On & Off Campus Blog

Developing my taste in music
Developing my taste in music
Nicholas Kolbas ‘20


The first song to spark my passion for music seldom appears in an average teenager’s playlists. I remember the summer of 2016; I was 14 years old, preparing for Bivouac and the following four years of high school. My younger brother had just finished a soccer game at Elm Bank, Wellesley, and we sat in the back seat of my dad’s car. As we drove across the narrow bridge traversing a limpid brook, the music my dad had selected rose in my ears. It began with an acoustic guitar’s brisk melody, just before a yearning cello swelled, blending harmoniously with soothing vocals. I’d certainly heard Nick Drake’s Cello Song before, but only then did its unparalleled tranquility blossom in my chest. I cast my gaze to the suburban meadows lining the road, absorbing the pale light on my face, how it dazzled through verdant trees to dapple the earth beneath.

I listened to Nick Drake’s three albums repeatedly through the remainder of summer, struck by his haunting River Man and cryptic Clothes of Sand. His poignant story touched me, too, how his records hardly sold in the 1960s, and he fell into despondency, ultimately ending his life with an overdose of antidepressants. I recall humming his serene songs during Bivouac, and received my first A on a ninth grade English paper for a narrative inspired by River Man. And the peace Nick Drake’s music brought me then hasn’t dwindled one bit today.

Of course, my musical interests aren’t restricted to one artist. Once again in my dad’s car, I heard Sting’s Desert Rose with new ears. I remember how that compelling melody stuck in my head throughout the science trip to Iceland later in my freshman year. My attraction to Sting and The Police’s anthology convinced my parents to spend our subsequent spring break in the Bahamas, where we saw him in concert.

Life’s rebirth in the spring of 2017 undoubtedly coincided with my growing enthusiasm for Fleetwood Mac’s upbeat songs, which dominated my playlists throughout that summer. That season I also acknowledged a new age artist from Ireland: Enya. After I underwent a brief Norah Jones phase, autumn brought me a modern interest: alternative rock band Imagine Dragons, whom I’ve seen perform twice since. A fixation on Lana Del Rey came after I accompanied my dad to one of her concerts. Then, after Paul Simon announced his farewell tour, I delved into both his solo work and Simon & Garfunkel’s anthology through the end of my sophomore year, just in time to catch his performance early this past summer. Most recently, I’ve found a passion for The Beatles, awed by the revolution they inspired in both modern music and culture.

I used to wonder why Cello Song, rather than the year’s catchiest pop hit, was the song to draw me into music. In retrospect, I know the answer. To quote Paul Simon’s The Boy in the Bubble, “Every generation throws a hero up the pop charts.” However, Nick Drake’s songs touch the soul regardless of musical trends, their immortal beauty transcending time itself.