Self-taught instrumentalists embrace making music

Aybika Kamil | The Chronicle

Senior Miles Denbow plays the bass guitar.

Mason High School (MHS) students march to the beat of their own drums as they navigate learning instruments by themselves. 

Junior Oliver Tebbe began piano lessons when he was four years old, so although he did not take the instrument seriously until more recently, he has always been around music. Despite the fact that neither of his parents are musicians, Tebbe began listening to jazz music and said he was drawn to the drums in it, making him the first person in his family to take an interest in and formally study instruments.

“I was listening to a lot of jazz songs, but the drums in the songs really caught my ear,” Tebbe said. “I just thought it sounded really interesting, and that’s kind of what got me into [the drums].” 

Tebbe is in the MHS Jazz Band and is aiming to get into the highest group. Combined with the desire to get gigs outside of school, Tebbe said this goal motivates him to keep pushing himself. 

“Being able to work through something and get really good at whatever piece you’re trying to play is my favorite part of it,” Tebbe said.

In addition to his intrinsic motivations, Tebbe said that getting to play music and share his talents in front of an audience is also incredibly rewarding.

“Getting to play in front of people is the payoff to all your hard work,” Tebbe said. “Everyone gets to see how hard you’ve been working, and performing is just so fun because of the adrenaline and how you get to do it in front of people.”

Sophomore Julian Riveros plays the acoustic guitar.

Senior Miles Denbow was also originally formally trained in the piano, but he has not let himself be constrained to one instrument. Although Denbow began taking piano lessons when he was seven years old and has stuck with them since, his parents heavily encouraged learning all kinds of different instruments. Denbow said his father specifically was a multi-instrumentalist who would pick up a new instrument if anyone needed it, and he has done the same.

“That’s a part of my family, being able to figure out instruments and being a jack of all trades for that kind of musical stuff,” Denbow said.

Denbow was contacted by Isabella Naranjo, a senior at MHS, who needed a bassist for a band, called “Anthropods,” she was establishing in May 2022. Similar to how his father picked up the bass, Denbow said he accepted Naranjo’s request and began learning the bass guitar.

“I was starting to listen to that music a lot more and a lot of the bass parts are just really fun to play,” Denbow said. “I was learning that along with practicing the songs that we were playing for shows with ‘Anthropods.’”

Junior Oliver Tebbe plays the drums.

Sophomore Julian Riveros had a different introduction to music, never attending formal lessons, but rather teaching himself instruments out of interest from a very young age. Riveros said he began playing the keyboard in his house when he was little, and after playing it up until a year ago, he also began playing and enjoying the acoustic guitar.

Being of Hispanic heritage, Riveros said he had always enjoyed listening to the guitar parts of Hispanic music, and that the cultural aspects of the instrument have drawn him to it.

“I feel connected to it,” Riveros said. “Listening to the guitar is nice, but playing it is something on a whole other level, it feels amazing.” 

Tebbe also said that learning instruments himself has given him a new appreciation and understanding of the music he enjoys. He said that his connection to his instrument is elevated when he is the one actually producing the music.

“When you listen to music with your headphones, sometimes it’s just not enough and you want to turn it up louder,” Tebbe said. “It’s really fun to be able to actually play the music and be a part of it. That’s also why I like drums so much, you get to be the beat and you hold everything together.”