Rory Phillips has squeezed a lot of life experience into his 14 years, taking his love of music and performance to festivals and regional gigs around NSW and Victoria.

Key points:

  • 14-year-old Rory Phillips is mentoring other young country music singers
  • He caught the attention of the Tamworth Country Music Academy when he was a nine-year-old student
  • His mother, Sam Phillips, says her son has “found his tribe” at the academy

And in the past five years, the teenager from Tumut in southern NSW has gone from being a student of country music to becoming one of the seasoned hands helping to make new students feel at home in the industry.

Rory, who was an intern teacher at the recent 2021 Country Music Academy in Tamworth, said being a teacher was an interesting contrast to being a student.

“The academy is a strange thing because it often takes two or three days for people to come out of their shell and then when they do, it often gets a bit scary.”

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A place to feel ‘accepted’

Rory, who has always been obsessed with music and instruments, was just nine when he  first attended the Country Music Academy. 

Musician and general manager of the academy, Roger Corbett, said Rory’s mother Sam Phillips had called him to ask what was available for her son.

“Sam said to me, ‘I have this kid who is nine,  who is obsessed with everything music, with guitars, and I just don’t know what to do with  him, neither my husband nor I are musical’,” Corbett said.

Roger Corbett and Rory Phillips at the 2021 Country Music Academy in Tamworth

Roger Corbett with Rory at the 2021 Country Music Academy in Tamworth.(

Supplied: Country Music Academy

)

It is not uncommon for junior members of the academy to be the first musical member of their family, according to Corbett, who is also a long-time member of the Bushwackers band.

“I said to Sam, ‘Look, I know he’s only nine but we’ll put him through the academy and see how he goes; at the very least he will make some friends and spend some time with like-minded people, which is what the academy is all about,” he said.

Ms Phillips said the academy had had a profound impact on her son.

“As a student, the academy taught Rory so much about performance, the importance of songwriting, staying true to who you are, being a professional at all times, as well as practical skills like reading and writing chord and number charts,” she said.

Ms Phillips said as someone who felt “adrift from his peers,” the experience had made Rory “feel like he belonged and was accepted”.

“Going back this year as an intern, he is seeing the benefits of giving back to that community and that has made me very proud.”

Teenage dream: From country music-obsessed kid to teacher at just 14
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