When I introduced Cluff as The Guy on the second Personal Playlist Podcast (P3), I didn’t do justice to where that idea began. When we first met in person through a YRDSB #PubPD event, Chris started sharing some stories from his work where teachers would come to him to get help using certain tech or to work through digital platforms. I looked at him knowingly and said, “Oh, so you’re the guy.” What I meant by that is that he is the go-to person to get help people learn and get things done. You could tell by his disposition that he has supported many colleagues navigate new things, and I am sure that he is equally supportive of his students. Chris Cluff is The Guy.

Besides giving me helpful advice on podcasting in general, Chris agreed to be my guest before he even fully understood the premise. I gave him the frame of the podcast, and the next morning, before 7 am, he had shared his three songs with me. Another reason he was interested in participating in the P3 was because, “Music, as an experience, is important to me.” I think many people would agree with that sentiment.

When asked about his process in selecting the three songs for his playlist, Chris said that it was challenging to find, “…the places and spaces to keep things that promote nostalgia.” He called himself “not a memory keeper” and described having to dive in and sit at the bottom of the pool for a while. This immersion for the sake of clarity reminded me of when Cameron in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off plummeted to the depths of the pool only to find himself. It also showed how complicated a task choosing three songs can be for some, but also how invigorating an experience it is.

As Chris began to introduce his nostalgic song, we were almost halfway through the podcast. He has so many interesting things to say. Chris wove an elaborate introduction to when he used to help his father on his weekend job DJ’ing. His father worked for the Bank of Nova Scotia by day, but this weekend gig was the perfect contrast to the bank where he worked his way up from teller. Chris depicted is as,  “A side car to his day job.” He permitted me to share this picture of his father from his DJ years:

By the time he introduced his nostalgic song, I had the sights and smells of the halls where Chris carried his father’s case of 45’s and a multi-sensory understanding of the images and emotions that this song evoked. Here is I Got a Name by Jim Croce:


 It’s fascinating how a song can have new meaning with a different artist’s take.  The same lyric can be insignificant from one singer while it can speak to your soul when delivered through a different channel. That was the prelude to Chris’s identity song. He explained why the culture of Bruce Springsteen in general, and this version of the song, speaks from an industrial America that doesn’t connect with him while this version, which is slower and edgier, said so much. When he referred to the modern dance that was choreographed to the song, I had to watch it. Here is Ben Howard’s version of Dancing in the Dark:

 The third song selection in the Personal Playlist Podcast is about motivation. I refer to it as a pick-me-up-song, anthem or even just a song that brings release. Chris painted the backdrop of this song as part of the UK music scene of the time as a soundtrack to his rebellious teenage years. He said this song spoke to, “Things I didn’t understand,” and asked existential questions. He referred to the leading edge guitar and his Pavlovian response to the music noting that he, “Craved a life I had no tool to make for myself.” This song was a provocation. Here is Billy Bragg’s New England:

 If Chris’s playlist was an album, I would title it Accidental Velcro. I would do this because of the poetry of this utterance he made when describing his second song, but also because songs have the power to stick with you. We spoke about how this task is so powerful for students, as well, because it allows them to tell their stories beyond filling in blanks with the adjectives that outline who they are. This is a universally designed project that evokes technicolour details in high fidelity. Chris said that this experience deepened his curiosity and understanding of himself. This is part of the amazing residual that personalizing projects like this have on learners of all ages. It’s a connected experience that I am so glad Chris participated in, sharing a piece of himself through his P3. Listen to the Personal Playlist Podcast with Chris Cluff..