Sounds of Color Studio has steadily transformed over the past three decades, from piano lessons out of owner Brianna Harb’s home into a diverse arts school offering music, art, dance, fashion, creative writing and other performing arts classes to underprivileged and disadvantaged students.
That growth kicked into high gear six years ago, when the studio opened its Santa Ana location, along North Tustin Avenue, just off the Costa Mesa (55) Freeway. The space counts large classrooms and art spaces to serve the community, from children with cancer to financially insecure families.
The pandemic brought the studio’s largest growth spurt to date, with revenue growing 50% year-over-year to $300,000 in 2021.
“During the pandemic, other art studios shut down,” Harb told the Business Journal.
“Children were cooped up, so I tried my best to be on Zoom with them and connect with them. I never thought that I could teach children in the Philippines, Arab Emirates, or New York because of Zoom.”
Harb says she works 11 hours a day, seven days a week, to accommodate the increase in students and to avoid turning anyone away.
“My students become like a family. I get to know my students whose parents are struggling to keep them in art classes, and I might say, ‘I’m offering you to be in this upcoming musical production for no cost,’” Harb said.
“The students I teach are students who might have never had the opportunity to be in classes like these.”
Sounds of Color Studio counts about 11 employees and teaches 15 different types of classes, including creative writing, dance, digital art and language classes.
It’s one of the 66 local companies recognized in this week’s listing of the Business Journal’s Companies That Care special report.
Harb’s give-back mentality extends beyond its own doors, with the studio partnering with local nonprofits including the Seacrest Studios at Children’s Hospital of Orange County, CHOC’s in-house multimedia broadcast center headed by the Ryan Seacrest Foundation.
Sounds of Color Studio provides art kits to patients in the hospital, who then take virtual classes taught by Harb from their hospital beds.
“They are logging on from their hospital beds and doing art. They have hope,” Harb said.
Harb and her daughter, Chloette, have started their own philanthropic initiative with CHOC Hospital, called Chloette’s Palettes of Hope. It sells students art with all proceeds going to the Adolescent and Young Adult (AYA) Treatment Program at CHOC, which focuses on pediatric cancer. The effort, alongside personal donations from Harb herself, brings in about $1,600 monthly to CHOC, according to Harb.
Passport for Life
Sounds of Color Studio’s educational business model often intertwines with the organization’s philanthropic efforts, with Harb using lessons to give back.
She hosts piano recitals at local senior housing facilities, including Sunrise Senior Community, with the goal of teaching students the impact of donating time to the community.
“I always tell my students to be grateful and give back,” Harb said.
Harb spends over $1,000 out of her own pocket annually to ship handpicked arts supplies to countries including India, Bangalore and Tanzania, and often travels to these countries to ensure the children receive the donations firsthand.
“My goal in life is to be able to add more days where I am able to give back by traveling to more [developing] countries, to make a difference in children’s lives. Especially to the underprivileged, those who are left behind and forgotten,” Harb said.
An education is “their passport for a lifetime,” Harb said.