Des Moines Parent Spotlight: Jenn Horak -Hult
Jenn Horak-Hult has a very special place in my heart. After I had my son 7 years ago I was still working full time and looking for a fun activity I could attend with him after work. I discovered Kindermusik at Pied Piper Studios owned by Jenn. At that time her Kindermusik classes were held at a small church and not long after her program grew so big she opened her own studio. Jenn’s passion for music, children and educating parents about the importance of music is amazing. She has always been a huge supporter of Des Moines Parent and I am very thankful we crossed paths. Learn more about Jenn, her family, and her business Pied Piper Studios.
Give us a little background of your family and personal life! How many kids do you have? Have you lived in Des Moines all your life?
I spent my growing up years in Clive and West Des Moines before heading off to school and life adventures in Minnesota, Ohio, and Illinois. I met my best friend, Erik, while we were working on our undergraduate degrees in music at St. Olaf College. It didn’t take me long to figure out that he was the world’s best study partner for our epically brutal music history exams. So, after a few years of falling in love with Beethoven and Wagner together, we fell in love with each other and decided every day was exactly what we wanted to spend together. We moved back to the Des Moines area 13 years ago after our oldest son Leif (13) was born and welcomed our daughter Minna (11) two years later. We currently live in a quiet neighborhood in Cumming where I work from home most days, walk in the woods as often as I can, practice my bagpipes, and keep our two crazy cats, Esther and Gilbert, living their separate best lives (they love us but don’t love each other).
What is your business, and what do you do?
I own Pied Piper Studios where we offer Kindermusik and Innermusician piano classes for ages birth – 6 years. I am grateful to lead the most amazing team of talented, generous-hearted, creative, dedicated, and loving women who spend six days a week delivering delightful musical experiences to hundreds of families in our community. Our studio members inspire us to endlessly with their curiosity, commitment, and desire to curate meaningful and musical memories in their children’s early years of life. We are proud to be among the top 50 Kindermusik programs in the world and it’s been our vision-in-action for over 13 years to create an inclusive space where families feel empowered, encouraged, and connected to one another, their community, and the world at large through the holistic language of music and movement. We sing, dance, rock, read, drum, listen, laugh, twirl, toss, and breathe our way through endless musical adventures every day. Sharing music with parents and helping them discover the delicious unfolding of their child’s development is my passion.
Why did you become a small business owner?
I discovered Kindermusik when I was in graduate school working toward a career in opera and art song performance. I knew immediately that I’d found my life’s calling. I’d already been teaching the curriculum for a few years when we moved back to Des Moines, and I loved the flexibility of owning my own business as a young mom. Now that my children are older and in school, I’m grateful to have grown the business to the point where it is my (more than) full-time job. Being a small business owner gives me the freedom to dream and build precisely the kinds of experiences I’m passionate about providing to families. And it allows me to continue to follow my own lifelong learning goals. I love being in the classroom, but I also love running the business. Over the past 13 years, I’ve had the chance to explore all kinds of input avenues and steep myself in an enormous variety of professional development opportunities- curriculum writing, event planning, video production, business training and coaching, early childhood development and neurological research, primitive reflex integration and movement certifications, and more. The diversity of my work day and hunger to keep learning simultaneously satisfies me and drives me forward. I adore dreaming big dreams, thinking them through, devouring the relevant information, and then designing the delivery of magical moments that affirm and empower children and the people who love them.
Where is your favorite place to take your children to play indoors?
When Leif and Minna were little, we logged many happy early morning hours at Lowe’s- opening and closing all the kitchen drawers, pretending to drive the riding lawnmowers, watching the ceiling fans, choosing favorite paint sample color combos, and admiring holiday displays. Our children have always been early risers, and Lowe’s opened at 6:00 a.m.
Where is your favorite place to take your children to play outdoors?
We used to live across the street from Quail Cove Park in West Des Moines and spent many days playing and picnicking there, walking the short trail, and tossing rocks off the bridge. Now that my children are older, we like to hike Browns Woods, Maffitt Lake, and Raccoon River which are all nearby to us.
Parent’s day/night out. Describe your perfect parent only day/night out in Des Moines.
Most often, it’s a night in relaxing on our screen porch and talking through the day. But when we get a night out, we love grabbing a bite to eat at Open Sesame or A Dong (two of my favorite spots as a local vegan), picking up a cupcake from Molly’s (BEST vegan cupcakes in town- my favorite is the chocolate cupcake with peanut butter frosting), and taking in a Des Moines Symphony concert or Broadway show at the Civic Center.
What are some tips on juggling parenthood, working, and personal life?
This is always a work in progress. I am a highly amiable, people-pleasing, a compliant person that struggled early in my career with setting healthy boundaries. Now firmly in midlife, it’s getting easier. I am learning to let go of my perception of other people’s expectations of me (personally, as a parent, and as a business owner). I gave myself permission to create an environment where I thrive using my own unique strengths and am set up for success. That realization alone brought more balance into each sphere of my life. Practically speaking, I’ve done away with to-do lists. They don’t work for me. Instead, I use an old-fashioned paper calendar and schedule even the smallest tasks into my day including my margin for personal time, family time, and self-care routines. If something doesn’t fit in the schedule, it gets “booked” another day or another week or another month. But I know when and where it will happen rather than it living forever on a list waiting to get crossed-off. And if it isn’t important enough to get on my calendar, that’s a sign that it’s something to let go of. Also Trello. Trello is my best friend. If you’re not familiar, it’s a fabulous and free online organizational tool. I use for personal stuff from meal planning to Christmas list shopping and professional stuff from customer relationship management to team communication.
What is your number one parenting tip?
There is a sweet little piece of art I keep hanging in my house that says, “The trick is to keep breathing.” And for me, that’s at the heart of parenting whether I find myself in a moment of heart-pounding uncomfortable conflict or one of sentimental heart-bursting significance. Stay present. Offer calm composure. Listen before speaking. Give myself and my children time and grace and space to feel and be fully human. Know that we’re all doing our best. And that each breath is a gift.