NHS Graduate Behind ‘Soulshine Arts’
“...Soul shine, it’s better than sunshine. It’s better than moonshine,” The Allman Brothers Band.
When Newtown High School graduate Leslie Pratt named her family music and mindfulness studio, she was inspired by the lyrics of the Allman Brothers Band’s song “Soulshine.”
“I feel like this is exactly where I was meant to be, and I feel lucky to have landed here,” Pratt, who graduated NHS in 2004 as Leslie Greenfield, said in a phone interview just a day before her new studio space opened.
Soulshine Arts is now located at 124 South Pomperaug Avenue in Woodbury, and Pratt sounded excited when describing the new location in mid-April.
After graduating from NHS, Pratt studied musical theater performance at Emerson College in Boston, Mass., where she met her husband, David Pratt. They were married after she graduated and they traveled around the country for a bit. Pratt said she worked as a nanny until they moved back to Newtown, when she stumbled upon the Music Together curriculum online. If the name Music Together sounds familiar, that is because Julie Capuano offers classes locally as Music Together of Monroe/Newtown LLC, musictogetherctclass.com.
Pratt remembers thinking, “Wow. That is exactly what I love,” when reading about the Music Together curriculum.
The couple ended up in Southbury, and she eventually opened a studio in Middlebury, after renting spaces to offer Soulshine Arts by the hour. That first studio was “this little 450 foot square room... and it was wonderful.”
The Pratts have two children, Colby, 5, and Mia, 11 months. Colby has attended Soulshine Arts classes since he was a baby, but when the pandemic closed doors everywhere, Pratt had to find a new way to share her passions of music and education. That new way turned out to be teaching classes in her yard.
Now that the doors are opening again, it is Mia’s turn to attend Soulshine Arts classes in person with her mother.
Pratt shared that the Music Together curriculum, which Soulshine Arts features, is used in 50 countries around the world, and it is based on the notion that all children are musical. Parents and caregivers, she added, are the most essential part in preparing their children for a lifetime of music-making. Soulshine Arts classes can involve singing, dancing, playing, drumming, moving, jumping, “getting the wiggles out,” and jam sessions.
“It’s just an amazing curriculum to teach so children start to build their brain’s blueprint for being able to think musically... and feel the steady beat in their bodies,” said Pratt.
Along with teaching at the studio, Pratt said Soulshine Arts also brings its lessons to preschools and day schools.
She offers support groups as part of the wellness aspect of Soulshine Arts. Breastfeeding support groups, family yoga, and mommy support groups have been just some of the programs. Pratt has big plans now that her studio is in a larger space, like offering a venue for birthday parties.
The new Soulshine Arts studio is 2,260 square feet total and it includes an office, bathrooms, lobby, and a large enough space for ten families to be 12 feet apart indoors. The ceilings are 20 feet high.
“And there are a ton of windows... I feel so lucky; it is like the absolutely perfect place to do [our classes] right now,” said Pratt.
There is also outdoor space at the new venue, so 12 families can space 15 feet apart outside. Masks are required inside; people do not need to wear masks for the outdoor classes, according to Pratt.
According to its website, soulshineartsct.com, the studio offers classes for mixed ages (birth to 5 years old), babies (birth to 8 months old), and a Rhythm Kids option for 4- to 8-year-olds. Classes are outlined online, as is the Music Together curriculum.
On April 9, Pratt shared a photo of the first class in the new studio to the Soulshine Arts Facebook page. She also shared a video.
“I’m so excited, because we are having our first class in our new space today,” Pratt said in the video. “So I just wanted to say hi to everybody. Good morning friends!”
From the video, it was clear that the sun was not alone in shining that day.
The Newtown Bee is always interested in following up with Newtown High School graduates who graduated more than ten years ago. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org to suggest a graduate to highlight.