High Voltage Rock School: One for the young, aspiring musicians

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High Voltage Rock School: One for the young, aspiring musicians

Created in 2010 with the vision of helping kids tackle their fears and make music in a band-focussed environment, High Voltage Rock School (HVRS) has given thousands of students the tools to write, play and perform their songs and let them take back their creative power. As founder Danniel Smith says, the focus is clear, “We do it to get kids playing music and help their confidence as musicians.”

A trained teacher, Smith taught individual music lessons in schools throughout Melbourne before recognising that something was missing with the old formula. “When I moved to Melbourne, I was teaching one-on-one lessons and I found the kids were not as engaged as I thought they could be. It was a way of creating excitement and retaining kids interest.”

There was room for improvement in why and how kids could play music in their formative years, and Smith’s years of experience allowed him to tailor a programme that really helped students get behind the drums or pick up a guitar. “Our philosophy is that it’s performance based,” he says. “Within a month of getting them together, we’re getting them to perform, getting them to choose the songs and giving them a sense of empowerment.”

Growing up in Victoria and being heavily involved in its burgeoning music scene, Smith is optimistic for the future of music in the area. “The numbers are strong, everyone is getting out and supporting music. We’re very lucky where we live, there are a lot of great acts coming through.”

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It’s a process that HVRS are proud to be supporting. Since their inception, they have had numerous success stories blossom from the seeds sewn by the programme. Bands like Soft Corporate were one of the triple j Unearthed High finalists in 2013, and now their students are being offered opening gigs at local festivals. But, as Smith puts it, there are other ways in which the programme helps those involved. “Just merely communicating with other teenagers is a success for some kids. There are many ways which we measure success. Some of the skills we teach them in the latter part is ‘how you find a gig?’, ‘who do you talk to?’ and ‘how do you network?’ We have 10 staff at High Voltage now, and three were former students.”

But despite the strengthening of the area’s local music scene, he admits he would like to see more females involved in its creation. “The one thing I do feel disappointed about is gender inequality. That’s something that hasn’t changed and something that the programme tries to change. We’ve got a lot of great female mentors and currently 30 percent of our kids are females. We’d like to see that get to 50/50.”

With two home-bases already set up in Hawthorn and Yarraville working with 300 kids on a weekly basis, Smith is now bringing the programme to Geelong, situating themselves at The Barwon Club. His motivation for doing so was simple, “I spent the first 23 years of my life in Geelong. I really wanted to come home and do something good for the Geelong music scene.”

Free Easter Holiday Sessions on 10th, 11th and 12th of April in Geelong. Limited spots available. Visit www.hvrs.net.au for more info or to enrol.

HVRS are also offering first-timers a free term of Rock School. The first 20 kids that get in touch will receive the offer.

Written by Ed Acheson
Photos by Greg Holland Photography