Westminster teacher Mitchell Griest is first year AP computer science teacher with an affinity for music. Griest originally studied aerospace, mechanical, and civil engineering at the University of Alabama. However during his sophomore year, he decided his passion was computer science, and began to dive into it. He was interested by creating software and fixing software problems with his computer science skills, a topic that he found he could easily inject art into.
AP computer science is an elective for sophomores, juniors, and seniors. Sophomore Duke Glenn shared what kind of material they have learned in class this semester.
“We have done a lot of Photoshop so far,” Glenn said. “As well as a lot of number systems, spreadsheets, and data compression.” Glenn appreciates Griest’s teaching style, which makes class fun and engaging while still learning useful material.
Nearing the end of the first semester, Griest’s computer science classes have yet to plunge into incorporating music into their lessons, but Griest has plans for them to learn about MediData, a way of creating digital music. It’s a creative way of being able to make the perfect beat you want, specifying when the note starts, how long the note lasts, how loud it is, and what pitch it needs to be.
“Really those four pieces of information are all you need to record,” Griest said as he explained how MediData aligns with computer science.
Griest began music by playing guitar when he was around nine years old, and started performing music live when he was in fifth grade. The digital music and producing aspect of his music career didn’t start until he was a freshman in college, while working on a short film with a friend. “In the short time we had to work on it, we weren’t going to be able to get the rights to any music,” said Griest. “I was already a musician, I had just never really recorded.” With the cramped timeline they had, Griest used his previous music talents to dive into the world of digital music.
A typical music producing experience for Griest consists of hours trying to work in samples, melodies, beats, or a specific feel he wants to include. He listens to all different kinds of music, and often gets inspiration from a particular sound he hears in different songs. He tries to figure out what he likes about that section, and works to make it his own. A problem he faces is where to take his song next after he figures out one section, which he finds sometimes leads to shorter or more repetitive songs than he would like.
When Griest performs his music, he tends to lean towards playing rock and roll and blues music, but producing he creates something more ambient and electronic. One kind of producing he enjoys is creating soundtracks for short films. “I enjoy having a silent film in front of me and trying to match the mood on the screen,” Griest said. “A lot of what I do, even if it’s not for film, is to put in image in your head and have someone listen to it and tell me what they see.”
Griest has quite a few songs published on Spotify, like “Thoughts of Warmth,” and a new release, “All in Due Course.” “I decided a while ago that I would put out an album on Spotify,” Griest said. “It’s convenient just to be able to tell people to pull it up there instead of going to my website, which would be smaller and more obscure.” He sees his music less of a source of income, but more of something he wants to share with different people.
In addition to being a teacher, Griest is the assistant rowing coach, having participated in rowing in his freshman and sophomore years of college. When he moved to Atlanta, he found that he was missing the sport, and ended up meeting the head coach at Westminster. Junior Olivia Tordella is a rower with the crew team and has listened to some of Griest’s songs.
“I thought that he plays the guitar very well, and his music sounded great, I was really impressed with it,” Tordella said. “I thought [the music] sounded a lot like him and definitely reflected his personality. He is very high spirited and I thought that came out in the songs.”
Even though the three AP computer science teachers have tightly aligned courses, Griest does try to bring some diversity into his teaching style. “Whenever he introduces a new concept, he has us work with our group to try to figure out how it works before he teaches us,” said Glenn. “He also does a lot of solo things, like the Photoshop unit was done individually.”Griest also brings to his classes outside after a quiz or test to unwind and remind themselves what they are grateful for.
All teachers bring different life lessons to their students, all having a different set of skills and knowledge they wish to pass down. Even after high school and college, favorite and impactful teachers leave long-lasting impressions on their students, whether it’s about the subject they teach, or things the teacher feels worth sharing that they personally have learned along the way. Most Westminster students appreciate the teachers who teach more than just the subject matter.
“I love being a teacher here,” Griest said, “I just couldn’t ask for a better place to be.”