Reprinted from the Daily Breeze
Piano studio brings a younger crowd to Hermosa Beach pier
By Sandy Cohen
Hermosa Beach's Pier Plaza: Home to restaurants, bars galore. And dozens of singing and dancing kids?
One of the newest businesses on the pier is not like the others. It doesn't sell alcohol, has nothing to do with swimsuits and caters to children.
Emily's Piano Studio is a pocket of innocence on the party-drenched Hermosa Beach Pier.
But apparently it's a welcome one. After just a few months in business, studio owner Emily Baum, a former kindergarten teacher, has collected a devoted following of youngsters and parents happy to have a neighborhood place to make music. “All my niches kind of came together in one focus, which is music and children,” said Baum, 29. “That's what's so great about having this business. I'm living the American dream.”
For the past five years, the New Jersey native worked with children as a teacher with the Manhattan Beach and Palos Verdes Peninsula unified school districts and through private piano lessons offered at her Hermosa Beach home. At the end of the 1999-2000 school year, she took a leave of absence to pursue a master's degree, but decided instead to try her hand at running her own business. And she's discovered she's pretty good at it. “Business is the education I'm getting right now,” she said. “And I'm learning something new every day. ”Not many brand new entrepreneurs would choose to set up shop in one of the highest-profile — and highest-rent — areas in the South Bay. But Baum said it was a natural choice. “I wanted to start my business in the place it all began,” she said. “Sponda (coffee house) was the place it all began for me.”
It was New Year's Eve, 1994, when Baum first brought her innovative “musical storytime” to the now-defunct coffee house in Hermosa Beach. With scads of children's songs on tape and dozens of puppets and props, Baum entertained kids of all ages, from newborns and toddlers to preteens and their parents, urging them all to sing along. The event was a hit, and participants wanted more. So Baum started holding a free musical storytime regularly at the coffee shop and at Bright Beginnings & Beyond, a pregnancy-to-parenting education center in Redondo Beach. Soon she had a spate of regulars. Local parents began asking her to appear at birthday parties and moms' clubs. “I loved the fact that she was a kindergarten teacher,” said Lynette Miya, a women's health-care nurse and co-owner of Bright Beginnings & Beyond. “Her storytimes here went beautifully. The public really took to her.”
With these new fans, along with her regular piano students, Baum had established a clientele. So on a leap of faith, she opened Emily's Piano Studio on the Hermosa Beach Pier, right next to Fat Face Fenner's Fishack.
The studio looks like a kindergarten classroom where the focus is on music and fun. A multicolored carpet serves as a makeshift stage for storytime and other children's performances. There are buckets and buckets of children's books and toys. An upright piano sits alongside three keyboards, which eventually will be part of an electronic songwriting workshop. Photos, thank-you notes and other mementos dot the walls.
This is where Baum stages storytime, holds music and performance classes and teaches private lessons. And though her business is barely off the ground, Baum still offers free storytime at her studio on Saturdays.
“I like doing something for my community,” she said. “And kids need music.”
A Warm Welcome
City officials and local businesses have given Emily's Piano Studio a warm welcome. It's something different, they said, and that's a good thing, especially after the Hermosa Beach City Council imposed a temporary ban on new bars and restaurants on the Pier last year. Councilwoman Julie Oakes said it's “wonderful” to have a place on the pier that caters to children. “Obviously we don't want to be overrun with bars and restaurants,” she said. “I'm thrilled to have an interesting new use down there such as a little piano studio.”
Neighboring businesses are benefiting from Emily's Piano Studio as well. Gary Vincent, owner of Fat Face Fenner's Fishack, said Baum's clients have boosted his business. Parents drop off their children for a music lesson and stop into the restaurant for a cup of coffee or bowl of chowder. “We love it,” Vincent said. “Most of her clients come mid-week afternoons, and the Pier can benefit from having families down here. “It's the kind of diversity that adds a whole new dimension to a time slot that really needs it. It increases the foot traffic, which increases the potential for enhanced sales, whatever the product.”
Parents, too, said it's a pleasure to bring their children to the beach for piano lessons, especially with a teacher like Baum, who they say has a special chemistry with kids. “She's very energetic, yet she has a certain calmness about her that kids like,” said Felicia Borsari, 56, who brings her grandson, Jake, to storytime every week. “I feel good when I'm there. And I love that afterwards we can go have lunch and the kids can run around on the beach.” Kaye Saban first met Baum as a teacher in her daughter Courtney's kindergarten class at Point Vicente Elementary School in Rancho Palos Verdes. When Baum opened her studio, Saban quickly enrolled her two daughters — and herself — in piano lessons.
“She's just an inspiration,” Saban said. “She really loves music and it just shines through.” Six-year-old Courtney said she likes having her kindergarten teacher as a music instructor and she likes coming to the beach for lessons. But there's one thing she likes even more. “The coolest thing about being in this class is dancing,” said the curly-haired Courtney through a smile missing two front teeth. “Because I love to dance.” For more information about Emily's Piano Studio, visit www.pianolessonsbyemily.com.
Publish Date: Monday April 09, 2000