If there is one sound most high school students probably would not expect to hear in the hallways on any given day, it is the music of an accordion, accompanied by the loud tones of European yodeling. However, there is one A-West student dedicated to filling the halls with just that.
Current Arvada West junior Evelyn Miner is a self-taught pianist and yodeler, as well as accordion player. She began learning music in the third grade of her own volition, and has been an avid musician ever since.
“I just kinda, like, picked up a toy keyboard one day and I was like, ‘huh, I bet I could play that,’” she said.
Her skill on the piano quickly progressed, despite her lack of previous knowledge about music, and today she is a very proficient player. While most kids acquire their musical abilities through lessons and teachers, Miner is completely self-taught. Although she now plays in the Arvada West band, a vast amount of the guidance she has received thus far has been her own.
“You get to really play what you want and what you’re interested in,” she said while describing the advantages of being self-taught. “A lot of times you’re recognized for being more individualistic.”
Miner has experienced several disadvantages to not having started out taking lessons. For example, it’s difficult to have an in-depth understanding of musical concepts when you’re simply picking out notes on your own.
“There’s nothing wrong with it if you want to be a celebrity,” Miner said, “but if you want to go to music school it can be an issue.”
Health can also be a hindrance to self-taught musicians. According to Miner, some of the ways she learned to play chords are not healthy for her wrists, but she never learned a method that would promote more strength, so she continues to play that way.
“You play the way that makes sense to you. A lot of times you’re not even following the rules,” she explained.
As Miner tells the story, she had very limited encouragement from her family to pursue music to begin with, but when she was in 5th grade she was gifted a toy accordion from her great aunt. The instrument went ignored for years until around 15 months ago, when she decided to bring it to school. Her music teacher asked that she play it, and she complied on the spot, figuring it out as she went.
“Before I knew it I was just playing,” she said casually, demonstrating a lively march on her accordion.
After she learned how to play on the small trinket, she returned to her aunt and received a legitimate instrument- a 1920s Wurlitzer accordion belonging to her great grandmother. Her mastering of the instrument progressed from there.
Learning to yodel began a bit differently.
“It started off with me playing yodeling videos to annoy my German teacher,” she confessed, “but then I kinda became intrigued.”
The type of music is called Volkschlager, which translates to “folk pop music,” although Miner explained that it very rarely has percussion. It is very prevalent in Europe, particularly Germany, Austria and Switzerland, and is generally light-hearted and up-beat.
“Whenever I listen to German folk music I just get happy,” Miner said with a laugh, “Like, I don’t think I’ve ever been sad while listening to it.”
This, along with the fact that the craft is still a very “big thing” in that part of the world, compelled her to learn for herself.
Her first step towards learning was watching a ten-hour long video of German yodeler Franzl Lang, demonstrating very advanced alpine yodeling. After watching for about an hour every day, Miner began to pick up on the methods.
Today she is fully capable of traditional European yodeling, and actually does it quite frequently. There lies the reason behind its sound pervading the halls.
“If I could,” she said, “I would love to pursue music. But it’s really, really hard to make it.”
At this time, Miner is unsure whether she would like to attempt a profession through her music studies, or merely make them a pastime. Her talent for teaching herself and becoming proficient on her own has already carried her a long way, and she has no intention of giving up on music anytime soon.