Music of life: What is the Soundtrack to Your Life?

Readers create personal soundtracks based on memories

PHOTO BY CHRISTOPHER TOMLINSON—Palisade artist Mary Mansfield sculpting and bronzing in her studio in 2011.

Amanda Kristina Suarez

Andrew Bruington

Connie Smith

Jeena Williams with her son, Ryder

Mick Wilson

Sabrina Landman, left, and Bridget McGee

Ture Nycum

What does music do for you?

For some, it triggers emotions. It may help people get through a morning run or a weekend cleaning the house. Music can offer a distraction on long road trips or something to sing in the shower.

But for many, music goes deeper than background noise. Certain songs become forever associated with specific memories in their lives.

The song you and your friends always listened to in high school.

The song you played for the first dance at your wedding.

The song you played at your parent’s funeral.

For many, life is one long playlist of memories that create a personal soundtrack.

We asked several Mesa County residents to each put together a short “Soundtrack To Your Life,” a reflection of their lives to this point.

Try it for yourself. Pour through your memories and music library and create a “Soundtrack To Your Life” in time for summer.

Mary Mansfield, 63

Palisade artist

1. “The Daring Young Man on The Flying Trapeze” — (It was) a yellow 45 that I played all the time. At 5 I knew that being daring and flying was for me.

2. “Zippity Do Da” — Happy kid song!!

3.“Fingertips Part II” — From Little Stevie Wonder. He and I are the same age. It was the energy and talent of a 13-year-old that inspired me then.

4. “What’s Going On” — From Marvin Gaye (for) the ’60s and turmoil. His gentle but powerful song that questioned our direction as humans was the draw for me.

5. “Imagine” by John Lennon — The answer to, and result of, the previous song seemed to be my truth.

6. “Within You Without You” by The Beatles — This song was my continuing education and reminder of the path I was on.

7. “Look on The Bright Side of Life” by Monty Python — Their version of this always made me laugh and that was important to me for raising children and working every day!

8. “Mystery” Bruce Cockburn — I love his wonderful poetic vision of life. This sang to my soul.

9. “Sing to the Mountain” by Elephant Revival — Basically an appreciation of living in this beautiful place and my view of life in general.

THEME SONG: “Love’s in Need of Love Today” by Stevie Wonder was a succinct message for me and everyone. Simple and do-able. It is what life is all about, for me.

Amanda Kristina Suarez, 23

Colorado Mesa University student and baker at Main Street Bagels living in Grand Junction

1. “Stinkfist” by Tool — To be honest, the entire album “Ænima” (1996) is a work of incredible progressive rock music that resonates deep in my soul. Maybe most people would begin the playlist of their lives with a song from childhood, but I chose a song that comes from my adolescence, which, like many, was a time of great change for me. To me, this period of my life was an awakening of my soul and consciousness.

2. “When the Levee Breaks” by Led Zeppelin (off its album commonly referred to as “Led Zeppelin IV” (1971).) — Who can deny such great rock ‘n’ roll? Just one of my favorite Led Zeppelin songs, which is difficult, because they really deserve their own playlist.

3. “Wish You Were Here” by Pink Floyd — From their 1975 album of the same name. They’ve put out so many great songs it’s hard to pick just one. Though this is a more popularly played track by Pink Floyd, it doesn’t make it any less of a genuinely great song. This song is for my late uncle, Elevi.

4. “The Day the World Went Away” by Nine Inch Nails from “The Fragile” (1999) — Trent Reznor, another love of mine, has a way of taking my thoughts and allowing them to flow freely into whatever world that I’d wish to imagine. Definitely music that I put on whilst I draw and paint, or study, or think.

5. “Mommy’s Little Monster” by Social Distortion off “Mommy’s Little Monster” (1983) — Social D has a special place in my heart. It feeds my rambunctious, 18-year-old punk soul. You know the one, with the holes in my clothes and Mohawk standing tall. My mom says she’s proud.

6. “In the Orchard” by Tiger Army from the “Album II: Power of Moonlite” (2001) — I have a burning love for rockabilly and psychobilly and Tiger Army is where it’s at. Listening to Tiger Army is like getting your first tattoo, it hurts really good. 

7. “Seasons” by Chris Cornell — All of Chris Cornell’s work can be placed somewhere in the storybook of my life. His vocals, and the bands that lent him the great music to pair with his voice like fine cheese and wine, has been in the background of all the hardships I’ve overcome.

8. “Pictures of You” by The Cure from “Disintegration” (1989) — Takes me back to age 12. I just started branching out from friends’ and family’s tunes and began finding my own music and one of the only bands that still comes up on my playlists from that time is The Cure.

9. “Be Healthy” by Dead Prez from “Let’s Get Free” (2000) — I love good hip-hop and this song really does an accurate job describing how I live. The whole album is great. It was difficult to choose between Bone Thugs-n-Harmony and Dead Prez, but I’d like to spread the message of healthy living because it is important to me.

10. “When You’re Smiling” by Louis Armstrong — It doesn’t matter what version or album this plays from. I also have an unquenchable thirst for jazz music and Louie is among my favorite jazz musicians. 

11. “Monsoons” by Puscifer from its 2011 album “Conditions of My Parole” — This is a beautiful way to end my playlist in that this song is for my loving (soon-to-be) husband, Vin Reuss. The lush feeling of this song surrounds me with the feeling of his love for me and my eyes swell with tears when I say “Only you can bring the color in. You alone breathe the hope into our world. So I and mine can carry on another day.”

THEME SONG: “Look At Me (I’m a Winner)!” by The Aquabats! off the 2005 album “Charge!!” In all honesty, I try not to take myself so seriously, and I think that it doesn’t really matter that I have a playlist full of “the best and rarest songs.” All I want to do is tell my story through music that has influenced me. I give the greats the respect they deserve, but I guess they didn’t quite make the cut this time! Haha!

Andrew Bruington, 30

Delta Middle School band director and living in Olathe

1. “Tom Sawyer” by Rush — My favorite song! Great melody, fantastic drumming and epic lyrics!

2. “Hide and Seek” by Imogen Heap — Tight vocals and beautiful melody make this a staple on my playlist.

3. “Take Five” by Dave Brubeck — A jazz standard that is fun to listen to and play!

4. “Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7” by Ludwig van Beethoven — Epic writing by a romantic master makes this my favorite classical piece.

5. “Backrow Politics” by Gordon Goodwin — Fantastic big band tune. Great to listen to in the car!

6. “Lincolnshire Posy” by Percy Grainger — This is my favorite piece for wind ensemble and is great to listen to all six movements when you have spare time.

7. “Smooth Criminal” by Alien Ant Farm — Awesome cover of Michael Jackson’s classic song. Great to headbang to!

8. “Defying Gravity” from the musical “Wicked” ­— Great song with epic harmonies and wonderful music by Stephen Schwartz.

9. “More Than Words” by Extreme — Acoustic classic. Great to sing along to!

10. “The Chicken” by Jaco Pastorius — Funk tune that is a mainstay on my iPod.

THEME SONG: “Gospel” by The MarchFourth Marching Band. Epic tune that is light, fun, groovy and exciting. All tenants that I try to live by!

Connie Smith, 55

Grand Junction musician and artist

1. “Autumn Leaves,” Eva Cassidy’s version — Because my mom died in autumn of 1963.

2. (Composer Frederic) Chopin waltzes and nocturnes — Because my dad played them on the piano as I was growing up.

3. “Concierto de Aranjuez” by Joaquin Rodrigo written in 1939 — In high school, while others were listening to Pink Floyd and Deep Purple, I was listening to Paul Desmond, Jim Hall & Chet Baker’s beautiful version of this guitar concerto.

4. “P Stands for Paddy I Suppose” by The Gilmore Brothers (Appleton, Wisconsin) — While studying classical music in college, I finished my practice one day, and I turned to Irish music.

5. “She’s Too Busy Being Free” by Joni Mitchell — My singles decade was 21–31. I spent that decade wandering, exploring, traveling and not living too long in any place. I have a “wee gypsy bone,” a phrase I’ve always thought fit.

6. “Calliope House” written by Dave Richardson of The Boys of the Lough and popularized by them — The switch over from playing classical music to contra dance music. The tune is played in many traditional music circles and our group Fifth Reel enjoys playing it.

7. “Come Give Me Your Hand” written in 1603 by Irish Harper Ruaidri Dall O’Cathain — It is a beautiful tune I play at weddings. I got married at age 33 and it represents settling down after the decade of wandering.

8. “Five Little Ducks,” Trout Fishing in America’s version — Because I sang it with my sons and they know their mother will always be at home quacking for them.

9. “Begin Sweet World” as played by Richard Stoltzman — This was the tune that turned me toward playing jazz in recent years.

10. “After You’ve Gone,” written in 1918 by Turner Layton — Signifies “getting there” as far as feeling comfortable playing jazz in the duo Rosewood & Ivory.

11. “Autumn Leaves” — Reprise because my dad died in the autumn of 2011.

THEME SONG: “Open a New Window” from the musical “Mame.” The lyrics say how I feel my life has been and hopefully will continue to go: Unconventional.

“Whenever they say you’re slightly unconventional, just put your thumb up to your nose. And show ‘em how to dance to a new rhythm, whistle a new song…open a new window, open a new door, travel a new highway, that’s never been tried before.”

Jeena Williams, 31

Central High School teacher, actress, singer living in Grand Junction

1. “Sweet Child O’ Mine” by Guns N’ Roses — My sweet child, Ryder, says this song is “rockin’,” so it always makes me think of him. When I sang it with the (GJ) Rockestra in January, I realized the lyrics were a smidgen strange, but I can’t help but love it — enough to have it as my ring tone. 

2. “These Arms of Mine” by Otis Redding — A perfect love song that sounds the way it feels to be in love with my husband, Phil. I suppose that’s why we chose it for our first dance at our wedding.

3. “Black Dog” by Led Zeppelin — The guitar riff is so unique, so peculiarly timed, so driving that this song suggests that there is great power in being bold, quirky, strange and marching to the beat of different drummer. 

4. “What a Wonderful World” by Louis Armstrong — This beautiful song never fails to put a smile on my face — even when I am at my grumbliest. In fact, just the other day Phil and I danced to it in our living room. Phil doesn’t dance so that proves this song is truly special.

5. “I Will Always Love You” by Whitney Houston — Whitney made (and still makes) me want to be a singer. I played the “Bodyguard” soundtrack so much that I wore it out. I thought to myself: “If I could just belt that note…THAT NOTE!” (you know — the “AND IIIIIIIIIIII” that comes right after the big boom — yeah, THAT note!)

6. “New York State of Mind” by Billy Joel — I went to school in Manhattan, and I miss the city the way I would miss an old friend. There are days that this is the only song I want to hear.

7. “Pusher Love Girl” by Justin Timberlake — I actually stalked Justin my first two years of college. Perhaps “stalked” is too strong — maybe persistently followed? No, it was stalking. I stalked him. I love all of his music, but this love song from his newest album I think is Justin at his finest.  

8. “Walk This Way” by Aerosmith and Run DMC — My favorite song to run to. This distinctively wonderful marriage of hip-hop and rock serves as a musical reminder that when we open our minds to the unexpected and pair things that we didn’t previously think would go together, magic can happen. (Like Wendy’s fries dipped in Frosty or cauliflower and buffalo hot sauce or graham crackers and cheese whiz). Or put more simply, as my mother would, “Try it. You might like it.”

9. “Corrina” by Taj Mahal ­— I have no quippy explanation for this song. I just absolutely love it.  

10. “Think” by Aretha Franklin (The Blues Brothers version) — I like to think I’m a thinker.  At least I try to think before I speak and act, and if I don’t, I certainly hope nothing more for my students than to be great thinkers.  

11. “Imagine” by John Lennon — I aspire to be brave enough not only to imagine a better world but also to do what I can to make it so.

12. “Bold as Love” by Jimi Hendrix — I guess we’ve come full circle. I hope beyond hope to live a life as bold as love.

THEME SONG: “Seasons of Love” from the musical “Rent.” This show changed me, made me fall madly in love with theater and helped me to realize that the most powerful force in the world is love. This song, which opens Act II, gave voice to my life’s motto: Measure your life in love.

Mick Wilson, 61

Grand Junction musician and retired band director

1. “The Poet and Peasant Overture” by Franz von Suppe — I played this on clarinet in my high school band. It ignited my passion for music and set the direction for my life.

2. “Hold On, I’m Comin’” by Sam and Dave — Represents soul music that dominated my high school pop music scene.

3. “MacArthur Park” by Jimmy Webb — In college I started to get into jazz, an area of music that still challenges and fascinates me today. This tune represents my early exposure.

4. “Brahms Symphony No. 3 in F” by composer Johannes Brahms — My wife and I met in college. This was our “love” song.

5. “Kansas City” from Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller — First tune I improvised on in a small rural town in Colorado where I had my first job as a band director.

6. “Regenesis” by John Higgins — A programmatic piece of music that was my favorite of 1000’s of tunes I did during my 31 years of school band directing.

7. “Wild Night” from Van Morrison — This represents my days in the “Wiggly Bobs” rock band.

8. “Them There Eyes” by Maceo Pinkard — I was blessed with two wonderful, beautiful daughters. This tune brings them back to my heart.

9. “Beethoven Symphony No. 6 (Pastoral)” by composer Ludwig van Beethoven — I spent 28 years as principal clarinetist in the Grand Junction Symphony Orchestra. This composition ranks high as one of my favorites.

10. “After You’ve Gone” by Turner Layton — One of my favorite tunes from my current duo “Rosewood and Ivory.”

11. “Star of Munster,” a traditional Irish Reel — From the repertoire of Fifth Reel, the local contra dance band I play with.

12. “Nice N’ Juicy” by Jeff Steinberg for the Maynard Ferguson Band — Always loved this tune. Now, I get to play lead tenor sax on it with the Western Colorado Jazz Orchestra.

13. “Changes” by Hugh Laurie — As I age, and my health declines, this tune haunts me. It is done to the melody of “What A Friend We Have In Jesus” but with secular lyrics.

THEME SONG: “His Eye Is on the Sparrow” by Yusef Lateef. It is a traditional gospel hymn. It reaches me spiritually and musically in a powerful way, even though it is a simple tune. Yusef Lateef’s version is for tenor sax accompanied by organ and female gospel choir. Each repeat of the hymn grows in intensity and emotion as does Lateef’s soulful improvisations.

Sabrina Landman, 7

Pomona Elementary School student living in Grand Junction

1. “Happy” by Pharrell Williams — Because I am always happy.

2. “Roar” by Katy Perry — Because I am tough.

3. “Who Says” by Selena Gomez — Because I like being who I am.

4. “Don’t Stop Believin’” by Journey — Because you should always believe in yourself.

5. “Better When We’re Together” by Jack Johnson — Because my mommy sang it to me when I was a baby.

6. “Ain’t it Fun” by Paramore — Because I love to have fun.

7. “The Impossible is Possible” from “American Girl McKenna Shoots for the Stars” — Because I am a gymnast and I think anything is possible.

8. “In Summer” from the “Frozen” — Because I love the summer.

9. “Best Day of My Life” by The American Authors — Because it reminds me of the day I brought home my new doggies, Chloe and Noelle.

10. “The Girl Scout Smile Song” — Because I am proud to be a Girl Scout.

THEME SONG: “Home” by Phillip Phillips because I love my family and my home more than anything.


Bridget McGee, 8

Holy Family Catholic School student living in Grand Junction

1. “Hot and Cold” by Katy Perry — I picked this one because sometimes I’m hot and sometimes I’m cold. I like to dance to this song!

2. “Summer” from Frozen — I really, really, really love summer!

3. “One Short Day” from the musical “Wicked” — I really like the “Wicked” music. Sometimes I feel I will have one special day, but it’s really short.

4. “Love Story” by Taylor Swift — I’ve liked this song for a really long time. My mom and I like to sing to this song really loudly in the car.

5. “A Year Without Rain” by Selena Gomez — Sometimes, when you’re moving, a day without your best friend feels like a year without rain. I’m going to miss my friend Caitlyn after I move.

6. “Roar” by Katy Perry — This is the song my Girl Scout troop performed a skit to in our school talent show. It has a good message and makes me want to stand up and roar.

7. “Mean” by Taylor Swift — This is like what happens in my life when people pick on me or are bullies.

8. “Royals” by Lorde — Sometimes I just want to feel like a royal!

9. “Seize the Day” from the musical “Newsies” — I like this song because it is super fun to sing along and dance to!

10. “Stronger” by Kelly Clarkson — I like it because it is a good tune to dance to and it makes me think of being a stronger girl.

11. “Brave” by Sara Bareilles — I think I am really, really brave.

THEME SONG: “Popular” from the musical “Wicked.” I am really popular! I like that I have a lot of friends.

Ture Nycum, 46

Director of city of Fruita’s Parks and Recreation. He also lives in Fruita. 

“This exercise was not easy. There are sooo many great songs that I (we) enjoy and it was very hard to pare it down to just a few. This collection of songs was developed as a collective effort by me and my immediate family.” 

1. Colleen (wife): “I Will Wait for You” by Mumford & Sons — She waited for me until she was 30, and now I wait for her aaalllll the time.

2. Tristan (daughter): “Lay Your Hands on Me” by Bon Jovi — Because we’d rock out together to this song.

3. Cal (son): “Counting Stars” by One Republic — Yeah, he’s a 10-year-old boy. The start of that angsty thing.

4. Maggie (daughter): “Let It Go” from the movie “Frozen.” — She’s a 7-year-old girl, enough said. I can’t wait until she finds another song to love.

5. Vicki (mom): “Epilogue/Finale” from musical “Les Miserables” — We (and particularly my mom) all love this musical, especially the line in the Epilogue: “To love another person is to see the face of God.”

6. Tom (dad): “They Call the Wind Maria” by The Kingston Trio — My dad never got past his love for folk music. He still listens to The Kingston Trio, Pete Seeger, the Limelighters, etc. to this day and all the time.

7. “American Pie” by Don McLean — This is “Me, The Early Years.” Growing up in Eastern Colorado and Nebraska in the ‘70s. We have idyllic, Americana memories from that time period of our lives.

8. “Black” by Pearl Jam — You know it’s that young adult angst thing. This is one song from “Me, The Young Adult Years.”

9. “The Distance” by Cake — It’s just a fun song, and I never seem to know when to stop “striving and driving and going the distance” — ha. This is the other song from “Me, The Young Adult Years.”

10. “Paradise” by Sonia Dada — Lyrics aside, finding my wife in my early 30s was “Paradise,” and we share a love of Sonia Dada music. This is the first from “Me, The Adult Years.”

11. “Merry Christmas From The Family” by Robert Earl Keen — Not that my family’s like this song, but we are from La Junta, and I share a love for REK songs with my former co-workers in Louisville, Colorado. This is the second from “Me, The Adult Years.”

12. “Home” by Phillip Phillips — This is where we are at now, lovin’ life in Fruita. This is the last song from “Me, The Adult Years.”

THEME SONG: “Good Things” by BoDeans (live version). We crank this song when we go anywhere as a family: road trips, soccer and football practice or to the store. Our lives are filled with good things, and the song just has a real good, easy life beat to it.









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