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Meet Crystal Clulee of Future Music Stars

Today we’d like to introduce you to Crystal Clulee.

Crystal, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
Music has always been an integral part of my life. I began violin lessons at age 4, then added piano lessons at 8. My violin teacher was the first to encourage my singing, as well, and by high school I was playing cello in the orchestra, alto saxophone in the concert, marching and jazz bands, and singing in the choir, and have been performing in some fashion ever since. It wasn’t hard to figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up, the hard part was making it work as a career.

My family was always telling me to “get a real job” so that I’d have something to “fall back on” and I tried but I just wasn’t cut out for a 9-5, so I had to get creative. I started teaching voice & piano lessons for a school in Boston while I was attending Berklee College of Music, and brought all that knowledge with me here to California in 2004.

After teaching for a few schools and/or stores, I realized I needed more flexibility to be able to continue gigging, and also noticed that a lot of families, especially those with multiple children, weren’t always thrilled with packing everyone up and driving to a school. So, on came the proverbial light bulb, and out came the idea of me doing the driving.

It started with just a few voice & piano students I had already met, either through gigs, schools or camps at which I teach. Then came referrals from other teachers and from current clients recommending me to their friends and neighbors. I’m now doing in-home lesson teaching 5 days a week in Orange and the surrounding area, and have a full roster of fabulous students and my first official recital under my belt, while also still singing for three cover bands in the LA and OC area.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
There have definitely been times when it’s a struggle to make ends meet and to remain motivated. I’ve had months where I’ve looked at my schedule of gigs and students and seen too many days off, then there have been times when I can’t seem to find even 1 day to rest. Both times are taxing, especially emotionally, and it’s easy to fall prey to the old-fashioned conventional thinking about how music isn’t a “real job.” I’ve also been told that I can’t do both and would have to choose between being a performer or being a teacher. But I don’t like ultimatums, and firmly believe the two undertakings complement each other in so many ways that either might suffer without the other.

I couldn’t allow myself to give up, because I know I could never be happy or satisfied with my life if I did, and it’s amazing to me that something always comes through to make things work. Music is my real job and my greatest love, and I’ve discovered that staying the course, trying to do the right thing, and being honest, genuine and professional can go a very long way. Several of my current students were referrals from another teacher who moved away and couldn’t continue with them. The younger brother of one of my students is taking a class at a school I sometimes teach for, with a different teacher. I believe that’s how the community should be, and feel the same way about gigs.

I try to nurture my relationships with other singers, too, so that we can help each other out, sub for one another, recommend each other, etc. There are opportunities enough for all of us, no good reason to be combative, and every good reason to support one another. I also believe if the rest of society thought that way the world could be a much nicer place, but that’s the “sensitive musician” in me talking.

Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about Future Music Stars – what should we know?
Future Music Stars currently offers in-home voice, piano and music theory lessons, and this fall we’ll be adding guitar, ukulele and song-writing lessons to our services.

My teaching philosophy is deceptively simple: I listen to the students, encourage them and keep them engaged. I make sure everyone learns all the basics, but I also ask them what they want to play or sing and work that into the lesson plans so that it’s not drudgery.

I recently had a mom tell me that during my first piano lesson with her 12-year-old son she was surprised and almost annoyed to hear laughter. But now is grateful because he is currently playing Chopin of his own volition, practices all the time and actually looks forward to lesson day. He also was somewhat shy due to a small speech impediment, but now talks up a storm when he’s excited about what he’s learning. Watching him come out of his shell has been a heart-warming joy for me.

Several students have told me they think of me as a mentor and friend as well as a music teacher, and I’m deeply moved and very proud that they see someone in me that they’d like to emulate. One of my former students is now a young teacher herself, though art and yoga rather than music, but I couldn’t be happier for her or her lucky pupils.

Music has absolutely changed my life for the better. I have been through some pretty rough times, and music has always been my saving grace, my stress relief, my comfort, and the best friend that never lets me down. Whether or not my students go on to become actual “music stars.” I want them to have the ability and the self-confidence that studying and playing music brings. Plenty of research shows that learning to play an instrument enhances other aspects of learning, and can have lasting, positive effects on the brain. Music can improve mood, increase intelligence and problem-solving skills, enhance concentration, and even help ward off the effects of brain aging. I have personally experienced these effects, and my life is so much richer for being able to share my love and knowledge of music and be a positive influence for others.

My clients seem to be happy to know that their teacher isn’t “just a teacher” but an actual working musician, and are as good with being flexible regarding my gig schedule as I am with their other extracurricular activities. Many of my students have even come to see me perform, and if it’s a venue where I’m able, I always try to get them on stage with me for the experience. I also can’t wait for our next recital, because getting them all together to perform for and encourage one another is just a beautiful thing, and so good for their confidence and social skills.

I think what “sets me apart” is that I am still a working musician myself, who cares deeply about my students and encourages them in the most positive ways to become the best musicians and humans they can be.

Is there a characteristic or quality that you feel is essential to success?
I think that perseverance and professionalism, coupled with kindness and genuine caring are what have gotten me this far and will continue to help my business grow.

None of us work in a vacuum, and being honest and courteous, even if things don’t happen as expected or hoped, has definitely kept things moving in the right direction for me. The new teachers coming on board have been carefully selected for their exhibition of these same qualities, and I am looking forward to helping them achieve their own successes, and to all of us continuing to learn from one another.


  • Single lessons start at $75/hour
  • Weekly 30 minute lessons are $140/month
  • Weekly 45 minute lessons are $200/month
  • Weekly 60 minute lessons are $260/month

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
JSolutions Photography

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