Bryan Billhimer refers to the ukelele as "the gateway instrument." For him and his fellow teacher Ashley Shepherd, these tiny, four-stringed wonders represent a doorway to an ever-growing world of music—one that's accessible to anyone. The duo hosts online classes on the Center Stage Ukelele Academy website, gearing their lessons toward total beginners.
The academy's video seminars cover fundamental techniques as well as popular songs, including "Somewhere Over the Rainbow," "Wagon Wheel," and Taylor Swift's "Shake it Off." Additionally, students are encouraged to submit lesson requests for songs they'd like to learn. Each video aims for the utmost clarity with a split-screen setup and shots from multiple angles, enabling players to perfect their finger placement without so much as a dollop of superglue. The academy also supplements its classes with resources such as tabs and helpful diagrams.
Since 1997, King's Music has served as a hotspot for budding and established musicians, offering rentals, repairs, and equipment. The shop offers a variety of brass- and wind-instrument rentals for school students taking band, and also buys and sells used instruments. They also hold a large selection of sheet music ranging from movie themes, to jazz, to essential rock, and also carry a plethora of accessories and instruments such as guitars and drums.
A quick glance at Vashti Fairbairn’s resume is telling. At local theatre company Fighting Chance Productions, she has directed the critically lauded Little Shop of Horrors and The Mystery of Edwin Drood, both of which magically combine music with dramatic arts. At her own Music Box Music and Theatre Academy, Fairbairn, along with a team of dedicated teachers, does the exact same thing on a daily basis. Children’s group classes give little ones as young as 6 months old a chance to strut their stuff on the dance floor, belt out their favourite show tunes, and learn to tickle the ivories like a seasoned elephant sitter. Private lessons are open to adults as well, and expand the instrumental scope to include strings, music theory, and the speaking arts. The latter comes in handy during the school’s drama clubs, which teach kids 3 years and older how to use their imaginations to create real-life and fantasy scenarios. Outside of their educational programs, the facility entertains visitors to the River Market with free music and theatre performances in the Music Box Presents series.
Nadia and Masha know art. Nadia spent years designing and making props for the stage before adding degrees in teaching and child psychology to her art diploma and focusing on art education full-time. Masha, who recently pitched her art skills on CBC's Dragons' Den, specializes in design, painting, and drawing. The two combine their forces at Pinocchio Arts & Craft to teach burgeoning Van Goghs aged 5 and older how to find their inner creativity.
Yet the instructors' focus is not on skills alone. Their curriculum is broad enough to build well-rounded creators who understand the different cultural influences of art and its many movements. This is true in their classes and even in their birthday parties, which focus on portrait painting, re-creating famous masterpieces, or working in the style of Picasso, Matisse, or Emily Carr. Children's sessions are divided by age, not medium, and focus on international cultures. In past classes, for example, kids have painted the Taj Mahal, built a Chinese-style dragon, and learned what part of the world has deserts hot enough to melt clocks. Adult classes, on the other hand, explore more advanced media and concepts, such as the laws of abstraction and cubism.
Signature service: Kidoodles Art Studio
Staff Size: 2–10 people
Average Duration of Services: 1 hour maximum per visit
Brands Used: Crayola, Dessers, Blick, Golden, Museum, Acrylex
Pro Tip: At Kidoodles, kids let their imagination go and they learn to create different arts and crafts.
What services does your business offer and what makes your business stand out from the competition?
My students choose what they play!
My training allows me to write down and teach any song just by hearing it. The guitar sounds great playing every style of music, so whatever you're into, let me show you how to play it!
Do you provide any materials? What should your students expect to bring?
All you need is your own guitar!
I create a personalized lesson plan for each student that is based on musical interests and skill level.
Each time we meet, I will provide clear, hand-written instructions about any song you choose.
Kids and adults both practice more when they choose the music!
What was the inspiration to start or run this business?
After receiving my music degree from Colorado College in 2004, I realized that I truly enjoy the experience of sharing music with others.
What do you love most about your job?
I love to play guitar.
I am always looking to improve my abilities and I have experienced the value of a good teacher giving me a hand up.
When I see other people start to discover the world of music and I can give them a hand up, it is a satisfying way to contribute to the musical community.