School of Rock
Walking upstairs into the Australian Rock and Metal Institute, I expected to feel intimidated. Musicians move in packs. Rock musos belong to a special club with a tough-guy bouncer at the door.
My fears soon evaporated as I was greeted with big smiles and a welcoming vibe from a reconstructed rock family helping each other achieve their dreams.
I was still nervous knowing that I’d been signed up for a heavy metal singing lesson, but more on that later…
Founder Christian Broome opened ARMI in Gawler Place, Adelaide, in mid 2012.
The school has since grown from 35-40 students to 200 and six staff; and been a part of three Australian tours with “leaders of guitar players in the world” Joe Satriani, Paul Gilbert and Yngwie Malmsteen, the very people who made Christian want to play the instrument as a kid.
“We’re all about making dreams come true,” Christian says. “Bands have played live and students have met their idols. The talent of the youth never ceases to amaze me.
“(Setting up ARMI) is something I wanted to do for a long time. It’s something for (the young students) to believe in and stay out of trouble. We’re an Australian first and we’re very proud to bring it to Adelaide. There’s never been a Metal music school in Australia.”
He started the school to “inspire youth” and to live and breathe his love of music. As the owner of 31 guitars, it’s clear Christian loves what he does.
“We mentor young people and bands to a level where they are gig-ready; ready to release EPs and albums,” he says.
In 2013 he set up a self-funded scholarship “to help more young people as possible”.
Christian’s dedication to the students and industry has recently been given the tick of approval by Lauda Guitars. The guitar company has endorsed him by making his own gig series model which are all signed and designed by Christian and Lauda. They are available online and on the ARMI website.
Speaking to some of ARMI’s students, it’s easy to see why they love coming to their weekly music lessons.
They have come to the school simply to play or sing better for themselves; or to chase a bigger dream of hitting the stage with their idols.
Student Steven Cundy has been taking guitar lessons from Kieran Hambledon “just to be a better player”.
Another student, Ivica Simunov, has been coming to the school to develop his own sound which he describes as a mix of John Butler and punk elements.
He wants to make his mark on the scene by developing a new sound and singing in his Australian accent, unlike some artists who lose the twang thinking that’s how you make it in the industry. His enthusiasm is palpable.
Ivica is working on putting together a band and is busy writing songs about the environment and socio-political issues.
In one of the small singing rooms, vocal coach Mitch Brackman is teaching one of his students. He sees about 30, aged seven to 50, per week.
Mitch is a tenor who was classically trained at the Elder Conservatorium of Music as well as a private vocal trainer. In one hour of his job at ARMI he can find himself singing everything from Cannibal Corpse to Mariah Carey.
“(Heavy metal singing) is definitely an art,” he says. “People wouldn’t consider it as one though. From tenor to screaming, you have to reset the muscles you use. It’s like going to the gym, you have to condition the muscles. There is a correct way to teach to scream.”
And this is where I stepped in for my first vocal coach training in heavy metal.
Having always been described as a “quiet person”, I was apprehensive. I wasn’t even wearing black. How was I ever going to find my inner rock god? Heck, I don’t even like karaoke.
Mitch explained the process of “screaming” which calmed me a bit as I realized I wasn’t going to have to break my vocal chords which haven’t had a work out since Year 9 choir. And even back then I found my strength was in miming.
So here goes…Mitch starts off by explaining where the sound comes from. It’s like barking. Now keep barking but say these words: “Cross my heart, I hope you die”. Not the nicest thing to say to someone on your first meeting but add a backing track, a microphone and that’s how you sing heavy metal.
I might leave it to the professionals but I’m glad to know that if I did want to change my look and hit the stage, I know where to get some slick training.
Mitch is easygoing and relishes the job he has in teaching others these special skills. He lives in two worlds: classical singing with its strict structure and heavy metal in which you can ad lib your own style. It might be this clash of scenes and ability to hop from the classics to heavy metal in a matter of seconds that keeps him open-minded when it comes to musical genres.
“Classical is soul-draining,” he says. “But that’s why I’m happy I can be more creative here.”
On weekends he can be found performing in his progressive rock band Dyssidia. Then on Monday’s it’s back to the office imparting his knowledge on eager-eyed students.
Living his dream.
ARMI, Level 1/98 Gawler Place, Adelaide