Tanisha Hall (Singer, Songwriter, CEO and Founder) never let the lights of Hollywood blind her from the bigger picture. Community means everything; giving back, and investing in people will always outweigh the glam and glitz. Tanisha’s career in the industry spans back to about 15 years. She has held many positions in the industry; such as with Chaka Khan, doing special events for her foundation, and managing a production company for her friend Keith Harris (drummer of The Black Eyed Peas). Her success in the music industry never closed her off from her sense of community; she continued to offer vocal coaching and teach piano at churches.
Tanisha’s love for music started at an incredibly young age. At one year-old, most toddlers are just getting the hang of walking; yet Tanisha was at the Piano, learning to play and read music (Yes! That is some child prodigy level of excellence... Alicia who?). As Tanisha became older, she started to learn to play more gospel, but also moreso "fun" pieces. She started to sing more, and dreamt of being the "next Mariah Carey;” however, she also wanted to be a lawyer. Her dream was to attend UCLA for college; but in her senior year of high school, her father’s job forced her family to relocate to Massachusetts.
While in Massachusetts, she learned about another notable school, “Berklee College of Music; which provided everything she was looking for in a curriculum: music business, contemporary music, and performance. Tanisha’s love for music has taken her on journey of self-discovery, and philanthropy, while opening her heart to many, along with her time and resources to those who deserve visibility.
White Hall Arts Academy
The music business can be fickle at times and you never know when a drastic shift will occur. Tanisha experienced this while working for two major professionals in the business. While figuring out what her next move would be, Tanisha continued to teach on the side. In the meantime, she chose to focus on self-reflection... on how she wanted to move forward with her career. Her thought process was “Do I continue to try and get another job in the industry... a demanding career that would keep me away from my family for long periods of time, or do I continue to help other people get rich? What am I doing for myself?
Tanisha felt like she had fulfilled her mission on that side of the business; and decided to move forward with a plan that she stalled for many years. She taught for many years, and wanted to expand her business; however, teaching from her house was getting cramped. While visiting her grandparents beauty salon to just ask if she could use the salons' address for business purposes, a bigger opportunity was presented. Her grandmother mentioned, the tenants who occupied the space below her had left and the space was available for rent. That, is when the thought hit her. She was going to build a music school. She thought about a friend of hers that taught dance, and decided that she would also provide an opportunity for her friend to showcase her services. White Hall Arts Academy was born, and the rest is history. Since then, Tanisha has invested roughly $100k into renovating the building, and purchased the building from her grandparents in full.
The Lewis Prize for Music
The Lewis Prize for Music is a monetary prize that is awarded to organizations that align with their mission. The mission of The Lewis Prize is "to partner with leaders in diverse and vibrant communities who create positive change by investing in young people through music." The Lewis Prize believes "young people with access to high-quality music learning, performance and creation opportunities will mature into thriving individuals.” In the moment that Tanisha found out that her academy was awarded the prize, she says, "I literally started screaming, because I didn’t come into this thinking I would start a foundation. I came into this as a way to make money to provide for my family and to also serve a community the was being left on the back burner." Tanisha always funded her company on her own, as she knows how to "make money;" however, she wasn’t good at asking for money. She thought, "if there’s a will, there’s a way, and I've always succeeded at making a way." So, after being told by several friends that she should consider applying, Tanisha move forward with the application. She appreciated the application process; unlike many other grants, this wasn't an “arduous task.” She made a point to thank Mr. Lewis for how straight forward he made the application. The requirements where conditions that the academy already checked off; from there, she was able to simply tell their story. The Lewis Prize was the first grant that White Hall Arts Academy received; and being awarded $25,000 has gone a long way. The award intensified what Tanisha had already put in motion with her own funds. Since being awarded The Lewis Prize, White Hall Arts Academy also received a donation of $50,000 from Tarin Porter (bass-and-guitar player for the Doobie Brothers). The donation money contributed to iZotope, an audio technology company that develops professional audio software for audio recording, mixing, broadcast, sound design, and mastering. The company is building the academy a state-of-the-art computer lab, while providing instruments, speakers, microphones, and software. Tanisha says she “feels a sense of huge responsibility of making sure I do right by what is giving.” She appreciates companies that see what she was doing for the community, and how she is using her own money for expansion. She values businesses using their funding to help her take others, her Academy especially, to the next level.
It’s in Tanisha’s DNA to be generous, and compassionate. When she received the academy's Prize money, she immediately began giving back to her community; it was at the top of her list. She partnered with Friends of Children LA; a partnership in the works before the academy was even awarded any money. Partnering with this organization, in particular, was important to Tanisha as she was able to contribute $10,000 of her prize money to provide music classes to the kids enrolled in Friends of Children LA, and also refer students from her academy to Friends of Children LA's mentorship program. Tanisha said, "As a foster parent, I have a special place in my heart for children in the foster-care system. The foster-care system has a lot of work to do; because at the age of 18, most kids are just pushed out on their own and basically are forced to find a way. It's impossible for them to succeed in this world, when they don’t have the tools and opportunities to set them up for success?"
The initial partnership started when Tanisha was connected with a young girl who joined her academy, but was also apart of the “Friends of Children LA” program. During her time in the program, Tanisha noticed how well the young girl was excelling and even through Covid-19, was dedicated to the program. After talking to the girl’s case worker, Tanisha decided to give the young girl the instruments that she rented at the time, and to scholarship her lessons.
The prize money helped fund at least 30-to-40 students from the Friends of Children’s LA music classes; Tanisha believes that this partnership gives the kids a sense of stability; music, in a sense, can be that crutch that some kids depend on or as Tanisha would say "becomes your best friend.” Tanisha's strategy is to set her students up for the best outcome possible. She believes learning an instrument will always be a skill that sticks forever. She says, “if you can learn to play, you can also teach.” Meaning, if it ever came down to it and you needed to find a way to have an extra income stream, the skill of knowing how to play an instrument will carry you. You're set. If necessary, you can always pull that skill from your back pocket, and make the money needed to survive. Her partnership provided many students with the skills, mentorship, and resources that will impact them in a positive way for the long run.
There are many parents with talented children, who want to express themselves through music. In all honesty, many of those parents cannot fford to send their children for a lesson, let alone several lessons. Tanisha is, and has been a blessing to many parents; especially through starting her summer camp, Music4LA (which went virtual this year). The program costs $35 each month; and kids are able to take as many classes as they desire. The program, MusicLA, was originally offered through the city. Tanisha ran MusicLA for about two years; until there was a change in leadership, and the program was scheduled to discontinue. She was told, if she wanted to continue the program, she would have to fund it herself. Being the selfless individual that she is, Tanisha funded and continued with the program. Tanisha took her salary, and donated it to keep the program going. She moved the location of the program to her White Hall Arts Academy building. While enrolling kids for camp, Tanisha started to notice that parents where stafting to pay up to $100 dollars a month for multiple kids to take multiple classes. She decided $35 dollars would be a set amount for kids to take multiple classes. The price would offset the cost of paying instructors to teach; however, Tanisha was confident the money wouldn't be an issue. She would find the money to make it happen.
Tanisha was adamant about continuing this program. She saw it as her “love letter” to her community. Tanisha was criticized for staying in her community to provide this much needed service. Others felt she should take her business to wealthier communities. "It's not about the money," she said. She continued, "Kids in wealthy communities have so many resources and programs at their disposal. Money is not everything. Sometimes, it is about what you can provide to help others. That, in itself, is the most rewarding compensation."
She pushed on.
Who does not want to be the next Neyo, Johnta’ Austin, or Jermaine Dupri; and write the next "hit song?" Thus, Tanisha began White Hall Academy's songwriters course. By popular request of the students, she formed the songwriter’s series for age 15 and older. While, still apprehensive, it was to Tanisha’s surprise to have 20 registrants for the series. The class became close, and somewhat like a family. Tanisha targeted the young adult’s age group specifically for this purpose. She says, "As we get older, we start to get bored with same routine and become stagnant when it comes to playing an instrument. We need a change of pace. My programs are always meant to set clients up for success." She believes in creating opportunity, and says "taking lessons are cool, but what can I do with those lessons that’s going to help me excel and also provide for my family?" Tanisha believes that the black community could contribute to the music industry in a major way; however, not all are "fortunate to attend Ivy-league colleges or have athletic abilities." There are and should be other means to success. She stressed, "through an interest in music and the art form of writing, any young adult may write the next song that changes the trajectory of their life... earning income to take care of thenselves and their family, if needed."
As many parents know, many of our urban schools are not offered the same opportunities as achools in suburban areas; therefore, many of our talented kids lack direction to take their skills to the next level. Knowing this, Tanisha says "We are in the age of a virtual world; where a lot of programs are able to teach more kids, regardless of where you live." She continues, "there are also resources on YouTube, and the biggest resource is the church." While it may not be top of mind, she reminds, "put your kids in the choir, praise dancing... get the drummer or the keyboard player to give them lesson. The church has some of the best musicians.”
Tanisha’s Academy has helped to shape the careers of so many of her students; some seen on The Voice, American Idol, and even featured in a Meek Mill song. I could only imagine that seeing the success of her students would be equivalent of a proud mother's feeling; Tanisha said that she is prouder and more honored when that happens for them than if it happened for herself. She loves that her clients put in the work and grind to get where they want to be and, in the end, the hard work pays off.
She recalls a time when she was driving, and a song that she helped vocal produce with her client Ant Clemons came on the radio. She freaked out; screaming, and immediately texted him to let him know that his song was on the radio. Now, "freaking out" together, she saus "that moment was bigger for me, because he trusted me to be a part of his vision. To see it payoff is just a super proud moment."
Big goals aren’t only the moments that she's proud of. It could be a student killing it at a recital, or finally hitting that "Mariah Carey" note they were working towards; Tanisha loves helping people accomplish their goal not matter how big or small they may be.
Merchant's Daughter Blend is another business of Tanisha’s. She sells herbal refreshments and vegan skincare. The initial purpose to launch the business was to help raise money for White Hall Arts Academy. There was a point before she was awarded the grant money where she became frustrated with the grant process and decided to find other avenues. She was often asked what kind of tea she drank before vocal sessions, and this particular tea wasn’t sold in stores. Tanisha put on her business hat, and learned how to package tea for mass consumption. She also has dry-and-sensitive skin; so being moisturized has always been important to her. She started to whip up an all-natural body butter to sell along with her tea.
It is clear. Tanisha is all about opportunity. Tanisha turned the business into an entrepreneurial opportunity for the kids at the academy aa well! Similar to the Girls Scouts model, her kids have the chance to sell product and able to earn a percentage of all the sales.
While assisting others seems to be second nature to Tanisha, the operational side has its difficulties. When it comes to being a black woman running a business, Tanisha says she hasn’t faced any specific problems because she is established in a majority black neighborhood; however, she feels like being a black business owner has been a asset to her, because she’s listed and on of the top instructors on 'takelessons.com." Some target her specifically because she is Black, and hearing her resume is a bonus. She says, "the biggest thing is to just keep going; even when it gets hard, and one avenue is temporarily blocked, you must learn how pivot and adjust."
"Tanisha's Boss Woman Tips"
Make Smart decisions from the beginning
Work on building credit/enables better entrance rates
If you do not know anything about business take a class
Find a way to make money doing something that you love
Start doing it for free/ starting charging at reasonable prices
Do not make it the money you live off
Your 9 to 5 should support your 6 to 10 until the 6 to 10 can take over the 9 to 5
You do not go in business to sell your service/product to friends and family
Have a strong business plan /develop your business
Make sure your financially stable/build up your bank account
In September 2018, Tanisha’s foster brother passed away suddenly, due to a heart condition. To honor his memory, Tanisha wrote the song "Dear Love," and released it on August 24th as his 18th birthday gift. Of her very first release, she says “I wanted to take the opportunity to honor my baby and honor the legacy he left.”
Tanisha plans to release a few others when she can find time in her schedule, overseeing the songwriters series. A few of her students released music since, where helping them write and develop their music occupies most of her time. Her priority has and will always be her students... her kids. She is committed to helping make dreams come true... helping them get recognized brings loads of opportunity to them. She says, “I’m not trying to be the next 'Beyoncé' anymore. I have what I want to be.”
Tanisha always finds ways to build her business while making a difference in her community. She plans to further develop her academy, and expanding the brand. He recent partnership, White Hall Community Alliance, will assist in building housing for transitional age foster youth. This project holds a special place in her heart, because Tanisha as a foster mother and seeing the struggles that most foster children experience once they reach the age of independence. She is committed to providing spaces and the essential tools to get aged-out young adults started on the best foot possible. She will continue to partner with record labels to get her students recognition and opportunity, has an artist planning to be signed to a major label in the next few weeks. (Good Luck!)
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