Many Sequoyah high school students hear the Gryphon Ensemble play at Morning Meetings, lunch, and through the floor during class time, but for some, what goes on in the class is a mystery. “I think [they] just kinda jam, ya know,” one 9th grader pronounces.
“Uhh…It’s kinda like a band; it’s kinda like a music studio,” another student remarks.
Luckily, The Barefoot Times is here to quell rumors and do some investigative journalism. We followed the ensemble to their C-block class—directly after their Sequoyah Homecoming pep rally performance—to find out what these shrouded musicians and their mystifying cult leader, music teacher Ben Ede, do in the shadowy upstairs next to the admin office.
When the class is set to start at 1:05pm, the Gryphon Ensemble is already in action. Students drag instruments, amps, and cables from the elevator and up the stairs to Room 21, congratulating each other on a successful performance as they go. Once set up, they tune their instruments and fiddle with them for a minute until Andre Yeremian ’26 calls “Team meeting!” from behind the drumset. The group circles up on the ground. Ben Ede—the black-clad, Magic: The Gathering powerhouse music teacher—has not involved himself so far.
Outside Room 21, the Times speaks to singer Eli Regardie ’25 and keyboardist Gideon Schneider ’26. From Regardie’s perspective, Gryphon Ensemble is about “making some sort of change using music as the method to make that change. So it’s almost like a SIP – but with song.” When asked what makes the class unique, he states that what sets it apart from other Sequoyah classes is the extent to which it focuses on one project throughout the semester. “You don’t have assignments that you have to complete every day,” he says. “You just have to finish your project by the end of the class.” Regardie adds it also heavily emphasizes changemaking, more so than other classes’ curriculums.
The Gryphon Ensemble meets together at the beginning of the class and sets out a plan on a daily basis. They portion out time to be spent working on service projects and leave the rest for music. The amount of time allotted varies based on how much project work everyone feels they need, or the distance from a performance that might need extra preparation.
Everyone works on their own projects, so the first 15 or so minutes of the class are eerily quiet. Regardie’s project, for example, is all about kittens. “I really love kitten fostering,” he says. “I’m meeting with some shelters and organizations that foster kittens to get some information about why people aren’t fostering so I can write a song to help people get interested in it.” Schneider’s project is about “providing entertainment to the elderly in a musical way, for people to connect for music.” To combat the loneliness felt in nursing homes, he will play a 45-minute piano concert for residents.
Ede recalls several other projects from past years, ranging from designing a piano and guitar curriculum for kindergartners to performing songs with explicit lyrics to make a point. To him, the class “is primarily a class about coming up with, executing, and documenting projects.” This echoes what we’ve heard from students so far.
Interestingly, Ede’s role in the class isn’t typical at Sequoyah. “I’m a facilitator,” he said. “I’m often people’s first point of contact and connection to other music professionals and venues and stuff—and then I have a few things to teach about studio etiquette.” He states he doesn’t “conduct or count in songs,” so he doesn’t act as a band leader. “I also, for the most part, don’t tell the group what to play or what projects to do. I don’t have much of a curriculum past like a Beatles tune at the beginning of the year. And essentially, I’m just there kind of as a guard rail but also as like a very enthusiastic coconspirator.”
For Schneider, this is the most misunderstood thing about Gryphon Ensemble: that it’s all Ben. “It’s actually mostly students leading things,” he says. This works to give students autonomy and mimic what it might be like in a real band.
“Gryphon Ensemble is not a class,” Ede adds. “And it’s not just for people who play music very well because my belief is everybody is a musician, and there’s some way you can use music to support the stuff you care about and the people you care about.” So even beginners on their instrument can easily have success in Gryphon Ensemble.
Who should take this class? According to Ede, “Everyone.”