From Planet Rock to ABBA

Heidi Wicks
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Janet Cull strives to motivate young musicians

As the school year kicks into gear, well-known performer Janet Cull hopes many St. John's kids might want to throw a few rock kicks into their September soccer-basketball-ballet (or whatever other extra-curricular activities they may have) mix.

She and partner Steven Miller have just opened the doors to Planet Rock Music School on Stavanger Drive in St. John's.

Janet Cull stands next to the sign for her newly opened music school. - Submitted photo

As the school year kicks into gear, well-known performer Janet Cull hopes many St. John's kids might want to throw a few rock kicks into their September soccer-basketball-ballet (or whatever other extra-curricular activities they may have) mix.

She and partner Steven Miller have just opened the doors to Planet Rock Music School on Stavanger Drive in St. John's.

The program aims to instil career goals and objectives, and give students the knowledge they need should they decide to strive for a career in music performance.

"One of the things I'll be doing with my vocal students is microphone technique, because it's something that needs more attention than many voice teachers give," she said, adding that students either tend to use microphones as a security blanket, or become intimidated when they have to use one.

"It adds a completely new dimension to the voice when you introduce the mike, and whenever you're performing you'll have to use one. So it's important that young students learn to use one early on," she laughed, adding that it also gives young girls that wide-eyed, "I'm Mylie Cyrus!'" infatuation with performing.

Learning the biz

As executive director of Music NL for several years, Cull recognizes the importance of knowing the business side of music, in addition to fostering talent.

"Once they're here for a few years, and they turn 15 and 16, they'll know what to do to go out and get their own gigs. We'll do recording workshops with them, so they can learn to record their own demo. And just teaching them how to learn to be a musician for a living."

Which is where their group ensembles come in.

"Any student interested in doing the ensemble program, their instructor will point them in the direction of where they should be. We form groups then and rehearse like a band so they can understand how a band works and the importance of teamwork, and then they perform live in December. So that also allows the parents to see the progression," Cull explained.

Another perk to the program is that, hopefully, parents won't have to twist their child's arm to practice.

"The hope is that because they're learning to play songs they like, they're going to want to go home and practice and be able to play that piece for their instructors the next week. And we have a practice plan each week for the parents, so they will know exactly what their child is responsible for learning each week," Cull said.

Cull and her team are all prominent and active performers around the city. Darryl Cooper has been touring with Sam Roberts for the past four years, has done the Letterman show and has shared the stage with the likes of Tom Petty, Bob Dylan, and Coldplay. Cooper is teaching all ages, including adults.

Also on staff are Brad Power, Steven Miller, Andrew Wicks, Natalie Noseworthy and more.

Does Your Mother Know?

Later this fall, Cull will temporarily depart Planet Rock to head to the world of ABBA. On Oct. 17 at the Arts and Culture Centre, Babybug Productions (her company) along with Red Dress Productions (Kelly-Ann Evans' vehicle) present "Thank You for the Music, A Tribute to ABBA."

Cull plays Frida (the brunette) and Evans is Agnetha (the blonde). Doing male back-up vocals are Scott Mansfield and Craig Follett, along with a full band, including Glen Collins (guitar), Andrew Wicks (guitar), Brian Way (piano), and Dana Parsons and Natalie Noseworthy (backup vocals).

Planet Rock co-workers Noseworthy and Wicks are also playing in the ABBA show.

"With 'Mamma Mia' (the movie) being so popular, there's a whole new generation of ABBA fanatics, and we've got all the big hits and lots of glitter and bell bottoms," she laughed.

"And with Andrew and Natalie both in the show along with me, it's just another way to pull the kids here into the world of performance. ... I'm so confident in our instructors - they're all great performers, great people, there's no ego issues here, and I think that's really going to come across that way when we chat with parents and with the students. I hope we'll inspire them to pursue performance careers."

Visit Planet Rock's website - www.jcplanetrock.com - for details on registration. ABBA tickets ($32.50) are selling out very quickly. Contact the Arts and Culture Centre box office at 729-3900 for details.

Geographic location: St. John's

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  • Gen
    July 02, 2010 - 13:18

    I wish Janet Cull all the best in this new venture. The idea of letting the kids pick the kind of music they want to play is great. I have 2 kids myself, and went to music school myself when I was younger. I was forced to play classical music, which turned me away from playing the piano. And the idea of band/group performances teaches the child how to interact and play with others and respect differences of peoples techniques. Good luck to Janet Cull and Steven Miller.

  • Gen
    July 01, 2010 - 19:59

    I wish Janet Cull all the best in this new venture. The idea of letting the kids pick the kind of music they want to play is great. I have 2 kids myself, and went to music school myself when I was younger. I was forced to play classical music, which turned me away from playing the piano. And the idea of band/group performances teaches the child how to interact and play with others and respect differences of peoples techniques. Good luck to Janet Cull and Steven Miller.