DECATUR — Learning how to be a cut above the rest is a lot easier when you can brush up on advanced techniques with a master craftsman.
Students at Decatur’s Mr. John’s School of Cosmetology, Esthetics & Nails got their master class Monday and Tuesday from hairstylist Rocky Vitelli, who came all the way from his salon in Ontario, Canada, to show them how it’s done.
Vitelli’s resumé includes working everything from Oscar Week hair in Los Angeles to the Miss Universe and Miss USA pageants. He’s an international educator and platform artist for Farouk Systems, which makes the CHI hair care and equipment line used by the Mr. John’s School. That business connection parts the ways for regular school visits from Farouk experts, but landing the two day Vitelli teach in — up-dos Monday, advanced cutting techniques Tuesday — was a fringe benefit in a class of its own.
“He is the top of the top,” said Amy Coakley, Mr. John’s artistic director, who brought over students from the school’s Jacksonville campus for the Vitelli visit. “He’s the elite.”
And also easy to learn from, according to Mr. John’s sophomore Angie Knight. She was busy duplicating a Vitelli cut on a manikin head and basking in the opportunity to push her learning envelope: “He’s a good teacher, and he takes things little by little and walks us through it,” said Knight, 40, who lives in Moweaqua. “I just think we’re so lucky he showed up in Decatur. He’s a celebrity.”
The easygoing 41-year-old Italian-Canadian Vitelli, who keeps his own head clean-shaven but jokes it looks that way because Coakley cut his hair, said stylists outside of school could pay a lot of money to learn what he’s been teaching in the last two days.
“It is unusual for students to get this knowledge at this level,” he said. “The students are excited, and it's continuing education that really drives hairdressing because you get bored if you are not always learning.”
Vitelli worked his tattooed arms over a manikin’s head to demonstrate an advanced cut as some 40 students and teachers stood watching in a semicircle around him. His assistant for the day and fellow Farouk Systems platform artist, Nicholaus Lirely, said students were permanently enhancing their skill sets.
“Every cut we learn goes into our memory bank,” he said. “And then sometime somebody comes in wanting something special, and we’re like, ‘Ah, I learned a haircut that is going to look perfect on you.’”