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Daily Inspiration: Meet Natalie Huggins

Today we’d like to introduce you to Natalie Huggins .

Hi Natalie, so excited to have you with us today. What can you tell us about your story?
I was always a free-spirited artistic child. I started dancing in 2nd grade and fell in love with music & movement. While at my grandma’s house in 1993, I heard my cousin Julie playing “Heart and Soul” on the piano. I was curious about this instrument and learning the left-hand part, so I asked my mother to enroll me in piano lessons. At piano lessons, I had a teacher & friend who wasn’t my parent, peer, or school teacher but someone with that I could be my fullest expressive self and share my love for music.

I began writing music shortly after I began piano lessons. I took home a guitar from my Granny’s house when I was 10 and learned how to play it independently. Around this time, I started listening to Madonna, Mariah Carey, No Doubt, The Smashing Pumpkins, and TLC, all of whom influenced the music I write today.

Throughout elementary and middle school, I continued my relationship and love with music, singing in the choir and taking piano lessons. While in high school, I joined the show choir and combined my love for performance, singing, and dancing. When I was 17 and a senior in high school, I began to take on my first piano students consisting of kids in my neighborhood. In 2001 and 2 girlfriends formed our first band, and I quickly fell in love with the music community in St. Louis. I spent most of my formative adult life frequenting music venues and absorbing local & national music.

In 2003 I graduated high school and was off to study music at Webster University. The music school was not what I expected, and I quickly found all my weaknesses as a musician. I also found that to be successful at University standards, you had to practice 3-4 hours a day, and I found it hard to balance school, work, and social life. I failed many classes, and during my sophomore year, I almost quit entirely. Luckily I had amazing teachers that encouraged me to stay. These teachers I am still in contact with today express my gratitude for their belief in me, even if I didn’t fit into the classical mold. I still finished most of the requirements of a Bachelor of Arts in Music degree in 2007, teaching lessons to about 10 kids and maintaining a part-time retail job.

In 2008 I made things official and got an LLC for Miss Natalie’s Piano & Vocal Studio. After finishing school, I found myself in a new band called, The Bureau. We played around St. Louis and took a week-long tour from St. Louis to Detroit. It was a blast, and through the relationships in that band, I landed a job at The Pageant Nightclub. There I held many positions, including management, retail, and booking. My experience there nurtured my love for live music and gave me the operational skills to manage the business I run today. While working at the pageant, I became pregnant with my son, Isaac.

From 2012-2014 I managed about 4 part-time jobs teaching music at the School of Rock. Villa di Maria Montessori as an assistant to a college prep music program at Webster University and booking for Pagan Productions, in addition to my own business and going back to school in 2011 to finish my degree. It was a lot to balance while raising a toddler. I honestly don’t know how I did it, but I knew I had to continue to work in the music business doing what I love, and I had no other choice but to provide for my son.

In 2015 I was offered a position playing keys in the ’80s cover band that would allow me to let go of 4 of my part-time jobs. I accepted and severed responsibilities of my part-time job quickly told by the band that members “didn’t feel comfortable playing with women.” That position was no longer available to me. I fully dove into my own business and began teaching more students. At one point, I had about 40 students on my roster.

After the loss of my mother in 2015, I began to practice Yoga and found many benefits to myself as a mother, teacher, and musician. I enrolled in Urban Breath’s 200-hour Teacher Training and graduated the following year. I taught classes here and there for about 2 years before pressing pause to focus on other aspects of my life.

As I write this, I have been fully self-employed for 7 years. I have niched my studio to include families whose love language is music and students who need a place to express themselves fully and creatively. Students are active decision-makers in what they play or sing, and as their teacher, I focus on creativity and pleasure over fitting them in any box. The studio is capped at 20 students, allowing me to focus my energy and attention on each student’s needs. I am passionate about what I do and believe I have the best job in the world, and I made it. Over the pandemic, I had to pivot my business online through Zoom. It was not an ideal situation, but I believe music has healing powers, and it is what myself and the families I serve needed during that time. We persevered and played on.

I have performed with some amazing bands, including Summer Magic, Kid Scientist, Sleepy Kitty, Joan of Dark, and The Bureau. I have 4 recordings, including my first full-length record, Split Oceans. I have had the opportunity to play at most venues in St. Louis. Current venues like Off Broadway, The Pageant, Ready Room, Old Rock House, and former venues like Cicero’s, Creepy Crawl, Hi-Pointe, and Foam. I have played festivals like the RFT Music Showcase and Cinco de Mayo on Cherokee Street.

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall, and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
I have experienced many struggles and obstacles on this journey. I almost failed college my sophomore year. Sometimes my schedule can be unpredictable and not fit the 9-5 model. Often I look at corporate life and wonder if I should give up my lifestyle for a more concrete life. I keep a Linkedin profile for when the urge gets real and look at available jobs and realize, Nah, I got it good, and keep on. I was only 24 and unmarried when I gave birth and have been a single parent for my son’s entire life. Parenting in itself is hard, but single parenting is its beast. Balancing parenting, chores, self-care, teaching, creating new music, and administrative tasks can get overwhelming. I feel blessed to have a yoga practice of tools that can regulate my body and mind, a therapist to help guide me, and a great group of strong independent women in my friend circle who can lift me when I am dragged down.

Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your work?
With lessons, I look at the whole child: emotional, physical, spiritual, and behavioral attributes to nurture and grow their experience with music so they can have a creative outlet for their thoughts, emotions, and feelings. In the studio, we view music education as a lifelong asset and skill set. Sessions are student-led, meaning the teacher asks the student to make choices on songs and reflect on practice & performance. We learn current and classic music, maintain an inventory of different styles and genres, creating well-rounded musicianship. Students have personalized attention that nurtures growth and critical inquiry. Young musicians are asked to define their experiences, feelings, and thoughts during their time together, creating a safe place to develop an artistic process. Emotional, critical, and tangible attributes are highlighted, and a growth mindset is encouraged. Lessons in the studio are personal and meaningful, bringing the love of music, it is healing, and communal possibilities in your own home. I work best with families who see the value in music education as a lifelong asset and can picture their musician studying for 3+ years. Young musicians come to the studio to learn their favorite songs and leave feeling confident and secure in who they are as musicians. As a recording artist & performer, I let my songs simmer and practice them regularly so I get to know them before I lay them down in the studio.

Can you share something surprising about yourself?
There is a flip side to being an independent artist and business owner: loneliness. There aren’t many I can talk to daily to vent about my work, especially since it is uniquely mine. I have a network of other professionals to reach out to for support. My work is extremely vulnerable, intimate, and emotional and requires a lot of energy and time to process. I use meditation, therapy, yoga, walks, and dance to help me process.

Contact Info:

Image Credits
#1 Personal Photo #2 Laura Girresch #3/4 Amanda Nutter #5-8 Shannon K. Dougherty

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