We continue our Between Classes series with Rachel, the founder of Blue Balloon School, a place where children learn to write, sing, play, and even record their own compositions.
If you could have any superpower, what would it be?
Time travel! Does everybody say that?! I would love to be able to travel back in time to those moments with my kids that I wished would last forever, or have a chance to do something differently that didn’t work out the first time around. I think mostly about traveling back in time to revisit movements of my own life, but jumping ahead 4 years sounds pretty great right now.
In three words, what were you like as a child?
Creative, inquisitive and chatty!
How did Blue Balloon School come to be?
I was a preschool teacher at Saint Ann’s in 2007 and parents, hearing that I was a guitarist and songwriter, asked me to teach their kids private music lessons after school. I felt that teaching guitar in a traditional way was boring, so I began teaching guitar through songwriting. The kids loved it, the parents loved it and as word spread over the next three years, I quickly had a completely full after school/ weekend teaching schedule. In 2010, I was ready to give up my day job and launched Blue Balloon Songwriting for Small People. I continued on as the only teacher for a year or so and in time hired some amazing indie musicians/teachers to take on students I couldn’t fit into my schedule. As their schedules filled up with students, I hired more teachers and in the fall of 2013, while pregnant with my first son, I gave up my regular weekly teaching schedule and focused more on running and growing the school. Now, we have 150 students (and counting!) learning many different instruments, 25+ amazing teachers and lessons taking place 7 days a week all over the city (and in the Hamptons during summer break!).
What is your favorite part about running a children’s business?
We have students that have been with us since the day we started. Some of our kids started when they were 3 or 4 and are now in middle school. It’s an honor to be a part of these kids’ lives and watch them grow up. Our teachers record the children’s songs frequently and I love listening to the recordings and seeing their progress. The songs these kids write are so honest and sincere. It’s truly refreshing to have a job that brings music into kids’ lives and their music into my life!
The darndest thing a kid ever said to you?
I had a student ask me who my Blue Balloon teacher was when I was a kid!
Dream job if you weren’t running Blue Balloon School?
This is definitely my dream job!! One thing I would change to make it perfect: I would love to be able to bring more instrument instruction through songwriting to underprivileged kids around the world.
How do children benefit from experiencing Blue Balloon?
Our students learn how to play an instrument through writing their own songs, providing them with an outlet for creative expression and a life long love of music. My main focus as the director and main point of contact with Blue Balloon families, is to match students with a teacher who I think will be the best fit for them. It is incredibly important to me that the families LOVE the teacher who is coming into their home to work with their children so our students form long lasting relationships with their teachers.
Share your personal motto or best piece of advice you received.
Surround yourself with people who make you want to be the best person you can be.
What about your childhood motivated you to stay involved in your passion?
I was given a lot of opportunity as a child to explore the things that interested me most. I began taking music lessons on various instruments from a very young age, so music has always been a part of my life. I was raised to have a very strong work ethic and always encouraged to find a job that I loved. The best job I’d ever had up until starting Blue Balloon was the teaching job at Saint Ann’s but I still had an aching feeling that being a classroom teacher wasn’t the exact right career for me long term. Once the songwriting lessons started to take off and Blue Balloon came to be, I knew I had found my true passion. It’s amazing to have a job that is exactly what you want to be doing and to not have to even question it anymore. If I have a new idea of something that sounds new and exciting, I try to find ways to incorporate it into Blue Balloon. I believe a business -especially a school - should always be like a living, breathing being, constantly growing and developing to be the best it can be.
For some amazing music classes, go to www.hisawyer.com and check out Blue Balloon School!