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Working: A day on the job

Renee Hale, 30: Instructor, Music With Mar, St. Petersburg and Seminole

© St. Petersburg Times
published February 9, 2003

Is this your own business?

It's actually a franchise. We pay a franchise fee and are licensed to instruct in the program created by Mar (Maryann Harman, a Pinellas County based music educator).

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Do you work full or part time?

Part time. I work probably, including drive time, maybe four hours a week. Some weeks it's more if I sub for somebody.

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How long have you been doing this?

Since June of last year. I teach a class in Seminole and one in St. Petersburg.

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What is a Music with Mar class?

A Music with Mar class is an opportunity for children and their caregivers to interact using music and movement to enhance not only cognitive skills, but social and motor skills.

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How do you keep the attention of a roomful of toddlers for a 45-minute class?

The music, quick transitions. We try to engage the children with their caregivers into the activity at hand. Each song is relatively short, and then we quickly move to the next activity. We make it a point to include music where the children get up and move around.

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How are classes structured?

We have a set beginning, middle and end to the class, so that no matter which instructor you go to, it's the same. And then the instructor has the flexibility to put their own choices of "Mar" songs in between those segments.

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Can you give me an example of some class activities?

For instance, every class starts out with "Bubbles," and that is, the instructor blows bubbles and children are encouraged to pinch the bubbles, which encourages tracking, as well as fine motor skills.

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How did you get interested in this job?

When my oldest child was 5 months, I started taking him to classes religiously. I could see him responding within a matter of months. I could see him reacting to the music, and anticipating what came next. One of the things that impressed me was the fact that not only is it fun for the children, which is huge in my book, but that it serves other purposes. The fact that it's helping with brain development and social skills, that's what hooked me.

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What other jobs have you worked?

I have a master's degree in special ed and I taught mentally challenged students in the public school system, elementary and middle school-age in Pinellas County before I had my own children.

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What's involved in getting a franchise?

There is a flat fee that you pay up front for all the materials and your franchise, and then a renewal fee every year. You get some instruments, all of Mar's CDs, which you need to teach the class, and all the (puppet) props.

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What kind of training do you need?

You have to work so many hours with Mar, attending her classes or one on one with her. You also have to pass a written exam that she gives you, and you have to teach a class with her and then one by yourself that she observes for the license evaluation.

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How do you make money from the classes?

The franchise is a flat fee; so we make money from however many people you have attending your classes. To attend a class is $6 per family, or five classes for $25. We also make a percentage on product that we sell, including any CDs, books, support materials and props.

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So do you average about $40 per class?

It depends. I'll have a day where I'll have four families show up, and then I'll have a day like I did a few weeks in Seminole, where I'll have 12, and I'll do better than that. I would say I average between $350 and $450 a month.

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Is this something you see yourself continuing and expanding?

Yes. I would like to open another class, but I will probably wait until Conlan (age 3) is in school. Right now I can bring my children with me, and I typically do.

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What are some of the perks of the job?

Being able to bring my children. One of the big reasons that I decided to do this was not only my love of teaching, which I miss from being in the classroom, but the fact that my children can come with me.

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What is your favorite thing about doing this?

My favorite thing has got to be being in the front of the class and seeing the reactions of the children. Because as a parent you come, and your child sits in your lap and all you see is the back of their head. You don't get to see the excitement on their face.

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What is the hardest thing about your job?

I think maybe the toughest part is probably starting your own class. When you first come in and have to find a new location. Getting the word out and getting people to come is probably the toughest part.

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What would your dream job be?

I'm doing my dream job right now. I'm a stay-at-home mom. I never thought I was going to be able to stay home with my children.

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So you plan to continue even when your children are older?

I would like to continue and teach more classes. It's great because I can devote a couple hours in the morning to teaching music, and still be available for my children when they get home from school.

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