We had the good fortune of connecting with Karali Hunter and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Karali, have there been any changes in how you think about work-life balance?
I like this question because I get it a lot. Besides being a business owner, I am also a wife, a mom of 2 young boys, a private piano teacher, as well as a member of a performing chamber group. I am ALWAYS busy. I mostly get this question from other women, who are trying to give themselves a little grace as they juggle the responsibilities that are all very important to them. For years I would immediately dismiss the idea of opening the music school for the reason that I couldn’t imagine adding another thing to my plate, and trying to keep it all going. So I guess my response to this questions is that there isn’t really a balance, in the traditional sense. Some days/weeks, I have to be all in on the business, and that means that my kids get less attention. Sometimes I feel the pull from my kids who need their mom, and I have to put business and practicing down to give them the time they need. And sometimes, honestly, all things feel a little out of whack, and they all pull equally hard. Those are the harder times. So instead of trying to maintain “balance” in all the facets of my life, I try to remain “centered” in who I am and the values that got me where I am. I try to take care of myself and my family first, because those are the things that allow me to feel joy and fulfillment in the other things. I don’t do the self-care and family time to the detriment of the business and performing, but when I feel healthy and centered in my priorities, then I have the energy, drive, and passion to tackle the rest. No one can do it all, and I rely heavily on my relationship with my spouse and other helpers in my life to keep me where I need to be (I absolutely have a nanny who helps with the kids and helps to keep my house in order).

Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
I am the owner and founder of Hammer & Strings Conservatory, a music school in Gilbert, AZ. We are a music school that focuses on elite training, but providing that training to anyone of any age. We only hire performing, masters level musicians or higher, and have several programs that set us apart. Over the years, I found that in the East Valley, there are several music schools, and of course thousands of teachers, but what I wasn’t finding a lot of was teachers that were focused on and really pushing the elite training that can help kids win competitions and successfully transition to university music programs. Having had success in that in my private teaching, I knew what it took to build a program like that, and I started looking for facilities, faculty, and instruments that could help us achieve that goal. Our motto is “Intentional Excellence”, and that is what we strive for in every facet of our company. Once we really started getting the word out there, the students started coming. We all know that there are many parents out there that just want their kids to experience lots of things like music and sports and clubs, but there are also students and parents out there who are more driven to be excellent at one or two things, and definitely value quality over quantity. That is who we appeal to, and who we try and attract with our advertising. The biggest challenge that I’ve found is that crazy world of advertising. It’s a real balance to know how to reach the clientele that you’re aiming for. The platform, the budget, the message, that is an entire job in and of itself that I hadn’t really prepared myself for. I’m still learning more everyday on what is effective, both for cost and time. I’ve also learned that even though this is a music business, we are really in the business of people. Setting up a student with a long-term mentor is quite a commitment, and you have to make someone feel safe and welcome before they will really open up and share their art with you. That is also the case with the parents. They have to feel like this is a safe, motivating and enriching environment for them to trust their children to our care.

Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Great question. I usually make sure they get a taste of some great Mexican food, I think this is one of the best places ever to find it. But I have too many favorites, and some people might say I’m not picky enough, so I’ll just leave it to your imagination. Also, this might seem really odd, but I would totally take them for a scorpion hunt at night! Most people that aren’t from here have never seen one, so if they are interested, I would take them out with a black light and a torch. 🙂 I know, its weird. We have some great hikes right in the middle of the cities here as well, which I love. Its great to get a Birdseye view of the city sprawl, and just experience the beautiful weather (most of the time). I also really love Payson and the Tonto Natural Bridge. Lots of bang for a small 1.5 hour drive. Totally different climate and atmosphere.

Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
There are a few I think. I absolutely want to shoutout to my husband, Matthew, who has been the impetus behind the music school. He had the idea years ago, but I wasn’t ready to consider it, and with our kids being so young, we both knew it wasn’t the time yet. But the idea was still there. He helped me find the location, he was totally on board with the financial investment that we both knew it would take, he acts as my CFO, and often is the school handyman. I can’t overemphasize what that kind of support can do for a person. I wouldn’t/couldn’t do it without him. I also want to shoutout to my mentor, Baruch Meir. He took me from a student pianist to a professional pianist and to a professional teacher as well. I am the piano teacher that I am today because of the things he taught/teaches me. He is now my son’s piano teacher. My other piano mentors throughout the years have also been a huge part of my story. And of course, my dear mother. As my own children grow, I marvel at what she did for me and my siblings, and the person she continues to be to us. There aren’t words. She’s a hero.

Website: www.hammerandstrings.com
Instagram: @hammerandstringsAZ
Linkedin: Karali Hunter
Facebook: @hammerandstringsAZ
Youtube: Hammer & Strings Conservatory

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