Bungalow Music School hits the right notes: an interview with founder Caroline Lazar

Bungalow Music School is enjoying success after opening nearly two years ago during a pandemic. In fact, the school just expanded to Nashville and hopes to have instructors in Austin by the end of the year.

The local and online music school celebrates the successes of its students with its second summer showcase on June 4 at the Greenpoint Library. In addition, Bungalow offers the first summer camp this year at pirate studios (110 Scott Ave) in Bushwick.

Caroline Lazar, founder of Bungalow Music School and a musician herself, spoke with green pointers on the school’s success with virtual classes, showcase and summer camp.

A student from Bungalow Music School learns to play the keyboard. Photo: Bungalow Music School

Green pointers: Bungalow Music School is thriving, even during a pandemic. You clearly know what you are doing. Have you always dreamed of opening a music school?

Caroline Lazar: Well, yes, I think I have. I’ve been taking music lessons since I was four or five years old. My grandmother was a piano teacher. After the piano, I started singing, saxophone and comedy. Music has become my universe.

Then I went to music school and got a music business degree. I came to New York to pursue my own art, but I’ve always loved children. I got teaching jobs at schools in Brooklyn and Manhattan, but I felt the principals were disconnected from the music teachers. They didn’t seem to understand what the teachers needed. Most teachers are also musicians. Sometimes musicians get a gig and they have to go to the gig and can’t teach on certain days.

Green pointers: What do you think is the most special thing about Bungalow Music School?

Lazar: Teachers! The basis of Bungalow’s mission is to have great teachers. I wanted the school to have musical teachers and I wanted to be flexible with them. When the pandemic started, everyone lost their jobs. But, I found a hack to help you: virtual lessons! Bungalow Music School was completely virtual for the first six months.

Green pointers: Bungalow offers virtual classes, as well as classes at students’ homes. Do you plan to have a studio in the future or does this method work too well?

Lazar: I find that most parents prefer people to come to their house. This makes more sense than dragging your child to a 30 minute lesson somewhere else. In Nashville, having a physical school will be a consideration.

Green pointers: Do virtual music lessons really work as well as in-person lessons?

Lazar: I think they do! I am constantly impressed by the students and their development. The children adapt so well. I think there was more of a learning curve for the teachers. One student, who lives in Brooklyn, has only ever taken online classes and has come so far. But it depends on the student. Some children cannot sit there.

Green pointers: What made you choose the name Bungalow?

Lazar: Deciding on the name was stressful. I wanted the name to evoke an image of community. I wanted it to feel inclusive. I actually went to the website and searched for ‘the most beautiful words’ and ‘bungalow’ came up. The word “bungalow” refers to a place and a house. I thought it worked well because I want people to feel at home at Bungalow and the instructors to go to other people’s homes. Everything revolves around the house.

A student from Bungalow is learning the piano. Photo: Bungalow Music School

Green pointers: This is the first year that Bungalow has offered a summer camp. Tell us more.

Lazar: Summer camp is a loose term. It’s an extended session with your peers. Many students did not collaborate with other students. Personally, I have never liked working and playing alone, so I want children to have the experience of working with others.

The camp will run from July 5 to July 22. It will take place at Pirate Studios (110 Scott Ave.) in Bushwick, where I do my rehearsals.

The first week is intensive in songwriting. Weeks two and three will include a DIY rock band camp for older kids. If you’ve taken keyboard lessons, you can be in the keyboard band, while a guitar student will be on guitar. For the youngest, the next two weeks will be devoted to exploring the instruments.

Green pointers: What is the summer showcase?

Lazar: It’s a recital. I use the word ‘showcase’ instead of ‘recital’ so the kids don’t panic. Kids don’t like that word. “Recital” sounds boring and stiff. Many children get nervous playing in front of a crowd. Especially after two years spent behind a screen! I thought maybe playing outside would be easier. I am very honest with my students. I asked them if they preferred to have the showcase in a concert hall on a stage or in a park. They all said park!

Last year we had our first showcase at McGolrick Park. It was the first time I had seen children in person. It was a celebration of children’s music. I want to continue with this goal this year too. This year we are doing the showcase in the garden of the Greenpoint Library. I hope it will look like a party.

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