When Skye Barker Maa’s 3-year-old son showed an interest and aptitude for music, she was challenged to find him lessons. “We had done the mom-and-tot program and he was beyond that, but there wasn’t anywhere to take him. We found a piano teacher but had to convince her that he was actually serious.”
So in 2012, Barker Maa, a former corporate community relations professional, started her own music school in the basement of her Stapleton home. “The problem was that there were no full music schools where kids can play multiple instruments and play in ensembles. I worked with a piano teacher to define the range of musical experiences a child should have. We developed it for tots and it grew from there.”
Barker Maa’s Neighborhood Music Stapleton school grew so quickly, outgrowing her 1,500-square-foot basement, that it will move into a nearby 5,000-foot space in May. “Our studios are very busy, with multiple lessons going on at once,” said Barker Maa, a mother of three. “Parents can come with four kids, and do all four lessons in 30 minutes at the same time. I come at it as a parent, trying to make it as convenient as it can be. We’ve grown fast because we’re flexible and we work hard to provide options.”
The new space, at 2525 Geneva in the old Federal Aviation Administration building, will have 14 studios and a performing space. “It’s in Aurora, just across the street from Stapleton, about one mile from our present location,” Barker Maa said. “We’re walkable for most people, with easy access for once-a-week lessons. Since there are no major streets to cross, it’s safe for most students to walk over.”
She said the new performing space is central to the school’s philosophy. “Everyone performs. We get onstage early to strip away the fear of executing something in public—something we all need to do in life. It gives the experience and builds self-confidence.”
Barker Maa said studying music builds other skills. “Our goal is pleasure and enjoyment, and also discipline and training the brain to communicate values. We want to build better humans, using the love of music as a conduit.”
Neighborhood Music offers group and private music lessons to approximately 250 children and adults, including school programs and summer camps. Twenty-seven teachers provide instruction on 13 different instruments. Group lessons begin at $65 per month and private lessons at $115 per month.
“The youngest students start at age 4 on average, learning piano, violin, ukulele and drums,” said Barker Maa. “But if you come with a 3-year-old, we’ll try it. We start the youngest with a 15-minute lesson. Other instruments are introduced as kids develop more hand strength.”
Neighborhood Music offers music education for all ages. “Some families come three or four times a week to get experience on an instrument, singing and theater. Parents or siblings can join lessons at no extra charge. We have some mother-daughter drummers that are awesome.”
Barker Maa said the most important thing she does is matching teachers with students. “Teachers here are diverse, from grandmotherly types to a stricter style. How does the child learn best? What are the goals of kids and parents? We pay attention, and if a kid gets wiggly after a few months, we change their environment or style. All instruments are one price and all teachers are one price. So we can build a program to move around.”
Neighborhood Music provides instruction at three Stapleton-area schools. Barker Maa said they hope to expand to more schools and she is hiring a second staff person to handle that program. She hopes to provide rental instruments in the future as well.
Neighborhood Music’s summer camps are filling up but some programs have room for more kids. “Our Cinderella Kids musical is sold out, but Aladdin Jr. has some slots open,” said Barker Maa.
New this year is “Music and Hogwarts!” for 5- to 12-year-olds, featuring all things Harry Potter. “My kids are addicted to Harry Potter,” said Barker Maa. “We thought this would be fun.”
Neighborhood Music’s grand opening at 2525 Geneva is May 17, 3–5:30pm. “We’ll shut down the street and have concerts and free music lessons,” said Barker Maa.
For more information about the school or its programs, go to neighborhoodmusicstapleton.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.