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Meet our Coaches

Our team of expert music coaches are the best in the business.

All coaches at Big Music are carefully screened and selected based on qualifications, experience and ability to engage and inspire students.   

All coaches hold current NSW Working with Children permits and are fully-vaccinated. 

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Cleo Venner

Drums | Piano | Vocals 

While Cleo has a particular passion for classic rock, she grew up studying classical music and has a thorough approach to technique and skill acquisition. She has played with artists such as Idea of North, Synergy, Taikoz and Ice Cube as well as a number of orchestras and stage bands. Cleo is currently studying for a Bachelor of Music Education at the Sydney Conservatorium.

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Connor Barratt

Guitar | Bass

Bachelor of Contemporary Performance (AIM)

At the age of 8, when Connor first picked up a guitar, it was like he met his best friend. Within a few years, he was regularly performing with his brothers around Sydney.

 

Connor achieved a band 5 result in music in his HSC year, and went on to complete a Bachelor of Contemporary Performance at the Australian Institute of Music.

 

Although Connor has played with many musicians and in lots of bands, an experience that stands out in Connor’s career thus far was recording with Australian music legends Mark McEntee (Divinyls) and Harry Vanda (Easybeats, Vanda and Young). Connor is currently performing with his band Lucid Hoops, and also performs in a number of Cover Bands.

 

Over the years, Connor has had great coaches that have made his learning experience inspirational and fun. His aim as a coach is to do the same, and use his love of music to ensure that learning the guitar is exciting, joyful and fun!!

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Gene Maynard

Drums | Bands 

Rock Shows

Gene started playing drums with pots and pans at a very young age. He now has over 30 years of musical experience behind him, including time spent playing with members of Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, The Cruel Sea, and the Go Betweens to name a few.

 

Gene's philosophy is to coach the important fundamentals of drumming including posture, dynamics, technique and listening to band members and learning songs. Over the years he has taught a diverse range of students and has witnessed first hand how music can change a persons life in a positive way.

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Gideon Bensen

Vocals | Piano | Guitar Bass | Electronic Music Production | Bands

Gideon is a session guitarist with ten years experience playing with rock/pop and contemporary musical acts. He has toured the world with his former band, The Preatures.

 

From humble beginnings: playing local venues to playing festival stages around the world including Glastonbury and Coachella.  After productive years with The Preatures Gideon decided to broaden his skill set by playing with different acts. 

Currently Gideon is working as the Musical Director for indie/pop artist Jack Gray and he is also playing bass guitar for up-and-coming artist Tyne-James Organ.

 

Gideon is a passionate coach who inspires his students by drawing on the wealth of experience that he has gained from taking his love of music around the world.

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Grace Labrum

Bass | Guitar | Rock Shows

Ukulele

Bachelor of Music  - AIM

First picking up a bass guitar in the school band to then playing at Big Music when she was younger, Grace always loved being on stage creating live music. Grace finished high school at the Australian Institute of Music and later went on to study a Bachelor of Music there.

 

Having played beside Fletcher Pilon, 2016 winner of Australia’s Got Talent, Grace was granted the awesome opportunity to track bass in the studio with him for his new EP. Grace is also a session bass player for a few local acts around Sydney. 

 

Grace believes that no two students learn the exact same way and that students will progress the most when they enjoy the learning process.

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Grace Mankey

Vocals | Piano

Grace began playing classical piano at the age of five. A few years later she discovered Big Music which broadened her taste in music. Essentially growing up at Big Music, Grace rapidly developed her piano, vocal and performance skills which led to her being chosen to tour the US with Big music in 2017. After returning from that tour Grace was selected to represent the Big Music Bandits.

 

Through the Bandits, Grace has enjoyed playing gigs at the Enmore Theatre, Star Casino and the Parkes Elvis Festival, with a highlight being a performance with Roger Waters at Qudos Bank Arena. 

 

Grace is currently continuing her musical development by undertaking a Bachelor of Contemporary Music at the Conservatorium of Music.

 

Grace believes music is about having fun, pushing boundaries and focusing on confidence and enjoyment, all of which she strives to embody through her coaching.

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Jasmine Rae

 Vocals | Piano 

Advanced Diploma

(Music Performance)

Jasmine is a professional singer, songwriter and entertainer with a passion for coaching and learning.

 

After studying an Advanced Diploma in Music Performance in Melbourne (2007), Jasmine has been recording and releasing music, touring nationally and coaching singing.

 

By focussing on technique, vocal health and performance confidence Jasmine will help you to develop your own personal style while also expanding your musical knowledge and repertoire.

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Bella Russell

Vocals

JMC Academy

Bella's love for music began at the age of 5 when she first discovered her voice. In High School she enjoyed plenty of opportunities to develop her voice, a highlight being a solo performance at the Sydney Town Hall. 

 

In 2019, Bella went on to study a Bachelor of Contemporary Performance at JMC Academy. Two years into her degree she released her first original song and music video which has created a platform for her to continue with her passion.

 

Bella strives to make her lessons collaborative, fun and engaging while providing the skills and confidence required to be an artist.

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Katie Helms

Guitar | Bass | Piano

Bachelor of Music (Contemporary Performance)

Katie's passion for music began during high school, when she was given a guitar as a gift. From the age of fourteen her playing really started to blossom when she began having guitar and bass lessons at Big Music.

 

In 2017, Katie was selected as a bass player for the Big Music Bandits. During her time in the Bandits Katie performed at various large venues and festivals around Australia, including the Enmore Theatre, Hope Rocks and the Parkes Elvis Festival. Katie is currently studying a Bachelor of Music at JMC Academy.


Katie makes her lessons fun and engaging while also giving her students the tools that they require in order to develop their musicianship.

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Nico Scali

Electronic Music Production | Bass | Drums | Guitar | Piano

Nico began his musical journey exploring an array of instruments. He then progressed to playing in bands as a teenager on the drums and guitar. Nico completed his HSC at the Australian Institute of Music, topping the grade in Music and landing a Band 6 in his HSC, whilst also being offered a scholarship for a bachelor of music at AIM. 

 

Since leaving Uni, Nico has performed sold out shows at the Lansdowne and Oxford Art Factory as well as working on songs that have had millions of streams on Spotify.

 

Nico believes that while learning music can involve a bit of hard work that it all comes down to figuring out what you want to achieve and then tailoring the process of getting there based on what it is you enjoy about playing music.

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Lucas Straz

Guitar | Bass | Piano

Vocals | Electronic Music Production

Born into a musical family, Lucas developed a strong passion, knowledge and natural instinct for sound & composition across a broad range of styles. Having played the guitar since the age of six, Lucas has gained a thorough understanding of the instrument which he has displayed through live performance at a local and international level including workshops, private & group tuition, song writing sessions and studio work.

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Zali Brichta

Saxophone

Since picking up the saxophone 10 years ago Zali has played in the Willoughby Girls High School Senior Wind Ensemble and Jazz Ensemble. She toured the USA in 2016, where she played at some iconic venues including Disneyland and the Grammy Museum. 

 

Zali completed her HSC Music 2 and Music Extension, and is currently playing in Benjamin's Big Band. She is an enthusiastic coach who is keen to share her love of music.

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Luke Watson

Drums

Luke is an accomplished drummer/percussionist who started playing drums at age 8. After studying with Prof. Don Lebler of the Brisbane Conservatorium he began his coaching career at Shayne Browne Music School. Luke then spent 12 years in London honing his craft recording and touring with some of Europe’s top artists including Eberg (Iceland), Paul Aiden (London) and Bird (London). He returned to Australia to Study a Bachelor of Music in performance jazz at JMI in Brisbane where he developed a great understanding of many contemporary genres including jazz, funk, reggae, blues, hip hop and Latin music, playing over 500 gigs in the Latin trio Santiago. Now based in Sydney, Luke sessions for artist Lucy Burke. 

 

Luke is devoted to music education and sharing his wealth of knowledge with others. He believes that every student has their own unique learning ability and is committed to connecting with them through meaningful and engaging lessons via a creative and fun process.

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Max Jacobs

Guitar | Bass

Rock Shows

Bachelor of Music - AIM

Max has been passionate about music since he was just a kid blasting B.B. King out of an old CD player. From the moment he picked up a guitar at the age of 13 everything fell into place for him. He did his final years of high school at the Australian Institute of Music (AIM) where he topped his class and is now half way through his Bachelor of Music at AIM. A former student at Big Music, Max currently plays in 2 originals bands, Plastic Jack and The Hideaways, as well as session playing for a few local acts.

 

Max believes there is no such thing as a set way to teach students and that the experience needs to be tailored to each player and each style whether it be Jazz, Blues, Funk, Classical or Rock. 

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Owen Borg

Guitar | Bass | Drums | Piano

Owen is a multi-instrumentalist and songwriter and current member of local Pop Punk band Dial Denial. He has been playing guitar and piano for over 10 years and also plays bass guitar, ukulele and drums. Owen received a High Distinction for his AMEB Rockschool Grade 8 exam on guitar and attained 97% for Music 1 in his HSC. Owen draws his influences predominantly from Pop Punk, Metal and Rock. 

 

He is very passionate about developing the next generation of Rockstars.

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Aaron Gullotto

Guitar | Bass | Bands

Rock Shows

Bachelor of Music - AIM

Getting his first guitar at the tender age of 6, Aaron quickly found a passion for music and by the time he hit high school he had already begun to form bands with his mates.

 

At 15, Aaron successfully auditioned for the Australian Institute of Music for his senior years of high school. After the HSC, he continued on at AIM completing his Bachelor degree. Aaron is continuously gigging around Sydney, both as a session player and with his originals band Sly Robin. 

Aaron is a passionate coach who aims to keep learning fun and interesting.

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Ben Siva

Guitar | Bass | Vocals

Piano | Rock Shows

Bachelor of Arts - Music and Journalism

Ben finished his HSC at the Australian Institute of Music (AIM) Secondary College, where he excelled with a Band 6 in Music. His high school experience, as well as the brilliant musicians he met along the way sculpted his playing and performance abilities into what they are today. He is now in the middle of his Bachelor of Arts, majoring in Music at Macquarie University. Currently, Ben is the frontman of an original band, Plastic Jack, and is immersing himself in the thriving culture of the Sydney music scene, co-creating Local Live, a live recording company and YouTube channel for original bands around the city.

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Nellie Zydenbos

Kinder Beat | Piano | Vocals

Nellie started her musical journey as a vocal student at Big Music. While at Big Music, Nellie blossomed as a vocalist and performer, and in 2016 she was selected for Big Music’s representative band, the Bandits. Nellie has performed with the Bandits at the Enmore theatre and several festivals including Bribie Island, Hope Rocks and the annual Elvis Festival at Parkes. Nellie’s passion for music has lead her to continue her musical education at the Australian Institute of Music where she is currently studying a Bachelor of Music.

 

Nellie believes music plays an important role in child development and, having spent the last few years as Big Music’s popular birthday party host, she has a great rapport with young children.

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Oli Naglost

Vocals | Piano | Guitar

 Bass | Drums | Bands

Having joined the Big Music family in 2011, Oli lives and breathes all things music. Since starting on the guitar at the age of five and on the drums at the age of six he has gained a Diploma in Music Performance (drums) and completed his HSC, scoring 50/50 for Extension Music.

 

Oli has been winning band comps since he was eleven and has toured the US with Big Music, three times. A true multi-instrumentalist, Oli has sung with Roger Waters, played bass at Graceland and was a finalist in the Sydney Junior Guitar Championships. Oli’s current band Dysfunction have recorded and released music that has enjoyed commercial radio airplay.

 

Oli loves to share his musical passion with his students and also seeks to inspire them to learn, have fun and enjoy the whole process.

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Te Shelford

Guitar | Vocals | Piano | Bass

Te grew up around music, which led him to develop a passion for guitar and piano during his High School years.

 

Upon leaving school, Te followed this passion onwards with a Bachelor of Contemporary Performance at the Australian Institute of Music majoring in vocals. He has also been playing guitar and piano since high-school.

Throughout his music career Te has been involved in musical productions, backing vocals on The Voice and various music projects such as cover and original bands. He is always gigging around Sydney with acoustic and band sets.

Te wants his students to enjoy their time developing skills for the instrument and help build their confidence to achieve their goals

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Kelly Legg

Guitar | Piano | Ukulele 

 Vocals | Kinder Beat

Bachelor of Education/Arts (Deakin)

Bachelor of Music (JMC)

Originally from Colac, Victoria, Kelly has always loved to perform. Often singing, dancing and playing piano by ear from a young age, her first formal lessons began on violin at age 7. At 13, guitar was a smooth transition from violin, and at 14 finally began to sink her teeth into vocal training. 

For most of her school years, Kelly developed and refined critical musicianship skills with the Bay City Strings in Geelong, but the love for contemporary Pop/Rock was ever-present all the while. 

At tertiary level, Kelly completed a Bachelor of Education (Secondary)/Bachelor of Arts from Deakin University, Melbourne (2012). Her work in secondary schools in Victoria ranged from teaching Year 7-8 Music to working as an Integration Aide with students requiring extra support across the curriculum. 

Life in Sydney began in 2014. Kelly spent the first couple of years completing a Bachelor of Music at JMC Academy and has very proudly been employed at Big Music since 2015.

 

Kelly believes that music should always be fun, and never a chore. No one should be denied the expression, passion and voice that musicians are able to find, and it can be found at early stages and at all ages.

 

Kelly is dedicated to finding what her students love and making it achievable faster than they may have thought possible.

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Kyle Barr

Drums | Guitar | Piano 

 Band​s | Rock Shows

First Aid Certified

Kyle started out as a drummer by going into the kitchen at the age of 2 and overturning anything he could find into a drum set. While keeping up his drumming, he then took piano lessons and made it his business to learn the guitar too.

Kyle is also sought out as a drummer for hire, filling in for acts such as Caligula and playing regularly with the band Tensions Arise. 

Most of all Kyle loves connecting with other musicians because he believes there is so much to learn from each other. Kyle is excited about the opportunity to share his knowledge and experience and to encourage others with their passion for music. 

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Hamish Howes

Guitar | Bass | Piano | Drums | Vocals | Trumpet

Hamish's first introduction to music began as an 8 year old, originally a trumpet player who became enthralled with writing and creating his own musical works. Throughout his schooling years he adopted and learnt many other instruments, focusing on guitar, bass, piano and drums. He achieved a band 6 in music in his HSC and went on to study a Bachelor of Performance at JMC. 

 

Over the years Hamish has gained experience performing gigs both in bands and in an acoustic setting. He has written songs for other bands/singers as well as composing pieces for stage, theatre and short films. 

 

Hamish works hard to maintain a friendly and engaging learning environment where students can achieve their potential in a fun and relaxed way that works best for them. 

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Rachel Florence

Drums | Guitar | Piano 

 Band​s | Rock Shows

Bachelor of Music  - AIM

First Aid Certified

Rachel started learning classical piano and drums/percussion in primary school. Her love for music continued through high school, where she learned bass, guitar and cello and studied Music 2 and Music Extension.

 

Rachel completed a B. Music at AIM where she played in the Big Band, Salsa Band and Jazz Ensemble as well as working in rock, folk and cover bands. Since then she has played in her electro pop band, playing various venues, festivals and warehouses across Sydney.

Rachel aims to create an environment where students can have fun and develop a passion for their instrument while ensuring they push their boundaries to get the most out of their learning experience.

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Sasha Flikier

Guitar | Piano | Vocals

Bachelor Teaching

(High School Music) - USYD

Bachelor of Music (Performance in Voice & Composition) - AIM

Sasha has been involved with music since the ripe young age of 4 and while at school, performed, competed and toured nationally and internationally in one of Australia's best choirs. 

Sasha has toured nationally and internationally with his original bands Venus Fly Trap and Wormholes Exist. He also performs regularly in cover bands ranging across many musical styles and genres.

Sasha gets outstanding results from his students, including his former student "Ruel" who recently won an Aria for best breakthrough artist.

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Abby Fuller

Guitar | Bass | Drums | Piano | Vocals | EMP

Abby started her musical journey by learning the violin at a young age, which developed a strong ear and passion for music. She then went on to play jazz flute through primary school and then finally discovered her love of contemporary music and its multitude of instruments. As a songwriter and music maker, Abby plays drums, bass, guitar, keyboard and sings to express herself through music. She is currently studying music education and contemporary music at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music. 

 

In 2019, Abby recorded her first EP in Nashville which was released in 2020. Since then, she has released another single and plans to release a single again before the end of the year. Abby has performed live across Sydney with a variety of bands, as well as her own band for original projects. Recently she played with an upcoming original project Goddess911, featuring Sam Lockwood and Heather Shanon from "The Jezabels", and Alistair Wright from "Vlossom". 

 

 Abby believes that music should be enjoyed by all and aims to teach her students the joy of music and how to explore their own musicality. Her lessons are hands-on and song-based, and she encourages her students to listen to a wide variety of music and come to lessons with song requests in mind!

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Tom Christie

Vocals | Piano | Guitar

Bass

Since picking up the guitar in his early teens, Tom has been passionately involved in the world of music. At age 18 he began his career as a solo performing artist, and he has since opened for acts including Husky and Sarah McLeod. He is also an accomplished songwriter, and dedicates much of his free time to writing and recording his own material.

As a coach, Tom is primarily focused on guitar and voice, however he also plays keyboards and bass. He can also help you in areas such as songwriting, harmony, arranging, and recording. 

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Woodie Woodward

Drums

Bachelor of Entertainment (Performance) JMC

Woodie is a Rock ‘n’ Roll drummer and has been behind the kit for 22 years. During this time he has achieved a highest qualification of Bachelor of Entertainment (Performance) from JMC Music Academy and earned a reputation as a talented, reliable musician who can play a wide range of styles, comfortably from energetic Rock and Punk, to laid back Funk and R&B. Woodie maintains an active playing schedule with Sydney based Punk Rock band FANGZ and he also works regularly as a drummer-for-hire when required.

 

 

Woodie applies a different approach to each style, possessing each its own sense of rhythm and timekeeping. His relaxed coaching style and individually tailored approach to drum lessons make him a very colourful drum coach at Big Music.

Learn with our Coaches