For those about to rock, we educate you. After more than two decades in the local and international music industry, Chomthawat Yongkittikul wondered whether there was a new business model that he should turn to. He tried to recall what he and other people had wanted when they were young, and he realised it was a music school where you don't feel obliged but instead inspired.
Besides its regular courses, Rockademy also offers special workshops for aspiring musicians to learn from professionals in the music business.
Tucked away inside the trendy shopping arcade A Square on Sukhumvit 26, the white, modern building is now Chomthawat's headquarters of inspiration. Inside, a giant rabbit stands tall to welcome visitors in a lofty hall. This is Rockademy, Chomthawat' s recently opened school that follows a new approach in music education and adds to the vibrant scene in town.
In his own words, Rockademy is about experience more than education _ because that's what music is.
"The idea came from what I have been thinking for a long time, combined with many people I met who were saying similar things, that they once studied music but it became such a chore they gave up and never continued," he said.
Back in the mid-90s when the alternative rock wave hit the Thai music scene, Chomtawat was among the pioneers as a member of Barbies, one of the most loved indie bands of the era. He later expanded his career to work with the entertainment giant GMM Grammy as a producer. In 2000, he moved to New York and experienced the music business there before returning home in 2007.
"After I returned, I noticed that young people who study music wanted to be the frontman more than anything, as we have seen in a number of singing contest programmes on television," he said.
"It is a good thing that people want to be part of the music industry, but I don't think it is good when people all want to be a one-man show. If everyone wants to be a singer, who will play the guitar or bass or drums for them?"
Chomthawat Yongkittikul, co-founder of Rockademy.
While holidaying with his friend and former bandmate Apirat Techavara, the two shared their ideas and agreed to give it a shot. Last year, they unveiled Rockademy.
"There are many places that offer music lessons but also many people who feel pressured while learning music. So, when we started, the question was, 'How can we make the students start with enjoying music and then yearn to learn for more?'. And when it comes to rock music, it is about expressing yourself and about enjoying music together with others as a band. It has its special element," he said.
For music students in Thailand, names such as KPN Music Academy and Yamaha Music Academy are among the most established, and they offer academic-style classes for everyone from young learners to professionals. The latter especially has seen a few generations of students _ piano, guitar and violin _ going through their doors. At Rockademy, as the name suggests, the idea is to use rock music to jump-start enthusiasm.
"Rock music is what we love and the appeal of rock music is the sense of band," said co-founder Apirat. "Not only enjoying the music, you can also get to learn to be a team. And each of the band members can shine, not only the singer. It's really important for kids today to learn teamwork. And they get to make friends with others through music."
Another point of difference for Rockademy is that all the staff teachers are pros _ rockers, mostly _ who currently work in the business. The founders drew on their background to develop a network of people who were excited about the idea of an alternative school.
''Sometimes when you go to music school you get basic songs to practise, but it may not be the song that kids would feel connected with,'' Chomthawat said. ''Instead, if we teach them the songs they like or a song from an artist that they look up to that, it would give them the drive to want to learn more _ to be like their idols.
''Here, we give them professional trainers that understand their nature and the atmosphere that makes them feel comfortable yet inspired.''
Peerasit Poltan, the vocalist from popular indie band Lomosonic, is among the teachers. When he came to talk to Rockademy about what they are trying to do, he immediately agreed that the alternative approach would encourage people to enjoy learning music.
''Rockademy wants to become a community for music lovers where people can let loose and enjoy music,'' he said.
The school has one-on-one lessons in vocal training and instruments, from beginner level to advanced students. Also offered are a band-coaching course, where students in bands can improve their showmanship and technical skills, songwriting courses and lessons about music technology.
Half-a-year after the school kicked off, Chomthawat said the feedback had been positive.
''The first group of people who applied here were those who understood and believed in our principles. We don't give piano or classical music lessons like other schools. So parents who send their kids here share the same idea, that they want their kids to have fun with the music. And, surprisingly, some of the parents also enrol for lessons themselves.'' Rapeepat Thanathavornkit, a 43-year-old business owner, first came to Rockademy three months ago to take his daughter to a drum class. After a month, he became a student alongside his 13-year-old kid.
''I used to do activities together with her. Then, I thought since I have to come here with her and wait for her until the class finishes, I might as well just take a course. So I decided to learn guitar, because I used to play a little when I was young.''
Rapeepat said that he finds it amusing that after students learn solo for a while, they will then be encouraged to jam with others as a band.
''Learning music should be fun,'' he said. ''It shouldn't be about memorising notes or learning songs that you don't even like. And learning music from people who are currently in the business makes it much more interesting than learning from teachers who have only been trained academically.''
A concert by current students and staff will be held tomorrow from 5pm.
See for yourself what the school of rock is like at Rockademy, A Square on Sukhumvit Soi 26, or visit www.facebook.com/RockademyThailand
Rapeepat Thanathavornkit strums the guitar while his daughter Pakamon beats a rhythm on the drums.
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About the author
- Writer: Yanapon Musiket
Position: Life Writer