Heartland Music Together holds a special place in my heart. I remember the first time I experienced Heartland Music Together. It was at the Jeffersontown Library where I was working as the children’s librarian at the time. They came in to do a music demo for a group of toddlers and preschoolers. My daughter was about 2 ½ at that time, and I can remember our carpeted area in our meeting room being jam packed full of toddlers, preschoolers, moms, dads, grandparents, and siblings. It was a wonderful turnout and Ms. Miriam, who is used to a more intimate setting with smaller groups of children, did a marvelous job working with such a large mix of children. I distinctly remember the quiet moment of the whole musical experience, when Ms. Miriam walked over to the light switch, asked the children to count to three, and then modeled for them the idea of blowing out the lights. Such a magical thing happened in that moment, that still carries on with me, and I’m sure it carried on with the children and parents who were there that day.
My daughter grew up (she’s now 10), and since I worked full time I found it hard to take her to music classes with Heartland Music Together, although I never forgot about that first meeting or about their music classes through the years. I scheduled them probably twice a year to come do a program for us at the library, so I always kept in touch with Ms. Miriam. Then, I had another child, a little boy, and when he was 5 months old, I (being a SAHM this time around), immediately thought of Heartland Music Together and looked to see what kinds of classes they were currently having and what locations were close to me. At that time, in 2011, they had just begun a babies only class at Babyology, and we signed up! I still keep in touch with some of the moms I met in that first babies class of Heartland Music Together. Now my little boy is toddling on 2 ½ years, and we’re in a mixed age class with Ms. Alisa that meets in Middletown. We love our “mugick class” days, and I’m still friends with Ms. Miriam today. I sat down with her recently (well I actually did the interview virtually because I had to cancel our face-to-face interview) to get caught up on where she is now and what the latest is with Heartland Music Together. Ms. Miriam (formally Miriam Klein but all of her children and parents call her Ms. Miriam), is the Director of Heartland Music Together.
1. When did you start your career in Heartland Music Together?
I attended the teacher training workshop in Chicago in October 2004, and applied for a license immediately after the training. I held our first demo classes in December of that year, and started my first class in January 2005.
In fall 2014 we’re going to have a big 10-year anniversary party. Even though our first class started in Jauary of 2005, I consider that we started at the point that I got my teaching certificate and director’s license.
2. What inspires you to want to pursue working with children, families and music?
I’m inspired by the knowledge that I’m making a difference. I’m inspired daily by watching children find their singing voices as easily as they find their speaking voices. As someone who had to struggle to find my singing voice, it’s meaningful to me to see children easily and happily connect with music.
I’m also inspired by the stories that parents tell me of their children’s music activities at home, as well as stories of how our Music Together songs become part of so many family rituals. I recently spoke to a parent who had enrolled with her child in our classes 8 years ago. She told me they still sing Music Together songs at home!
A wise person once told me that you find your life’s work at the intersection of your gifts and the needs of the community. My gifts are language, music, creativity, and compassion. I can use these gifts to help support music-making among families, at a time in society when few people know how to be musically playful in their daily lives.
3. Why do you think families keep coming back to HMT?
I think parents love having a place where they can play with their children and also have fun themselves. I think they recognize the depth of the curriculum; the classes are fun for now, and they also plant seeds for skills that will still be a part of their children for years to come. And on a more personal level, I think many parents and caregivers feel that they are loved and respected in class, just as their children are. It’s a non-judgmental space to explore music no matter what skills you bring to the class. I think many adults are hungry for this kind of experience, and having a child is a great excuse to do this kind of play and exploration.
4. What inspired you to become an entrepreneur?
I don’t think of myself as a natural entrepreneur! When I started out I was hugely inspired by Music Together, and I knew I wanted to teach these classes. Since there was no existing Music Together program in Louisville at that time, the only way I could teach Music Together classes was to create my own business.
I’ve learned more about running a business over the years, as the business has grown in size and complexity. I still learn as I go, and still feel like I’m making it up as I go along! I do enjoy the creativity that’s involved in marketing a small business, and seeing it thrive from my efforts.
5. I remember you told me that you had a record enrollment this semester. What kind of satisfaction does that give you?
It’s very exciting! I think we’re poised for additional growth, if I can develop the organizational skills to manage an even larger organization.
6. How has your business evolved in Louisville?
We’ve grown from a single class with just six families to approximately 25 classes per week, with multiple locations and a staff of teachers. This year we’ve started a Music Together preschool program at Chance School, and we’ve also done several outreach activities to populations that are challenged in their ability to attend a regular Music Together class. We hope to do more preschool and outreach work, as well as expanding our regular parent-child classes.
While we’ve been growing in the scale of our business here in Louisville, we’ve also been growing in our national reputation. Last winter two of our teachers received an advanced teaching Certification from Lili Levinowitz, one of the founders of Music Together. In her feedback about their teaching, she mentioned how moved she was to see teaching of such a high caliber!
Also, this spring Heartland Music Together won a marketing award from Music Together LLC for the quality and scope of our marketing efforts. Music Together LLC (the “Mothership”) regularly shares our website and our brochure with new directors, as examples of outstanding marketing pieces. Our Facebook posts regularly get shared around the country. And a few weeks ago I recorded a podcast interview with Developing Courage which was shared around the world. We got feedback from as far away as Qatar about the interview! So while we’ve been growing here in Louisville, we’re also increasingly reaching people all around the world.
7. What do you love most about teaching music?
I love watching people’s faces when they’re relaxed and playing with music – not just small children, but also their caregivers. There’s something so open-hearted about being musical, and I love facilitating this open-hearted experience. It’s an honor to me to share this with people.
I also love watching children discover something. I love seeing children almost get the rhythm of a song, but not quite – and then something clicks and they get it, and you can see in their whole bodies that now they’re on a new level in their musical skills. Children are so joyful when they figure something out, and their joy makes me totally happy!
8. Tell me about the areas of the city where you are now, are there any plans for growth in the near future?
We regularly offer classes in the Highlands, Middletown, St Matthews, Dupont, and Westport Rd/Goose Creek neighborhoods. We also offer classes at Down Syndrome of Louisville in Fern Creek, for families with a child with Down Syndrome.
Areas that I’ve been thinking of expanding our classes include J-town (been hoping to expand to J-town for years!), and South Louisville. We have a staff that’s capable of teaching additional classes, so our biggest challenge is finding a venue that can host our classes with a viable classroom space and affordable rent.
9. Your collaboration with Down Syndrome of Louisville is fairly new, how has that been working?
The class at this location is resting for the fall semester, but we hope to bring it back to DSL this coming winter.
We’ve had excellent feedback from the families who took the class, but we’re still working on developing awareness of our classes within the Down Syndrome community. Many families with a young child with Down Syndrome are overwhelmed with therapy appointments and medical challenges, and it takes a while for many families to feel ready for an additional weekly activity. Once we’re better known within the community, I think our classes will really take off. Music Together classes are wonderful for children who have developmental challenges, as well as typically-developing children!
10. What do you want people in Louisville to remember most about Heartland Music Together? & What makes HMT so unique compared to other children’s music offerings in Louisville?
We chose our name and logo because we put our hearts into what we do. Our goal is to fill families’ hearts with music.
Our classes are unique in that:
- They’re fun for children as well as their adult caregivers. We put a lot of thought into designing class activities that are engaging for a whole range of ages and developmental levels.
- They’re built on a curriculum that’s been developed and refined over the last 25 years, and which is based on current research in children’s music learning. Underneath all that fun, there’s some serious learning going on!
- The CDs and songbooks that every family receives as part of enrollment are extremely high quality, and designed to facilitate music play all through the week. The CDs have won multiple national awards for children’s music recordings, and they’re enjoyable even for adult ears. Many families continue to love their recordings even years after they’ve been in our classes.
Many free demos are coming soon and if you’re interested in checking out a music class, I highly encourage you to sign up for a free demo. The winter session starts in January. Gift certificates are also available, so hint at the grandparents for a holiday gift for your child or children. Visit http://www.heartlandmusictogether.com, or find them on Facebook or Twitter.
Image courtesy of Heartland Music Together, Facebook