Meet our Coaches


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


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.


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.


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.


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!!


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.


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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Ryan McClenahan

Guitar| Bass| Vocals| Piano

Ryan began his musical journey singing in school choirs from the age of 8. Initially he started on the piano and then picked up the guitar in high school to begin performing with his first band. After high school Ryan began playing regularly around Sydney's pubs and clubs both as a solo artist and in bands. During this time he also began coaching music and he currently has over 12 years teaching experience. 


Throughout Ryan's career he has played and performed in a variety of musical acts, his most recent project being "Slinky", where he has had the opportunity to support Aussie legends 1927 on a national tour playing at some of Sydney's most iconic venues.


Ryan's coaching focuses on each student's individual needs, allowing them to discover what they enjoy most about music.  He aims to help them reach their full musical potential while keeping each lesson fresh, fun and interesting.


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.


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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Caitlin Hargraves

Bass | Guitar | Piano | Drums 

After seven-year-old Caitlin attended an Ultimate Rock Experience holiday camp, twelve years later she is still at Big Music. At the age of nine, struggling to pick between bass guitar and drums, she watched one of her coaches perform ‘Are You Gonna Be My Girl’ by Jet and that was all the inspiration she needed to pursue bass.

At school, Caitlin was known for her explosive stage presence and accompanied the HSC music performances from the age of twelve, and the following six years. She achieved a 96% band 6 in her HSC music and is now studying a Bachelor of Contemporary Music Practice at the Conservatorium of Music.

Caitlin has not only performed on stage as a bass player in numerous shows but has also played in the pit band for musical theatre. Her personal favourite performance was playing with the Australian band Bugs at Oxford Art Factory in June 2021.

Caitlin believes that everyone brings something unique to music and the more that you express yourself, the more fun you’ll have. Her Big Music coaches were and still are her biggest inspirations, and she hopes she can inspire students in the same way, by cultivating their love for music through her fun coaching.


Katie Helms

Guitar | Bass

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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Leah Wilkie

Vocals | Piano | Trumpet

Bachelor of  Music (Contemporary Performance)

Since the young age of 4, Leah has lived passionately through music. Growing up she was classically trained in both piano, trumpet and vocals which provided a solid foundation to explore other styles. Graduating from AIM in 2018, she studied contemporary music and discovered a love for jazz. Combining her knowledge of an array of styles she is able to adapt to any learning style. 


Leah is an accomplished songwriter and composer, fronting the neo-soul/jazz outfit Kyoshi, an emerging local Sydney band. 


Leah's coaching method is all about each individual student, listening to them and where they want to go and tapering each lesson to their individual needs.


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.

Samantha Hurenkamp


Bachelor of Music Performance (Sydney Conservatorium of Music)

Samantha's natural singing ability has gone hand in hand with her formal music education that began at the age of 8 with contemporary voice lessons and progressed to training in classical voice throughout her teenage years. 


Samantha is currently in her final year of the prestigious Bachelor of Music Performance in Classical Voice at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music. She has studied under the highest level of vocal coaches (both here and in the UK) which has ignited a passion to not only provide young singers with similar experiences, but to protect the young voice so that it can reach its full potential through the use of proper vocal techniques using the Bel Canto singing style. 


Samantha has performed in musicals such as Grease as well as performing in multiple Opera’s in England and Australia such as Dialogues des Carmelites by Poulenc. Samantha also values her choral singing experiences, such as singing backup with Sydney Children's Choir for Conrad Sewell at the ARIAS in 2015.


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.


Nick Twiney


Bachelor of Music - Berklee College

Nick’s love for the piano flourished when he started teaching himself jazz piano at the age of 10. After gigging at various pubs and venues throughout Sydney with his band, Toy Temple, Nick then moved to Boston to study at Berklee College of Music. 


While studying for his Bachelor of Music in Jazz Composition, Nick formed a jazz trio that played across Boston, including on the Boston cable access show African Ascent. Since returning to Sydney he has become a familiar face on the gigging circuit playing for funk band Funk Engine and rock band Shamanic.


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


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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Karmel Jäger


Karmel began her musical journey at the age of 5, studying classical violin, viola and singing. She studied at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music before moving to London, where she completed a Master of Music at the prestigious Guildhall School of Music and Drama. 


The move back to Sydney in 2017 saw Karmel move away from classical music, and back to her love of electronic music. Since then she's been producing and releasing her own music, and building up an enviable DJ career, playing everything from RnB to house, techno and breaks. Karmel has been booked for gigs all about town, including Goodbar, Club 77 and Tokyo Sing Song. 


Karmel's coaching philosophy revolves around keeping and growing a love of music. Karmel believes that everyone has an innate sense of musicality within them, and that it is the coaches job to unlock this potential by creating a safe and fun space in which to play and experiment.


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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Luke Watson


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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Ben Suthers

Sax | Clarinet | Flute

Bachelor of Music  (Contemporary Performance on Saxophone) - AIM

Ben displayed a love for music from a very young age and it soon became clear that he would pursue a career in the music industry. After studying music in high school, playing in musicals and big bands, he continued along his musical path to then graduate from the Australian Institute of Music with a Bachelor of Music in contemporary performance on Saxophone. 


Since graduating Ben has been gigging around Sydney, recording sessions and playing at festivals up and down the coast.These experiences have provided Ben with the perfect opportunity to hone his musical skills and also to bring that experience to his lessons at Big Music.


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. 


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.


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.


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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Tom Christie

Vocals | Piano | Guitar


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. 


Woodie Woodward


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