Toronto Arts Academy Hits a High Note | Big Names Bring Wide Acclaim to Brandon Brophy’s Contemporary Music Program
If you listen to music on the radio, there’s a good chance you’ve heard the work of someone Toronto Arts Academy Founder, Brandon Brophy, has trained.
The in-demand vocal coach has worked with R&B sensation The Weeknd and rapper Drake’s OVO record label roster, to name some of his VIP clients. Fitting then, that Brophy chose to open Toronto Arts Academy, his second music school, around midtown Toronto in September 2015.
“I knew that Drake had sort of grown up in that area, so I became interested to see if there was a need for what we were doing in that area,” Brophy tells Village Living Magazine.
Influential as the megastar “6ix God” is, Drake wasn’t the sole reason Brophy set up his school at 538 Eglinton Ave. W. “I had started to focus on the Yonge and Eglinton area because I saw that there was a strong community that was growing there,” Brophy says.
While Brophy’s award-winning, primarily adult music school Singer’s Edge in downtown Toronto focuses heavily on vocals, the newer Toronto Arts Academy appeals more to children. It also offers guitar, piano and drum lessons in addition to voice training.
What sets the school apart from others in the GTA, as far as Brophy is concerned, is the teaching program he laid out in his 2013 book, The Singer’s Instinct, a work that has since been adopted by Disney and Paul McCartney’s Liverpool Institute for the Performing Arts.
The Toronto Arts Academy specializes in contemporary, not classical, singing—another departure from the norm—one that lets students learn their favourite current songs. “Contemporary music focuses more on the low-to-mid-range of the voice,” Brophy, who studied under Michael Jackson’s life-long voice teacher, Seth Riggs, explains.
Lessons at the academy are flexible and can be arranged on a month-by-month basis, meaning there are “no long-term commitments.” And, at $40 per lesson, they won’t break the bank. “We throw in all kinds of stuff to keep the student learning,” Brophy adds.
Beyond online educational materials, there are free photo days, trophies and awards to encourage learning, and even live performances in theatres.
“We have cameras that are set up in all of our teaching rooms, and they display in the lobby so the parents can actually observe the lessons while they’re waiting,” Brophy explains. “We’ve got an open-door policy.”
Typically, the academy will teach children as young as five, but there are exceptions—“We had a two and a half year old who was just amazing on the drums,” Brophy says—and nobody is too old for lessons, either; seniors have enrolled before.
Between Brophy’s two music schools, he employs about 20 teachers who have been trained thoroughly. On top of a music degree, a Toronto Arts Academy teacher needs to have professional experience and pass a police check.
“We want to see that they are really engaging with people,” he says, noting yet another faculty quality he looks for. “It’s not enough for us just to have a teacher who is a musician and plays.”
To anyone who says those who can’t do, teach, Brophy has a response: “I can see why people might think that teachers are people who don’t perform, but I think true teachers are those who want to help students and inspire learning.”