Sandy music studio finds success despite pandemic setbacksDec 02, 2022 05:55PM ● By Heather Lawrence
By Heather Lawrence | [email protected]
When Sandy resident Kristen Wray made her life plan, she didn’t foresee opening her own music studio or winning community awards, though both those things have happened. She minored in music in college and always had a piano student or two on the side, but she started out working as a dental hygienist.
“Word of mouth spread that I was teaching piano lessons in the basement of my house. I also did the choir at the elementary school and I’d have parents come up and ask me if I taught. It grew from there,” Kristen Wray said.
As her student roster grew over 25 years, Wray transitioned from cleaning teeth to teaching piano full time. With her daughter Addie teaching voice lessons and a new guitar teacher working with them, by 2020 the Wrays had 90 students coming through their house each week for music lessons.
Kristen Wray “wanted her house back” so despite her husband John’s initial protests, they decided to rent a music studio space on 1300 East near their home. It opened in March 2020—and then everything shut down.
“Three days from the time we moved in here, the Covid pandemic hit and we were not allowed to bring students into the studio,” John Wray said.
The Wrays quickly converted all their lessons to an online format. They weren’t sure what would happen next, but they ended up doubling their number of students.
“These kids were home from school in lockdown and bouncing off the walls. They needed a way to express themselves and process what was going on. Music teachers became another person kids at home could connect with, and music itself is a good outlet,” Kristen Wray said.
After six months of online lessons, they were back in their rented studio. But now it wasn’t big enough.
“We had completely outgrown the space by the time the shutdown was over. So I started thinking about a new space. We found one in the same shopping center that was bigger and could be renovated to fit our needs,” Kristen Wray said.
After months of careful thought and renovations, the Sandy Music Academy had their grand opening in August 2022. It boasts 10 soundproofed practice/teaching studios. There’s a drum studio with double soundproofing, a movement room for rehearsing music theatre and a performance hall that seats 60 people.
The opening coincided perfectly with recognition from the community. In April they won in the Resident’s Choice category of the One Sandy Awards. They were nominated by many people, one of whom was Chris Mazuran.
“Kristen’s studio has been a great place for my daughter to learn the piano. She actually enjoyed practicing because of the great training and support she received there. They do a great job and I am glad they continue to be an outstanding resource in Sandy,” Mazuran said.
The win made the Wrays want to do even better and keep giving to the community that supported them.
“When we received this award it was very validating. We feel the excitement and the joy from our students,” John Wray said.
As their studio grew, so did their teaching staff. They now offer piano, voice, guitar, drums, cello, violin and other instruments. Though lessons are fun and tailored to their students, they have high standards for their teachers. John Wray has taken over the hiring of new teachers, who are all trained at the collegiate level.
Kristen Wray said those high standards paired with flexibility and a desire to inspire are what has made them a success.
“We still hammer on method and technique, but we don’t do cookie-cutter lessons where everyone needs to play and master the same thing. I want these students to leave here inspired with music. I want them to have music be a part of their life for as long as possible,” Kristen Wray said.
Behind it all is a love for music and a desire to help students have music in their lives in whatever way it helps them.
“When I first started, parents would call me because they had heard that I made music lessons fun. We’re flexible and believe that everyone can be inspired by learning music.
“We have older students who have retired and now have time to practice. They want music in their lives because it brings them joy or keeps their minds sharp. We have students who have autism or are blind and need specially designed instruction. Our student body is diverse, and we love that. Everyone is welcome here,” Kristen Wray said.
Kristen Wray loves to see students come running in to see their teachers, saying they love them and that they are excited to tell them and show them things. “It’s more worthwhile and rewarding than I ever dreamed,” she said.
Addie Wray agrees that her mom’s approach is motivating to students and teachers. It has helped them find their niche in the community. It’s time with a warm human being who isn’t on their phone or distracted—they are focused on their student.
“We’re focused on the individual. We want to make sure everyone knows that they’re unique and special,” she said. “We don’t want to make a cookie-cutter musician because everybody’s got something different to bring.”
Sandy Music Academy is located at 10297 S. 1300 East and can be reached by calling 385-342-0198 or emailing [email protected].