Alumna Finds Calling as Founder of Music and Dance School
A passion for the arts and an entrepreneurial spirit inspired Trinidad native Jolander Headley, D.Min. ’97TCI, ’01MBA to leave the corporate world and open a small music and dance studio. A quarter-century later, she is President and Chief Executive Officer of a well-established privately owned music and dance school.
“Even as a teenager, I had the entrepreneurial DNA,” Dr. Headley recalled. “It’s rewarding for me to have my blueprint on someone else’s development. This is more of a calling for me than a job.”
- BS in Finance
- MBA in Finance
- The Peter J. Tobin College of Business
Joe’s Academy of Music in Queens, NY, is celebrating its 25th anniversary in 2023. It employs 40 teachers and serves about 1,500 students ranging in age from 18 months to adulthood. With more than 9,000 alumni, it has grown exponentially from its early days when it was a basement business with three clients managed by Dr. Headley.
The Joe in Joe’s Academy is short for Jolander, who emigrated to the US in 1988, earned two degrees from St. John’s, and rose to Vice President of a Wall Street financial services firm. She studied piano and music theory at The Juilliard School and Berklee College of Music and later earned a Doctor of Ministry degree from Alliance University, formerly Nyack College.
From her youngest days, music energized Dr. Headley, and now she sees how it empowers her students. “Even as a teenager, I had the entrepreneurial DNA,” Dr. Headley recalled. “It’s rewarding for me to have my blueprint on someone else’s development. This is more of a calling for me than a job.”
Joe’s Academy of Music had a modest beginning, when in 1998 a Wall Street colleague, hearing of Dr. Headley’s musical background, asked if she would teach her young child to play some entry-level instruments. She agreed, and within a short time had resigned from her Wall Street position, dedicating herself to teaching music.
Even Dr. Headley is mystified by the growth of the business. Based in St. Albans, NY, about 15 minutes from St. John’s Queens campus, the school offers private and group music lessons beginning at age four in instruments that include the ukelele, bass guitar, oboe, and cello.
Dance instruction begins at age 2 and includes ballet, hip hop, and creative movement exercises. Theater instruction is also available. Joe’s Academy of Music partners with schools and school districts in arts education and offers after-school programs for children of working parents.
“I’ve seen the cognitive benefits of music in children,” Dr. Headley said. “It gives them space for self-expression and it’s great for social and emotional learning.”
Dr. Headley described the academy’s teaching style as “holistic” and “interpretive.”
“It’s about helping you take what you learn as a musician and translate it into other parts of your life,” she explained. “It’s an arts education that is built around what we do, how we do it, and why we do it.”
Whatever your passion, a quarter-century of entrepreneurial experience has taught Dr. Headley some essential elements of success. It helps to have patience and a belief in yourself. Having a mentor doesn’t hurt either.
“Joe’s Academy of Music was not the product of some grandiose business opportunity,” Dr. Headley said. “It had very humble beginnings, but here we are celebrating our silver anniversary.”
“You need to believe in your dreams and own them,” she continued. “Try to connect yourself with thought leaders and like-minded individuals who have accomplished what you aspire to do. And, of course, have fun."