2 February 2021

Canberra’s own school of rock (and music) hits the right note

| Michael Weaver
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Shannon Parnell

Canberra singer/songwriter Shannon Parnell used the Open School of Music to record one of her songs. Photo: Emily Craggs.

It’s Canberra’s very own school of rock, but not just for wannabe rock stars. If you’ve got a song in your heart and want to share it with the world, the Open School of Music at the Australian National University (ANU) is giving you the chance to be heard.

Through the program, aspiring musicians will write and produce an original song in just five weeks, amid a host of innovative short music courses starting in 2021.

The first course starts on 13 February and is ideal for budding singer/songwriters who have written original songs but have limited recording experience.

Over five consecutive Saturdays, participants will expand their knowledge of songwriting, while learning the basics of studio recording, rehearsing and mixing. The course is free and only available to people over the age of 18.

“It’s a unique opportunity for wannabe singers and songwriters. We are unearthing undiscovered adult artists in Canberra and enhancing their talents,” said Open School of Music convenor Jenny Binovec.


The Community Rock School gives aspiring musicians the chance to play in a band. Photo: Supplied.

Then, on 20 February, the Community Rock School short course will run on Saturday afternoons through to 13 March for piano, guitar, bass, drums and vocals. Further courses will also be held during the year.

Ms Binovec said the rock school will help musicians join a band by teaching them the basic concepts of playing in a rock band.

This course costs $85 per person but is free for pensioners and healthcare cardholders.

A concert will also be held on 13 March in the ANU’s big band room.

Former Open School of Music student Shannon Parnell attended the songwriting-to-studio course last year when she had a song she wanted to bring to life.

An aspiring composer, songwriter and musical director, and a co-founder of Canberra youth theatre company Ribix Productions, Shannon has also collaborated with author and playwright Rachel Pengilly on a musical called Foxes: The Musical.

READ ALSO Ribix Productions: providing a platform for emerging young performers

“It was fantastic having such an experienced team of mentors,” Shannon said. “It was especially great to record and mix my song in the School of Music’s recording studio.”

She said there was a big difference between how her song sounded in her head and when it was recorded.

“It was a bit weird at first, hearing yourself recorded on professional equipment. It was kind of surreal and didn’t sound like I thought I sounded.

“You practice at home and sing it to yourself, but to hear yourself through the speakers coming out nice and clear was amazing.

“It made me recognise that I could do this more and put out good quality music,” Shannon said.

Jenny Binovec said it was important to provide an outlet for people to create music either for posterity or for having something to further their prospects.

“It is during difficult times like this that music can offer so much to all involved, and the connection and expression that is created through music can take on greater significance,” Jenny said.

“It is particularly important to continue creating music, to bring what is special and beautiful into the lives of those involved and others in the community.”

The ACT Government funds the Open School of Music through a Community Outreach Program grant from artsACT, aiming to develop a unique program for adults.

“By combining the expertise and resources at the ANU School of Music with the ACT Government’s grant funding, we can offer development opportunities for all ages in classical, jazz and contemporary genres,” Jenny said.

The school also offers a mentorship program run in conjunction with Gugan Gulwan Aboriginal Youth Centre for young artists to learn about songwriting, recording and performance.

To apply for these programs, or find out more, visit the Open School of Music website, call 6125 9832 or email openschoolofmusic@anu.edu.au.

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