how it all began

destiny studio owner & vocal coach: sarah darby

We’re taking you on an exclusive look into the history of Destiny Studio! Owner and vocal coach, Sarah Darby, takes us through the journey that she has traveled, both personally and professionally, in making her musical & professional dreams become the reality that began over six years ago.

This Q&A interview features behind-the-scenes details on what has been and what’s to come. Sarah shares her heart and her vision for why she has chosen a career in bringing music into the lives of others. Join us in digging deeper in our understanding of what Destiny Studio is really all about…

 

What was your vision for opening Destiny Studio?

“In the very beginning, I didn’t have much of a vision for a business.  I was living in Nashville, Tennessee, and was looking for a way to move home after being there for about 7 years. I LOVED Nashville so much, but after some challenging situations, I was homesick. I had a degree in Commercial Music from Belmont University and a lot of experience performing, but I had never taught voice lessons or even thought about it. I did, however, love people, and I’ve always had a teacher heart. I’m the firstborn of 4! I’ve been “teaching” for as long as I can remember. Ha!

So, I was making plans to move and wondering what kind of work I would do. I thought, “Maybe I could teach voice lessons.” Long story short, it worked out.

Within a couple of weeks of working with singers of all ages and backgrounds, I was smitten.  There was no doubt that this was what I wanted to devote my life to!

However, I had absolutely no business plan. The last 6 years have been an experiment that just keeps working. It’s amazing. I have two very entrepreneurial parents, and I credit them with infusing courage in me to try things. I have never felt afraid or wondered if the studio would fail, and I believe that is a significant piece of the puzzle.

The vision has been developing over the last several years.  Today, I have a much clearer perspective than I did in 2009, and I am very excited about what God is building and what our future looks like.”

When did the studio officially open for business?

“After posting a few ads on Craigslist (back when you could do that), I taught my first lesson in January of 2009 in the upstairs bonus room of my mom's house. Within a few months, I was teaching about a dozen lessons a week. I was so delighted! 

In April of the same year, I had the opportunity to move into the space we are in now - the building Dr. Irving has been so gracious to share with us. We both thought I would be there for just a little while, until I "figured out what I wanted to do". But, I was becoming more passionate about teaching everyday and couldn't dream of doing anything else. We have been in business for 6.5 years now!”

What demographic did you expect to see taking lessons? Has that differed from what you see today?

“I had never taken voice lessons until I went to college, so I had no idea who my clients would be. Do people take voice lessons? I didn't even know. I started teaching during the height of popularity for American Idol and the wave of entertainment competitions on TV. So people were especially interested in developing their talent -- especially parents of kids and teens that expressed an interest in singing. 

Over the years, we have worked with the most amazing and special group of singers and musicians. ALL ages -- from adorable little ones to seasoned seniors. Extremely talented and industry focused singers to those just exploring an interest. We have also had the incredible privilege of working with people who have unique learning and behavior challenges who experience music as therapy. 

One of my personal favorites was Sonny - a widower and retiree who lived in an assisted living community, required oxygen to breathe, yet had always wanted to record some of his favorite gospel songs.  Sonny felt that the time was right, so I worked with him to prepare for his first studio recording at the age of 75! We finished our lessons together when he felt ready for that project. A few months later he sent me a copy of his CD with the kindest note of thanks. I could go on and on with other precious stories of personal victories and successes for clients, but that is still one of my favorite memories.”

What instruments are taught? Plans to add more?

“We are teaching voice, piano, drums, and guitar right now. We also offer workshops and camps that are meant to be an extension of the private lessons. We love working with songwriters and cultivating that kind of creativity, as well. The only other instrument I would like to add is violin, and it looks like we'll be able to do that this fall!”

What sets Destiny apart from other music lessons being taught in the area?

“As a business owner, it's really important that you know what your organization does well and that you just focus on doing that thing. So for us - we do commercial music really well! All of the staff at Destiny Studio has extensive performance experience and understands all genres of music, so there's no style we can't teach. 

If you're looking for a formal and classical approach (which is also valuable for some people), we are probably not the right fit. We also don't do group lessons. That can be a great introduction for beginner students but I highly value one-on-one coaching over group instruction. Even though group lessons are more profitable for a studio owner, the quality of individual instruction suffers and I'm not ok with that. 

We also offer lots of classes and workshops throughout the year that provide practical learning and application experiences, which other studios do not offer. It's always been so important to me that our clients are able to use what they are learning to prepare them, if they so desire, for professional opportunities.”

How many recitals/concerts per year? Why?

“We do two major showcases per year -- summer and winter. The preparation for showcases keeps students focused in their lessons and always gives us something important to work on. The showcases are SO special! We see our students overcome fear and gain confidence in a way that completely changes their perception of themselves. The coaches are every bit as proud of the students as the parents! It's an amazing experience.”

What are you most proud of?

"Without a doubt - I am most proud of my family. My husband and daughter bring me tremendous joy. The life we are building together makes me so proud. I can't wait for Sadie's first showcase performance at Destiny Studio! ;-)

I am also really proud - but mostly grateful - for the challenges that I've overcome in my young adult life. There was a stretch of several years that were dark and overwhelming and I could see just a glimmer of light at the end of a dark tunnel. However - I wouldn't change a single thing. I learned how to persevere and gained the strength and fortitude required to succeed in life. God has been so good to me. I'm forever grateful.

 

i cried me a river all the way to a standing ovation

I've always had a passion for singing. As a kid, I would watch American Idol and  always believed that Simon Cowell would say 'yes' to me. (And let's face it- he would.)

I had no idea how to get started in the entertainment business, but I would just sing my heart out in the car... and my mom would tell me that I sounded terrible!  She was lovingly speaking the truth. At this stage of my life I was so confident that Beyonce herself could not hold a note next to me. My mom saw how serious I was, so we decided to check out local voice studios. We looked at a couple in the area and they were ridiculously expensive for a low-income family that just wanted to test this out and see if singing was for her (me) or not.  I mean, I already knew it was for me. It was my mom that needed convincing! 

We stumbled across this little place called Destiny Voice Studio and MAGIC happened. Actually, a catastrophe happened in my first lesson, and the natural disaster of nature's choice was my voice. I decided to sing 'Beautiful' by Christina Aguilera and for once in my life, I heard what my mother heard... anything but beautiful!  Absolute screeching. I was pitchy, flat, off key and could hold out a note for as long as you can touch a hot stove (aka-I couldn't). The dose of reality made me sad, but I was not going to give up on this dream. I just found myself singing all the time, practicing over and over with the artist in the car, in the bathroom (you're welcome family)... everywhere. I put on full-blown concerts on Saturday mornings while cleaning. My audience of toilets and dishes loved me. I went into every voice  lesson with a goal to check off one song from my list-- to master it completely.

A few months after this journey began, I had the opportunity to perform at our school talent show. My performing and stage presence was decent because I had quite a bit of experience singing at church. I chose 'Cry Me A River' by Ella Fitzgerald, because I felt like the song would highlight my strengths, which were lower notes. It wasn't until I looked up and saw the whole crowd standing up and clapping that I knew I had actually done it. I was no longer a screecher or terrible singer! At the end of the show people came up to me and said how blown away they were and how much they enjoyed the performance.  I felt like an iPhone in a room full of Androids and everyone wanted to see ME. In that moment I knew that singing was for me and that I was closer to my dream of being the next Beyoncé. Thank you, Sarah, and Destiny Studio for everything. Teaching me, molding me, believing in me, instilling drive and determination, and giving me music vocabulary so that I can converse freely with other musicians. Thank you most of all for seeing my potential and never giving up on me. 

Abigail Achiri is 19 years old now and a student at Texas A & M University. In addition to singing for anyone who will listen, she is also an actress and represented by the Kim Dawson Agency.  Her passions (in no particular order): JESUS, Tori Kelly, pizza, smiles & hugs, Demi Lovato, sarcasm, and discovering undiscovered music.