Funikijam offers classes and shows that introduce children 9 and under to a variety of global cultures through music. Founded by Brian Barrantine in 1999, the program reaches families around the world through global music, performance art, and above all — fun!
Barrentine’s program blends music from around the world — inspiring young children to become global citizens through the arts. We sat down with Brian to learn more about FunikiJam and see how the business has grown with the help of digital classes, a global community, and the Sawyer Marketplace.
Brian, how did you get started in the music and performing arts industry?
After making my stage debut at age 6 and earning a living in musical theatre for over 15 years, I wanted to create original work that could have a positive impact on the global community. I said goodbye to Broadway and moved to Nashville to focus on singing and songwriting.
Two of my early childhood albums and books were published and distributed internationally by the Gymboree Corporation along with a developmental music curriculum. Shortly after, I was approached by a group of moms about leading music classes for their young children and FunikiJam Music was born.
How did you come up with the name FunikiJam?
Funiki is Japanese for music, and Jam is Indonesian for time. We took words from two different cultures and put them together as the portmanteau “FunikiJam” to mean music time around the world.
What did your in-person offerings look like and how have they shifted to this digital landscape?
At the beginning of March, FunikiJamMusic was in the third year of an off Broadway run, rehearsing for a Los Angeles theatrical premiere, preparing for summer tours of China, and running weekly classes in New York City and its surrounding areas.
By mid-March everything was suspended and like many, I was paralyzed when the industry shut down so quickly. When parents reached out for help, I began curating a weekly collection of themed FunikiJam online activities to share with our subscribers.
When our YouTube channel skyrocketed, parents quickly asked for more. We answered with daily FunikiJam LIVE Online programming that combined elements from our live theater, video/production/streaming series, and interactive classes. The result has been meeting the needs of a young audience and putting FunikiJam’s instructors to work!
You’ve been using Sawyer Tools for several years, how have you seen the product and platform evolve over time?
I remember the Sawyer founders approaching me when they were just getting started. From the beginning, I have used Sawyer Tools for enrollment and taking attendance.
Most recently, I have seen great growth in bookings from the Sawyer Marketplace.
How have you managed to showcase the global community through music education? What role do your instructors play in this?
Building a global community has alway been part of our mission.
Since 1999, FunikiJam Music has been a success everywhere it has gone — North America, Europe, South America, and Asia. Along the way, the world has experienced ups and downs but two things are certain: Families love FunikiJam Music and so do I. Every time I Jam, I feel better.
I believe that we have found success in the global marketplace by having a great, unique product, and by
- Creating our own original music that appeals to parents and children
- Staying true to our vision of inclusiveness in programming and casting
- Conducting ourselves professionally and striving to always exceed expectations
- Empowering our instructors to model the enthusiasm, intelligence, and creativity we hope to instill in our audience.
Why is global music important to your community? What new importance does it have during a pandemic, when many people cannot travel outside their neighborhood?
Cognitively, the sounds of global rhythms, indigenous languages, and unique instruments cause the brain to fire in unique ways which can set the stage for language learning. Socially, we learn how to work as an ensemble, take turns, and appreciate similarities and differences in other cultures when we make music together. Our programming takes learners on globe-spanning adventures even if they are stuck at home.
What inspires you to continue working with children and teaching artists?
Knowing that people love what we do. I started in this industry because I wanted to create work that could have a positive impact on the world. Now more than ever I see how impactful and joyful the work can be. When we dance, jump, shake a maraca, or light up with discovery we transcend the challenges of everyday struggles.
When we sing a new song, learn a new word, or make a new friend, we are developing important skills that can help us learn more about ourselves and the world we live in.
Want to learn more?
See how — and why — educators like FunikiJam use Sawyer Tools to manage their business.