An Interview with Lisa Badal, Founder of Orchestra Academy

interview series on suttida yang's blog

For this week’s interview, I reached out to Lisa Badal. One thing that I loved so much about being able to feature Lisa is that she aligns so well with the rest of my readers who are interested in starting their own business and side hustles. At any given time she juggles 4-5 profitable side hustles while also handling the SAHM duties on top of it all. 

As for some quick background on how we met, Lisa and I have known each other since middle school, and lost touch after high school. But on a fateful day when I was looking for piano lessons, she happened to have some room in her private studio. I reached out and for the past two years, we’ve become the best of friends, empowering and encouraging each other to pursue our business aspirations. 

So, keep on reading to learn more about Lisa and how she is able to run multiple side hustles while also being present at home with her three kids and husband.

1. Lisa’s Bio

Lisa Badal is the founder of the Orchestra Academy, a Monday orchestra program in School District 27J. She also runs her own private music studio and accompanies the choirs at Prairie View High School. She has a Bachelor of Music in K-12 Instrumental Education with a String Emphasis from Brigham Young University. She has played professionally on both of her primary instruments—violin and piano—and has adjudicated several festivals and competitions. She has been married for 15 years and has 3 kids, ages 11, 9, and 6.

2. What is Orchestra Academy and what made you decide to start it?

The Orchestra Academy is a Monday orchestra program in School District 27J. We have weekly rehearsals and I also provide online videos to help students practice at home. The Orchestra Academy is in its second year and has three orchestras—Beginning, Intermediate, and Advanced. Students sign up by the semester and we end the semester with a concert to show off their hard work.

Our school district had no orchestra programs and was the only district in the Denver Metro Area without orchestra programs.  When I moved into the area, I was shocked that students had no opportunities to learn string instruments. I received my degree in K-12 Instrumental Education with a String Emphasis, but at the time I was just teaching private lessons out of my home. At this time, I decided that I wanted to do something about the lack of orchestra programs, but I had no idea what to do or how to do it.

Years later, our district switched to a 4-day school week and announced that our kids would have all Mondays off. This came as quite a shock to the community, and amidst the confusion, I realized that this was the perfect chance to start an orchestra program in the district.  There would be a whole school district full of kids with nothing to do on Mondays, and I could teach them to play string instruments.

After meeting with school officials for approval, the Orchestra Academy was born. I had no idea if anyone would even sign up, but I went from school to school, showing the students the instruments and spreading the word.  That first semester I was hoping to get at least 10 students—instead, I had 27. The Orchestra Academy is in its second year and we now have 55 students enrolled.

3. What has been the biggest challenge with Orchestra Academy and the biggest achievement?

The biggest challenge with the Orchestra Academy was really just trying to create something out of nothing. There were many roadblocks and issues when I didn’t know what the right next step would be.

I really had no example to emulate. I know a lot of school orchestra teachers who see many students 5 days a week and I know a lot of private teachers who see their students one-on-one 1 day a week, but I am the only one I know trying to combine both.

Even though I had experience with teaching, it has been a lot of trial and error. And I think that is the real challenge—being okay with making a decision and knowing that it might not be the right one. But at some point, you just need to do something, and every move you make, even if it’s the wrong one, can help you learn how to improve over time.

The biggest achievement of the Orchestra Academy is how quickly we have grown and how it has spread. As I said, we started with 27 students and now, a year later, we have 55. Additionally, the local high school has an orchestra program for the first time in years.

Really, the biggest achievement of the Orchestra Academy comes on concert days, when I get to see the looks of excitement on the students’ faces. There is nothing like the feeling of working really hard all semester toward a common goal and then achieving it together. It is incredibly satisfying when I realize that these students wouldn’t have had an opportunity to have that feeling without this program that I created.

4. What has been the driving force behind being able to do what you love and make money doing it?

I realized that I found my place when the ideas about the Orchestra Academy would keep me up at night—not in a stressful way, but in an exciting way. It is a lot of work and can leave me feeling really tired.  

I find that a lot of the time, people don’t realize how much behind the scenes work needs to be done to keep the Orchestra Academy running. But at the end of the day, I love doing it and every day I am excited about it. Even when I fail, I am motivated to be better because I love it. 

I have had many different jobs in the past, and when you are just making money to make money, you don’t have that kind of joy. Now that I can do what I love and make money doing it, it feels like I am fulfilling my purpose rather than just putting in my time. It makes all of the difference in my happiness and my level of motivation.

5. Do you believe in work/life balance or integration? How do you do it?

Work/life balance is a constant balancing act for me. I have 3 kids—one with severe special needs—while also running the Orchestra Academy, accompanying the choirs at the local high school, and teaching private lessons. It often feels like I am being pulled in many directions and I don’t know which one to focus on.

To handle my work stress in these many areas, I am a big believer in to-do lists. I organize them by category (home, Orchestra Academy, private lessons, etc), and give each line item a due date. This way I know what to do and when, and it helps me prioritize.

I also think it’s important to make sure that I have some time dedicated to just being present with my family. The to-do list will always be waiting for me the next day, but having time to connect with my kids is fleeting. I try to make one-on-one time with each of my kids so that we can talk and spend time together.

6. What advice would you give someone who wanted to start their own business?

My advice would be to just keep moving forward. There will be lots of roadblocks and problems that you haven’t prepared for, but if you wait for everything to be just right, you will never begin. So just start somewhere.

It is also important to be humble enough to admit when something doesn’t work as well as you thought and make corrections along the way. Starting your business will be a process, and you will make mistakes. If you learn from your mistakes, you will have a much greater chance of success.

7. Where do you envision Orchestra Academy going if you were to continue scaling it?

I think that the Orchestra Academy has an opportunity to scale in a few different ways.  One would be to offer classes to students outside of our school district, possibly during the weekend. We could potentially have students from around the Denver Metro area come to any number of classes to learn string instruments. We could even scale it to include private lessons and general music classes.

Additionally, I think the Orchestra Academy has the capability to grow online. I know that a lot of school districts across the country have cut their orchestra programs, and finding a way to reach those students would be incredibly valuable. I could see us developing an online curriculum for students to learn string instruments via the web.

8. Your favorite motivational quote and why.

One quote I like to share with my students is:

“Perfection is just a figment of human imagination.”

This is helpful for music students because we spend so much time trying to perfect our talent, but we also need to recognize that we will never truly be perfect. We need to find a way to push for perfection but also realize that it is unattainable.

Starting a business is much the same—you will never run your business perfectly,  but you should always be pushing toward perfection.

To learn more about Orchestra Academy, you can check out the site here.

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