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This time of year everyone seems to be scrambling to find the perfect gift for the special people in their lives. Let’s make this easy. Giving the gift of music in most cases can be the gift that keeps on giving. Music is the soundtrack of our lives. The experiences that come with the music make the memories that have the power to last a lifetime.

Listen Up! Here are just a few suggested ways to give the gift of music this holiday season:

• Buy a CD, vinyl, DVD or even a cassette of music. Make it a favorite of yours, a favorite of the person who is receiving the gift or perhaps something neither of you have heard before.

• Buy concert tickets. These days you can buy tickets to shows scheduled for next year. Buy two tickets so you can join in a fun day or night of music or let the gift receiver chose their concert buddy.

• Give gift cards or subscriptions for music downloads or music services

• Give music-releated T-shirts or posters or figures of the bands or musicians those you are buying follow. Most people will not buy these things for themselves but would certainly appreciate the gift.

• Finally, whether you are buying a toy instrument or an actual musical instrument, giving the gift of music instruments and/or lessons can be a lifelong gift. Happy musical holidays for Listen Up!


Listen Up! asked community members, contributors, friends and fans, “What was the best musical holiday gift you ever received?”

Cynthia Kelly: “Easy. My parents bought me tickets to see Elvis Presley. I don’t remember the year but it was the greatest gift and best concert I ever went to!"

Clay Pierce: “My most memorable musical gift for Christmas (and combo birthday gift since my birthday is on Christmas Eve) was the drum kit that my wife, Jen, surprised me with! Before that, the drum set I learned how to play on was a borrowed set from a friend. Now my 10-year-old son Ty is learning how to play on the same set!”

Jen Pierce: I was in 'The Nutcracker' with the Joffrey Ballet at City Center in New York City when I was 11 and 12 years old. After my husband, Clay, and I met, he gave me the gift to see 'The Nutcracker' together in Atlantic City. It meant so much to me (even though he does not enjoy ballet at all!). Once my daughter was born, my gift to her is to see 'The Nutcracker' every year in Philadelphia. It’s my favorite holiday tradition.”

Tom Renzulli: “I think it was 1980 or 1981. I got a Sony Walkman cassette player, and the Yes 'Fragile' cassette."

Jen Wildman: “My fondest holiday gift memory was my son Zack teaching himself to play the Chris Cornell song 'Sunshower' for my Christmas gift last year. It is one of my favorite Cornell songs and gets me super emotional ... especially since his death.”

Jim Ziereis: “A vivid and lasting Christmas memory occurred 43 years ago on Dec. 25, 1976. I was 11 years old and in sixth grade. Looking back, I realize now that it was the start of my passion for music and live performances. I had asked for a cassette player that year. Christmas morning I unwrapped my coveted wish it was not a high fidelity boom box and more of a tape player, it was more similar to a tape player I would find in my middle school classrooms. It gave me the means to listen to music. I received two cassettes as a starter set, one I played repeatedly and the other I would sometimes cue up. OK, the England Dan & John Ford Coley’s 'Greatest Hits' was the one on the short side. The other cassette, however, rocked my impressionable and adolescent world — 'Frampton Comes Alive.' I can still remember today walking around my house listening to that cassette and know my sister Kathy, who was 8 years older than me, had to have suggested that to my parents for me to unwrap. The live 'feel' of that recording was new and fresh for me and I loved every second of that 70-plus minute musical experience that has propelled a lifetime pursuit of live concerts to this day.”

Meg Perry: “In 2018, Christmas came early as my husband and the magic of a ticket connection made it possible for my best friend and I to see Bruce Springsteen on Broadway before the show closed in December!”

Mike Zubrzycki: “One of my favorite musical gift memories was when I was 10. I got my first portable music player/boombox. It was a Phillips Magnavox (I think). One of the CDs my Mom made sure I received was 'Greatest Hits Live' by Phil Collins. I played that disc over and over. Many of my favorite songs are on that album, and I still have that CD!”

Brian Pruitt: “My wife’s cousin lives in Seattle, and I love the Seattle music scene from the '90s grunge era. My favorite has always been Pearl Jam. About a year ago, I commented about a T-shirt I saw on my wife’s cousin’s Instagram that was a Pearl Jam Seattle Seahawks T-shirt. A week later, it arrived in the mail from her! Best gift music gift ever.”

Tracey Geary: “When my paternal grandfather, who only listened to Nat King Cole, gave me the T. Rex 'Electric Warrior' album for Christmas.”

Joe Geary: “Favorite memory was when my parents gave me one of those toy drum kits with the paper drumheads. I think I was 5 years old. It was red and had a monkey painted on the front of the bass drum. I wish I still had it.”

Kayla Randazzo: "My best music gifts are always concert tickets. My dad plays guitar and piano and used to be (in) bands as a kid, so he’s always good for some cool concerts! One year he gave me and my siblings Gabe Dixon tickets at the Tin Angel in Philadelphia! That was a great show. Also, my sister gave me John Legend tickets last year, and I love him!"

Michele Carty: "My favorite musical gift? Tickets to a Coldplay concert! Coldplay has been the theme music to relationship since I first met Vince in 2009. We just love the band because they’ve always reminded us of each other. Every time we are in a store or a restaurant that has music playing, their songs always seem to be playing. We even chose a Coldplay song as our first dance song for our wedding. Of course! 'Us against the world.' For Christmas 2011, I exchanged tickets for The Mylo Xyloto Tour in July 2012. It was an amazing show! Each person was handed a wristband as you walked in and throughout the entire show each wristband lit up in different colors to the beat of each song. It was really really cool!"

Fran Wise: “A few years ago, on the Christmas before she passed away, my sister surprised me with a Guitalele (a hybrid guitar and ukulele) which I wanted so much! I think of her every time I pick it up.”

Chief Sean Riggin: “My first CD Discman. Circa 1990. I played Led Zeppelin's disc set through all the skips!”

Carmen Marotta: “There is a CD called 'Creole Christmas' with some of the greatest musicians in New Orleans history. It has Luther Kent, Pete Fountain, Dr. John, Irma Thomas, Johnny Adams, Aaron Neville and a few more. My wife, Nancy, gave it to me. The musicians are some of the greats playing at their most magnificent best."

Donna Albano: “Oh geez. My dad worked in radio for 13 years. So there were many many gifts of music and music oriented things”

Joe Richards: "My mother made my clothing as a child. I knew growing up how my parents struggled to raise four children. I never considered us a poor family, frugal my mother would call our existence. I never admitted to my mother but all I really wanted as a kid was store bought clothing and to play the flute. Music lessons and an instrument were out of the question. In first grade at Christmas we had a play. I was chosen for the lead. I rehearsed every day with the music teacher. We ran through lines and I was coached on my songs. I hoped I would be taken to Sears to pick out a special dress. But that never happened. The morning of the play, my mother laid out one of my ordinary home-made dresses to wear to school. I remember being so disappointed.

"When it came time for the play, the music teacher brought me into the music room and said, "Your costume is here for you to change into." A costume? I had no idea. And there it was ... a red velvet dress! I think it was the prettiest thing I had ever seen. Finally, a store-bought dress of my dreams. It was spectacular. I felt spectacular! I entered the stage and started my lines: 'Look Jimmy! Snowflakes are falling thick and fast! Everything will be snowy white when Santa Clause comes tonight!' The play was a hit. When I got home I walked into my mother’s sewing room and noticed scraps of red velvet and white lace in the scrap box. It was the same red velvet from my beautiful dress. That beautiful red dress was made by my mother."

LaRissa Perks Cronick: “One of the first CDs (back when CDs were the newest thing) ever was gifted to me by my mom, Connie Perks, was Janet Jackson’s “Rhythm Nation.” I still have it, although I no longer own a CD player. The CD was more than just pop music, it was my first feeling of “girl power.”

Sue Ireland: "The year was 1989, and I had just moved to California. The Grateful Dead always played Oakland Coliseum on New Year's. That is all I wanted for Christmas. My friend Tricia and I drove up to the Bay Area, hoping to score some miracles tickets. Ended up our friend Stephen Cornell was going to the shows for the New Year's run and had two extra tickets for the Dec. 30th show for both Tricia and me. New Year’s Eve comes and no tickets are available. Finally, as the show is about to start we find one golden ticket and Tricia says, 'Go ahead, Sue, you take it!' Tricia said she wanted me to experience the New Year’s show. So I got to see my first and only NYE Grateful Dead show and had the time of my life! I am forever grateful to my friends Stephen and Tricia for giving me the most amazing musical Christmas ever!”

Jason Flanagan: “One of my fondest memories of a music-related holiday gift would have to be when I was around 14. My parents got me a CD player (CD's were the newest thing). One of the CDs that came with it was Jimi Hendrix. I listened to him play over and over and over, and I knew right then, that I wanted to play the guitar.”

P.J. Polinski: “I would have to go with either my Beach Boys "Made in USA" cassette or my Casio sampling keyboard. They gave me inspiration and creative outlet respectively.”

Steve Morrison: “So for me my first memorable music experience was my Fisher Price record player which played 45s. We had two 45s in my house. One was Led Zeppelin — 'Tangerine' (my favorite) on one side and 'Immigrant Song' on the other. The second was Pink Floyd — 'Another Brick in the Wall.' Played 'Tangerine' and 'Another Brick in the Wall' until they skipped.”

Tom Sullivan: “For me, it was the more mental aspect of receiving music. As my family always gathered for the holidays, all my cousins would be there and I would hear all the great stories about them touring and playing shows. I had cousins in hair metal bands and cousins in blues bands. So the stories were always way different, however, they all kind of meant the same (if that makes sense). From those stories, I always dreamt about playing music and being like them. And here I am playing music. Here we are!”

Brian Flanagan: “My fondest memory was the year I received my first personal record player and two Kiss albums, 'Destroyer' and 'Kiss Alive ll.' I wore those records out that Christmas Day! I was so young and inspired.”

Rob Barberio: “The Christmas that I received my Selmer Paris alto sax. It was so cool and still have it and play it, great memories. I remember seeing the large wrapped case under the tree and thinking could it really be? And it was. My parents sacrificed financially so I could have that wonderful instrument."

Michael Scales: "'The Yes Album,' on 8 track!”

Kelly Coleman Razz: “I used to sing with Holiday Express, which is an all-volunteer musical group in Monmouth County that started in 1994 and brings holiday cheer to the homeless the sick and the lonely. We did a benefit at the Tradewinds and Sea Bright, New Jersey, and I was told earlier in the day that Bruce Springsteen was going to come and sing with us, and of course I told my family and friends and no one believed me. This was way before camera phones, and we weren’t allowed to bring cameras, but luckily someone snuck a video of that night. About 15 years later, I was able to get a hold of the video tapes, and for Christmas about five years ago my husband had the videos transferred to DVD for me. Once in a while if you squint to the far left you could see me sharing a microphone with Bruce Springsteen’s wife, Patti Scialfa. So this is my claim to fame: My husband gave me as proof that I once was Bruce Springsteen’s back-up singer!”

JJ Booth: “One of my first Christmas music memories is when I was probably around 10 years old. I remember that right before Christmas I found a large stack of records under the couch of my den. When parents were confronted about all these albums, they told me they were for someone else or some other story. Then on Christmas morning was a stack of records wrapped for me. The same records I found under the couch. Along with it came a subscription with the record of the month club at the time. They were records from Billy Joel, The Kinks, Queen and more. A lot of artists that I really didn’t listen to at the time but then sent me in the right direction. It really was the start of my musical journey.”

Sarah Albertson: “Every year my favorite band, Switchfoot, offers holiday bundles of their merchandise. The bundles include shirts or hoodies, CDs or vinyls, and posters. Each bundle also includes a signed holiday card from the five members of the band. I have received a few of these bundles over the years, and I am always most excited to receive the signed holiday card from the band. Being a fan of Switchfoot feels more like being part of a large, extended family. These special holiday cards authenticate that feeling.”

Brian Cahill: “One Christmas, I’m thinking it was when I was in fifth grade, my parents bought me the Paul Stanley and Peter Chris Kiss solo albums. I can still remember how sharp the purple and the green popped off the album covers and my excitement when I unwrapped them”

Frank “The Jitney Guy” Bectal: “I received a gift of a night at the Blue Note to see Chris Botti, and he brought out Lisa Fischer to sing 'Gimme Shelter,' 'Message in a Bottle' and the 'Immigrant Song.' It was so great. Also, I got 'Rock of Ages' on 8 track for Christmas when I was in elementary school."

Jordan Ellis: “The most excited I ever got for a musical Christmas gift was the Hit Clip I got when I was about 6. It only played about 1 minute of each song, but I could bring Britney Spears and *NSYNC with me everywhere I went.”

Mark Marrone: "My parents got me concert tickets to see The Black Crowes with Jimmy Page, the Rolling Stones and the Allman Brothers Band."

Alisa Cooper: “One of my fondest memories was the year I purchased my grand piano. That first holiday season at my home was absolutely fantastic, so many of my friends and neighbors were excited to come over and celebrate the holiday season! We had some wonderful house parties. We sang and played all of the beautiful songs of the Christmas season. The songs sounded magnificent as I entertained and performed on my new grand piano!”

Chris Wild: "One holiday season when I was 13 my cousin gave me his first, handmade Kramer electric guitar. He has played professionally and has toured around the world with many bands from the '80s and early 1990s, including Dee Snider's, Twisted Sister, and now owns the Music Academy in Toms River. I attempted to play it here and there but never really locked into it until the age of 16. Today, that single gift is still with me and has been the foundation of passion for music and live performances. The real magic within this gift is how much my daughters enjoy music and the bond it has created. They absolutely love music and this all started with one magical gift.'"

Eric Reich: “I would have to say a cassette of the Rolling Stones 'Tattoo You' and a cassette player. The player opened a whole new world of music. I carried it all over Sea Isle City listening to the Stones, Doors, Kinks and Devo."

Stan Malcolm: “As a music lover, and I feel I have instilled that to my kids, we often give a gift of music back-and-forth for Christmas. A gift of music I received was a CD of The Cars' 'Candy-O,' which was a brand new format at the time. I was a student at Rutgers. My summer job that year was to drive cross country to San Bernardino, California, where I worked six days a week, 70-75 hours a week, selling books door-to-door. When the summer ended, I flew my girlfriend out to California and the two of us took two weeks to drive cross country listening nonstop to that CD."

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