At Sawyer we have the privilege of working with hundreds of inspiring educators around the country. Whether they teach virtual classes or in-person activities, the curricula always foster enriching atmospheres for children of all ages to discover their love of learning. We got the opportunity to chat with Juliette & Ella's Play Date, which offers in-person early childhood creative music and ballet classes to children in New York City.
Thanks for taking the time to chat with us! I’d love to hear a bit more about you and why you started your business.
Hi! I’m Sarah Post Brummer, mom of one (Juliette) and, before I became a small business owner and teacher, I was a professional singer and actor. I performed in musicals, on cruise ships, on screen in TV shows, on national commercials, and in short films. I also toured as a back-up singer to LaLa Brooks, the original lead singer of The Crystals (“Da Doo Ron Ron”, “And Then He Kissed Me”, etc) and wrote and recorded my own EP produced by Ted Mason of Modern English (“I’ll Stop the World and Melt with You”). When I had my daughter in 2015, I made the decision to put my career on pause so I could soak up all the precious moments that come with being a new mom.
My business partner, Maegan Woodin, is a mom of three (Ella, Carter, and Woods) and, before we started this business together, she was a professional ballerina, ballet teacher, and entrepreneur.
We met when our babies, Juliette and Ella, were 5 months old and Maegan had the brilliant idea of starting a baby music & ballet class. 4 months later, we had our first class in my backyard on the UES for 4 adorable students. We moved our class to Central Park and by the end of the summer, we had about 20 students we saw per week. Well, it rapidly took off from there (all by word of mouth, we never advertised) and by the winter we were teaching about 200 students/week. Now, 6 years later, we have 20 teachers who teach with us and we see around 500 students/week. We also have become NYC’s top entertainment company for baby and toddler birthday parties.
Maegan and I still teach many of our classes weekly and completely run every aspect of our business ourselves- from managing our social media pages, to answering every email and phone call, to designing all of our classes and custom birthday parties. We absolutely LOVE what we do and LOVE our teachers and our community of families.
Can you describe an inspiring moment you’ve had as an educator?
In 2018, 2019, & early 2020 (before the pandemic hit) we had a student, James, who has cerebral palsy. When he began taking class, he wasn’t mobile. He would sit with his adult in the back and watch class. After a few months, James began crawling through the classroom to get where he wanted to go. Other children his age were walking confidently, but James couldn’t. His inability to walk, though, did not deter him from singing, dancing and playing with the other kids. He gained confidence and strength. I will never forget when I saw him take a few, wobbly steps on his own for the first time in class. I began to cry- I was so proud of him! I still see James every week - now walking the streets of the UES with confidence. He lives just 1 block away from me, and I am so impressed by his strength and resilience. He is one of the most inspiring people I have ever met in my life.
What’s the most rewarding thing about teaching children?
We are so fortunate to have students who stay with us for years and, when they have younger siblings who are born, we are fortunate to have them as students, too. Working with children ages 0-4 years is simply magical because we get to see so many milestones happen in class. We have seen so many first time waves, hands clapping, animal sounds, first time crawling, first steps, first words in class. Every time it happens, the joy from the parent yelling out “she’s walking” or “he’s clapping” is just so exciting and beautiful to experience. We are so lucky to be able to be a part of our student’s development. I always think of the song “What a Wonderful World” by Louis Armstrong and my eyes start to tear up.
“I hear babies cry. I watch them grow. They’ll learn much more than I’ll ever know, and I think to myself - what a wonderful world”. This is what we do. We meet some of our students when they can’t even sit up on their own. We see them learn to shake a shaker, crawl , babble, walk, talk, jump and eventually leap! We watch them develop and grow, and it is the most rewarding experience.
What’s one time a child surprised you and made your day?
In 2019, I had a class of 25 students and my co-teacher was sick and couldn’t come to teach that day. I had to teach the class on my own. There was a little girl named Eden in class that day. Eden was 2 years old and had been coming to class since she was 6 months old. When class began, she saw me alone, and came to the front of the classroom and proceeded to teach the entire class with me. She helped me pass out and collect shakers and scarves. She did every single dance move. She even sang. It was one of the most incredible things I have ever experienced and I will never forget that day a 2 year old came to my rescue and helped me when I really needed help.
On a similar note, what’s the funniest thing a child has done in your class?
One of our teachers, Sarah Sherman Barrera, is an incredibly talented professional opera singer. At the end of her classes, she performs a beautiful aria while the other teacher fills the park with bubbles. It is a breathtaking experience. Sarah was filling in at Carl Schurz Park one day for a sick teacher, and, at the end of class, she performed her aria. This group of students had never heard her perform, because she was a sub and not their usual teacher. Every student and every adult stood silently in awe while she sang. When she finished her aria, everyone in the park began clapping and cheering. One little boy, who was maybe 2 years old, had been watching her performance in the front row. He saw everyone cheering for Sarah and proceeded to turn towards the crowd and imitate her performance. He opened his mouth and let out a long, bloodcurdling scream. In his mind, he was singing opera. Everyone burst into laughter! It was one of the funniest things I have ever seen in my entire life. The best part is, the little boy’s father was filming at the time and caught it all on camera.
Why are early & after school enrichment programs so important for children?
Early enrichment and after school enrichment is incredibly important for children. Most of our students are babies or toddlers. Our classes provide a place for them to socialize and interact with other babies and toddlers and children. I say it often in class, babies and toddlers learn more by watching other babies, toddlers and older kids, than they learn from watching us adults. We bring families and children together and, yes, we provide a class that is full of singing and dancing, but our class is also cleverly designed to encourage milestones. We also incorporate ASL (American Sign Language) into every class. Teaching your little one basic signs as a baby is a great tool and really does help in those early toddler years where children often have strong emotions but also don’t have the verbal skills to express themselves yet. Our daughters, Juliette and Ella, are 7 years old now and still ask us to teach them new signs in ASL. Signing is very intuitive and kids really do love learning it.
How do you think children can discover their passions when they’re not in school or your programs?
When children are given the opportunity to explore, they are given the opportunity to grow. Whether that is going to a free concert, or wandering through a public park, or playing make believe with a friend or family member. When you see your child has an interest in something, pay attention and encourage them to explore that interest.