We had the good fortune of connecting with Carolyn Iga and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Carolyn, is your business focused on helping the community? If so, how?
As an online and live brick and mortar music school, we are in the business of creativity and relationships. . . which happened to be two of the most needed commodities during a pandemic.
With society rapidly advancing through the last half a century, giving us so many options and means of isolating ourselves, whether by driving our own cars through traffic, listening to our own ear buds while standing in lines, or installing double pane windows to reduce noise from the outside, all of these technological “advances” have allowed us to settle into these controlled environments that fill our time and personal space with, . . . well, . . . loneliness.
Add a year of pandemic and we get a mass of people with pent up energies, longing to connect and do something productive. Enter online music education. What was previously of very low appeal has become quite a hot item with the quick adaptations made to improve the quality of experience.
Mo Stein defined Creativity as “what is novel and useful,” which is to say creativity is the bridge needed to problem solve. Whenever we are given a challenge as mundane as trying to open a soda can when the tab is broken, or as global as confronting a very contagious pandemic, we need to muster up creativity by searching our imaginations to find the solutions to meet our needs and move us forward.
If creativity is a bridge to finding solutions to our problems, then music is a bridge to activating our creativity.
We have be so pleased to be able to provide deep caring connections during the darkest, scariest, and most frustrating times over the past year. Students and parents remarked that their private music lessons were one of the few activities that they continued through the pandemic year, providing a constant area of growth and even therapy.
We at Neighborhood Music are glad to add focus, joy, and healing to our community through the gift of music education.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I came up with our motto “Experience the Excellence” when I started the music school in 2007 because as a musician, one cannot NOT pursue excellence, and the line is between music and noise is not a blurry one. To live out excellence I knew I needed to hire not only working musicians who loved teaching, but legit teachers who had the degree and put their time in.
“Enjoy the Process” was added to the motto later as I reflected on my experiences of cyclical burn-out after idealizing the performance and then inevitably messing up and missing the mark. By abiding by this principle to “enjoy the process,” I have grown from a teacher who had to reset my lessons often to a teacher who maintains appreciation for every moment with the student as I teach them, whether they get the concept quickly or not; and I hire only those teachers who are in complete agreement with this philosophy.
I believe we stand out by placing value on the life-giving aspect of learning. We expect ourselves to show up as mentors who are not only teaching skills but building relationships and shaping lives.
This motto “experience the excellence. . . enjoy the process,” certainly reflects my professional journey. Starting the business as a single with limited personal savings was very challenging. I started off my adult life as an associate pastor and so living by faith was one of my priorities, and one of the biggest challenges that I was intent on doing was learning to consistently value people over money. I was so short on cashflow in the beginning, that I had moved out of my house of 13 years into a tiny space in order to make ends meet. During those lean years, I had made a purchase for the business from someone who forgot to cash my $5,000 check, and then went out of business. Relieved, I thought I was off the hook, however my conscience and faith prompted me to seek the person out and re-write the check to them. The person didn’t seem overly grateful for my check and I cried out of fear as I left, knowing I didn’t have that much extra money lying around to cover my expenses over the next month. Fortunately I had not deposited our tuition money yet and there happened to be a little over $5000, enough to keep us afloat for the time being. In the ensuing weeks, we got customers out of nowhere and suddenly began to thrive. I am glad for this lesson because it has taught me to have faith to do the right thing for the other person’s sake, and know that God and others have my back if I do so.
There have also been times when I have failed to do the right thing, but our motto to “enjoy the process” reminds me to be forgiving toward myself and others who offend me, and to enjoy the unique position I am in as a business owner and a music school president to make decisions that can bless people.
I want others to know that if music lessons is the “what,” then valuing and caring for people, and growing in good communication, integrity, character and respect are the “why” behind what we do.
If you choose to take lessons, buy or rent musical instruments or supplies, or invite one of our instructors or kid rock bands to perform for your venue, we promise to do our best to serve you with integrity, good quality and thoughtfulness.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Day 1: Downtown Arcadia to Neighborhood Music School, grocery shop at 99 Ranch, eat at Bean Sprout or Din Tai Feng (Santa Anita mall), explore Santa Anita race track Day 2: Arboretum, walk around downtown Sierra Madre for lunch, window shopping,
Day 3: if guest is athletic, drive to Santa Fe Dam or Whittier Narrows, bike to Long Beach along the LA River bike trail ride the Metro Blue Line back to Arcadia
Day 4: Huntington Gardens, afternoon tea at Huntington Gardens, dinner in Old Town Pasadena
Day 5: Walk around Rose Bowl, dine in Old Town Pasadena, see a recording session at Nolan Shaheed’s recording studio
Day 6 Catch Metro Gold line to J-town or China town for lunch, catch Gold Line back to South Pasadena for walk around the neighborhood and a meal
Day 7 hiking in the San Gabriel mountains, lunch in downtown Monrovia.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
The Downtown Arcadia Improvement Association has been an amazing backbone to the businesses in the Downtown Arcadia district. Shout out in particular to Donna Choi and MJ Finstrom who fundraise, publicize, and constantly engage the residents and businesses in order to create a vibrant and active community, no matter what crisis the country is going through.
Other: Clubhouse club: Music Educators