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’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 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.
Maria has been singing for as long as she can remember, whether in front of the bathroom mirror as a kid, or on stage in front of large audiences. Influences stem anywhere from electronic music to old school country. Maria enrolled in the Vocal Performance program at MacEwan University, where she graduated in 2011. In addition to singing, Maria plays guitar, piano, and drums. She heads a solo project called Borscht, and is involved in many other side projects within the local Edmonton scene. She also enjoys photography, acting, painting, and finding colorful clothing items to match together. She strives to bring as much rock and roll as she can to Backbeat, and that’s a lot! Maria feels most alive when she is on stage, entertaining others.
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)!
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.
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!
Music is the one thing that Aaron has consistently wanted to do his whole life. As a kid he sang with his brother and in school musicals; he also played trumpet in school band. In grade 10, he took guitar and started writing his own songs and accompanying himself. In 2001, Aaron attended MacEwan University to study guitar and composition. Armed with a better understanding of music, he began playing in bands as well as writing and recording his own music. In 2013, he released his first album: “Cantoo.” This record marked the beginning of his personal musical moniker and the achievement of a life goal. Around the same time, Aaron became a dad. Between family, a graphic design/photography career and playing in several bands (Faith Healer, Cantoo, Smokey and the Feelings and Duplekita) life is full! Aaron feels most alive when he’s connecting with a crowd while playing music or arranging and recording in his home studio.
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 Mercy Funk and 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.