By Leslie Buttonow
Jessica Buchanan has had a long, enjoyable and varied relationship with music, starting from childhood. These days, she shares her love of music with many others, including her employees, their customers, and music educators. A former early childhood music educator, Buchanan now oversees a team of retail employees and lessons educators at Music & Arts, which is one the largest school music retailers and lesson providers in the U.S.
Buchanan shares some positive thoughts about how music is for everyone — all ages and genders — and about the dynamic shifts she’s seen in music over the 12 years she’s been with her company. She also discusses the important business of raising the next generation of musicians.
Learn more at MusicArts.com.
WiMN: You work for a company that helps young students begin a lifelong relationship with music and established musicians continue on the path. What role did music play in your own life growing up?
JB: Music has always been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. I started singing with my brothers at an early age while growing up in a small town in Clayton, New Jersey. There, I had the opportunity to be involved with music programs from elementary to high school. I participated in multiple musical activities such as band, choir and drama club. These activities helped me hone in on my passion for music, whether it was listening to a new local band, going to concerts, musicals, or operas. I wanted to learn and explore more. It has helped to me become who I am and find my voice.
WiMN: You’re currently the California District Sales Manager for Music & Arts. Please share a bit about what you do in that role and what skills are good to have for this type of position.
JB: Every day I get the chance to work with an amazing team and share the joy of music with everyone—from visiting the local schools and learning about their music programs, to hiring educators to teach in our lesson program, to developing teams to share and help customers find their passion in music. The smile on a child’s face the first time they see the instrument they picked out to play is priceless.
Over time, I have developed a range of skills such as: Integrity – Doing what’s right for the customer and for my team; Motivation – Having passion for music and wanting to share that with others; Leadership – Leading by example, helping with any and all projects; Willingness to think outside of the box and stay positive with any challenges that may occur; Teamwork – My team works incredibly hard to assist all of our customers, lesson teachers and students. And it takes teamwork to make that possible.
WiMN: How did some of your previous positions, such as a music teacher and a buyer help to prepare you for your current job?
JB: At the time, I had no idea that my past job experiences would provide me with the skills for my career today. I’ve always wanted to be a music teacher; that’s what I was going to do. Life happened, and things changed. These experiences allowed me the opportunity to work with some incredible mentors who taught me about the bigger picture — the hours a music teacher takes to find the right music to teach; the planning that happens to get ready for a concert; or the time and effort that goes into finding the right products that are best for a customer. It helps me relate to local music teachers and the customer who is trying to decide whether a guitar or a saxophone best suits their needs.
WiMN: Have you seen any new trends in the ways people are making music or the types of products that are currently hot?
JB: The digital world is changing everything. From how we listen to, record, and perform music. It can all be done with a touch of a button on a handheld device utilizing products and brands such as IK Multimedia’s iRig, Tascam products, music apps, and YouTube.
WiMN: Throughout the time you’ve been working in musical instrument lessons and sales have you seen any forward momentum in terms of girls participating in music lessons or purchasing instruments that were traditionally played by more males, such as guitar or drums?
JB: Absolutely. Guitar paired with song writing stands out. I am amazed at the next generation of musicians I’ve seen–the confidence in some of the young women showing they are not intimidated by anyone when they play drums, have a guitar solo, or getting up on the stage to perform a song they wrote. I’m excited to see where it takes them and getting rid of the stigma that playing guitars or drums is only for boys. It is for anyone!
WiMN: And your lessons aren’t just for kids – adults can take lessons from Music & Arts, too! Have you seen adults taking lessons, and what are some advantages of learning a musical instrument at one of your locations?
JB: Yes! We have a student who is taking Violin lessons and he is 92 years old! Lessons are for any age, whether you’ve played an instrument when you were younger or never before. The teachers in our locations put their hearts and souls into teaching. Lessons are customized to each individual student and what their needs are for learning their instrument.
We all get to see the process from when they take their first lesson to watching them perform at our open mic nights or student recitals. The support and encouragement is contagious for all the students, for each other. They essentially become part of the Music & Arts family. We share our passion and help you find yours!