Who We Are

Dan was a junior high band teacher who ran an after-school rock program. The program was designed to teach musicians what they needed to know by putting them into rock bands versus a traditional concert band program. Fast forward a few years and Dan and his wife, Nella, used this same concept to start Backbeat. Today Backbeat has hundreds of students and over a dozen different rock bands – that play everything from indie folk to metal. Dan and Nella are passionate about growing young musicians by pushing them to try new things, giving them the chance to jam with other musicians and creating memorable performance opportunities.

Meet the rest of our crew:

Dan Sabo


Dan’s diverse musical background looks something like this: started piano at the age of four, discovered guitar and the love of (rock) music throughout junior high and high school, dived deeper into classical and jazz music throughout university. After completing his Bachelor of Education from the University of Alberta, Dan taught for four years as a band teacher in Sturgeon School Division. He also led the Edmonton Eskimo Pep Band for 3 years and completed his Master of Music degree at the U of A in 2011. He has worked with hundreds of kids as a conductor, bandleader, and private music instructor, and looks forward to sharing this experience with the other teachers at Backbeat. A proud Edmontonian, husband, mountain biker, and world traveler, Dan feels most alive when helping others discover the incredible world of music.

Nella Sabo


Nella is into the numbers and has her business background to thank for this. Between a Bachelor of Commerce and an MBA from the University of Alberta, she’s gained a strange appreciation for strategy and seeing a balance sheet balanced. An entrepreneur at heart, Nella loves helping turn Backbeat’s guitar riffs into bank deposits and helping spread the word about what Backbeat's all about. When she’s rockin’ out, Nella’s weapon of choice is the bass and she loves dabbling on the keys as well (she also has a Jethro Tull flute streak in her dating back to her high school band days, but some things are best left in the past…) As an adventurer, wife, mom of two, traveller, wanna-be chef, cross-country skier and mountain biker, Nella feels most alive when trying new things.


Vocals/Keys/Rock Band

Zia grew up playing violin and singing in choirs, and later took up the piano. Eventually, she enrolled at MacEwan University as a vocal student, where she is now a diploma student with a major in Recording and Music Technology. Zia loves messing around with technology to create interesting music. Enthralled by popular music and classical music alike, Zia hopes to complete a bachelor's degree in classical composition one day. She has played in multiple bands around Edmonton and is currently pouring her heart into her first EP for her solo project, Zia Baby CEO. Zia thinks experimentation and play are at the heart of music making, and hopes to inspire freedom in her students to try new things. When not playing music, Zia likes to practice her coding, play chess, and browse the Vogue Runway app. Zia feels most alive when creating with others!


Bass/Guitar/Rock Band

Will has been playing guitar and bass since junior high. Always interested in new sounds and collage, he has been recording himself and others from an early age. He graduated from the MacEwan music program in 2006 and has been teaching privately and professionally on and off since. He is a part of the Edmonton music scene and has played in many bands including The Mitts, The Wicked Awesomes, and Brazilian Money. Additionally, he was a part of the University of Alberta’s experimental and improvisational group know as XiME. He currently directs his own Will Scott Band and is a member of Pigeon Breeders and DAD. He has an appreciation for all kinds of music and a soft spot for 90’s pop. When not playing music, Will enjoys yelling at the TV screen while watching hockey and hanging out with friends. Will feels most alive when he is on the stage performing.






Stephanie has had a passion for music for as long as she can remember. After torturing her parents with non-stop singing all throughout the night, they finally put her on stage where she belonged. Her first major performance was at the Jubilee Auditorium at the age of two with her church choir. Since then she has performed on every major stage in Edmonton and refuses to stop there. Her influences include jazz, r&b, gospel and pop. At the age of five, she started playing classical piano and went on to complete her Grade 9 Royal Conservatory Exam in 2011 before switching to jazz and pop music. Stephanie enrolled in the Vocal Performance Program at MacEwan University where she graduated in 2012. In addition to singing and playing piano, Stephanie plays guitar and in her church drumline. When she’s not surrounded by notes and chords, Stephanie likes to dance like no one is watching. Stephanie feels most alive when she’s making people smile (like in that big-toothy-grin kind of a way)!                            





Guitar/Bass/Drums/Keys/Vocals/Rock Band

Catlin has been playing music almost all his life, from kids’ choirs to piano lessons to eventually classical guitar and trumpet in his junior high band, Catlin took these experiences and applied them to his love for rock, pop, funk, soul, and hip-hop. He has played in many bands around town, such as The Fronts, Service:Fair, MS DOS, Brazilian Money and DAD, (the last two bands were with fellow Backbeat teacher Will Scott!), and is presently a part of Aviakit and Heaven & The Ghosts. Catlin is currently completing his diploma in Composition at Macewan University with a focus on Sound Art, Film Scoring, and Multi-Media Performance Works. Catlin strives to help students develop a strong foundation in classic and contemporary styles of music, with a further focus on developing each student’s unique artistic voice through songwriting and experimentation. He feels most alive when discovering new music, and talking about the music near and dear to his heart.


Drums/Guitar/Bass/Keys/Rock Band

Matt was crawling behind the drums at two years old. Following several years of piano lessons, he decided to pick up the (drum) sticks at the tender young age of ten. Matt played trombone in concert band during junior high and high school and laid down the beat by playing drums in jazz band. After graduating, Matt enrolled at MacEwan University and received a diploma majoring in drum performance in 2013. He then went on to get his Bachelor of Music degree, graduating in 2016. Matt has actively been a part of the Edmonton music scene, performing with various bands playing everything from jazz to rock to pop. He also plays regularly at his church. Aside from music, Matt is a total nerd and loves video games, comic books, and puns! Matt feels most alive when grooving out on stage!


Guitar/Vocals/Keys/Rock Band

From the time she was a kid to the time she picked up a guitar, Mel has always had a love for music. By songwriting, performing, and producing local talent, she has experienced both sides of the studio glass and loved them equally. Mel has her music diploma in Composition and is currently pursuing her degree in Music Technology and Production during her fourth year at Grant MacEwan. While guitar is her first love, she began singing shortly after picking up an axe and currently fronts her own hard rock band, BloodHoney. Her personal motto? Girls gotta solo! When she’s not making or recording music, her second passion is food! She loves cooking and experimenting with new recipes. Mel feels most alive when she’s onstage, belting out the rock tunes with her Explorer in her hands!

JD Speelman


JD has spent most of his life playing music, starting out with piano and guitar lessons at age 3, by Junior High he was playing tuba and later switched to bass. When he was 14 he joined his first band and spent the next decade playing shows all over western Canada. JD has been in dozens of bands and musical projects. He has experience playing in ensembles of all genres from classical, jazz, folk, metal, hip hop and experimental. JD has his Degree in Music majored in Composition from Grant MacEwan University. Most of his time is spent writing for his Jazz Fusion band and scoring for small films, when not immersed in music he enjoys watching sci-fi and fantasy movies. JD feels most alive when he’s sharing his art and expressing himself.


Drums/Keys/Guitar/Rock Band

Mary-Lee comes from a musical family, and began playing the piano at age 5 and started singing shortly after. At 12, she discovered drums and guitar, and also played the trombone in band class. Mary-Lee completed a degree in classical music and philosophy at the University of Alberta’s Augustana Faculty, in 2009. After that, she earned a diploma in music composition from Grant MacEwan.  Mary-Lee has travelled and played with many bands of many genres that include ska, hot club jazz, folk, and straight up rock and roll!  She currently leads a band for her own songwriting project called The Mary-Lee Bird Band. She also plays in The Gadjo Collective, and is delighted to be joining Maria from Backbeat’s project, Borscht! Mary-Lee has also studied and worked in theatre, and is a dog-enthusiast! She feels most alive when she is out in nature and appreciating her surroundings.

Angela Proulx

Bass/Guitar/Drums/Vocals/Rock Band

Angela knew from the moment she heard "Oops... I Did it Again," that she was born to be a pop sensation.  She began practicing by singing into her hair brush and eventually given her first guitar. Metallica's "Master of Puppets" helped Angela realize her dream of flipping around her hair and shredding on the guitar. In her teenage years, Angela settled down with the bass guitar and good ol' classic funk music. Angela brings eight years of teaching experience to Backbeat. Her passion and knack for creating meaningful learning experiences has led her to university to pursue a Bachelor of Education, as well as a degree in classical music. A university student and music teacher by day, Angela manages a busy music performance career by night. In 2012, she founded the band "Mercy Funk,” which intends to release a full-length album in the spring of 2018. Ang feels most alive when she is sharing her passion with friends: whether that be on stage or in a teaching room at Backbeat. 

Garrett Olson

Guitar/Vocals/Bass/Drums/Rock Band

Garrett has been playing the guitar since the ripe age of 11 and slowly picked up instruments as he's gone along. Most recently he has spent his last four years in Toronto performing and touring with his band, The Fallers, as well as his solo project as a singer/songwriter. Garrett is now working on producing music and reinstating his roots in the Edmonton music scene; recently recording his debut full-length solo album himself. Garrett feels most alive when he's in the studio recording or performing.