Meet Jennifer Woda
We are really excited to introduce you to this week’s Meet a Mom feature, Jennifer Woda, Co-Owner of Sing & Swing, a top spot for infant & children’s music classes in Northeast Ohio! From babyhood through the early elementary years, Music Together nurtures each child’s natural musicality in a playful, musically rich learning environment. Our research-based music classes are designed to be non-formal and non-performance oriented, so your child can learn at his or her own pace, in a way that’s developmentally appropriate.
And Jennifer knows music! Not only does she have a master’s degree in Vocal Performance, but she’s also been teaching Music Together at Sing & Swing for 11 years! She brings that love of music and experience every day to her classes, which are plentiful throughout the East & West sides of Cleveland. You won’t want to miss these exciting and educational classes for your children!! Registration is happening now, so follow the link at the bottom and register your child today!!
Where are you originally from and what is your background?
I grew up in Cleveland Heights and graduated from CHUH High School class of 1989!!! I started Rutgers University as a pre-med student, but quickly switched to music and graduated with a BA in Music in 1993. After graduation, I taught 7/8th grade music in Akron Public Schools! I followed that up with a master’s degree in Vocal Performance from the University of Akron! I am a mezzo-soprano and have performed with Cleveland Opera, Cleveland Opera Theater & The Cleveland Opera (yes those are three different companies!) plus many local theaters including Cleveland Public Theater.
Where do you live and how long have you lived in this area?
Live in Cleveland Heights. Have been here my whole life except college. 🙂 It’s pretty tough to find somewhere else like it in the world.
What is your current profession?
Been teaching Music Together since 2008. Co-Director of Sing and Swing. Have presented at conferences for Music Together Worldwide as well. I am a Certification II level Music Together teacher.
I love teaching Music Together because it is a combination of my favorite things: singing, children, and teaching. These classes are pure joy. It really is the perfect job for me.
Tell me about your family.
I have an almost 17 year old named Maya who is a sophomore at Cleveland School of the Arts and a 11 year old named Madelyn who is in fifth grade at Noble Elementary. My husband of 23 years, Brian Thornton, is a cellist with the Cleveland Orchestra. We met when I was singing in the Cleveland Orchestra Chorus and he waited to meet me after a concert. In his tux. 😉
What is your favorite thing(s) about living in Cleveland?
The arts scene, the cost of living, the friendly people, the ability to travel, the fabulous restaurants, the sports teams, my family is here
What is the one thing people would be surprised to learn about you?
I’m getting a new kidney…on Thursday. Yes, really. I’m scheduled for a kidney transplant on September 12th. My donor is a fellow opera singer who saw me asking for a kidney on Facebook about 18 months ago and got tested and was a match! (Jennifer is actually 13 months post-op and is doing great since this Meet a Mom originally posted!)
How did you know you wanted to own your own business?
My background is in Music Education, but I hadn’t been teaching for a while. I was invited by a friend to attend the Music Together Teacher training. It was a life-changing weekend. I love the curriculum because it’s research-based and developmentally appropriate, and the music is good quality in-tune music with real singers and real instruments. The company is very supportive and positive and its mission statement is “To make the world a better place by making it more musical.” What could be better than that?
After that weekend of training, I knew this would be my life’s work. It has been a real joy for the last 11 years and I am looking forward to getting back to it after I heal from my surgery. 🙂
What makes Sing and Swing different from the others?
One of the main differences that Music Together has from other early childhood music and movement programs is our mixed ages classes. Families can bring all their children to the same class for a true Family Music Making experience.
What ages are your classes geared towards?
Mixed ages classes are for children birth-five with parent or caregiver.
We also have a Rhythm Kids program for children 4-5 with a parent (Level 1) or 5-8 drop off (Level 2)
How did you grow your business to multiple locations in the NEO area?
We offer free classes throughout the year at different locations, we post on Facebook and IG and Twitter, we have an email list that we send announcements to. Our families are our greatest resource, however. They love our classes and refer their friends.
Why is it so important to introduce children at an early age to music?
What have you found rewarding about teaching or offering Music Together?
When parents come to recognize musical behaviors in their children. When parents use music as a parenting tool to make their lives easier. When the babies come sit and sing with me. All the hugs. Watching the kids grow up into little musicians.
How can people sign up?
Sign up for a free demo class or register for a session of classes online at www.singandswingneo.org
What is the biggest resource you have used to help make your business successful?
My families. They really help me get the word out about how great these classes are. Also, my teaching staff are all as passionate as me about what we do and super loving. They all have different energy and different personalities, but they all teach a great class.
Where do you hope your business will be in 10 years?
I hope we continue to grow and share the joy of family music with the families of the Greater Cleveland Area. There are so many wonderful activities for families out there. I hope the families who want to sing with their kids choose to come sing with us. 🙂
What is your proudest accomplishment?
Sing and Swing accomplishment: growing from 5 families when we started to 200 families served in a session.
Personal accomplishment: Hopefully, raising these girls. 🙂
What was your biggest failure?
More of a disappointment than a failure: I was unable to get pregnant. Tried for five years. But, it’s is not a failure because it led me to becoming an adoptive mom of two sweet babies who have grown into amazing young women. I can’t wait to see where life takes them.
What is the one thing you’re most passionate about?
SING WITH YOUR KIDS! DANCE WITH YOUR KIDS! Everyone is musical. You don’t have to be a professional. Music makes us happy, connects us to each other and creates communities. Find your inner musician and sing, dance, rock out…invite your friends.
Can you give us one pearl of wisdom, the one thing you wish more people knew?
Opera is just musical theater with more instruments, more drama and louder voices. Go see one. Nothing beats a live performance.
How do you juggle being a mom and a business owner?
It helps that my kids are in school during the day and my husband is a very involved Dad. But I have had to step away in the middle of things to respond to a call or a text sometimes. I try to delegate specific times to work on the business when I am not disrupting their schedule, but of course I always feel like there is more to do for Sing and Swing. I forgive myself for not getting through the whole to do list sometimes.
If you could tell your younger self something, what would it be?
Go to the gym before you have kids and you have the time.
What’s the best payoff about owning your own business?
I always say I have the best job in the world: I sing with babies. The business part of it is just to facilitate me finding more babies to sing with. I like that I can do what I love and contribute to the family income.
Advice or resources for someone who wants to open their own business?
Make sure you are truly passionate about what you want to sell. Then the other work will be easier to get through. Ask for help when you need it. Network. Don’t talk badly about competitors, there’s room for all of us. Look for mentors.
Last question – is there anyone special you’d like to thank for helping you through parenthood?
My co-parent, Brian, shares 100% with all parenting duties. We make it possible for each of us to meet our professional goals. My parents and in-laws who are very involved with my children’s lives. We are so lucky to have four amazing grandparents in our children’s lives. My childrens’ birth mothers for trusting us to raise them.
To learn more about Sing & Swing or to register for a local class, please check out the links below or contact Jennifer with questions at firstname.lastname@example.org
Register online! (https://singandswingneo.org/register.aspx)
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