Darren staple. However, speech tournaments are hardly the only time that music means something to me. I’ve always loved listening to music. I find it fascinating to slow down and truly listen to songs, trying to understand what the artist is trying to say, why they want to say it, and how they choose to convey their message. However, more recently, it’s become even more than that.

In the spring of 2020, when the world came to a screeching halt, I found myself, an extrovert at heart, feeling isolated and lonely. Not that I didn’t enjoy my family’s company, but you can only win Monopoly so many times without upsetting your siblings! Somewhere in this solitude, I had the perfect idea to use my love of music to combat this boredom and sudden free time, so I asked friends, family, friends’ dads, English teachers, anyone to recommend any albums or songs that they thought I might enjoy. Suggestions started flowing in from all over the place! I started this adventure off by figuring that if they really enjoyed these albums, I might too, but slowly, I realized that I wasn’t just collecting songs. I was collecting souvenirs from my relationships with these people.

One of my favorite paths of this journey was with my dad’s long-time friend dating back to his middle school days. Unfortunately, even though my dad thinks we would get along well, I haven’t been able to see him or talk with him that much because of how busy he is with work and taking care of his own family. However, reaching out to him about music allowed me to email back and forth with him, and he recounted that The Pixies, and Lauryn Hill, but especially Elvis Costello, “started [his] life soundtrack.” One day, I listened to one of Elvis Costello’s albums on a run, and even though I hadn’t really talked to him, I couldn’t stop smiling because I felt connected in a weird but strong way to my dad’s friend. But it didn’t end there. I tried to uncover the meanings of the secret messages hidden within Taylor Swift’s music with classmates. I mused with my English teacher on Barry Gibb’s new duet album. I debated the state of jazz with friends from camp who I hadn’t seen in a while.

As I accepted recommendations (and even dished out my own), I realized that I love not only listening to music of different genres and time periods but also hearing people talk about topics they really enjoy. I can use music to not only interact with but also learn about others who aren’t necessarily like me. Now, I have a whole repertoire of albums by artists of all shapes, sizes, and backgrounds that represents the different friendships and connections I have to the people around me.

Continuing my education, my development, and my life, I am excited to keep adding to and diversifying my personal “library.” I’m hungry for more recommendations, more connections, and more friendships. And in the end, I do it for the music and the experiences and lessons music gives me. Whether it’s belting “Hey Jude” in the car with friends, appreciating Nina Simone’s calming tenor on a brisk fall day, or getting hyped with Julie Andrews, music gives me the power to soak up every last drop of life.

Photo by C D-X on Unsplash