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A Victorian father has turned his son’s cubby house into an online rock’n’roll school for kids

Cubby House Rock uses Zoom to teach kids how to play rock and pop songs at home.
Written by
Nicola Dowse

The great public health sequestering of 2020 has forced many businesses to think creatively and go online. Here in Victoria, Danniel Smith has used the crisis to move his kids' music school online, broadcasting lessons from the cubby house in his backyard.

Smith is the founder of High Voltage Rock School, a program that goes into schools to get kids learning (and excited) about music. He’s a qualified primary and secondary school teacher and had been running the music program for more than a decade when schools closed across Victoria prior to Easter. It was then that he decided to transform his son’s disused cubby house into Cubby House Rock, an online music school for kids aged five to 18.

The outside of a cubby house used for music lessons
Photograph: Danniel Smith

The cubby house in question already featured mint green walls and checkered black and white vinyl floors, giving it that 1950s rock’n’roll vibe. Once he decided to turn the playhouse into an online music school, Smith added instruments, vinyl records and a touch of band merch to create a fun environment for kids to see when logging on for lessons. “It’s a bit cooler than just a white bedroom wall,” says Smith. “It’s a nice little space that kids could be excited to learn from.”

Cubby House Rock teaches using Zoom, which Smith initially had his doubts about but says has “been awesome” and has allowed parents to be more involved in the classes. “It’s good bonding time for everyone at home,” he says. “Kids can turn to their parents and teach them how to play something they’ve just learnt from me.”

Just exactly what students play is largely up to them, with Cubby House Rock (and High Voltage Rock School) teaching kids the songs they know and like, while weaving in a little bit of theory. Basically, it’s the musical equivalent to sneaking veggies into spag bol. “We do songs like ‘Seven Nation Army’, ‘Smoke on the Water’, ‘TNT’,” says Smith. “We also do Tones and I songs, Taylor Swift, Ed Sheeran – I taught the Harry Potter theme song to a kid on guitar yesterday.” 

The interior of a cubby house. There is a keyboard in the foreground and the walls are covered in vinyl records
Photograph: Danniel Smith

Parents can opt for pre-recorded 15-minute video classes for $15 each, or choose live one-on-one 30 minute lessons for $30 each. The live sessions are recorded so parents have a video copy of the lesson too and kids can choose from guitar, keyboard, drums, bass, singing and ukulele classes. If you’re interested in signing up your child, you can contact Cubby House Rock via the High Voltage Rock School website or on Instagram.

And for those wondering what Smith’s son thinks of having his cubby house commandeered, we’re assured he “doesn’t mind at all. “Now he’s spending more time in there. He comes down and checks what I’m doing,” says Smith.

Need something to keep your tots engaged? The Wiggles have launched a free educational podcast series.

Good news! Leaps and Bounds music festival will go ahead online.

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