A Kindermusik educator for 12 years now, Kylie Clift loves bringing music into the hearts and lives of Sydney-area families. Since the very beginning when she first opened Jim Jam Studios in 2006, Kylie’s #1 focus has been on making every student feel valued and special, accepted and celebrated for who they are. Lovingly known as Miss Kylie, her Kindermusik families describe her as “warm and enthusiastic,” someone whose “love of music education and her genuine belief in the benefits of music for children helps music to become an integral part of the Kindermusik families lives.” It’s no wonder that Jim Jam Studios is recognized by Kindermusik International as a MAESTRO studio.
TC: What do you love most about being a Kindermusik educator?
KC: The connections we make every day and the feeling of achievement when you see a child do something for the first time or connect with their parent during class. And every class is different! I get bored easily, and this is the longest career I have ever had – but it’s because I find new challenges all the time.
TC: Describe a special experience that has impacted you as a teacher.
KC: I had a beautiful mum who travelled over an hour each way to bring her children to my classes. At one point she came twice a week with her two children in different classes. She caught the train, made it part of their weekly routine. Through house moves, financial stress and a relationship breakdown, Kindermusik was the consistent thing in her children’s lives. She was part of our Jim Jam family and the last day when her daughter finished (had been coming since ‘in utero’) and was heading off to ‘big’ school, we both cried as it was the closing of a chapter and the start of a new one. She also made lifelong friends along the way.
TC: Why did you open Jim Jam Studios?
KC: I was looking for a music class to take my daughter to and there was nothing locally. I had to travel 30 minutes to a class, and it was pretty ordinary (obviously it wasn’t Kindermusik!). I had always been a singer and involved in music but music education was a new challenge for me but something I was really excited about. I originally started working for two other studios to focus on the curriculum and learning with the idea to open my own studio locally after 18 months-2 years. This turned out to be a great plan for me.
TC: What do you feel has made your studio business a success?
KC: My business went to the next level when I employed a admin assistant to handle phone calls and enrolments and do bits and pieces of other work for me. It was my weak spot and the one area I felt I was letting myself down. I decided to add 3 extra classes to teach each week to cover the cost of my admin as I would prefer to teach than do that and my numbers doubled in six months! So my best advice is to outsource what you cannot do yourself or what is not your strength.
TC: What makes your studio such a special place?
KC: It’s all about relationships for us. My intention when I started Jim Jam Studios was that no matter how big we got, every student would feel valued and special. I have taken my own children to lots of different activities where we are just a number, and they didn’t make an effort to build that relationship. We work hard to build strong connections right from the start. When families walk in our studio they see a friendly face. It is safe and warm, and children and adults are accepted and celebrated for who they are.
TC: If you had to name just one secret to success in the Kindermusik classroom, what would it be?
KC: Greet every child as they walk in the door, acknowledge them and make eye contact with them – it is gold and totally makes a difference to the way a class will go and how they will feel.
TC: What’s the funniest thing that’s ever happened to you as a Kindermusik teacher?
KC: We had a class about to start in one of our venues that was a church hall and a funeral company wheeled a coffin through the room to the church…we have a photo of our Kindermusik blanket with books and cuddly toys ready and then the coffin and pall bearers behind it…wasn’t what you expect to happen! I was teaching a class in a different venue at the time and was sent the photo on my phone.
TC: If you could share one tip with a new Kindermusik educator, what would it be?
KC: The first 12 months is the most challenging! Learning curricula, learning to teach small children and dealing with parents, this is the biggest learning curve – get through that and ask questions of your peers and learn from other educators as much as you can, there is so much knowledge in our Kindermusik Educator community.
TC: What’s something new and exciting that’s happening with your business?
KC: Last year we moved into new premises that are bigger which of course brings higher costs. My goal is to grow our Kindermusik program to 200 students but also offer arts programs after school so I can keep those Kindermusik students coming to the studio to either study music, art, drama or other arts programs through primary school. We are also looking at offering classes for special needs children and adults as there is a need in our community for this.
TC: Just for fun, what are some of your hobbies?
KC: I sing lead vocals in an 80’s tribute band called “Total Recall.” It’s so much fun singing “grown up” stuff after a week of playing and singing with children! My stage name is Sheena Branagan.
TC: And what are some of your most beloved Kindermusik songs and dances?
KC: “Zum Gali,” “Come All You PlayMates,” and “Mama Paquita.”
TC: What is your favorite inspirational quote?
KC: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” –Maya Angelou
Here is a beautiful tribute to Kylie from Melissa, one of the Kindermusik mums at Jim Jam Studios
Kylie beautifully honours each child’s individuality and identifies their learning style very quickly. She is very kind and patient with her students. Kylie relates so well to the kids that while she works with each child’s personality “quirks” to ensure they get the most they can out of every lesson, they just enjoy themselves. Kylie’s ability to so quickly identify and then honour my son’s personality and learning style was imperative to him maintaining his interest for his 4 years with Kindermusik. She was amazing with both my kids from day one and for the 8 years we attended her Jim Jam studio.
I now have two kids who are ahead of their peers with, and love both reading and maths. They enjoy listening to music and have dabbled with learning instruments. I have no doubt their Kindermusik years provided an incredible and solid foundation for their primary learning. So successfully, that when I asked my 6 year old about Kylie, she told me “She’s a nice teacher and I like it when we go in the bilibos. We didn’t do any music, we just had lots of fun.” She learnt so very much without even realising it!