Dana Vachharajani moved to Boulder with her husband, Manish, in 2005 so he could explore his career as an engineering professor at the University of Colorado. It was a huge move for the couple. Dana Vachharajani had been enjoying a successful singing career out of New York City and The Juilliard School, reaching prestigious career milestones that included an Alice Tully Hall debut and performing on the main of Carnegie Hall with her sister, Greeta Novotny. She also taught music at an inner-city public school to nearly 700 students per week, a job she treasured as it imparted on her the value of strong foundations in education.
As Vachharajani began her next chapter in Colorado, she was working as an interim gym teacher and teaching voice lessons to a few students from a local school. Within just a few months, though, her schedule was full and she faced a decision: Keep a waitlist or add more teachers and start a school. She realized that no matter how much performing she did, her purpose was in teaching and education.
“I love teaching, singing and music, and I wanted to share this joy and passion with my students, teachers and our community,” says Vachharajani, who founded Dana V Music.
Now, 16 years later, Dana V Music works with more than 250 students per week and has two dozen teachers on staff at its Louisville school in Boulder County. Students range from a mother-and-daughter duo who are learning piano together to groups of children learning ukulele to adults taking voice lessons. The overall mission of the school is to nurture positive music education.
“Music changes us, comforts us, soothes us and helps us find release and creativity,” Vachharajani says.
During this back-to-school season, Vachharajani spoke with Travel Boulder about the mental and emotional benefits of music education and shares with us how music can enrich people’s lives.
What are some of the surprising mental or emotional benefits of music education?
Music helps support emotional intelligence. It can boost or even change our mood. It is an outlet for creativity. I have had quite a few students move onto university studies in neuroscience who study brain waves as they listen to Mozart or Bach and how it changes emotion.
For our many adult students, we find that music exploration boosts their confidence and helps them be more creative in life and work.
What kind of trends are you noticing with music education? What instruments and classes are popular with children in the school?
At Dana V Music, we find that if our students are beginners, the trend is usually leaning toward piano or violin. These are great starter instruments to grow a love of music. Through instrument or voice study, our students develop routine, accountability, discipline, focus and great communications skills.
Trendwise, I would say that we have had a steady request over the past few years for ukulele study, and our guitar teachers are great at answering that call.
Bluegrass music continues to be very popular, and we have a few teachers who love to work with this style.
For our voice students, it often depends on the popular music out at the moment. I love that our students are open to different styles and delving into classical, jazz and country as well as musical theatre and pop.
Can you share with us some successful alumni stories?
Success can be as special as our students staying in music study for their whole school career and into adulthood. It is so special when students and parents choose to have music in their lives from preschool through even college.
So far, we have graduated more than 75 students who have pursued studies in music at top music programs like Eastman School of Music, Berklee College of Music, Indiana University, University of Southern California, Penn State, NYU, Belmont University and more. Additionally, many of our students go to college and minor in music, while they are pursuing careers in other academic studies.
As for some personal success stories, I was recently treated to a home-cooked meal from my dear student Divya Maus who pursued her composition degree at University of Southern California, then her master’s in composition with a focus in musical theatre at NYU. She is a truly gifted and beautiful singer/songwriter who has performed all over, including in Lincoln Center in NYC. Currently in Los Angeles, she has written a musical called “The Molly House” that I am crossing my fingers will make its way to Broadway.
We have adult students, like Steve Soller, who have wowed us by creating his own projects like conceptualizing his own recital show that included the audience choosing the songs he performed—over 35 songs learned in preparation. Now he is recording jazz standards with a trio, some of whom are our Dana V Music teachers! They are just fantastically creative adult students!
I think that some of our other success stories are our multitudes of students that go on to study music education and teach. We have even had some of our alumni come back and teach with us. They are changing lives every day and I am proud to call them my colleagues now.
What would be your advice to those who might have a little “stage fright?” or are shy about taking voice lessons?
Stage fright can occur for just about any endeavor and can range from a “little” to not even wanting to consider performing in a recital. We’ve taught all ranges. Everything is optional.
If we know that a student has terrible fright, we welcome them to bring support – a friend, a parent, a stuffy. We ease them in and allow them one step at a time. We have found that the more success students have, the more they will feel confident to move forward. We had a student in our school who studied with us for six years without performing. As long as they feel safe with their teacher, appreciate their sound and music, and enjoy their progress, then that is success. By the way, the student that didn’t perform for six years, finally presented at their senior year recital!
What kind of opportunities do students have to perform?
Before COVID, we had an event every other month. Our students have the option of participating in traditional recitals two times per year, in December and May. It is a great opportunity to see the progress of all of our students. Our General Manager Chelsea Kyle has arranged these wonderful library concerts for the First Friday Artwalks in Louisville. We love our senior friends and try to arrange performances at our most favorite and welcoming senior communities. Our local coffee shops have been so supportive of our young artists and welcome them for coffeehouse jams. We love partnering with our local dance studios to perform living music for dance recitals and town performances. If there is an idea to connect, we will try to find it.
I also love how our students create their own performances as well! We get flyers and invites to concerts, musicals, busking, you name it, we do our best to help nurture and support it!
Who teaches at the school?
We love our teachers at Dana V Music. They are the heartbeat of our school. Our teachers come to us from so many different backgrounds but their focus is being the best educators and support they can be. We teach voice, violin, viola, piano, cello, guitar, ukulele and clarinet. All of our teachers have at least a bachelor’s degree in music, but most have masters and doctorates, which shows their dedication to their development.
Many of our teachers have spent years at Dana V while they are achieving amazing accomplishments, like creating their own orchestras like our violin/viola teacher Alex Vittal (12 years with the school), who is the Executive Director of Sphere Ensemble. John Boggs (Voice, Piano 7-plus years with the school) and Mo Bailey (Voice, year 1 with the school) team up together in their vocal ensemble Solis. We also have our unbelievably generous teachers like piano teacher Audrey Horowitz (5 years with the school) who has the largest studio at Dana V Music! She guides her students with a full schedule five days a week, while also working as a specialized paraprofessional for the local school district and running our fantastic Dana V Music Book Club.
Our teachers have contributed not only their knowledge, but also their time and ideas to help our school be the best it can be. I am always so extremely grateful that they found us.
- Dana V Music
- 901 Front St., Suite B150 in Louisville
- E-mail is [email protected]