This is the lovely cover shot that Spotify made, so I’ma go with it.

Link to the 1718 Songs for Students Spotify Playlist.

Dear students,


If you have no idea what I’m taking about, you either missed class when I talked about this, you weren’t paying attention, or you’re not one of my current students. All sound possibilities. No matter how you got here, welcome. I hope if you are one of my students you’ve received your personal letter. Not sure how that tradition got started, but it’s something I’ve done each year since starting teaching. Personal letters are a rarity. Also, it gives me a chance to address each of you individually, something that doesn’t always happen in wider school settings. A friend, former student actually, got me started on making playlists. So naturally, I decided to compile one specifically for the students from the 2017-2018 school year. (Random people are welcomed too. I hope you find something to love. There’s some great music here.)

Disclaimer: I own none of the music. All opinions and meanings/interpretations are just that … opinions.

A Note About Flow (List Order):

The song order probably isn’t perfect, but I feel like this is the journey we’ve been on this year. Also, all of us are somewhere here in terms of finding out who we are, what we stand for, and what we believe. I truly hope you each find peace. Generally speaking, the songs start out with ones about longing and confusion then move on to hope and growth. Next comes endurance and strength and finally, victory. (The links should go to Youtube.)

Song List and Their Meanings:

Breath of Life by Florence + The Machine

“I was looking for a breath of life
A little touch of heavenly light
But all the choirs in my head sang no
To get a dream of life again
A little of vision of the start and the end
But all the choirs in my head sang no”

“Whose side am I on?”

In some way, we’re all looking for that breath of life, “a little touch of heavenly light,” but the “choirs” in our heads are saying no. Sometimes we’re our own worst enemy. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen students struggle not just with the chemistry, but with much bigger life issues. It’s hard to turn off the choirs in our head that whisper doubts to us.

Up Down by Boy Epic

Besides being a neat, epic sounding song. I feel like this speaks very well to a general sense of lostness and confusion. “And I’m barely breathing, but I’ll fight on” … “Still fighting my demons”

Strength to Believe by Epic Score

Nothing like a solid, sweeping score to gear up for a fight. If this were a video game, this is about the part where all the bad guys start coming out of the walls and you gotta fight fast or die. I love the title. It’s very uplifting. Sometimes, belief is really hard to come by. This goes deeper than a Hallmark-y “just believe in yourself and everything turns to puppies and rainbows.” Still, there’s some truth to the song. Just listen to it. Music often transcends words. The beginning chords are very inspirational, yet there’s a sense of danger and a promise of a good, rousing fight.

Breath and Life by Audiomachine

Okay, so you probably don’t need the extended version. But it had a safer picture than the other one. Different take on the ideal of time passing and gearing up for life.

Who Are You by Svrcina

At first, I didn’t really like this song, but it became one of my favorites. This is how I feel sometimes. “You’re not such an easy target. One minute I know you, then I don’t. Hello. Who are you?” Students (people in general) are very good at putting on masks. Only when chaos is breaking out do I realize that there are things beyond the here and now that are fighting me. Guessing the same holds true for others. Other times, we just have to ask ourselves the question: who are you?

Even if it Hurts by Sam Tinnesz

I actually didn’t pick this song for you, the artist did. See, I wasn’t very tech savvy about my Facebook app. In trying to find and like Sam Tinnesz’s Facebook page, my phone decided I should just PM the man. So my thumbs up like went directly to him. Later, I got a reply thumbs up (’cause what else can one do?). Anyway, so I told him what happened and then remembered I was compiling this list. I asked him to recommend one of his songs to you guys and this is what he chose because it’s about sacrificial love. There are some beautiful friendships in the classes. Friendship’s about more than goofing around in class. It’s about being there for your friends during the good, the bad, and the ugly.

We Will All Be Changed by Seryn

I originally had the song at the beginning of the list, but I like it much better here. It’s really a turning point song. After realizing you’re looking for a breath of life, preparing to enter a struggle, and drawing closer to friends, you’re ready for change. Life’s all about change. I think I put that in many of the personal letters. But it’s a message for everybody, regardless of if you actually got those words written to you.

Undefeated (feat. Beacon Light) by Tommee Profitt, Beacon Light

Not my typical fare for music, I can assure you. Still, this song is awesome. Listen very carefully to the lyrics. “We undefeated.” “rising back up from the ground” “we rising” “never back down.”

The Hate Inside (feat. Sam Tinnesz) by Tommee Profitt, Sam Tinnesz

This song stands as a beautiful, poignant warning. Holding on to negative emotions, including hate, it’s going to eat you alive. “Like liquid poison, it takes its toll.”

Dragonland by Thomas Bergersen

Besides being great music to study for finals (hint, hint), this is good “wait time” music. The Hate Inside is pretty weighty. This is lighter. There are ominous sections to it, but at the heart, the score’s got great buildup to another fight. It’s very inspirational.

Invincible by Two Steps from Hell

Similar in style to Dragonland. This is good musical encouragement to keep struggling against the things that challenge you. Giving up is the most painful thing to watch. Fight on. Life can be very difficult. Turn to family and friends. People can be difficult, but they make life worth living. Seek to take care of each other. This does not include cheating. Ha, sometimes, it means standing up to a friend and saying, you’re going to have to do this yourself because it’s good for you in the long run.

Something Can Grow by Tony Anderson

The direct result of most struggles is growth. This song is occasionally too slow for my tastes, but it captures the idea of waiting, watching, and growth very well.

Fight Club by Lorne Balfe

I partly needed to get back to rousing themes. Also, the song is great for continuing the idea of battle on as well as introducing the theme of endurance. There are notes in the background that are reminiscent of a ticking clock. To me, that says passage of time.

Trouble in Town by Lorne Balfe

This song throws you right in the middle of a fight. It’s like the previous song set you up then BOOM fight.

Roots by Swingin Hammers

Hands down, one of the hardest videos for me to watch. I refuse. It makes me nauseous, but the music is lovely. The lyrics are powerful too. “I’m tired of running, running, running into the things that kill my soul” “tired of always swinging hammers at the love that makes me whole.” Again, we have the idea that we’re occasionally our own worst enemy. “bout time to start kicking, screaming, got to get out of here fast” Okay, so those last lyrics might be every student and teacher come the end of the school year, but metaphorically, run away from the things that kill your soul. Oh, that applies to many self-destructive tendencies people have.

Heart of Courage by Thomas Bergersen

One of my favorite processing songs. This minibreak should give you time to take in the heavy-hitting lyrics from “Roots.” It’s also a great song for embodying the idea of endurance and carrying on through hard things. Much of life requires a heart of courage to wade through well.

Never Give Up by UNSECRET, feat. Rose Cousins

The central message is present in the title. “Never give up.” “Never ever ever ever, ever ever ever. Never give up …” “It’ll take all of us to make this right” Generally, I’m not a fan of repetition, but the idea that you have to repeat never giving up is important. You have to continually fight the urge to just throw your hands up and quit hard things. Growth comes from struggling through things that hurt. That’s not to say go seek tough things to overcome. Enough hard stuff will roll your way just as a part of life. When they do come, never give up.

For This You Were Born UNSECRET, Fleurie

“Silence the doubt in your mind. You were by design a victor.” I love those lyrics. A lot of people go throughout life thinking “what’s the point?” and “I’m just not good enough” You were born to be a victor. Silencing doubt in your head is a great place to start.

“Know in your heart you’re alive. Destiny is on your side.” Pretty. Not quite sure I grasp the full implication of the words, but I like the sentiment.

Who Are You (Russ Macklin Remix) by Svrcina, Russ Macklin

Some questions are worth repeating. Besides, this is a nice remix. Surprising how much changing the tempo can change quite a bit about a song. Still, I figured near the end is a great place to revisit the question: who are you?

Guardians At the Gate by Audiomachine

Actually, the video montage here is decent too. Beautiful music to again remind you that life is a struggle, but a beautiful one.

Empire of Angels by Thomas Bergersen

Finally, time to slow down. Again, great studying music. Can’t tell you how many lesson plans got written to music like this. I think this has a lot more gentle themes to it. We’re back to contemplative, softer, still epic music.

Victory by Two Steps from Hell

As I hear this for the umpteenth time, I think I probably should have switched Victory and Empire of Angels, but title wise, I like how it goes now. There’s something nice with ending a year on a note of victory. For some of us, just passing is our victory.


There will be many things for you to face this summer and the years beyond. Music can’t fix everything, but I hope this list has given you something to think about. Success doesn’t automatically mean money and fame. It means living life well, not just for yourself, but for others in your life. Take responsibility for who you are, what you believe, what you will become. It’s been a pleasure to work with each of you. Come visit in future years (um, just not when you’re supposed to be in a different class, even if there’s a sub there…). I have enjoyed getting to know you as you are now and look forward to seeing where life takes each of you in the future.



Julie C. Gilbert





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