Joanna Backovic

Singing & Piano

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‘…the most remarkable is the voice of Backovic, which gives the music its natural warmth and colour’ (Musicframes)

Joanna was born in Belgrade, Serbia where she graduated composition from the Faculty of Music Art in 2006. While studying for degree in composition, she founded, composed for, organized and led the band ‘Arhai’ in Belgrade from 1998 and their debut album ‘Mysterion’ was released in 2006 on the national label PGP . In its Belgrade incarnation Arhai was a ten-piece electro-folk orchestra that developed a fusion of traditional music from the Balkan region with ambient sounds and jazz-influenced improvisation, using classical flute, cello, piano, electric guitar, bass and percussion, along with a quartet of female singers. As a UK resident, Joanna continued to create music under the name Arhai, moving toward solo performance using live electronics. When she moved in UK to complete her PhD thesis, she began her collaboration with British folk guitarist and tambura-player Adrian Lever and developed the current format of live multilayered vocals combined with tambura, tarabuka and electronics. This collaborative work was generously supported by Arts Council of England.

Her academic works include ‘Silence’ (Lorca’s lyrics) for a mixed choir (2000) / Piano suite (2000) / ‘Is it really me’ (Juan Ramon Jimenez lyrics) song for a voice and piano (2000) / String trio (2001) /  ‘Four haiku lyrics’ for voice, flute and marimba (2002) / ‘Crazy woman’ for female choir and two pianos (2004) / ‘Trilok Trio’ for clarinet, violoncello and marimba (2004) / ‘Inqualieren’ for two guitars (2004) /Basic moods ( string quintet ) Concertino for piano and orchestra (2006) / Nigredo  ( 2010 ) ‘Echoes’ ( 2009 ) ‘The Balkanites’ ( 2013 )

Joanna also composes music for theatre,  documentary and feature movies and her current interest lies within the field of electro-acoustic music and live improvisational performance – exploring the process of the creation and development of individual music identity through improvisation and the use of technology. Joanna has completed her PhD thesis at University of East Anglia  2014, with the subject ‘Between Two Words: Approaching Balkan oral tradition through the use of technology as compositional and performance medium’.

Dave Randall

Artist Mentor

Dave Randall is a musician and writer best known for his work with Faithless and his own band, Slovo. Over the years, Dave has worked with a variety of well known and respected artists including Dido, Sinead O’Connor and Emiliana Torrini. He currently performs with Roland Gift (Fine Young Cannibals) and the Slovo Sound System.

Dave is also the author of the book  Sound System – The Political Power of Music.

Dave’s wealth of knowledge and experience within the industry is an invaluable asset for any artist. His mentoring sessions are carefully tailored to each individual artist and planned out to cover all personal needs and goals. His passionate and engaging lessons are designed to cover all aspects of the industry and help artists achieve their utmost potential.

Ben Christo

Guitar & Artist Mentor

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Ben Christo is a respected guitarist, songwriter, vocalist, lyricist and session musician, best known for his tenures with The Sisters of Mercy, Night by Night and Diamond Black.

He has performed across 6 continents to audiences of up to 42,000 per night, headlined festivals such as Sonsiphere, Fuji Rock, Nova Rock, M’era Luna and Soundwave Australia and played in support of Iron Maiden, Depeche Mode, Metallica, Faith No More, Marilyn Manson, Linkin Park, Limp Bizkit, Rob Zombie, Europe, Akaline Trio, AFI, Stiff Little Fingers, Avenged Sevenfold and Stonesour.

Ben has also featured as a live guitarist and backing vocalist with Therapy? and members of Judas Priest, Bruce Dickinson, Rainbow,  Uriah Heep, White Lion, Rachel Stamp and Sikth.

As a studio musician, he has recorded with Tom Dalgety (Royal Blood, Killing Joke), Romesh Dodangoda (Motorhead, Funeral for a Friend), Greg Haver (Manic Street Preachers) and Steve Lima (Corrine Bailey-Rae).

Ben is an avid writer and recording artist, his work extolled many times in Kerrang!, Metal Hammer and Classic Rock Magazine. He has also recorded with BBC Radio 1 at Maida Vale studios, with music featured on BBC 2 and Sony Pictures Television.

Members of Def Leppard, Alice Cooper, W.A.S.P. and Rob Zombie have all publicly praised Ben’s original work, and his sophomore album won 6th place in Fireworks Magazine’s Top 10 Albums of 2014, alongside Mr. Big and Night Ranger. Classic Rock Magazine championed Ben’s lead playing (comparing him to Neal Schon) and commended his sophisticated lyrics. Accordingly, Ben was recently commissioned to hand-write over 70 sheets of lyrics as part of his latest single release.

He is also musical director, performer and promoter at Shot Through the Heart, a popular monthly rock night in London.

As a teacher, Ben has taught professionally for 16 years, mentoring pupils from ages of 8 – 58 years of age. Specializing in both modern and classic rock, metal and alternative styles, he will always focus on the music you are passionate about and his ethos as a teacher is to bring out your unique style as a player: “don’t just emulate – create!”
Endorsements: Gibson Guitars, DiMarzio Pick-Ups, InTune Guitar Picks, Kemper Amps, Rotosound Strings, Fender Guitars, Alexander McQueen Clothing, Dr. Martens

Luis Varela

Luis photo

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Luis Varela is a professional musician and producer with more than 20 years performing experience. Music is something that has been a huge passion of his since he was a child. He started playing guitar at a very early age, listening to his parent’s Beatles records. Luis takes teaching and playing very seriously, but always keeps lessons pressure free and fun. While helping students reach their highest potential, he makes sure time spent on lessons is enjoyable and engaging.