Under the warm amber lighting and gleaming wood accents of Harlowe Bar in Hollywood, guitarist Ty Nanos looked with satisfaction over the packed house. Given, most attendees are the friends she and her bandmates rallied for support, but it’s only their first gig.
Unexpectedly, that was the night when an event coordinator first approached them and the band started booking shows.
When Nanos graduated from Shawnee Mission East in 2014, her goals were simple: take a year off, move to Austin, apply to various music schools and pursue music to wherever it led her. But just weeks after she tossed up her cap, Nanos found herself preparing to move to Los Angeles instead. Despite the abrupt change in plans, she discovered that LA was the place where she was meant to be after all: somewhere she would discover a new, happier side of herself and achieve success in music.
Within a few months of moving to LA, Nanos became the guitarist for a new indie rock band, Springfield. She became the manager of a Starbucks and started taking online classes for a psychology degree from Arizona State University. She found that she could finally work at her own pace academically and that she was, in fact, pretty good at math. Nanos also discovered that she has become more extroverted since she left East.
“I’m a completely different person now, the person I thought I was in high school is just not the same,” Nanos said. “I definitely felt like I hadn’t really found a niche because there really [wasn’t] one. There were artists and there were musicians, but there weren’t artists and musicians that were who I was.”
In the LA arts scene, Nanos found countless positive influences in people who are pursuing the same thing but have totally different experiences from her. Collaborating with these people helps her create music she could never create on her own.
“The types of experiences that LA offers — the bar scene, the night life, the oceans, the mountains and everything — it just offers a completely different perspective that you wouldn’t otherwise get,” Nanos said.
In this new environment, she finally feels like herself. Amidst playing music in the wilderness of Santa Barbara mountains, trolling Queen Latifa at Starbucks and spending nights just walking on the beach with her own thoughts, she realized that she wasn’t able to truly express herself in high school.
Nanos is finally establishing solid goals in academics and in music, beyond her vague plans from senior year. Although she doesn’t have much time to study between work and music, Nanos makes time for two or three classes at a time as she follows her interest in psychology and neuroscience. Someday, she’d like to become a music therapist and pursue what she loves, not only from the performance side but also from the psychological.
After the frontman of her previous band Springfield went abroad to Europe, she started a second band, Indigo Child, with her previous drummer Kelly Grass and new bassist Einar Huber. She performs as both frontman and guitarist and writes most of their music, a blend of Springfield’s acoustic indie rock and harder, bluesy sounds.
To her excitement, the band seems to be taking off. As they perform more and continue to network in the music world, Nanos finds that the music she pursues — her only constant while adapting to a drastically different life — is finally within reach.
“Especially in the sense of competing with other bands, we stand up, we’re good enough,” Nanos said. “Discovering that you’re a ‘good enough’ band in LA is really powerful.”
Indigo Child is planning to take a week off sometime soon to record some music in San Diego where Huber’s father owns a professional studio, then send recordings on to Ty’s father, a producer, and hopefully release some music.
As far as new bands go, Nanos is happy with how talented her bandmates are and how quickly they pick up the new songs she writes for the band. But now, settling into her new life in LA, she is embracing change and growth. In the next few years, she hopes, they’ll branch out and create music with more detail and depth.
“The more I write and come to them with new songs,” Nanos said. “The more that we’ll be able to create things together and change the sound.”
Sophomore Iris Hyde sits on the couch of her living room, an acoustic guitar resting in her lap. As she begins to strum, the chords to “Skinny Love” by Bon Iver, one of her favorite songs to play, ring throughout the room. She belts out the lyrics, her mother sitting in front of her recording on her iPhone.
Come on skinny love just last the year. Pour a little salt we were never here. My, my, my, my, my.
Hyde uploads the video to her Instagram page. She receives an abundance of positive feedback as comment notifications flood her phone: “Amazing!” “Why are you so incredible?” “I love this song!”
This was only one of many videos that Hyde shares on social media, displaying her talent for her followers, which include students from East and from her old school in Lawrence, Bishop Seabury.
Posting videos of herself singing and accompanying these songs on the guitar started as a simple way to share music. However, it quickly transformed into her way of connecting with people on social media, even if she couldn’t play for them in person.
“[Instagram is] just an easier way to get music out to larger amounts of people that wouldn’t normally view my music,” Hyde said. “It’s easier for people to look at their phone than to come to a show.”
This came in handy last year, when Hyde moved from Lawrence to Kansas City. She began school at East her freshman year and immediately struggled with not knowing many people. However, because of her music, Hyde became more than just a girl in people’s English or biology class. They would see the music she was doing on social media and recognize her more and more often. People she didn’t know would come up to her in the halls and compliment her voice. For Hyde, it meant much more to her than a comment on a phone screen, because she could tell them how much their feedback meant to her.
“[Instagram is] a filtered version of what you want people to see,” Hyde said. “But that’s a major part of who I am. It’s a good way for people to see that part of me.”
Eventually, Hyde realized that she was posting her music more for other’s approval, instead of her own enjoyment. It began to be a chore, rather than a hobby.
“I wasn’t enjoying music as much cause I was obsessing over if something would be well-received on Instagram,” Hyde said. “I had to take a break from that for a little bit and think more about why I wanted to do music.
After this six month break, she came back to social media and discovered that the reason she fell in love with music was all those little moments that come along with playing it. Whether it be being able to tell a story through lyrics, even if she didn’t write them herself, or that moment when she finally got a song right on the guitar, or stepping on stage to perform a gig at Homer’s Café in Overland Park.
“[Music] is just something that I’ve always loved, like I loved to sing,” Hyde said. “And everyone can relate to music, it’s my way of connecting with people.”
Social studies teacher David Muhammad takes a deep breath as he thinks over the lyrics of his original rap, “Sorrow.” While recording, he has to make sure to breathe through his diaphragm and match the tempo of the beat, all while making sure not to rush the words, and convey the right tone and energy.
He is preparing to release his innermost thoughts to the microphone in front of him, as well as the room full of music producers on the other side of the recording studio’s glass.
It’s another late night for Muhammad, recording and putting in long hours to perfect his “Hunger Games”-based album, which comes out in December. He arrived to the studio at midnight and left at 3 a.m., emotionally and physically drained, and then arrived at school at 7 a.m. the next morning .
Two years ago, alumnus Kaycee Mayfield suggested basing the album off of “The Hunger Games” because of its social relevance. According to Muhammad, the album covers social issues like racism, socioeconomic inequality and the forced image of beauty that the media promotes. Like Mayfield, many other students at East inspired and contributed to Muhammad’s music, and in the process, he hopes to inspire them.
“[Creating the album] was really humbling,” Muhammad said. “Doing something new and putting yourself out there for the sake of art. For me, it was exhaustingly refreshing because it was something that I’ve really been wanting to do for a long time.”
However, Muhammad wasn’t alone in his endeavors. For his album, he recruited the vocal talents of junior Harper Mundy and alumni Chloe Kerwin and Charlie Jensen, who are doing the job pro bono. He had worked with them all before through Coalition and events like the Love146 Concert. Senior Eva Tucker is creating album artwork for T-shirts and related items, while senior Emma Chalk is in charge of album photography.
“Why not support their potential futures?” Muhammad said. “They want to do music, they want to do art. This would be a chance for them to get their work out there and really connect with somebody. I’d rather help somebody that I know than just pay for somebody that I don’t have an attachment to.”
Students at East also made inspirational contributions to the album. Whether that be participating in a sport, working a part-time job or traveling overseas for a humanitarian cause, Muhammad was impressed by the heavy involvement of students in extracurriculars.
“I was like, man, these kids are going after it,” Muhammad said. “I didn’t want to lose that hunger. Seeing that has really inspired me.”
East students also supply Muhammad with feedback and critiques. For the past year, Muhammad has visited Ms. Anderson’s Writers’ Workshop class to share bits and pieces of the album, whether that be lyrics themselves or theme concepts. Muhammad utilizes the school environment as a sort of testing ground to gather information on what he can improve upon.
The process of creating the album as a whole was a lengthy, in-depth one, according to Muhammad. He started by mapping out all of the themes and characters of the “Hunger Games” and how they related to each other, as if he was writing an extensive thesis paper over the books. He had to draft lyrics, redraft, find a producer, curate guest artists, record and more.
But the point of all this was never to obtain wealth and fame and the luxurious lifestyle of a rapper. The purpose was to share more than just a beat with meaningless lyrics. It was to use music as an extension of the classroom, to teach the listener about certain social issues and to preach the ideas that were put into every lyric. Muhammad hopes for his music to be used as a pulpit to share ideas and concepts through his songs.
“Music is a universal language,” Muhammad said. “Nowadays with social media and things being so quick it spreads so fast. So if an artist has a really strong positive method, it has a big impact.”