Christine Koh

Hello!

I'm Christine Koh, a music and brain neuroscientist turned multimedia creative. I'm the founder + editor of Boston Mamas, co-author of Minimalist Parenting, co-host of the Edit Your Life podcast, and creative director at Women Online. Drop me a line; I'd love to chat about how we can work together!

Featured Mama Sharon Chase

sharonchase1.jpgWelcome to Boston Mamas Rock! – where we’re giving a voice to fabulous local mamas from all walks of life. Read on for today’s interview with Sharon Chase, mother of two and professional vocalist and party-throwing princess. Then go ahead and nominate yourself or a friend!

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Sharon Chase, professional vocalist and party planner

Christine: Tell us a little bit about your background Sharon. You’re a professional vocalist who owns a princess oriented party business. How old were you when you found your voice? When did you decide that you wanted to become a professional musician?

Sharon: I have been singing pretty much since I popped out of the womb! I have always been acting, singing, and performing as far back as I can remember. I always knew that I wanted to do something with children but I also couldn’t ignore my great love for music. I graduated from Wheelock College in 1996 with a degree in Early Childhood education and an interdisciplinary major in theatre, voice, and cello. I also was doing independent studies over at the New England Conservatory and was always in shows at the Wheelock Family Theatre and the "Little Theatre" at Wheelock.

When I graduated I was a little lost, not thinking that my calling was to be a typical classroom teacher. I ended up in, of all things, financial services selling mutual funds! I did love working with others helping them to find their investments, but my heart wasn't there. I then began working as a computer programmer, software consultant, and trainer.

After some soul searching, I decided to quit my job and get back to music and children and began recording personalized children's tapes with a music company. Then I started teaching music classes for children and mommies; I called myself "Vocalmotion." I also worked as a special education teacher in the Cohasset Middle School until right before I had my son, who is now 5 (I also have a 3-year-old daughter). And I painted children's murals on occasion and sang in wedding ceremonies.

As my Vocalmotion classes started filling and I continued to paint murals and sing at weddings, I felt as if I wanted to do more and the princess thing just evolved! I knew that with my creative background and interest in music I could create something that was not only fun and super cute, but educational and enriching as well. I still do murals on occasion (I'm working on a "transportation" mural right now for a childhood friend's little boy who has overcome cancer).

Christine: Wow, that’s an impressive history! Let’s discuss your party business. As Princess Sharon you provide musical princess, diva, and spa themed birthday parties and special events in the Boston and South Shore areas. Tell us a little bit about how a typical party goes; how do you work in music and movement into something like a spa event?

sharonchase2.bmpSharon: Good question! I make sure that all of my parties have a musical focus. We take about two hours to set up, and we go pretty over the top! I figure if you are going to be a princess, you might as well FEEL like one! For the princess party, we have a rack of ball gowns, a fluffy pink mirror with pearls for the girls to look into, and hang giant butterflies and scatter flower petals and play princess music. The kids get to play dress up, and do face paint, a craft (usually princess purses and pirate pouches to decorate), and then a tea party. After this I do the music portion, where I read musical stories and lead other fun musical games. It's a performance but also very interactive.

My Diva Glam and Spa parties are a whole other ball game! The accoutrements for Spa-Berry Twist, for example, include racks of plush pink robes, slippers (which the girls get to take home), flip-flop pillows, spa mats with pillows, glitter toe polish, and fuzzy foot massagers. The Diva Glam party is for girls who are out of "princess" mode but are not old enough for spa. It's an age-appropriate "rock-star" type party where they get to play with dressing up (glitter, boas, hats, bags, etc) and do dancing games. Of course I do musical singing games at both my diva and spa parties.

I also do custom events if someone wants to have a theme party that I don't offer. There is a cost associated with custom parties but I'm always open to doing them!

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Christine: I see that you are able to provide everything from linens to tea service to food to all the dress up clothes for girls and boys. I have to admit, I’m a little curious; how often do little pirates and princes attend such parties?

Sharon: Pirates are always welcomed at my parties!! My linens and gowns may be girly but my little pirates never go hungry! I always have lots of pirate costumes in a big pirate chest, deluxe pirate favors with skull and cross bones on them, hooks, eye patches, and lots of other "boy" stuff. Also, my music is always universal and never leaves anyone out. Believe it or not, my dad, of One World Video in Boston, is not only a multi media producer but he's also a great performer and has been known to accompany me as Pirate Peter!

If someone wants a pure, no-frills pirate party, I often refer them to my online boutique where I provide "do-it-yourself" party packages to go, custom boutique (monogrammed) children's clothing, invitations, sweets, and other favors and gifts. I offer pretty much everything you would need to create your own party if you wanted that option.

Christine: You started this business only two years ago, yet you’ve already done gigs for folks like the Red Sox. How have you gotten your name out there?

sharonchase4.bmpSharon: Yes, I was so grateful to be asked by the Boston Red Sox to perform for the children of the players. Word of mouth got me that one! Most of my work comes from word of mouth and I also believe that if you have a very sharp website people can get a much better idea of the quality of work that you do. I used to spend hours plastering my name on the Internet at every free advertising venue that I could find. I don't do any of that anymore for the most part. Once word of mouth spread and people started clicking on my site, I started moving up on Google and other search engines, which had a cyclical effect.

Christine: In addition to your work as Princess Sharon, you also are a wedding vocalist and paint children’s murals. What is your distribution of time across these various ventures? And how did you get into the mural work?

Sharon: I LOVE painting and singing but my main business is Princess Sharon. It takes so much of my time and between my family and the business there isn't a ton of extra time. If someone asks me I'll do a mural or a wedding (and I'm going to paint my kids rooms in our new house we are currently building) but I don't advertise those things. Murals started honestly because I discovered one day, when I was trying to figure out a theme for my children's reading corner, that I could actually do it and I could do it well! Then friends started asking me to paint murals, and then friends of friends.

Christine: You have two children. How old are they and where were you work-wise when they arrived? How did you handle maternity leave time and return to work? Was your work environment supportive of your role as a new mom?

Sharon: My children, Zander (boy) and Aizza (girl), are 5 and 3, respectively. When I was pregnant with Zander I left teaching special education and started teaching music classes. That worked because it was on my schedule and I could really do what I wanted with it. I started teaching classes at Our World, Children's Global Discovery Museum in Cohasset. They were wonderful about letting me use their fantastic space and now I am gratefully a board member of the museum working to keep it available for other young families.

Christine: As a multifaceted artist, you really are going it solo. What do you think has been the most challenging aspect about being an independent mamapreneur? Do you have any nuggets of wisdom for fellow mamapreneurs?

Sharon: For me, the challenge was believing that this princess could do such a "grown-up" thing! I always knew I had different talents and skills but wanted to work for someone else. I never thought I could possibly find out and take action on the things you need to do for your own business -- the scary IRS, tax ID's, pricing, websites, board of health, book keeping, wholesale purchasing, advertising, storage, and not to mention being responsible for the total entertainment of large groups of children! "One step at a time" was very, very critical for me. I needed to not be afraid to pick up the phone and ask lots of "how" questions. I asked other party planners, the town, friends, my mother-in-law, my mom, my sisters…anyone I could brainstorm with. It has been a HUGE and humbling learning experience for me! I am a member of several party planning groups on Yahoo (there is a group for everything!). One step at a time I have gotten the courage to do all of those "grown-up" steps and have been able to now say I am an official successful business. I love what I do and really believe in it. I always wanted to be able to bring music into other children's lives and have found my calling.

Christine: We’ve talked all business up to now. When you’re not singing, painting, and preparing for parties, tell us about the favorite things you do to unwind.

Sharon: I hate to admit it, but I'm a Scramble junkie! If you have never heard of it, it's an application on Facebook much like the old Boggle. I'm not terrific at it but I love to play! I also am one of three girls and am very close to my parents and my in-laws and their family. I have been blessed with a really wonderful family and love to spend time with them. On occasion I actually get to SEE my husband (who is a builder and has to work a lot) but absolutely treasure our time together.

Christine: And finally, what’s your favorite thing about being a Boston mama?

Sharon: You know what I love most about Boston? The fact that I can get into the city in a flash. I have the best of both worlds down here in Cohasset. We get the water and that country feel and then if I zip up 93 I can be in the city in no time. I am a city girl at heart but really also love my rural family life here on the South Shore. I grew up in Lexington where it was the same deal. We lived back in the woods and the smell of pine was always in the air, but we often made trips to the city for fun, museum trips, and shopping, of course!

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