June 16, 2016 5:08 pm
Updated: December 11, 2017 1:17 pm

Edmonton’s Backbeat builds confidence and community through rock music

WATCH ABOVE: Dozens of little musicians are getting ready to ring in Father's Day with a little rock n' roll. Backbeat is hosting a block party off Whyte Avenue this Sunday, showcasing tiny musicians with big talent. Laurel Gregory has more.


Jack McDonald-Cockrall flips his head from side to side as he belts out Green Day’s Hitchin’ a Ride. The 12-year-old appears comfortable – at ease even – singing and playing keys for his rock band Pain in the Class. Just a couple of years ago, he didn’t know he had that kind of showmanship in him.

“I was kind of shy. I was quiet,” Jack said. ” I didn’t do much on stage. I just kind of stood there.”

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Jack discovered his love of performing through an Edmonton school of rock called Backbeat.

The Whyte Avenue studio offers kids from six to 18 the chance to learn about music through private lessons and by practising and performing in a rock band.

Nella and Dan Sabo started the program four years ago in their Sherwood Park basement with 25 kids. Today, they are teaching 200 musicians.

“My favourite moment is the first time a kid does a show at Backbeat,” Dan said.

“If they’re used to a more traditional thing where it’s all serious, they get to come to Backbeat and have fun and rock out and just totally be themselves.”

Dan says building confidence is one of his main goals.

Jack’s mother Julie McDonald has seen a shift in her son since he started playing in the band. She says he has a new gear.

Watch below: Julie McDonald describes how joining a band has ignited something special in her son.

The experience has altered Jack’s idea of what’s possible when he graduates high school. He’s now debating between medical school and music.

“If you asked me two or three years ago, I would never have thought I was going to do music in the future.”

This Father’s Day, June 19, Backbeat bands will perform at the Backbeat Block Party. The event runs from noon until 5 p.m. in the back lane south of Whyte Avenue and 100 Street.

The music show will also feature a Junior Art Walk, face painting and snacks.

© 2016 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment

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