Welcome to Chicago North Shore Mom’s once weekly Meet a Mom series, where we feature and celebrate local mamas in hopes to elevate and inspire… you!
“I am learning to get more comfortable with the uncomfortable feelings of not always knowing what comes next,” confesses Erin Lonergan, co-owner of Twelve Tone Music School in Glenview. The proud Peoria born and raised entrepreneur now lives in Skokie with her two littles and husband. Erin’s life-long background in classical piano, the fiddle and now guitar inspired her to leave a long-standing career in college grant management and take the entrepreneurial leap to try something daring and scary – owning a studio! Erin composes for us a super (and easy and important) mom hack, current favorite apps and podcasts local jaunts around the North Shore and a really awesome way to help your budding musician stick to it. Welcome, Erin!
Where are you from originally and how long have you lived in town? What brought you to your current town?
I was born and raised in Central Illinois in a town called Peoria, Illinois. It is an awesome town along the Illinois River, with an amazing food/entertainment/art scene and riverfront area. There are also superior hospitals and it is the home base of Caterpillar. It is 3 hours southwest of Chicago. I lived there my whole life until college. I went to Iowa State University (Go State!) and moved to Chicago after graduating purely to live in a big city. I knew no one and met my roommate on a website that I don’t think even exists anymore. I lived in Boystown at first and then all over Chicago for 5 years. I eventually ended up working at Northwestern University in Evanston. This is when I met John Lonergan and we started dating. He lived in Evanston and that is how I ended up moving north of the city to be closer to him and closer to work too. When I was pregnant with my second child, Marie, we bought a house in Skokie because we wanted 3 bedrooms. We have lived in Skokie for almost 7 years now.
You’re a mama! How many kiddos do you have and how old are they?
I have an 8 year-old son, John, who is in 3rd grade and a 5 year-old daughter, Marie, who is in kindergarten.
What’s your favorite thing about being a mom? What is one mom “hack/tip” that makes your everyday life a little easier?
My favorite thing about being a mom is how much I have learned about myself and about how to be more patient and understanding of other people and their challenges or disabilities. I am still trying to figure out my kids, trying to learn as much as I can each day about what makes me the way that I am and what makes them the way that they are. I am always seeking out advice and knowledge on how to best help them succeed and advocate for their needs in a very complicated world. I have been challenged in ways that I never would have anticipated. It isn’t easy, but it is worth it. On a more positive note, I am excited and hopeful to be able to give them everything I didn’t get as a kid, I think that is everyone’s main goal.
Best mom hack or tip for our specific family is just to tell my kids that I love them every day before bed and many other times as well, but ALWAYS before bed. Even if we had a rough day, I want them to know that I love them before they go to bed. There is really nothing else more important than that to me. Also, I am trying to be more relaxed in general, ha ha.
Least favorite mom job?
Anything that involves preparing food, I don’t enjoy cooking or cleaning the kitchen, or planning to cook or clean the kitchen, etc. I don’t like changing sheets either….
What is one thing people would be surprised to know about you?
I was a varsity cheerleader in high school, if anyone really knows me they would never believe that! I am fairly introverted and don’t like watching sports at all, bad combo for a cheerleader. I was also not in the in-crowd in high school at all, but I was a tumbler and dancer, that is why I joined.
What is your favorite app right now?
My favorite app right now is the “Motivate” app. It is an app that has all kinds of motivational videos, songs, speeches, and quotes. Some of the videos are intense and I use it mostly when I am severely lacking in motivation/ambition or am feeling scared to do something. I also use it to run to because I am trying to get into running and the app helps motivate me to do that.
If you listen to podcasts, what are your top 3 faves?
I don’t listen to any consistently, but just finished the “Long May They Run” a music documentary about Phish (amazing!), Song Exploder – “where musicians take apart their songs and tell the story of how they were made”, as I love learning about where lyrics and melodies come from, and My Favorite Murder, “a true crime comedy podcast”.
Oh, I’ve never heard of those, great recs! For our out-of-town guests, what are your favorite local places to spend with the family?
I am definitely a homebody, but I love the Skokie Public Library or Bookends and Beginnings in Evanston because I love reading myself and reading with my kids or just browsing. Brothers K Coffee Shop in Evanston is the best for coffee. Bennison’s Bakery in Evanston has the best donuts. River Trail Nature Center in Northbrook has a great outdoor and indoor play area. Penny Park in Evanston is a super cool playground that is built like the wood one I had growing up in Peoria. L.Woods Tap Restaurant in Lincolnwood for family dinners.
What was your most memorable family vacation and why?
We went to Banff Canada with our kids when they were 3 and 5 and introduced them to skiing. It was their first time on a plane and their first time and my first time skiing and to Canada. It was the most beautiful place. It was a difficult trip at times because the kids were so young, but it was just majestically beautiful and I hope to one day go back there.
You are a mompreneur! Tell us about your business!
My husband and I own Twelve Tone Music School in Glenview! We are a music school that offers both group and private lessons on guitar, bass guitar, piano/keyboard, drums, voice, and fiddle. We also offer the ability for more advanced students to join a “band” and perform outside events. The beginner/intermediate students can join a “jam class”, which is like a band, but more relaxed and casual and performs on our in-house stage.
We are now introducing a kids singing group called Sing and Groove and have an Intro to Music class for kids aged 5-7 who get to try out all the instruments before they know which one they want to pursue.
We have a group of 25 teachers and 10 lesson rooms so there have plenty of class times and flexibility, which is great for busy parents. We have an in-house stage so we will be providing concert/recital opportunities on a monthly basis starting in February 2020.
We don’t just focus on “rock” music, but teach all kinds of genres from jazz to rock to current popular hits and songwriting. We are focused on building a community of teachers and customers that really get to know each other and help push the boundaries of what is possible for kids learning music.
Music is such a wonderful outlet! What was/is the inspiration behind owning a music school?
Well, it’s a little complicated; it always is, am I right?! I was a Biology major at Iowa State, but ended up ultimately working at Northwestern University for over a decade in several positions, but mostly as a grant manager. It is a position that manages research grants for professors, helps them apply for grants, budgets, and does progress reporting and communicating with the federal government and foundations about any changes in scope, budget, personnel, etc. I did this job while my husband built his first business, Big Blue Swim School, which he is the co-founder of, and was the CEO for the past 10 years. When he decided to pursue another business opportunity, we searched out many options. Ultimately, we ended up deciding on a music school (one of my true passions in life) and we decided to do the business together this time around!
My music background: I spent 12 years of my childhood taking piano lessons and it was a big part of my life growing up. It was something that made me feel special and unique because none of my friends played any instruments, and my brother didn’t either. I was classically taught, but always dreamed of writing my own music and playing in a band.
When my son, John, was just 5/6 years old, we started searching for music schools for him. We weren’t finding any instructors that were able to really connect with him and motivate him. Yes, I was able to teach him at home, but we really wanted to immerse him in a music school with instructors and a community of musicians. We wanted him to experience playing music with others and not just by himself. When I did music, theatre and dance as a child, I made tons of friends, and felt part of a community and we were looking for exactly that for John.
This sense of community is what we strive to provide the students at Twelve Tone! Community really helps to keep up motivation and, simply put, it’s more fun! Learning music should be fun and positive for everyone. What we have at Twelve Tone is an amazing group of instructors who are fantastic at working with kids and helping them find the style of music and instrument(s) that inspires them. Many of our teachers are multi-instrumentalists and are constantly learning more and more every day, themselves.
That’s a powerful story. Thinking back over the last couple of years, what are some of your proudest moments with your business where you said “wow, I did that”?
Basically just the fact that I am doing this business, on my part, is HUGE. I previously had more structured jobs at bigger companies and ended up marrying someone who has entrepreneurship in his DNA. I am learning to get more comfortable with the uncomfortable feelings of not always knowing what comes next.
As a music guru, what advice do you have for future musicians, especially the young ones?
Learning an instrument can be challenging, but most people don’t grow up and feel glad that they quit piano, guitar, drums, whatever it may have been. It helps a child when a parent is interested and involved, even just a tiny bit. If you say, “teach me the chord or something you learned at your lesson,” your child will most likely want to show you and it will spark an interest in wanting to play and practice and keep going. This could take just 10 minutes. You will also have more understanding of how challenging it can be and it is a great way to bond doing something a little different. I would also recommend sharing some of your favorite songs with your kids, age-appropriate of course, and finding out what their favorite songs are as well.
Being a working mother is a constant struggle for that work/life balance. How important is it for you to have this endeavor outside of being a mother?
I think it’s so important! For example, I recently learned how to play the song “The Hill” from the musical “Once” over holiday break. It is something that I can play for my kids and gives me a sense of pride that I accomplished it in a short time. I am excited to start playing music with my kids now that they are taking lessons and learning more each week. It is super fun to do as a family and can be done in good weather and bad!
When parenting gets hard, what’s something you tell yourself that gets you through?
Quote from “Les” Brown: “No matter how bad it is, or how bad it gets, I’m going to make it.”
What’s on the horizon for your business? Future aspirations, plans….
We are moving forward with creating a schedule that can accommodate busy parents, as we understand how that goes. We are creating lesson times that coincide with jam class times so parents can do both, but come just once a week for 90 minutes. We have also created several small group lesson options for beginners to intermediate skill levels that are more affordable and convenient. We’re currently busy planning many more events for 2020 so stay tuned!
We hope you’ll reach out and give Twelve Tone a try. Mention CNSM to receive $50 off your first month of music lessons! And think of us for your child’s summer camp plans! We offer two programs: “Intro to Music” for the little ones ages 5-7 and “Rock and Jam” for the bigs age groups 7-12 and 13-17.
Twelve Tone Music School is located at 1742 Glenview Rd. in Glenview. Call 847-901-7161 for information about our lessons, we’d love to chat!