Making music for monkeys everywhere
Angie Coates, 45 from Hertfordshire, knew she had more to give to the world of music and left her job as a teacher to launch Monkey Music, music classes for preschool children.
by Colleen Reid, Mindful Mum, 7th December 2011
For Angie, it never even entered her mind that she might not pursue music as a career when she first picked up an instrument. Like many children, her musical history starts with the recorder. Though not being overly keen on persevering with it, it founded the beginning of a deep passion with music. She says, “I remember one day I went home to my mum saying I was the only girl, funnily enough, in the recorder group and asking if I could give it up. She said, ‘No you can’t because you gave up Brownies last week!’ And I said, ‘Oh, okay then’ and I stuck with the recorder, then went onto the clarinet and then onto the oboe which then I took right through to make a career and started to teach.”
This memory has stuck with her throughout her adult years and is something she’s always passed on to her children. She explains, “With my own children, when they say ‘Oh can I give up…’ I always say no you can’t because you never know where it’s going”. Instilling commitment in her children has not gone unnoticed however, her eldest daughter Millie, 19, was offered a 100% scholarship to one of the countries leading music schools.
The very first monkey
It was Millie’s initial engagement with music that spurred Angie to make music accessible to very young children. Angie wanted her daughter to enjoy music as much as her pupils at school were. Millie was just a baby when Angie left her job as Head of Music at a London Prep school to launch Monkey Music. As the first ‘monkey’, Millie and a group of friends became the test group for a range of music classes that were soon to sweep the nation.
Monkey Music was launched in 1992 and was an overnight success, though the process from leaving teaching to launching the business wasn’t the easiest. Angie explains, “I’ve been really lucky in life that things seem to have happened to me quite young. On a certain level, I’ve always been quite naive, which is quite handy because if you’re a little bit naive about things, sometimes you follow your heart and your passion without questioning it as much as you would do if your were more mature or older.” Angie got into music school when she was 18 years old and at just 22, found herself as Head of Music.
“Being Head of Music and bringing a child up, is quite restricting time wise on your schedule if you have a job that’s quite demanding day in day out. Being my own boss, I was able to work around when she went to sleep in the evenings, or when my Mum came and had her, I could work out my own schedule. It’s more flexible being my own boss.” says Angie.
Financially, Angie managed to keep her family afloat by teaching the oboe privately and had the opportunity to grow the business bit by it on the side. She decided to move her family out of busy London and back to her hometown of Harpenden in Hertfordshire where she had four more daughters, Georgia (now)15, Sophia 13, Darcey seven and Gracie May, five.
Music has multiple benefits
Monkey Music franchised across the UK in 1998 and is constantly growing with new teachers launching classes for preschoolers all of the time. “Very early exposure to music benefits children enormously, especially in an environment like in Monkey Music when often, a close carer brings them along. Obviously, doing something together every week is immediately beneficial. Music is engaging and their brains are very active allowing development in all areas.” says Angie.
Today, over 15,000 babies are attending Monkey Music classes every week. This, along with many prestigious awards, is something Angie holds as one of her greatest achievements in the business. She says, “To encourage such a sense of commitment from such a huge number of great people to monkey music, it’s something every day I think I’m lucky to have been able to build.”
For other parents thinking of launching a business, Angie says you have to be committed to your idea 100% and believe in it 200%. As long as you’re prepared for the hard work, she suggests to give it a try and see where it takes you.
“Running a business is with you 24 hours a day. When you run a business, you’re with it all day every day and there’s no escape really. But it’s not a burden because I love what I do and I think that far outweighs anything that comes along that’s not such a joy. It’s not all rosy and there certainly difficult and challenging times but I love what I do and the company of the people I work with and that’s a great thing!”
For more information on Monkey Music and to find out about classes in your area, visit their website.