Don’t Take them for Granted

[Holland Sentinel Title: Get out and enjoy your favorite music]

You know the saying, familiarity breeds contempt? Some long-time Hollanders definitely feel that way about Tulip Time. Not me, though, at least not yet. Twelve years living downtown, and I still think it’s charming to have tour busses driving down our street, tourists taking pictures of our neighborhood, food trucks and the carnival around the corner, and to feel like we live in Disney World for one week each year.

Sometimes familiarity breeds apathy though. And in this busy season of our family life – teenagers, sports, music lessons, busy jobs, hobbies, family and friends – I find it’s easy to take things for granted that we don’t mean to. For instance in late July, I realized I hadn’t been in the lake at all this summer.

I love the lake – staring out at the water, dipping my toes in, putting on a suit and taking a plunge. I made a pact with myself then, that every chance I got until the weather shifted for good, I would go out to the lake, and at least get my feet wet. This simple act has brought me so much joy. For the cost of the 20 minutes round trip drive, plus gas, I’m sitting by a natural wonder that people travel hours to visit. And many of us forget about it, take it for granted, because it’s so close, too easy.

I was sitting on the sand, staring out at the lake, writing this on a sunny day after Labor Day, with red flag waves, the beach fairly empty, the air a bit cool but the sun warm, and the water good for a dip. A perfect September day for the locales to enjoy Lake Michigan all to ourselves.

I was wondering what else we take for granted, driving back from the beach, listening to the radio, as I like to do in the car (being a person of a certain generation…) So let’s talk radio. If you are my age or older, you remember a time when all the stations on the dial were run by real human beings, who were working in your town or the town over, who chose the music themselves and chatted between songs. I remember a field trip in middle school to the local top 40 station, and how cool it was to meet the Djs I’d listened to for years. Now, there are great things about satellite radio, Spotify, internet radio, and the like. We can find any music we want, and lots we didn’t know existed. Those algorithms are pretty clever, and who knew there were so many other songs that sound just like that one song I like. But let’s be clear – it’s nothing like the quirky, individual tastes of real people who choose songs because they like them. And so many stations on the dial now are owned by national conglomerates, who crank out the same set of tunes, likely picked by their marketing department, in some set of commercial deals that have more to do with money and people in power than discovering interesting music and supporting musicians.

The great thing is that when you’re lonely to hear a real person, and their creative, unusual musical selections, here in West Michigan we still can find that on the dial. 88.1 WYCE out of Grand Rapids is, as they say “listener supported and volunteer powered”, which means that all the Djs are real people volunteering their time out of their love for music, and different Djs play all kinds of music, many with an emphasis on local bands and regional acts.

Blue Lake Public Radio, 88.9 FM, plays one of my favorite shows- Pipedreams – all organ music! Now, if 7am on a Sunday morning isn’t quite your time, never fear, you can listen to Michael Barone and his fascinating themed programs at whatever time and day you like, at I always learn about new pieces on his show.

I’ve also become rather taken with a project called Dust-to-Digital. On Facebook or Instagram, you can find a regularly curated selection of music clips from a wide variety of cultures and lands. If you’ve ever feared that boring American pop music is taking over the world, this feed will calm your anxieties. Young people all over are still learning the music of their elders and their culture, and it’s inspiring to see and hear.

So, drive out to the beach this weekend, listen to the radio, and don’t forget to call your mom!