The COVID-19 crisis has turned our world upside-down in historical ways, bringing a storm of adversity to small businesses in Metro Vancouver. Many of these businesses are now in a critical fight for survival and the future is uncertain. Although re-opening measures have been announced by the BC government, Family Fun Vancouver would like to take the opportunity to introduce and interview some of the local businesses in our city. Let’s get to know each other! Welcome to the #SmallBusinessSaturday series.
Today we are talking to Teacher Monica from Jump Into Music. Monica Lee met her business partner, Orith, at Vancouver Community College while completing the Contemporary Music Diploma Program in 2000. They became fast friends studying and practicing their instruments together and their lives have been intertwined ever since. Both Orith and Monica held residencies with their individual bands at the legendary East Vancouver music club, The Libra Room, for over a decade before it permanently closed its doors in 2019. After starting their individual music companies and becoming mothers, they began a partnership with Jump Into Music. Monica and Orith share an unwavering passion for music education. They aspire to inspire children and their families to come alive through music and movement.
Tell us about your business:
Jump Into Music is an Early Childhood Music Education small, independent, business run by two mothers. We offer a one-of-a-kind music and movement program that engages, educates, and entertains both the parent and child. Our classes inspire creativity while having fun and building confidence in little ones 6 months to 4 years old. We offer in person programming in Vancouver and the Cowichan Valley on Vancouver Island. With Covid 19, all our in-person classes have been suspended so now we are offering classes online reaching families all over the world.
With Covid 19, I, aka Teacher Monica, am currently offering classes with my development of the ‘Get Together’ on Facebook Live since the lockdown in March.
I love to find the joy in music, the play in playing music, and the silly in taking risks and improvising. I love to celebrate our humanity by showing my innate fallibility (I am very forgetful) and laughing at/with myself openly when mistakes happen. I think it’s important to teach children by example and let them see that we learn from trial and error and that we often need others to help us along the way…like I need them to remind me of what I have forgotten…(I forget the same thing every episode…bubbles! Lol). I am good at being in the moment sharing my feelings and passions about the music I teach.
What was the inspiration for starting this venture? Where did you get your first idea?
The idea of teaching music was never in my long term goal as a young musician, but one day, I was asked to substitute-teach for a friend. I reluctantly took the gig. I was immediately taken with the process and found not only did I love working with children, I loved sharing my knowledge and seeing it translated into rewarding practice for the people with whom I worked. I wanted to create a program that I wanted to go to that was grounded in musicology and cultural education! I excelled at World Music Studies while studying under Dr. Salvador Ferreras at Vancouver Community College and saw this has a way to share knowledge and foster understanding and acceptance of diverse cultures. I believe strongly that the more we see and listen to each other the more tolerant and accepting we can be of each other’s traditions and practices.
My partner Orith had already started Jump Into Music and asked me to come on board when she moved to Vancouver Island. We developed the 24 months worth of curriculum exploring both genres and country of origin styles of music from all over the world. The program expanded from 3 classes a week in Vancouver to 11 classes a week and then with the addition of contracted-teacher, Lisa Beth Dery, to 14 classes a week reaching 180 families in the Vancouver area.
What has been your biggest regret? Your greatest pride or success?
My biggest regret is not becoming more computer literate sooner. I relied on others to help me connect virtually for years. Over the last few months I have expanded my computer literacy so much and it has been a big eye opener. I think this is therefore also my greatest pride or success. My online classes have been reaching thousands of families. Facebook tells me my program has a reach of 149K with 20K individuals interacting directly with my posts and the page Likes/Followers expanding from 300 to 2000 in months. I have had up to 200 families on LIVE with me and have published over 40 episodes on the Jump Into Music page. I have learned how to update my WordPress site, I have learned how to use streaming software and live virtual sound software, and how to promote my page all the while having a ton of fun sharing music with little children. It has been life changing truly. For me there have been a lot of silver in the lining of the Covid-19 lockdown.
What would a typical day look like for you normally? What about now?
Way back in Jan, before the lock down, I was teaching in community centres as I have in the past 5 years. After sending my two children on their way to school with their dad I got in my little red car and headed in one of 5 directions to various locations around the city. I ran two consecutive classes with 12-15 kids in each and with one or two adults accompanying them. Classes are supposed to be 50 mins according to the program but they usually go the full hour. Class ends with wild animal paw print stamps where each child comes up and tells me what kind of while animal they are that day. As many of the children are very young, sometimes I make suggestions like .. “Maybe you are a squirrel, running along the fence or straight up the tree…oh I would love to be a squirrel!” …or, “are you a fox, living under a tree? What a great place to live!” or “Are you a baby bear, snuggling on mama bear?”. A series of high fives all around and usually a few conversations with moms or caregivers who could use an ear or some reassurance or support related to life with their child. In many ways I see my role as community outreach to young parents. The first few years with your child are often very hard and sometimes children are developmentally delayed. I have thankfully been able to connect and help direct families to support in many cases and seen remarkable changes. I love being out in the community connecting daily with families and children inspiring musical exploration with engaging educational material in an entertaining way.
I chose/created this job specifically as I wanted to be there for my kids every day. I wanted to create a job so we could avoid after-school care and prioritize parent care and activity education activities like swimming lessons, music lessons, art classes to happen during the week. I had my children later in my life, so this has been a priority for me from the get go. I am so grateful that Jump Into Music has allowed me to both have a joyful job and spend a lot of time with my kids as they are growing up.
With the lockdown and Covid-19 my community centre job ended. In fact the first week of lock down was Spring Break and I had a week of make-up classes booked as I had been sick earlier in Feb and missed a week of classes. I felt badly for the families and took a risk and decided to go Live on Facebook that week on Friday and do the class virtually. I sent out a message to my 700 person mailing list and a few messages on Facebook. Amazingly over more than 100 families showed up! I vowed to be back the following week.
That weekend I shared a post for a “Scheduled LIVE” on Monday. Over 4500 people clicked the link! Unfortunately I did not understand the technology and that link never went live! I did manage to start another link and more than 130 were on there with me. I continued to run live broadcasts 5 days a week (Mon – Fri) at 10am for the following 6 weeks with up to 200 families participating with me live. The views were enormous and the replays even more. Some episodes have been viewed up to 3.4K times. I have learned a lot since the first spontaneous Facebook LIVE. I have bought lighting, microphones, pay for a streaming platform, bought a new computer… I have learned more about technology in the last few months than I ever have before.
Now I have published over 40 episodes, some repeated genres or country of origin topics and then more recently adding new content like a Beatles special, a Sound of Music Special, a We Love Raffi special and a Birthday special. Most days we celebrate a birthday or three on the Live Broadcast. I decorate, we sing a few special songs including my original birthday song, and blow out the virtual candles that are my fingers for the age of each child.
Running a TV show from my home takes considerably more time than teaching two hours a day in the community but I am reaching families around the world and truly having the time of my life doing it.
How have you adapted to the COVID-19 crisis and how can the community support you at this time?
I think the above answer kind of covers most of this question other than the community support element. At the start of the lockdown and with the first week of broadcasts families started asking to support me financially. It was hard to figure out how to do this. Thankfully other businesses were also doing similar things and some parents shared those with me and gave me direction. One parent encouraged me to start a Patreon page and others asked to send me e-transfers. Families from the US asked for a PayPal link. So I set them up! The support has been overwhelming. As life has started to open up my numbers have gone down on live views and in the donations. This is understandable. I have also been producing fewer shows and slowly looking at how my business can be sustainable in the long run. When we were in true lockdown the worlds eyes were online. It was the wild west and I was running with the herd. I am now planning the summer months with only once a week or even bi weekly Get Together Facebook Lives and looking to September and what that will bring. I plan to follow Dr. Bonnie Henry’s recommendations and go from there. With the development of this new market online I will continue with the Live broadcast for sure, likely once a week with in person classes in the community once it is safe. Anything could happen and I look forward to discovering it as the weeks and months move forward.
If people are interested in supporting Monica Lee and Jump Into Music at this time the best way is to tune in to a Facebook live stream, follow her on Facebook (@jumpintomusictogether), Instagram (@jumpintomusic) and Twitter (@JumpIntoMusic4U). All links and information can be found at their website www.jumpintomusic.ca
Introducing YVR Small Business Profiles is a Family Fun Vancouver series that will contain a random selection of businesses chosen at the discretion of the editor for interest and curiosity.
Looking for more tips on how to keep your kids occupied during the COVID-19 crisis? Find our best ideas, activities and inspiration here!