Brian Winchell, a 32-year-old graphic designer and father of a three-year-old son, is in most ways a doting, loving parent. He proudly displays pictures of his son on his desk, as his computer’s wallpaper, and in his wallet. He works a flexible schedule so that he can spend as much time as possible at home. But talk to Brian long enough and he will eventually admit to one major disappointment: his son has horrible musical taste.
“I wasn’t raised with cool music,” Brian said recently. “My dad listened to baseball and AM talk radio, so I had to discover all of that on my own. I mean, I didn’t hear the Velvet Underground until I was nearly 20 years old! And when I looked back on all those wasted years, I vowed that when I became a father, I would do better. I would give Ira something that I never had. And, to be brutally honest, it hurts to see all of that just being thrown away.”
While Ira (who is named after Ira Kaplan of Yo La Tengo) was still in utero, Brian began work on a set of mix tapes designed to guide his son’s musical development through the age of 12. Organized by year and developmental stage, the tapes began with the classic kid’s music of Woody Guthrie and Burl Ives, then moved through the Beatles, the Velvets, the Stooges, David Bowie, Roxy Music, the Clash, Television, Talking Heads, the Pixies, Nirvana, Wilco, and dozens of bands in between before finally culminating on tape 12 with Radiohead’s Kid A in its entirety.
Ira, however, steadfastly refuses to listen to a single one of the tapes, characterizing them as “poopy,” “stupid,” and “don’t wanna.” At the moment, his two favorite songs are the theme song to “Bob the Builder” and the sound the front doorbell makes if you keep pushing it. More disturbingly, Ira has also taken to singing “Baby Beluga” despite Brian’s vow that his son would never in his life be subjected to a Raffi song. “He heard that one in the waiting room at the doctor’s office,” Brian said, “so we’ve since changed pediatricians.”
Brian has not given up on the tapes just yet. He tried going the subliminal route by playing them while Ira was sleeping, but that ended when his wife, Lisa, turned on the baby monitor. He also plays them during car rides, but Ira has a tendency to fall asleep if he’s in his carseat for longer than five minutes. “I’ll figure something out,” Brian has vowed. “This is too important a thing to give up on so easily.”