Mitch Lee and Sandro Petrillo – Beat Drop

What is Beat Drop?

Mitch: Beat Drop is a music production and DJ school.

And what do you do there?

M: We focus on instructing laptop producers and DJs. We teach courses ranging in music production so synthesis mixing and mastering music theory Ableton Live and DJ courses ranging from DJ 101 all the way to 301 and music business courses as well.

What do you do in the business courses?

M: We teach students how to be musicians and entrepreneurs and help them understand what it takes to make a living in the music industry in 2014. How to not only be an artist but how to be able to work and get their music out and figure out different types of income streams for them.

What can people expect to get out of your programs?

M: They’re going to get a really practical approach to creating music on a computer and a really practical approach to learning how to DJ. What sets us apart is every one of our instructors is a working musician so they’re in the trenches wrestling with making money with their art. A huge thing for us is to have real-life musicians who are instructing and sharing the struggles and the victories of creating art and making a living with it.

On your website you describe a “minimalist approach to hardware and gear.” What does that mean?

M: You don’t need a studio anymore to create and record music and you don’t need thousands of dollars to get into the game to create and to DJ. Technology has made it possible now that we can do so much with a laptop. You can create some amazing things with an iPad or a mobile device. All we require and all we do is we use computers and controllers. We teach the process of creating music on laptops or computers and whatever. We don’t have the big mixing consoles microphones drum kits and all those different things. It’s not the focus of what we do so the barrier of entry is quite low to get into creating music these days.

What are the average class sizes?

M: It ranges from six to 15. Our music production classes are a bit larger where our DJ classes are around six because of the gear and the workstations.

Sandro: We like to keep things intimate and give as much attention as possible to each one of our students. We want to make sure that we can get around to the students and give them the attention that they need to succeed.

Which is the most popular course that you offer?

M: Probably our Ableton Live courses. Ableton is software that everyone wants to learn. It’s kind of the industry standard for creating music and for performing it currently. It’s used all over the world by very famous producers and DJs and we are a certified training centre for Ableton — the only one in Western Canada.

What does it mean that you’re Ableton certified?

M: That just means we have Ableton’s stamp of approval for teaching Ableton. As Ableton trainers kind of like when the Queen knights somebody Ableton has given us the approval and has said that we’re legit and we’ve gone through a process of becoming certified. Similar to Microsoft certifying someone in IT they trust us to carry the name and to carry the brand and to represent it.

And you have a summer camp for teens correct?

M: Yes so from ages 13 to 17 we offer a DJ and producer camp. So the students learn how to DJ in the morning and produce in the afternoon. We also go on field trips to different music destinations here in Calgary like National Music Centre and Recordland. We have a different theme every day on creativity and inspiration. We kind of instill in them and give them a little bit of a taste of what it’s like to be in the music industry talk about what people are doing with social media. Give them a sort of week-long boot camp at Beat Drop.

What is your background in music?

M: I’m a producer and composer and I write music for television film video games and advertising as well as producing artists.

S: I run a record label [Modern Math] DJ producer — I wear a bunch of hats for sure.

How did you two get involved in this project?

M: Well I started Beat Drop about three years ago doing music production courses. I just felt that there was a need for the veil to be removed from this whole music production thing but there was this huge need for education. Because things got so technical people really struggled with what to do with these tools now. I felt there was a need to start Beat Drop to address the “bedroom laptop producer” and then also the people that wanted to DJ and to play that out. DJs were continuing to want to create their own music to set themselves apart from other DJs and music producers were looking for a way to play their music and to play it out so they desired to be DJs. So that is why we focus on the producer and the DJ for Beat Drop.

S: With Mitch starting Beat Drop he organized a whole bunch of community events these are free workshops he hired out and he had lots of talent coming through. At that point he reached out to myself and a project I was involved with to come down and give a small workshop on the music that we were creating. Almost immediately I fell in love with Beat Drop and got myself as involved as possible. I was volunteering pretty heavily for two years and then moving into more of a management position and developing curriculum here at our new physical space.

Where was Beat Drop before?

M: We were teaching out of SAIT.


M: Yeah we rented rooms from SAIT so they gave us a really good deal and we were able to teach there. It wasn’t part of the SAIT curriculum or anything. Now we have a new location on 17th Ave. and 10th Street and our facilities enable us now to do way more.

Like what?

M: We were able to open up a shop where we’re selling retail.

S: Host community events.

M: Every Friday night we usually have a community event focused on a different genre. This Friday for instance is “Beat Back Friday” and we have different hip-hop producers and beat makers come and they play their music. Then we have a panel of different producers talk about it. Everyone goes around the room and shares and critiques what they liked about it and people get real-world constructive criticism on their music. We also have our Ableton Live user group every last Friday of the month. These are all community events that are free.

To learn more visit beatdrop.ca .