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Columns > Mike Gruenberg - In My Life

Published: 2010/01/26
by Mike Gruenberg

Sharing the Music

In My Life

My iTunes library is quickly approaching the 15,000 songs mark. That means that I have effectively completed transferring virtually all of the music from the CD’s in my collection to a device that measures 2 ½” by 4” Quite remarkable and quite satisfying!

Now that the CD’s have been dealt with, I can turn my attention to my vinyl and cassette collection. Given the length and breadth of the vinyl and cassettes, I should be busy for a long time. Sadly, the first USB cassette device I purchased for this project had to be returned to the manufacturer due to the lack of quality in the sound of the downloaded songs. As the technology improves, I expect to purchase a device in the near future that will fit my needs and allow me to add to the ever expanding iTunes library.

In preparing for the now, ill-fated cassette transferring process, I surveyed my collection of cassettes to determine which of these recorded gems would make the cut and find new life on the I-pod. Among the many I found were a group of cassettes recorded by a business colleague who later turned out to become a dear friend.

At the time, I was a newly promoted Vice President of Sales for my company. As most of you know, I grew up in New York and as such believed that life beyond the Hudson River was intolerable, at best. One could say that in those years, I certainly had a myopic view of my environment outside of the city as I sought to conquer the business world with my guile, hard work and self-perceived wit.

One day, a young woman appeared at my office. My boss had prepared me for her visit when he informed me that he had hired an attractive young lady to work in one of our departments in the New York office. She was young, brash and definitely attractive. She was raised in a suburb of Washington, D.C., came from an intensely religious family and was opinionated with views, some of which I did not share. Given all of that, I welcomed her to the office, all the while being thankful that we really did not have to work together.

As fate would have it, her tenure in the role that she was originally hired for, was short lived which prompted another call from my boss strongly suggesting that I hire her for a newly vacant sales position which would require her to report directly to me. While I admired her enthusiasm, I was uncomfortable to hire her, but had no choice since my boss would not be dissuaded from his decision.

Much to my amazement, she became one of the best salespeople we had ever hired. Her fearlessness in finding a way to construct all the elements needed to make a sale happen and her propensity to bring in high dollar value deals was great. As I began to realize that beyond her sales driven personality was a person not too dissimilar from me especially when it came to music. Both of us loved music and we spent many hours speaking and sometimes debating the merits (or lack thereof) of our favorite artists. Much like me, she had an extensive vinyl collection.

One day, we decided that for the sake of the music and for the purpose of educating each other on tasteful tunes that we would normally miss out on, that we would create cassettes of music and trade them with one another. So, for example, I would trade a cassette of 60’s & 70’s music from obscure artists she did not know about in exchange for an 80’s group that I most assuredly would be unknown to me. Prior to the exchange, we would discuss the artists to be traded and more often than not, I loved her selections. It was a beautiful arrangement and we became very good friends in addition to our professional relationship. To this day, I consider the tapes I received from her an integral part of my collection and look forward to eventually including them on my I-tunes as soon as I can find an adequate device to make the transfer.

One day, on a business trip to the west coast, she called on a client in the brokerage business. He was so taken by her style that he offered her a job and offered to pay for training her to be a stock broker. The job paid considerably more than we could and it involved her relocating to the L.A. Along with the job, he was providing her with a new car as a further enticement. Sadly, we parted ways on a professional level, but we continued to trade tapes and whenever I was in L.A., she would drive me around in that new convertible. The job in California eventually did not work out for her, but with her new brokerage sales skills, she eventually moved back to New York and became an institutional trader of stock and was very successful in that role. We lost touch and our “tape exchange arrangement” faded away.

Recently, a business colleague of mine sent me a CD of her favorite tunes from 2009. Apparently, she and her friends end each year with a recap of their favorite tunes and trade CD’s with one another. “Laura’s Favorite Songs of 2009” introduced me to The Big Pink, The Sounds, Owl City, Sleepy Driver to name a few. Clearly, Laura has great taste in music! While listening to the CD, I could not help but remember my dear friend whose musical tastes in the 80’s introduced me to new artists much the same way as I was experiencing the sounds of new artists last week.

The late Peter Allen, who performed on stage and cabaret for audiences throughout the world, used a song in his act called “Everything Old Is New Again.” Peter wrote that tune with Carole Bayer Sager and its words brought back to me how old traditions and practices never really go away. The sharing of music among friends is a time honored practice. I have been and continue to be happy to share my musical tastes with others and look forward to being educated about new music and trends.

I can also say that due to the sharing of music over the years, I have purchased albums that I normally would never have known about, had it not been for a friend who shared their musical favorites with me.

As a post script to this story, my tape buddy from the 80’s, whose cassettes I still listen to today, on her return to NYC, became an institutional trader with the firm, Cantor Fitzgerald. On that fateful day on 9/11, she died as the World Trade Center came down.

Rest in Peace, Valerie. I still think of you and your music and the joy you exhibited every day of your life .I’m glad to have had the time and the pleasure of being your “tape buddy.”

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