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The Coat of Arms

The Student News Site of Menlo School

The Coat of Arms

The Student News Site of Menlo School

The Coat of Arms

Print 50.2: Menlo’s Self-Taught Musicians Share Their Stories Continued…

It’s no secret that Menlo is a second home to countless creative minds, from visual artists to dancers and photographers. However, there is one group within our community in particular that stands out, simply because of their pure passion for their craft — self-taught musicians. Four of Menlo’s self-taught musical artists share their experiences with their instruments.

 

Luke Rogers- Piano

Junior Luke Rogers hadn’t touched a set of piano keys until 2020, when he discovered that he could use his family’s small, unused keyboard to cure his quarantine boredom. He was quickly hooked, especially on the keyboard’s presets of classical songs. “Once I started listening to those, I only started playing classical from there on,” Rogers said. “I think that classical music is really underrated.”

Staff photo: Alyssa McAdams

After learning a few songs by imitating instructional YouTube videos, Rogers decided it was time to learn to read music. He used YouTube to accomplish this as well. “It’s one of those things where the more you do it, the easier it gets,” he said. Rogers’ parents gifted him a piano after about a year of playing, and he makes time to play it every day whenever he has free time.

Rogers has involved himself in music at Menlo in various ways; he’s enjoyed taking AP Music Theory and is currently working on an IP Capstone project in which he is making a composition based on Chopin, his favorite composer. Though he’s never taken lessons or performed in front of others, he’s potentially interested in the idea of eventually getting formal instruction and the opportunity to play for other people. “I thought it was cool to have this be something I could do on my own whenever I wanted and to not be forced into it,” Rogers said. “But I feel like it could turn into something more than a hobby.”

 

Ari Kaufman- Guitar

If you were to walk into Drake’s Restaurant in San Carlos on the weekend or during happy hour, chances are you’ll see junior Ari Kaufman performing for the restaurant’s patrons. Kaufman, a self-taught acoustic guitarist and singer, considers music to be her biggest passion. “If I had to picture a perfect life, I’d be a musician,” Kaufman said. “It’s my favorite thing in the world, and I love playing for people.”

Photo Courtesy of Kaufman

Like Rogers, quarantine boredom drove Kaufman to try out her dad’s unused acoustic guitar, and she learned to play by watching her father on his electric guitar and learning chord patterns. “I never really learned how to read strum patterns, I just [strummed] what felt natural and stuck with that,” she said. “So I don’t actually play any song right, but I like how it sounds.” She’s been singing for theater since she was in elementary school and enjoys adding vocals to her music.

Her father is not the only other musician in her family; Kaufman’s older brother is a pianist, while her mother performs as a vocalist in a rock band. In fact, performing an intermission set for her mother’s band encouraged Kaufman to reach out to and book her gigs with Drake’s. 

Kaufman said that her perfectionist nature dissuades her from playing with other musicians in jazz band or orchestra as she dislikes not having full control over the music produced. Individually, however, she performed a cover of Dolly Parton’s “Jolene” for the 2022 Veteran’s Day assembly, led her fellow junior class on a campfire sing-along during their retreat and has performed her original pieces for Menlo Voices for Hope, among other instances. “I love playing for people; I get to do my hobby and others get to enjoy it,” Kaufman said.

 

Bodie Callaghan- Drums

For sophomore Bodie Callaghan, playing drums started as an excuse to spend time with his older brother. Callaghan, who already played the piano, was intrigued by his brother’s music and learned to play the drums by listening to and imitating him. The two played in a rock band together for a few years until his brother broke off, but Callaghan was hooked. “I guess I just never lost interest,” he said. “I played when I could and slowly improved as I got a better sense for keeping time.”

Photo courtesy of Callaghan

Though his parents support his and his brother’s musical endeavors, neither play instruments and never required that their children do –– Callaghan said that he simply has fun playing. He has participated in the jazz band in both his freshman and sophomore years and plans to continue until he graduates. “I love playing music, and it’s a good elective for when I have a ton of academic classes,” he said. “Whenever I have jazz band during the day it’s really nice.” Callaghan enjoys the performances he gets to do for Menlo, which include concerts, holiday assemblies, admissions events and graduation.

Callaghan’s interest in music spans beyond just playing the drums; he continues to practice the piano and even occasionally DJs. He experiments with different genres, often transitioning between jazz, rock and pop styles. “[When I picture the future] I’m definitely playing the drums,” Callaghan said. “I can see myself in a college dorm with a couple friends just playing music for the fun of it.”

 

Andrew Buyyounouski –  Trumpet

Many musicians struggle with the idea of performing their music for others, but not freshman Andrew Buyyounouski. Buyyounouski, a largely self-taught trumpet player, has enjoyed performing frequently for school events since he was in the sixth grade.

Photo courtesy of Nikhil Pathak

After learning to read music in his middle school band class, Buyyounouski decided that the trumpet was the instrument he wanted to pursue. He made use of YouTube tutorials and eventually joined his school’s jazz band in eighth grade, where he discovered a love for jazz music and for playing his instrument of choice.

Buyyounouski is not the only jazz-lover in his family, as his father has an avid appreciation for jazz music and passed down to him his love of acclaimed jazz artist Miles Davis. “My dad plays the saxophone and my mom plays the piano,” Buyyounouski said. “My parents love music, so they encourage [me to play].”

Though Buyyounouski is unsure of whether or not playing the trumpet will ever become anything more than a hobby, he intends to continue to take classes like jazz band and AP music theory throughout the entirety of his Menlo career. If you ever hear Miles Davis’ “Walking,” Blondie’s “One Way or Another” or Grover Washington Jr.’s “Just the Two of Us” coming from Menlo’s music room, chances are it’s coming from Buyyounouski’s trumpet.

 

Michael Preys – Guitar

Photo courtesy of Michael Preys

Only about 0.01 percent of the world’s population is born with perfect pitch, the ability to identify any note they hear or produce any given note, according to Psychology Today. Junior Michael Preys is one of them. Preys comes from a family of music lovers — his father is an avid rock music listener, his sister is a pianist and his grandfather, a pawn shop owner, plays guitar — so it was only natural that Preys picked up an instrument himself. In this case, it was to teach himself to play guitar. “It was the first kind of instrument I was exposed to,” Preys said. “I guess I just kind of picked it up with songs I liked.”

Through YouTube tutorials, searching up songs’ guitar tablature, or “tabs,” a method of notating music used by guitarists, and his near-perfect pitch, of course, Preys got the hang of the instrument quickly. He began with rock music, a choice influenced by his father. “I thought the people on the guitar played [rock music] really well, so I wanted to try it myself,” he said. However, he has also explored jazz and pop, among other genres. 

He said that he’s hoping to join Menlo’s jazz band his senior year but doesn’t see himself taking formal lessons, as he enjoys the lack of structure that comes from being able to play whenever he likes. For now, you’re more likely to find Preys strumming along to Bohemian Rhapsody on his own time.

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About the Contributor
Alyssa McAdams
Alyssa McAdams, Print Editor

Number of years in The Coat of Arms: 2

Favorite aspect of journalism: Layout days, because we get to listen to music and eat snacks and talk while we work together on print

Interests outside of school: Soccer, flag football, piano, and spending time with my dog

Class of 2025

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