Music whiz kid scales up his career

With a diversity of information technology skills from South Regional TAFE under his belt, singer and songwriter Chey Sleeman of Albany is embarking on the next step of his educational journey in Melbourne.

One of only 10 from a competitive field to win a place at Melbourne Polytechnic for the Bachelor of Songwriting and Music Production, Chey is embracing the challenges of higher-level study and says the TAFE courses helped him get there.

Chey has amazing energy and enthusiasm for seemingly anything he turns his hand to and he has a remarkable string of accomplishments for someone still in his late teens.

He grasps opportunities for the fun of it, such as when he volunteered to work on the film set of Rams, starring Sam Neill. He is named in the film’s credits as Assistant Director Work Experience.

Having impressed his lecturers with the high standard of his work in the Certificates II, III and IV in Information Technology, Chey used his knowledge – and his ideas – for the good of the community by helping seniors to become socially connected online during the COVID pandemic, and set up his own enterprise Chey’s IT.

He already had business experience, however. Chey had bought a line of T-shirts and beanies and printed them to sell for charity – his Black Lives Matter line raised more than $2,000.

“It was pretty crazy,” Chey laughed.

“I used my IT skills for the website marketing, and sold out within two hours,” he said.

Embroidery was added to the garment printing and was equally successful, until Chey decided the business was taking up much of the time he wanted to dedicate to music, so he moved on, working as a delivery driver for a florist and in IT in Albany while continuing his songwriting.

Things got even more exciting when the bass guitarist, keyboard player and vocalist had a collection of 1 online-published songs discovered by an agent in Melbourne.

“They flew me to Melbourne to record and write songs,” Chey said.

“I applied for a few scholarships, which paid for my accommodation.”

Also in 2020, Chey was a finalist in two categories of the Albany Chamber of Commerce and Industry Business Awards, one for Young Business Person of the Year and the other for his design business Peach Fuzz, in the category of Start-Up Business.

Now back in Melbourne to study for his degree, Chey said his IT skills would be invaluable for the music production side of his work, which he started in his home studio and for which he is keen to get formal training.

“I’m pretty stoked,” Chey said of his latest opportunity.

“I’m looking forward to taking the next step with my song writing, learning about things such as song structure.”

While Chey is undoubtedly a force to be reckoned with for his innovation and dynamism, this is even more impressive as has overcome personal battles since his early teens.

After a diagnosis of OCD, leading to depression and anxiety, Chey went through high school covering up his issues from his peers.

Now, he advocates for the opposite course of action – talking about it and accepting what others might be going through.

Having been in therapy since he was 12, Chey said even in his best moments, he continued to access help to keep him on an even keel.

“There’s a stigma to mental health, I’ve always hidden it, but now I’m open about it,” Chey said.

“I want people to know it’s OK to have these things,” he said.

“We can all do anything if we’re determined – such as meet Sam Neill!”

While Chey is taking that same determination into his new life in Melbourne and putting all his energies into his course and his music to define his chosen career path, he has a back-up plan.

Having work experience in the newsroom at the local newspaper was another source of inspiration for this whiz kid.

“If my song writing and music production doesn’t work out, or if I want to change careers in the future, I’d like to do music journalism,” Chey said.