Arboretum Music School succeeds by marching to its own beat
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According to Estervig, who draws an administrative salary and a teacher’s salary, Arboretum’s employee-friendly arrangement has allowed her business to prosper and maintain a sterling reputation.
“Our employees are some of the greatest musicians in Dane County because we give them the most money for their teaching and their skills and their time,” said Estervig. “There’s nobody making a profit off of them, and they really like that. They also get to see their clients are paying a low rate, and all of that money after the bills are paid goes back to the teachers. It really gives them a sense of allegiance to the company, and it gives them pride in working here, and it’s been highly successful. Our retention of teachers has been fantastic, because they really have a say in what goes on here.”
The gift of music
Arboretum Music School’s people-first approach is not limited to its teachers, of course. Not only does the school make monetary contributions to local charities, its students often perform gratis for members of the community. The school’s students perform at nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and the UW Children’s Hospital, among other facilities. Once every two years, the school’s faculty also puts on a silent auction and recital for various local charities.
For Estervig, encouraging the school’s students to perform for those most in need of cheering up is a way to give back to the community while conveying to her young charges the value of philanthropy.
“There’s an Alzheimer’s home that we play at regularly, and the people there share with our students how much they loved and enjoyed playing music, and I think that really touches them,” said Estervig. “And a huge eye-opener is when they play at the UW Children’s Hospital and they just see how lucky they are and how privileged and blessed they are to be able to do what they can do. And again, it brightens [the patients’] day, and I think for a child at a young age to see that gives him or her the motivation to continue to do good things in the community.”
Estervig also draws energy and motivation from her students’ growth and progress. Currently, about 270 of the school’s 300 students are children, and seeing the positive impact a music education has on them is a reward in itself.
“You can cite studies and studies and studies showing that music is valuable and it benefits their reading, their math, their spatial skills, and their SAT scores — everything is higher because of the benefits of music,” said Estervig. “But it also influences their imagination, their creativity, and their individuality, and I think that’s especially important for young students as well.”
Some of those students have not only benefited indirectly from their experience at Arboretum but have gone on to establish budding music careers as well. For instance, one Arboretum alum, Luke Thering, is an aspiring jazz pianist who’s produced three CDs. And Kaleigh Prange, another former student, is currently on tour with a Broadway production of Bring It On.
But while seeing some students go on to promising careers is thrilling, to Estervig the most fun part about running the business is seeing her students embrace the journey.
“You get to spend 10-plus years with some of these kids, and you get to see them grow up and mature in front of you, and their confidence grows,” said Estervig. “It’s just incredible. It’s priceless.”
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