Commentary

Granados: Family’s passion for music inspires business venture

CommentaryJune 14, 2014 

My parents sent me for piano lessons at a young age. When the teacher asked me what I wanted to learn to play, I said I was eager to master the theme song from the horror movie “Halloween.” For my teacher, that response was probably enough horror for one day.

Erin Wenger, a 32-year-old North Raleigh resident had a much different, and better, experience. Her teacher was her mother, a long-time music teacher in the Wake County Public School System.

Her mother had a passion for music which she imparted to Wenger. All these years later, Wenger’s inherited passion has turned into a family business called the North Raleigh School of Music.

Off Six Forks near Whole Foods, Wenger, her husband, mother, step father and another instructor run the school, which features the options of taking voice lessons, piano, guitar, cello, violin, viola, flute, saxophone and Kindermusik.

I know. You got to the end of that sentence and asked yourself, “What in the world is Kindermusik?” Wenger says it’s music lessons for children from age 7 down to little-bitty babies.

“They learn rhythm and melody and all those different things to go on and prepare them to do lessons as they get older,” she said.

The idea is to get children acclimated to music early, so that their transition to formal lessons is easier.

The school opened in 2012. Wenger had been a teacher in Wake County Schools before she decided to go back to graduate school for music.

When she graduated, she went to work for an opera company for a little while, before firing up her entrepreneurial spirit.

Wenger had been giving lessons on the side for years, but when she looked around at the musical offerings in the area, she didn’t find a comprehensive, one-stop-shop type of organization. The closest thing she discovered was the Cary Music School, but she thought Raleigh should have its own thing.

Her family members joined forces and opened up the school. Then the battle of building a business began.

“Getting the word out is always fun because Raleigh is so big,” she said, explaining how there was a lot of promotion at the local farmers market and various festivals.

And, of course, Wenger had to contend with mixing work and family, which is never the easiest thing.

“My mom was my music teacher back in elementary school, so it’s always interesting when your mother works for you,” she said.

But they struck a nice balance and the business got off the ground. Currently, the school has about 75 students, and over the summer, Wenger is planning on hiring more instructors who can train students in other instruments. Her goal is to eventually be a place where anyone can learn any instrument.

“We are hoping in the next couple of years to be able to move into an old school or an old daycare and definitely expand,” she said. “I would like to see it as big as it can possibly get.”

The Kindermusik division comprises a pretty healthy percentage of clientele, growing from a handful of students to about 30 in two years. For Kindermusik, it’s the parents, rather than the instructors, who set the ground rules.

“We do not discipline. It’s the parent’s job to discipline,” Wenger said. “The parents come with the child. They’re the teacher. We just supply the environment.”

Wenger said it’s important for children to get involved in music because it helps with socialization, structure and a variety of other aspects of life. Students often come in wanting to learn how to do pop songs, but part of Wenger’s plan is to get them to appreciate all kinds of music.

“The goal is to not only love that stuff, but to love opera and classical music as well,” she said.

The school doesn’t just teach kids. People of all ages can take lessons. Wenger hopes that as it grows, it can become a feeder to the North Carolina Symphony.

For Wenger, music is personally important in a way it’s not for most people. She and her husband both attended Enloe High School. He was in the orchestra and she was in the chorus, though the stars didn’t align back then.

But a few years ago, she was at a concert and saw him onstage playing the cello.

“I was like, ‘Oh, I recognize him,’” she said. “We started talking after that and the rest is history.”

For his part, her husband says music is a great way to meet people, as their story attests, Wenger said.

“He always tells the students, ‘The cello is a chick finder.’”

Alex Granados writes about interesting people, places and traditions in North Raleigh and beyond. Contact him via email at agranadoster@gmail.com.

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