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My obsession with these cultural artifacts began simply enough. I was at thrift store (Savers, to be specific) and I came across an album of the 1976 Caldwell High School Band in the record section. I, having a deep appreciation of kitsch, was compelled to purchase it. My friends knew of my collection of oddball records - however, this was a new type of record for me.

After the trip we returned to a friend's house, where I insisted on playing the record. He wouldn't allow it. However, when he unwittingly went outside to smoke a cigarette I immediately jumped at my chance, seizing control of the record player and blasting "Stars and Stripes Forever" for a few brief moments until he quickly came inside and threatened to break my newly beloved record.

Suddenly, I found I was forced to defend my taste in music. I argued, then and there, that such a record had little to do with music and more to do with the spirit of youthfulness - of hope for the future. It was as if the innocent wish to be a great musician someday was bottled up inside a vinyl disc. Not only the vinyl disc unlawfully rotating on his Sony turntable, but all high school music records. It was then I realized, suddenly, that I wasn't arguing with my friend because we had nothing better to do than pursue lofty conversations on mundane topics, but because what I had said was true!

And so, I came to love the high school band/orchestra/choir record, and my collection of them grew. They are filled with a wondrous, powerful charm that one can not ignore or stifle. The ridiculous medleys, awkward student compositions, and cheese-assed covers only heighten the sense that such recordings are forever held in a universe of amateur zeal - a zeal no doubt lost as these students dispersed into the realm of adulthood. Thankfully, for a brief moment, it was captured (but not tamed!) - and made available to anyone who cared to listen.

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