By Casey Neill
A Silvan singer-songwriter is learning the ropes in Australia’s country music capital.
The Mail spoke to Rachel Ricciuti on day three of a two-week intensive course at The Academy in Tamworth.
The residential music course runs from Calrossy Anglican School and teaches students about the music industry, musicianship, media, business, performance presentation and songwriting.
Rachel, 18, said the tutors were professionals in the Australian country music industry.
“Down in the Yarra Valley I haven’t been able to find many people that play country,” she said.
“It’s just basically me and my dad and the people we play with.
“I’m hoping it will give me a lot more experience and skills and techniques that I can use to further my own musical ability.”
She heard about the course through someone she met at a gig, and was lucky to be among 25-odd students selected this year.
“I’ve been playing music with my dad locally – down in the Yarra Valley – since I was 13, so about five years now,” she said.
“I just wanted to further it and get some more skills in my songwriting.”
Rachel has been raised on “traditional country music” – Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Johnny Cash and Loretta Lynn.
“I do listen to the more modern country as well, and the Australian stuff,” she said.
Her dad’s been “gigging around” for as long as she can remember.
“I guess I just love the storytelling and the truth behind it,” she said.
“You can find a song that can relate you to any situation you’re in.
“Somebody’s felt something and put it into music.
“Pop is more about catchy tunes.”
Rachel’s songs always start with emotion.
“I feel something and I start writing it down,” she said.
“Sometimes I write the melody first and sometimes I write the words first.
“I generally always write about things that are happening to me or somebody that is close to me.
“It always comes from the heart.
“It’s become the way I communicate my emotions.
“I’m a pretty open person, I like to share what I’m feeling, but it’s so much easier for me to do it with music.”
The teen still remembers her first gig, at the Noojee Hotel.
“Dad pulled me up on stage to play one of my songs that I’d written,” she said.
“I was terrified but Dad was by my side playing along with me.
“Once I’d gotten over the nerves, it gives you a high, sharing your emotions like that and seeing people supporting you.
“It’s a very exciting feeling to be up there sharing your feelings.”
Rachel, who just finished Year 12, has a music career in the back of her mind but wouldn’t be disappointed if songwriting and performing remained a hobby.
“I just want to reach as many people as possible,” she said.
She spoke about a group of people with disabilities that she and her Dad play to.
“They bring their little guitars and they strum along and listen to us,” she said.
“It lights up their whole faces.
“That’s the thing I love – being able to change people’s lives by singing a simple song.
Six-time Golden Guitar winner Lyn Bowtell heads The Academy as director, and group leaders and tutors include Kevin Bennett, Jayne Denham, Catherine Britt, Simon Johnson, Roger Corbett, Liam Kennedy-Clark, Amber Lawrence, Allan Caswell, and Katrina Burgoyne.
Roger Corbett is also The Academy’s general manager.
“At the Golden Guitars in 2018, our ex-Academy students won 13 Golden Guitars between them,” he said.
“On stage, Travis Collins and Amber Lawrence publicly acknowledged the contribution that The Academy had made to their careers.”