York Teacher Jumps into World of Game Apps
Released last Thursday, Polymer climbed to the top of the charts within hours; over the weekend, it remained among top game apps for iPhone and iPad.
Practicing what he teaches, Whit Trebella (formerly Blackall) just released his very first iPhone game app, a strategy game called Polymer. Within hours of its April 26 release, the game reached the top 100 games category and ranked among the top 25 in the strategy and puzzle categories of the app store.
As of Monday, the game remained in the top 15 for strategy games and ranks No. 28 in the puzzle category.
This is Trebella’s first attempt at a game using his newly acquired programming skills, but he is no stranger to the world of game music. His list of music credits include Cardinal Quest, VelociSpider and Super Stickman Golf. But in the past year and a half, Trebella decided to teach himself programming too.
Trebella, a third-year music production, guitar and piano teacher at York High School, says Polymer is his first venture into creating everything for the app—the programming, the art and the music—himself.
"People get scared that an idea isn’t going to be good, so they just don’t do it." —Whit Trebella
Trebella says it was a labor of love getting the music and the game tweaked to the point where he could submit it to Apple for approval. Often, he says, he came home from his teaching job and spent four to five hours each evening working out the kinks of the game. And, in light of its success, he’s already started working on the game’s universal iPad update.
And while the supplemental income and additional creative outlet is fun and rewarding, he says being part of this relatively new and fast-paced industry gives him some great insight to draw on while in the classroom.
In the perfect marriage of art and enterprise, Trebella tells his students that in the world of music and technology, he believes the best approach is jumping in and overcoming obstacles as they present themselves.
In Trebella’s music production class, for instance, each student is working independently on projects at a computer station.
“The way I teach a class is almost studio-like,” Trebella says. “I give them the confines and the ideas to get started, but I want them to lead the project.
“This class is run is a little like a real job setting. It’s not just me telling them exactly what to do every day. They need to come in and take care of their own things. It’s all up to them.”
David Bartler, a junior at York, says he likes the classes so much that he’s currently taking his second class from Trebella.
“Last year was my first class with him: intermediate guitar/intro to music production,” Bartler says. This year, he’s continuing with advanced music production, which focuses more on using Logic software and synthesizers to create original songs and effects.
Bartler is taking the classes because he’s interested in pursuing music production in college, either producing for bands or music for movies and commercials. When a project is finished, Bartler looks forward to the feedback he gets from his peers and his instructor.
Still, this year has been more challenging for Bartler, since he’s using the synthesizer more than his more familiar guitar.
“Sometimes music stuff comes to you easily, and sometimes you have to struggle to get the song out of you,” says Bartler.
Trebella agrees that the writing and creative process is a series of trials and errors and can be frustrating at times. Occasionally, when he sees a student staring blankly at the screen for a few minutes, he draws on his own experience to nudge them onward.
“I just tell them, ‘you need to push ahead,’” he says. “People get scared an idea isn’t going to be good, so they just don’t do it. But it’s so important to just go for it and not be worried about it being good. You just do the best you can.”