The Joy of Excellence

    Encore Creative Center instructors pass the creative torch to the community

    Written by Norah D. Emerson
    Photos by Ashely Fritsche

    You know that awe you get when standing before a masterful painting — that wonder of, how do they take wet mounds of pigment and transform them into such a light filled scene? You know that energy you get from attending a big concert – the power pulsing in your veins so strongly that you find yourself crying and don’t know why? This is passion pure and simple, passion carried through art to your mind and your heart — because art doesn’t just stand there purposeless; it invites you in to its excellence.

    Imagine this same passion encapsulated in a building, where all around you can feel the fire of master artistry being transferred to YOU. You feel the joy. You feel empowered because you now have the tools to put the pieces together that have waited in your desires. You now know the why and the how behind what a casual observer calls “talent.” 

    Imagine being surrounded by master artists, creators of the visual arts, the musical arts, and the performing arts…. imagine them all gathering in one building as friends and team members with one mission. They’re here to inspire and educate others with the tools of their trade. Imagine soul-hungry individuals coming to this place and being filled; imagine whole families coming and staying while each child pursues their own passion in their own class.

    This is the vision that one Idaho woman imagined which led her to open what is now known as Encore Creative Center. Danika Starrharrt had already made a successful career for herself as a musician and educator, having been recording, performing and teaching music full time for almost two decades before founding Encore in Idaho. Knowing that her former achievements were only a springboard, she couldn’t stop there. She envisioned impacting thousands more lives than she could by teaching from her own thriving home studio, and she knew it would take a big place and a big team to be able to serve the whole Treasure Valley. She went to work gathering local artists, performers, and musicians who were also masters of their work and masters of communicating their joy to others. 

    Encore opened in Eagle just last year in 2021, and the community received the center so well that the business was able to expand to a second location in South Meridian within a year.

    When asked “WHY did you start Encore?” Danika answers, “It’s time for the world to experience the arts from a fresh perspective. Starting with our own community, people need a safe place to come where it’s normal to be amazing.”

    Encore Creative Center Boise IdahoShe goes on, “Art is not meant to be ‘touch not’ on a pedestal anymore. We all have it in us to be creative in some way or another. Art is waiting for us to dig in and make the most of it and get messy. The lightbulb wasn’t created by just practicing the same thing over and over — it was created by experimentation. Masterful music or masterful art that contributes solutions to the world, like a lightbulb, is made the same way. It’s all about the combination of know-how and freedom to explore. People need a physical place to go to learn this way of thinking and experience it for themselves, so they can feel confident to take it home and go make miracles in their lives.” 

    Not only the founder, Danika is the lead music instructor at Encore, coaching fellow teachers and working with serious students of all ages in voice and choir, flute, songwriting, and piano. At times you can even catch her teaching other fun skills, like playwriting or balloon twisting. Parents love her as an instructor because she tows the line and inspires. Kids run to her for hugs, but when it comes to music, she means business. “It’s not enough to have fun, and it’s not enough to be amazing,” she says, “Joy and Excellence have to meet.”

    “Danika is an old soul and a modern genius,” says one of her longtime students Sara Smits, “I don’t think any one person fully knows how musically skilled she is.” Some people know her for her award-winning film compositions, some for the way she sings with her performing group, and some for the fact that she plays over 20 instruments, seven of which she has played at concerto level and in orchestras. 

    Her passion extends beyond just music, however, and she wanted others coming to the center to be able to explore many different areas of passion as well. When faced with 9000 square feet of space to use for the centers, she thought, why not make a whole wonderland of ALL things creative? With the contribution of 30 professional instructors who are employed part- to nearly full-time at Encore, the center’s current class offerings include filmmaking, acting, musical theater, comedy, ballroom dance, jazz dance, songwriting, all band and orchestral instruments, piano, guitar/ukulele, vocal training, percussion, drawing, painting, sewing, LEGO engineering, sculpting and pottery, jewelry making, and language.  

    Many of Encore’s instructors are moms and dads themselves, and all have hearts invested in the next generation. “Encore is like a big family with arms always open for new family members,” says Sara, “You sometimes see grandparents enrolled in the same class as their grandkids there, and whole families come to the building for their different classes going on in different studios. The longer you stick around the more you make really good friends at Encore.” 

    “My kids love their teachers and being a part of the dynamic learning environment that makes them feel comfortable and allows them to have so much fun while learning!” says Nicole, mom of three kids involved in music and art classes.  

    Rounding out the vibe of excellence, canvas-printed quotes from Encore instructors and famous artists alike line the walls of the center. “Every child is an artist until he is told he is not an artist,” reads one quote attributed to John Lennon. But Encore’s classes are not only for children. 

     

    Danika points to Lennon’s quote on the wall and says, “It seems this would be the same for adults, right? But this quote didn’t mention adults. Why? Because at some point by the time we’re grown we already have been told we’re ‘not’ artists — by someone or by something or by our own selves. It’s just doubt at work in some shape or form. So for adults to freely experience art and music, it’s more of a process of UNdoing. We have to keep this in mind and be kind to ourselves. It’s about finding our inner child again, this time with wisdom, and listening to that voice inside that says, yes we can create, and yes we should create, because yes it matters to create. Creating is not just a luxury. It’s a necessity. It brings every part of us into harmony inside and calms some of the chaos in the world around us.” 

    THE JOY OF EXCELLENCE — Encore Creative Center instructors pass the creative torch to the community

    – Written by Norah D. Emerson 

    You know that awe you get when standing before a masterful painting — that wonder of, how they take wet mounds of pigment and transform them into such a light-filled scene? You know that energy you get from attending a big concert – the power pulsing in your veins so strongly that you find yourself crying and don’t know why? This is passion pure and simple, passion carried through art to your mind and your heart — because art doesn’t just stand there purposeless; it invites you into its excellence. 

    Imagine this same passion encapsulated in a building, where all around you can feel the fire of master artistry being transferred to YOU. You feel the joy. You feel empowered because you now have the tools to put the pieces together that have waited in your desires. You now know the why and the how behind what a casual observer calls “talent.” 

    Imagine being surrounded by master artists, creators of the visual arts, the musical arts, and the performing arts…. imagine them all gathering in one building as friends and team members with one mission. They’re here to inspire and educate others with the tools of their trade. Imagine soul-hungry individuals coming to this place and being filled; imagine whole families coming and staying while each child pursues their own passion in their own class. 

    This is the vision that one Idaho woman imagined which led her to open what is now known as Encore Creative Center. Danika Starrharrt had already made a successful career for herself as a musician and educator, and has been recording, performing, and teaching music full time for almost two decades before founding Encore in Idaho. Knowing that her former achievements were only a springboard, she couldn’t stop there. She envisioned impacting thousands more lives than she could by teaching from her own thriving home studio, and she knew it would take a big place and a big team to be able to serve the whole Treasure Valley. She went to work gathering local artists, performers, and musicians who were also masters of their work and masters of communicating their joy to others.  

    Encore opened in Eagle just last year in 2021, and the community received the center so well that the business was able to expand to a second location in South Meridian within a year. 

    When asked “WHY did you start Encore?” Danika answers, “It’s time for the world to experience the arts from a fresh perspective. Starting with our own community, people need a safe place to come where it’s normal to be amazing.” 

    She goes on, “Art is not meant to be ‘touch not’ on a pedestal anymore. We all have it in us to be creative in some way or another. Art is waiting for us to dig in and make the most of it and get messy. The lightbulb wasn’t created by just practicing the same thing over and over — it was created by experimentation. Masterful music or masterful art that contributes solutions to the world, like a lightbulb, is made the same way. It’s all about the combination of know-how and freedom to explore. People need a physical place to go to learn this way of thinking and experience it for themselves, so they can feel confident to take it home and go make miracles in their lives.” 

    Not only the founder, but Danika is also the lead music instructor at Encore, coaching fellow teachers and working with serious students of all ages in voice and choir, flute, songwriting, and piano. At times you can even catch her teaching other fun skills, like playwriting or balloon twisting. Parents love her as an instructor because she toes the line and inspires. Kids run to her for hugs, but when it comes to music, she means business. “It’s not enough to have fun, and it’s not enough to be amazing,” she says, “Joy and Excellence have to meet.” 

    “Danika is an old soul and a modern genius,” says one of her longtime students Sara Smits, “I don’t think any one person fully knows how musically skilled she is.” Some people know her for her award-winning film compositions, some for the way she sings with her performing group, and some for the fact that she plays over 20 instruments, seven of which she has played at concerto level and in orchestras.  

    Her passion extends beyond just music, however, and she wanted others coming to the center to be able to explore many different areas of passion as well. When faced with 9000 square feet of space to use for the centers, she thought, why not make a whole wonderland of ALL things creative? With the contribution of 30 professional instructors who are employed part- to nearly full-time at Encore, the center’s current class offerings include filmmaking, acting, musical theater, comedy, ballroom dance, jazz dance, songwriting, all band and orchestral instruments, piano, guitar/ukulele, vocal training, percussion, drawing, painting, sewing, LEGO engineering, sculpting and pottery, jewelry making, and language.  

    Lisa Cheney is an instructor at both the Eagle and South Meridian locations. Lisa is a full-time designer and artist who teaches drawing, cartooning, watercolor, and the popular mixed media visual journaling classes at Encore. Graciously guiding her students in proper technique, she encourages students to embrace their mistakes and love themselves through their work. Lisa’s students are churning out impressive pieces and keep coming back for more. “Lisa is fantastic with impressive credentials and is a great teacher,” says Jenna, a parent at the Eagle campus, “I feel she is very aware of my son’s ability and helps him push to the next level.” 

    Rachel Kitzmiller teaches advanced sculpting as well as all levels of violin, her highest area of expertise, at both centers as well. Rachel is known for her clear and affirming style of instruction that helps students feel accepted and enabled. “My daughter has learned so much from her violin instructor Rachel,” says Shelley, an Encore parent, “She got into a private music arts school with her hard work and having Rachel as an instructor. She loves going to her violin lessons where her teacher is extremely kind and knowledgeable.” 

    Athena Watkins directs the large musical theater programs for children at the north campus. The enthusiastic way Athena teaches has students captivated from beginning to end. “Sofia comes home so energized and excited after her musical theater class!” shares Ruth, an appreciative parent, “We had been looking for an outlet for Sofia’s desire to perform, and we’ve been so happy with Encore.” The musical theater classes include training in improv, singing, dancing, and acting, and they perform regularly. This season’s productions so far have included Beauty and the Beast, Little Red Riding Hood, The Best Little Theater in Town, and The Secret Garden.  

    Many of Encore’s instructors are moms and dads themselves, and all have hearts invested in the next generation. “Encore is like a big family with arms always open for new family members,” says Sara, “You sometimes see grandparents enrolled in the same class as their grandkids there, and whole families come to the building for their different classes going on in different studios. The longer you stick around the more you make really good friends at Encore.” 

    “My kids love their teachers and being a part of the dynamic learning environment that makes them feel comfortable and allows them to have so much fun while learning!” says Nicole, mom of three kids involved in music and art classes.  

    Rounding out the vibe of excellence, canvas-printed quotes from Encore instructors and famous artists alike line the walls of the center. “Every child is an artist until he is told he is not an artist,” reads one quote attributed to John Lennon. But Encore’s classes are not only for children.  

    Danika points to Lennon’s quote on the wall and says, “It seems this would be the same for adults, right? But this quote didn’t mention adults. Why? Because at some point by the time we’re grown we already have been told we’re ‘not’ artists — by someone or by something or by our own selves. It’s just doubt at work in some shape or form. So for adults to freely experience art and music, it’s more of a process of UNdoing. We have to keep this in mind and be kind to ourselves. It’s about finding our inner child again, this time with wisdom, and listening to that voice inside that says, yes we can create, and yes we should create, because yes it matters to create. Creating is not just a luxury. It’s a necessity. It brings every part of us into harmony inside and calms some of the chaos in the world around us.” 

    “It’s time for the world to experience the arts from a fresh perspective. Starting with our own community, people need a safe place to come where it’s normal to be amazing.” 

    Encore Creative Center has open doors to pass the creative torch to anyone in the community. Individuals who want to just take a casual class or make a serious long-term commitment to growing as an artist are all welcome. More information can be found about both the Eagle and South Meridian campuses at encorecreativecenter.com or by calling 208. 352-3042.  

     

     

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