Dubai rock academy

Making music could be the secret to corporate success

Dubai rock academy
Dubai rock academy Image #2

As Rock Academy Worldwide prepares to bring musical team-building exercises to the UAE, Mark Griffiths gets the lowdown from its founders – rockers themselves

Have you ever glanced over at the boss, during a slow mid-afternoon moment, and wondered if he (or she) rocks out on the weekends? Perhaps not. But you’re wondering now… Give the boss a bass guitar,
the delivery man a drum kit and the marketing director a microphone because Rock Academy Worldwide plans to shake things up in the workplace.

Should you pluck up the courage to invite Chris Kelly and Chris Stone into your office, you may well experience an exciting new insight into the world of team building. Gone are the days of polite discussion as we ‘get to know’ our colleagues. Forget paint-balling and bowling. Instead, form a rock band and perform to the masses.

‘Nothing brings people together like music,’ says Kelly, a musician and former slave to the corporate world himself. Having run youth programmes with a similar theme for a number of years in both Dubai and the UK, Kelly and his business partner and former Stereophonics drum technician, Stone, decided that it shouldn’t be just the kids who have all the fun. Following a spot of ‘marky research’ as Kelly puts it, RAW Corporate was born.

‘The team-building world seemed a bit stale and either involved building a raft out of paper clips or catching your work colleague as he/she falls backwards. There’s a rock star in all of us, we just drag it out of you,’ says the 40 year old.

The programme essentially creates a band from members of the team who are taking part in the activity. They then work for less than 24 hours with ‘rock tutors’ to perform a song or two at the end.

‘Buried beneath the music workshop you’ll find the course helps with confidence issues, problem-solving and team work, key skills that are essential in the modern day workplace.’

One employee who took part in Dubai said it was great to be pushed out of his comfort zone, commenting that ‘we would usually get a written warning for rocking out in the office, but our managers actually encouraged us to do so on this course – excellent.’

Expected to become increasingly popular in Dubai, Kelly notes challenges could include multi-cultural differences, although predicts a ‘summer of love’.

‘Dubai is such a diverse and multi-cultural city, we may hit upon some musical differences within the team, but what we do is not just about rock music, it’s about bringing people together.’

Following a few ice-breakers to settle nerves, each corporate group is broken down into drummers, guitarists, singers, keyboard players and bassists.

‘They learn one or two rock songs, sometimes messing with the lyrics to reflect their working environment or deal with some occupational issues, then they meet again in the evening and perform a gig in front of family, friends and work colleagues at The Fridge in Al Quoz.’

Both men are over-flowing with experience: Kelly is a former band member of The Scooters, signed to a US label and resident band in the LA Viper Rooms at Johnny Depp’s personal request, while Stone toured with the Rolling Stones, REM and Aerosmith following his stint as drum technician for one of The Stereophonics.

There are no upper limits on numbers, but groups of more than 50 would be broken down into songwriting and performance pods. ‘For band work, groups of no more than ten are manageable,’ says Kelly.

All equipment is provided: Kelly and Stone bring the mosh pit to you in order to release the rock star in everyone from the CEO to the teaboy.

‘We had a boss of a company in the UK who stepped forward as lead singer because nobody else would do it. He sounded like a cat in a spin dryer, but the fact he had a go made him a rock star in our books.’
For enquiries and more information visit

More team-building activities to try:

Oil hunting
Try an oil hunt in the desert. Using a map, GPS, compass and survival kit teams must find the location of a well, build an oil derrick, dig and collect oil and burn a torch indicating the find.
Explorer Tours (04 286 1991).

Take the team to Pursuit Games, although who’s going to be the one who took the CEO down?
Oud Metha (04 324 4755).

The Chocolate Factory
This exercise simulates problems of a non-productive company, such as customer dissatisfaction and low staff morale.
Various locations (04 375 4234).

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