Shining a Spotlight on Studio Music’s Student-Led Bands


Annie Qiao

As the year progresses, the Studio Music class continues to interlock layers of complexity of the vast genre of pop music and build on improving their musicianship. Soon, the class will begin preparing for a performance for IUSD superintendent Terry Walker in January.

Annie Qiao and Tiffany Wu

The steady pulse of the drum permeates the air, providing a solid background that accompanies the harmonic blend of the acoustic guitar, bass guitar and piano. A melodious voice layers onto these complex musical folds, adding color to each head-nodding, finger-snapping and easily recognizable performance.

Studio Music, the course following Guitar 1 and Guitar 2, allows students to delve into multiple instruments associated with pop music and examine the intricate complexities of composing music.

The students’ day-to-day assignments and classes build upon one another; the class initially worked on dissecting songs before progressing to more nuanced details of musicality like personal instrumentation and music theory.

“So far through Studio Music, I have really been able to discover the joy that performing music with a band in front of a big crowd brings to me,” junior Aiden Wu said. “There’s no strict rubric that looms over the class, and, instead, Mr. Traska just adapts to the majority’s circumstances and guides us along in the process. It is very different from the piano recitals I’m familiar with.”

One unique aspect of Studio Music is its ability to accommodate for different styles that students wish to integrate into their compositions and covers. Students use applications such as Soundtrap, GarageBand and Bitwig to change the audio and meter of songs, which in turn offers greater musical freedom. The class’s flexibility serves as a strong outlet for musicians to express creativity through compositions and song covers.

“I took many music classes last year, and I’ve been playing piano for about four years,” sophomore Justin Kim said. “Studio Music has helped me grow into a musician that can work collaboratively with other musicians in a group environment, rather than working independently.”

The student-centered course allows for individual work time, encouraging students to develop as musicians and complete their assignments at their own pace. One essential goal of the class is for members of the many student-led ensembles to learn how to collaborate and communicate effectively with one another in order to create music and art for the community.

“[Studio Music] is something that the other schools in Irvine don’t offer, so it’s a very unique experience for Portola,” Studio Music teacher Kyle Traska said. “I think that speaks a lot to wanting to create a program that caters to students on campus, and that should not be taken advantage of.”