Gabriele’s former students — some of whom are now in college—had a lot to say about the long-term impact of her program. One parent who brought all four of her children to Gabriele’s class said “We sang the songs at home, in the bath, in the car, in the park… music became an integral part of our daily life. Now our oldest son is in the music studio at La Guardia High School.”
One of Gabriele’s earliest students had this to say: “The kids have grown up together and continue to keep in touch with one another. Gabriele was an enormous addition to this community. Alas, my children all turned out to be sports-oriented as adults, but they ALL can carry a tune quite nicely!”
When Gabriele told me she was celebrating her 20th anniversary of teaching music, I asked if she would share some of her insights and experiences with our community.
Why is early music education important? How does it benefit children and families?
The early childhood years are the time when the brain develops at its fastest rate. Music stimulates neuroplasticity, the brain’s ability to form new pathways and to make novel connections between pre-existing skill sets. Music is also multi-modal, exercising several areas of the brain simultaneously. Therefore music has a positive effect on ALL learning.
I can’t even begin to tell you how often parents send me videos of their children, showing me how they are making up their own songs, or expanding their own versions of one of the songs we do in class, and how they dance the little moves out at home that they learned in class. I get feedback about how rapidly speech, movement skills or social behavior developed since they joined our program.
So many times I was witness to babies taking their first steps in my classes. It is amazing, astounding and wonderful.
How did your music education program Sol La Ti get started? What has your journey been from the beginning to where you are today?
When I came to New York, I did what most artists do — odd jobs to supplement my income. One year several things came together. I had an ectopic pregnancy and the outlook for having my own child was grim. There was a big void inside of me, and I felt more and more that I wanted to do something more meaningful in my life and share my knowledge with the next generation.
A friend suggested I look into Music Together, an early childhood music and movement program. I attended training and in the fall of 1997 I held my first class with a group of 7 moms in Morningside Heights, NY.
It seemed none of the other music programs at that time would venture above 100th St because it was still considered a disadvantaged area. My little class filled a void for me as well as for the young families who lived there. I had no idea that the work with young children would come so naturally to me and would give me endless joy. Within only one year, my classes had grown to include 100 families.
Now, we teach Music Together classes at 5 locations, as well as RhythmKids music classes and Canta y Baila Conmigo, a Spanish music immersion program. I also developed my own German music immersion program, Musikalische Mäuse, for the German speakers in our vicinity.
What has it been like operating a business in New York City? What unique opportunities and challenges have you had?
I loved New York City right from the beginning. The multi cultural environment is extremely enriching to me and the music scene is at such a high level that it makes you grow automatically.
I ran into starting a business with so much innocence, I don’t even think I thought I had a business. I just wanted to teach this music program. Only when it started to grow, and I needed to form a corporation and hire staff, did it register to me — I am now a business!
9/11 was extremely hard for me, as my husband and I lived across the street from the WTC and a part of the first plane’s turbine engine flew through our window while I was inside the house. I survived — but for 3 months we had no place to live, no computer and no phone service, just at the time when my fall semester was supposed to begin.
In that same year, my husband was also diagnosed with prostate cancer. From one day to the next we lost almost everything we had. I still don’t know how I got through all of this. The ups and downs of a business are not easy. You have to have the nerves for it and the strength to endure the hard times.
How have things changed since then?
There are so many enrichment programs and classes offered now. Music Together has become a worldwide program. Social media has made things more accessible, but the workload for operators has tripled, if not more.
Technology as a whole has changed us, parenting and parents have changed, and with it how we feel and what we expect. Education has changed as well. There is a constant adapting and changing required, otherwise you are left behind. At the same time, you have to remain truthful to yourself and your values, and be sincere and excellent at what you do.
What advice would you have for other women interested going into business for themselves?
The first thing I would say to everybody who wants to start their own business or follow any sort of dream, don’t let anybody tell you that you can’t do something. Nobody knows your potential, determination and strength, sometimes not even you yourself.
If you are absolutely passionate about something it will show and this passion will give you the strength to endure and move forward. You will eventually make the connections you need to make. Become as good as you can in your craft, learn what you need in order to run your business successfully, stay open, and stay passionate about what you do. Make those follow up phone calls. Be good and supportive to your staff and treat them the way you would like to be treated. Be generous, kind and loving. Don’t forget about yourself. Pamper yourself, have a private life too and spend time with your family and friends. It will make you a more complete person.
Gabriele Tranchina is a music educator, owner of Sol La Ti Music, and international vocalist specializing in Jazz, Brazilian, Latin and World Music. She performs in the tri-state area and in Europe together with her husband, pianist/composer Joe Vincent Tranchina.