By Ginger Ellingson, Director of Fine and Performing Arts

Last spring, the Music Faculty of the Fine & Performing Arts started to reimagine how music is shared with the Eastside Prep community. The tradition of end-of-trimester concerts is an important way to showcase the work of classes each term. The event is formal and celebratory, and although it is a culminating experience, often the best learning comes in reflection during the following class session—how did that go for you? What went well? What didn’t go well? What do you want to do differently next time?

Music often exists in a specialized world that is trained and formalized, and performances happen on stage at the end of a long process of learning. How might students gain performance experience with so few opportunities to do so? As arts educators, F&PA faculty recognized a need for students to practice performance skills in a casual setting more regularly throughout the trimester. As a result, Sound Bites was created. Sound Bites is a casual music series featuring upper schoolers and faculty/staff alike sharing their work during the middle band on Fridays in the TALI atrium. Sound Bites had a soft start in the spring of 2022 and has continued strong this year, 2022-2023. The benefits of sharing music casually in the halls are experienced by the performers as well as the community.

The variety of music shared reflects the diversity of our community. A quick overview includes: the Chamber Choir has performed “Happy Together” by the Turtles, the Synchronized Singers (a club last spring) shared Mozart’s Ave Verum Corpus, Sadie (’23) sang her original song “Colorado” and accompanied herself on guitar, Arjun (’24) performed Concert Etude Op 40 No 3 “Toccatina” by Kapustin
on piano. Olivia sang “Ya Pomnyu Chudnoe Mgonvenie” by Mikhail Glinka, and ninth-grade band High Definition (members Roya, Anhat, Sydney, Piper, and Alex—all
Class of 2026) rocked out to a set of ’90s cover songs and had the whole building singing along. This spring we are looking forward to performances from the
Chamber Music Ensemble.

By sharing their work informally, students practice managing performance anxiety. All performers experience nerves associated with sharing, even the professionals, but the seasoned artists know what to expect and have a personal routine in preparation of performance. There is no way to gain this experience without doing it, and it can be an uncomfortable part of the artistic process. It requires vulnerability and is particularly challenging when the audience is made up of your peers, so the more opportunity to practice in a low-stakes environment, the easier it will be to perform in one that is formal. Oliver (’24), has performed several times on voice and guitar and says, “Sound Bites allowed me to practice my musical skills and show my community what I can do without too much pressure.”

Playing through mistakes and learning how to recover is also an important performance skill that is practiced at Sound Bites. To develop this skill, Sound Bites offers music students the opportunity to “fail” on a small stage, to make mistakes and keep going. Music does not have to be perfect or mistake-free to be shared. In fact, it never will be perfect—that’s why it’s art. Much like the adage “fake it til ya make it,” if a performer keeps going and gets back on track, often the audience will never know. When performances are musical and moving, mistakes are forgiven. If the performer gets flustered, stops, and restarts, they have just alerted everyone that something didn’t go well, and often it gets worse. When we consider performance as a part of the artistic process, rather than an end product, we learn more from the postshow reflection and are motivated to try again and do even better. This growth mindset is crucial in developing stage presence, learning to be comfortable on stage being expressive musicians.

Although the F&PA program developed Sound Bites in pursuit of educational opportunities for our students, the cultural benefit to EPS of sharing more music is positive as well. Sound Bites celebrates music as a pastime and supports this year’s theme of Knowing and Being Known. The EPS community learns about one another through each performance and comes away energized and inspired. Dr. Alex Langer is in his first year as Faculty in the History discipline and has enjoyed learning about what students are doing outside of his classroom, “One of the great things about Sound Bites is being exposed to students in a new context. Who knew that this student or that student who I knew from class were such exceptional musicians or singers? To see them performing, to see their classmates stop and watch and appreciate them, makes Fridays something to look forward to. I never know if we’re going to be treated to a rock show or a classical performance, and I love it.” Similarly, performer Roya (’26) reflects, “I’ve had the opportunity to both do Sound Bites as an individual performer and with a band I am in. The experience of playing with a band and seeing the levels of TALI filled with students and teachers cheering was one of the best experiences I’ve had at EPS so far. In the days after, several people I had never talked to previously reached out to me congratulating me on my performance, and it was a really great way to get to know more people in the EPS community.”
The music faculty, along with everyone else at Eastside Prep, will continue to reimagine opportunities for our students to share what they have learned and grow in the process.