Finding rhythm: neighborhood music has experienced unprecedented growth in 2020


When her son was three years old, Skye Barker Maa discovered he had aptitudes for the piano. She wanted to turn her enthusiasm into a hobby, but when looking for a tutor she encountered several obstacles: very few tutors in her neighborhood accepted a child of her age, the limited number of tutors in the area. region all had massive student waiting lists, and the diversity she sought in education was not readily present. It was then that she decided to create the Neighborhood Music public tutoring school.

Maa’s background is varied. She moved to Colorado just under thirty years ago, at the age of nineteen. She spent much of her time moving up the corporate ladder, but after giving birth in 2008, she became a stay-at-home mom.

“I fell in love with parenthood, which was unexpected,” reveals Maa. “I thought I was a corporate go-getter, but it was kind of over when I met my son. Within six months of resigning and I said, ‘I’m going to be a mom homemaker, “I had started this business, and was still in the middle of my MBA, and started and completed this program three months pregnant.”

Virtually the only qualification Maa lacked to start music school was the musical experience itself. She has never played an instrument and does not intend to, but if she was forced to, she would choose the piano.

In 2012, using her entrepreneurial spirit and making connections with the Lamont School of Music at the University of Denver, Maa transformed her Central Park basement into three small studios and brought in three tutors. It was open two days a week, but within a month that more than doubled. Suddenly there were 55 students taking lessons four days a week from seven teachers in his basement.

In just three years, Maa realized that she could no longer run the business from home. Neighborhood Music moved into its first commercial space in 2015 with a roster of over 200 students. Now the school is located at Stanley Market to Aurore. Accommodation comprises twenty studios, and the hallway floor of this section of the Stanley is covered with a mural by local artists Jerry and Jay Michael Jaramillo.

Click to enlarge Alec Wenzel has watched the school grow over the past six years.  - ALEXANDRE ELMORE

Alec Wenzel has watched the school grow over the past six years.

Alexander elmore

During registration, children and parents go through an interview process – usually separately, to accommodate different training goals. The student is then assigned to a tutor. Thirty-minute sessions take place Monday through Friday from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m., with an occasional session on Sunday. The classical, jazz, rock and contemporary genres are the main distinctions between tutor styles. Eighteen instruments are currently on offer, including harp and voice. Neighborhood even taught masterclasses at elementary schools in the area. The music school is currently present on twelve campuses.

“We have teachers who are very good at teaching nine-year-old boys Coldplay,” Maa says. “So we know if you’re a nine year old boy who wants to play contemporary rock … then you’re going to go see this teacher. I want to [the school] to be a red mill of teachers. What we’re always looking for is what is your different personality and skills that appeal to that different personality and skills of this student. ”

Alec Wenzel, guitar teacher, strives to meet these varied needs. He has worked for Neighborhood Music since August 2015 after graduating with a Jazz Studies degree from the University of Denver, majoring in guitar.

He considers himself to be a “general” guitar teacher, since all styles of guitar share the same basis. He approaches each lesson with a tinge of music theory to help his budding musicians understand the mechanics behind contemporary rock riffs or smooth jazz improvisations. Lessons differ from student to student; Sometimes the program is based on a song the student wants to learn, while other times technique is the goal. In all cases, ladders are a compulsory practice in his class.

“My ultimate goal is that you don’t depend on me to teach you the riff,” says Wenzel. “You should have the tools to learn how it works and why. So we take a look at this [piece of music] as a template to be applied in other formats. ”

Wenzel was not a tutor when Neighborhood Music was based in Maa’s basement, but he taught in the following two spaces. He agrees with Maa that the Stanley Marketplace location is more suitable for the school.

“[We got to] creating a space that was sort of a blank canvas, instead of trying to build something out of what already existed, ”says Wenzel. The space includes soundproofing in all studios, as well as COVID precautionary equipment like ultraviolet lights, plexiglass barriers, and a plethora of cleaning supplies.

Click to enlarge Students are assigned a tutor based on their strengths and interest in music.  - ALEXANDRE ELMORE

Students are assigned a tutor based on their strengths and interest in music.

Alexander elmore

Maa found the transition to digital services at the start of the pandemic more rewarding than expected, with Zoom sessions replacing in-person interactions. Maa has also increased staff meetings from three per year to bi-weekly “fireside conversations”. But the biggest change came in the least expected way: children started to increase their weekly classes.

Looking back, Maa understands why this happened: “We were the only thing that was still happening,” she says. “These kids were at the theater, soccer, chess club – and all of a sudden their life was gone, but their music teachers were still there. This one-on-one private lesson environment is really therapeutic. [of students] increased lessons because they still needed an outlet. They were also not distracted as they normally are. … Suddenly they were coming to the table after school fully engaged. Then we had this whole new universe to work with them. ”

Even Neighborhood Music’s indoor job has grown over the past year and a half. What was once a part-time three-person team has evolved into a full-time seven-person team.

More tutors were also needed to meet demand, and Maa is sticking to hiring referrals to maintain a friendly environment among her staff.

Click to enlarge The curriculum varies from each student and tutor peer, providing diversity in teaching.  - ALEXANDRE ELMORE

The curriculum varies from each student and tutor peer, providing diversity in teaching.

Alexander elmore

Katia Kotcherguina was hired in May 2020 on recommendation and did not meet Maa in person until the following July. Originally from Russia, Kotcherguina lived briefly in Mexico and then in the United States from the age of ten. Her major is opera and she teaches a blend of American musical theater and artistic song (a type of music that usually involves a piano and a voice sung in the style of opera).

The voice is proving to be one of the most difficult instruments to teach, especially when navigating an airborne virus pandemic, as projecting your voice increases the risk of germicidal spread. Masks are required inside the Neighborhood Music area, so Kotcherguina still uses Zoom from time to time to keep everyone safe.

Despite all the difficulties surrounding how she should teach at the moment, Kotcherguina is grateful that she found Neighborhood Music when she did.

“My day job when COVID hit was unrelated to music,” she says, “so come here in the midst of a pandemic where my peers and I are so exhausted in the entertainment industry, and come in in an environment with so many kids who are so excited about music and really love it … that’s the really inspiring thing. It’s really amazing to see them play and watch them grow up and make master classes. I am very proud of them and the work we do for them. ”

Click to enlarge Neighborhood Music is waiting to resume its rock band schedule until COVID guidelines relax.  - ALEXANDRE ELMORE

Neighborhood Music is waiting to resume its rock band schedule until COVID guidelines relax.

Alexander elmore

While 2020 was a beast to contend with, 2021 has turned out to be different in almost every way.

“For the first time since 2012, we’ve had an churn rate,” Maa said. “I took all of these teachers after college, and most of them I had for eight to ten years.… The generation of teachers who ate Brussels sprouts in my house, nothing left than two. ”

This year focused on managing the growing pains caused by the pandemic. “Twenty-one is a different business to run,” says Maa. “When you grow up there will always be a painful period … where you have to adapt to the growth and then keep the growth going. People have survived 2020 and then into 2021 they just don’t know who they are or who they are. what they are “I see it throughout the industry, not just where we are. ”

Next year will mark Neighborhood Music’s tenth anniversary in a (hopefully) post-pandemic world. Maa is constantly thinking about what to expect now. In-person recitals return this winter on December 9 and 16, and Maa finds herself “itching about the next innovation.” There aren’t any plans for a Neighborhood Music birthday party yet, but it’s not ruled out.

Stagnation is not suitable for Maa, and Neighborhood Music is proof of that. A new location for Neighborhood Music’s theater program opened in April. Maa has also expanded to include film and fashion programs – which also have roots in Stanley – for the same demographic.

“I finished 2020 with Neighborhood Music, and I started 2021 with seven companies,” she says. Now, she even co-owns the brand new Sky Bar within Stanley Marketplace. Neither she nor her team are showing any signs of stopping anytime soon.

As for his son, who is thirteen now, he has played the piano all over the world in places like Austria and Italy. These accomplishments make the best memories for Maa.

“We really believe in what we do, and we’re very passionate about it, but it’s a job, and it hits you like everything else. But when you’re at a recital and you watch a kid do like, ‘Oh , God, I just did, “that’s a pretty important moment,” she said. “Watching them come up and say, ‘I just did something really amazing, and I’m going to bow,’ that’s always special. ‘

Neighborhood Music is open Sunday through Friday at the Stanley Marketplace, 2501 Dallas Street, # 130. Learn more at Neighborhood music site.


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