Here Comes Treble: Sydney Ward, Little Treblemaker’s Head Dream-Girl In Charge

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photos credit  Maggie Salesman

Sydney Ward wears many hats: singer-songwriter, bandleader, entrepreneur, and Founder of Little Treblemakers, providing private ukulele, guitar, and piano lessons for her students. Not to mention the sun-soaked, balloon-filled mini-festivals her “baby business” puts on twice a year; at her last concert, aptly named Flower Hour, she could be found wearing a white cowgirl hat with a glowing smile as she directed a band consisting of just under a dozen budding musicians, singers, and songwriters.

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Born and raised in a musical family in Atlanta, Sydney grew up surrounded by the culture of the city and its rich musical heritage. “I listened to every type of genre growing up, which I believe helped me to be a well-rounded musician and teacher,” Sydney explains. “I was born into a house of music. Both of my parents are musicians and met through being in bands, and eventually creating their own. My father had a home studio, and my mother was constantly singing and writing songs around the house. It’s just deeply embedded in my DNA. If I am not playing, sharing, or teaching music, I don’t know who I am.”

Inspired by Atlanta’s vibrant creative scene, Sydney coupled her passion for music with a calling to work with children. The result? Little Treblemakers, an oasis of learning and creativity that doubles as an outlet for her own artist sensibilities. She’s dedicated to meeting each individual student where they are, learning what makes them tick and lights a spark inside of them. “As all teachers know, the first and most important step is to make a connection with the child. Once you have a strong personal bond, [the] sky’s the limit. These kids teach me just as much as I teach them. Introducing me to new music, brightening my day with their pure enthusiasm to learn something new, it’s inspiring.”

But it’s more than teaching a simple chord progression, or how to sing and play to a beat. Students enter the program as young as two and a half years old, when Sydney introduces percussive instruments and familiar songs that students can shake and sing along to. “They love watching me play ukulele or guitar, and often ask if they can hold my instrument during lessons, which leads them to having interest in learning the instrument. I teach them to be gentle, and explain how special each instrument is. When children have information, they don’t see a guitar as just as toy or noise maker. It’s bigger than that, it’s something they strive to master,” she says. “I highly encourage my students to dive into songwriting with me once they are ready and if they have interest. It’s incredibly rewarding as a teacher to give the gift of self expression and give them a voice as an artist. The ultimate goal as an educator is to ignite passion and respect for music, so they can have a lifelong relationship with it.”

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Her vision extends far beyond the classroom as well. With her mother, whom she describes as a “strong, independent, self-made woman,” as her role model and inspiration since childhood, Sydney never looked at a career in the music industry — or, more specifically, her role as a woman with a career in the music industry — as a challenge so much as another adventure. “I didn't see the road to the status quo. I have been taught to be passionate, and forthright, and to fight for my dreams. I am grateful where my path has led me and lessons learned along the way. Nothing was handed to me, and it shouldn’t be. Being a woman doesn’t define my success. My skill and perseverance do.”  

Even so, she’ll admit that she has chosen a place in an industry historically dominated by men. However, she’s hopeful as she considers the women taking seats at the head of the table and fighting to be heard, and as she paves her own way, intends to use her own voice so others can do the same. “Women in music are more than just a “pretty voice.” They are the songwriters, musicians, managers, multi-instrumentalist, teachers, engineers, producers, studio and record label owners. I am grateful for the women who have come before me to challenge and stand up to those stereotypes, and prove them false. Without such women, who knows where I’d be in music. I only hope to keep carrying the torch.”

This self-assurance hasn’t come without difficulties, but that’s just another facet of what she passes on to her students. “The most challenging thing for me has been to truly believe in my own ideas, direction for my music, and realize I have the power. I have a voice, and my voice is valuable. I think many women and girls in the music industry have been pre-programmed from society to always be polite and passive, to quiet that inner voice in fear of losing an opportunity, and by then somehow you’ve convinced yourself that you don’t deserve it. My power has come from overcoming that destructive way of thinking, not being afraid of not always being “liked” or understood. I still struggle with reaching my truest self, as we all do on this journey, but I know I’m getting closer. I’ve led an incredible band, made a record, toured the U.S., was acknowledged as a legitimate songwriter by NPR, and now run a successful children’s music program. I feel proud of these moments. I now get to play music everyday with tiny humans who fill my heart with joy. I am grateful.”

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And she has a lot to be grateful for. With Little Treblemakers growing at an unprecedented rate as it races toward its first birthday in August, her role in the one-woman show is shifting as she looks outward at the Atlanta music scene to find more teachers and music lovers to join her team. “I want to be able to curate a special community, because that’s what Little Treblemakers is to me: a tight knit musical family where my students get to practice and perform with children from all over the city, of different backgrounds and ages, and to come together and share songs at our bi-annual concerts.” Twice a year, she and the children handpick songs under a particular theme and sing and play with their peers and local musicians. “We always have a professional sound and stage set up, which gives the children the chance to be a part of a real live band. I wish I had that experience when I was eight!”

Sydney has even more up her sleeve as well: plans for writing and recording a record this winter. “I want to be an example for my students, and to do so, I must keep learning my craft and setting new goals,” she says. But even as she moves forward, she takes a moment to pause and reflect on her younger self, and offer a word of advice to anyone else chasing a dream: “Shut off that overanalyzing, destructive thought process, and just follow your gut. Let it guide you; it’s always right. Failure is okay, because it means you are growing, and if you always know where you are going, you might miss all the beautiful detours. When people enter your life, learn from them, good or bad. When someone shows you who they are, believe them. Help others, but it’s not your job to save them. As a woman, it’s in our nature to help others and put ourselves or careers on the line to do so, but it’s important to know it’s not our duty to sacrifice our energy for a person or situation unwilling to do the real work.”

To learn more about Sydney and Little Treblemakers, visit her online, and follow along on Facebook and Instagram.