Blue Balloon School
How many years have you been in business in NYC?
How did you get your start and what was your initial inspiration?
I started out as a preschool teacher at Saint Ann’s School in Brooklyn Heights and as a guitarist and songwriter, I brought a lot of music and songwriting into my classroom. Parents asked me to give their little ones guitar lessons after school and within a year or two, I had so many students I chose to move forward with Blue Balloon and quit my day job as a preschool teacher. Word spread and within just a year or so, I began hiring additional teachers and now, fast forward 7 years, the school has grown to include over 30 teachers, teaching over 150 students a week on many different instruments all over the city.
What do you feel differentiates you from others in your field?
Blue Balloon is songwriting based so our students learn how to play their instruments through writing their own songs, all in the comfort of their own home. There is actually nothing else quite like it in the city! I hire amazing, dynamic and fun teachers who share their love of music and songwriting with the students they teach. Our students write incredibly smart, beautiful songs while learning how to play an instrument. I personally get to know every single family that takes lessons with us and the clients really appreciate and value that personal touch that is so hard to come by these days!
What do you feel gives you longevity in this big city with so many options?
Blue Balloon came directly out of my love for music, songs and education. I believe so whole heartedly in what we are doing - sharing the gift of songwriting and self expression with hundreds of kids each year. As we grow and expand (we just started also offering lessons for teens and adults!) I know we will never lose the authenticity and unique point of view that we’ve brought to the music lesson industry. I seek out the most interesting and dynamic musicians and teachers in the city and do everything I can to match them up perfectly with the students that come our way.
How do you positively impact your clientele?
While we now teach students of all ages, the majority of our children are under the age of 10. Some of our students learn how to write songs and play an instrument before they can even read! As one parent pointed out to me recently, music is her child’s first language. Our songwriters learn how to express themselves through lyrics and melodies providing an amazing outlet whether they are children making up songs at the dinner table or on playdates, teenagers putting their cell phones down to channel their angst into music, or busy professionals kicking back with their guitar on the couch after a long day.
What is your favorite part of your job?
I absolutely love that I get to communicate daily with so many amazing families. I’m sure by now most entrepreneurs would have hired someone to do the work that I do every day but I can’t get myself to do it! I truly love what I do. Whether it’s chatting with a teacher about how to teach music theory, talking with a parent about how to better facilitate practicing or listening to the incredible songs our students write and sending them off to the parents…I have the best job!!
What is your favorite secret NYC spot?
The restaurant Zenkichi in Williamsburg is pretty fantastic. There’s no sign and it’s through a secret door and up a set of stairs. The tables are private and complete with bamboo roller shades that the waiters lift up each time they come to serve you. It’s quite a special experience!
How do you benefit mamas?
As a mom of two small boys myself, I understand how crazy scheduling and after school activities can get. I want to always make the parents’ lives as easy as possible. Our lessons take place in the students’ homes so the families don’t have to run all over town for their music lessons. Many of our families sign up all of their children so they don’t have to deal with multiple schools and teachers for scheduling. Most of the scheduling and logistics go through me so I can be sure to consolidate any information necessary so busy parents can focus on other things!
What is the most memorable feedback a client has given you?
A parent who is a Broadway actor wrote to me after his daughter’s first performance in the Blue Balloon spring showcase to tell me what an inspiring experience it was for him. He was so impressed with the variety of songwriting on display at the concert and recalled the children’s songs by name that he enjoyed. As parents, our lives are oversaturated with parties, performances and recitals and I loved hearing how much he (and so many other parents over the years!) have really taken the time to listen and appreciate the work of other children at the show. The showcase takes months of planning and is one of my favorite days of the year. I really try to stress to the parents that it’s not a typical recital - you will actually enjoy it!
Pay it forward and name your top colleagues in the same field or related field:
My college friend Danielle Florio co-founded an amazing tutoring company called City Smarts (www.citysmarts.net). I’m always so impressed by the work they do with tutoring, test prep and school admissions. We meet a couple times a year to bounce ideas off of each other as fellow female business owners. I highly recommend anyone looking for a tutor to reach out to her!
What is the best advice anyone has ever given you? Or what is your "mantra" / words to live by?
“There’s a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.”
As moms, the day can escape us, what is your best time-saving trick?
To do lists! I use the “Reminders” app on my phone and write everything down. If I am waiting at school pickup, or have a minute to myself, I’ll scan the list quickly, and get going on something right away.