Discovering the Power of Music
“It might sound ridiculous, but my earliest memory is of a toy piano.” Meredith Pizzi was two years old and her grandfather had just passed away. Too young to attend the funeral, she stayed behind at her grandparents’ neighbor’s house while the rest of her family went. Meredith remembered feeling upset, yet as soon as she sat down to play the toy piano, a sense of comfort came over her.
Meredith started playing trumpet in the fifth grade and joined her school’s jazz band. It was after a performance of “Gonna Fly Now” from the motion picture Rocky that Meredith recognized the profound connection she felt to others through the power of music. “We still talk about that concert. Feeling that level of connection and understanding and life-giving force that is music, that’s what it was for me. It opened my eyes to what happens when people come together and make music.”
Meredith knew it was exactly what she wanted to do. She wanted to transform lives through music. It was her piano teacher who introduced her to music therapy.
“I believe that in my work, I create this space where people can see another person’s soul shine. That’s pretty magical.”
A Vote of Confidence
Roman Music Therapy Services initially started as a private practice, with Meredith as the sole employee. Her trajectory changed at a business pitch competition for women business owners looking to break $50,000 in annual revenue. “When I finished my business pitch, the host stood up, pointed at me and yelled ‘you have a very important business. People out there need you. You have to stop thinking small and start thinking big.’ She was absolutely right. It’s not just about me or my little business, it’s about really having an impact on lives in a community.”
As the demand for her services grew, so did the need for capital that Meredith couldn’t provide on her own. At the end of 2016, the organization moved into a facility twice the size of the previous space, quadrupling the rent. In addition, bringing on new staff and music therapy managers meant additional overhead costs. “It was really a challenging, stressful time, probably the hardest time for me of owning a business,” Meredith explained.
Meredith was introduced to Accion by her banker at Eastern Bank. She was approved for a loan, which she used for necessary additions to the facilities including putting up blinds in their music rooms for confidentiality and setting up an alarm system. It also provided her with the capital to take on new staff and launch new programs. “The loan helped me tremendously at a time when we really needed it. Without having the financial support of organizations like Eastern Bank and Accion, I couldn’t be where I am today,” said Meredith.
Yet the loan approval meant much more than additional financial support. “I felt like you guys believed in me and the importance of my business at a time when I was feeling so stressed with the financial challenges that I had. It’s easy to doubt yourself as an entrepreneur, and to have that vote of confidence from Accion meant more than the money did—it really gave me the strength to move forward after such trying times.”
Meredith attributes her strong support network for enabling her to strengthen her business and better meet the needs of the community – including her staff, business coaching experiences, and the SCORE network of volunteer business mentors. She also gained insights from participating in the TUCK executive education program at Dartmouth College focused on supporting women and minority-owned businesses. “The education, support, connections, and network is so valuable to me as I continue to move forward.”
While the business continues to grow, Meredith is also motivated by another invaluable support team: her family. “We have a very crazy, musical household. People break out into song and show all the time.” Meredith has three young children, each one plays at least one instrument and sings. Her husband plays guitar and studied music therapy as well. Meredith’s children were also some of her first clients, participating in the early childhood programs she created. “It’s really special to me that not only are we providing services that are just good in general but that my family and my children have had the lifelong benefits of being able to enter into that early childhood music experience.”
Today, Roman Music Therapy Services employs a staff of 17 and serves clients of a wide range of ages and needs, from babies and toddlers to the elderly. Roman Music Therapy not only provides support to the individual, but to the family and caregivers behind them. In addition, Roman Music Therapy hosts events and programs for the community – most recently, a drum circle of around 45 attendees, whose ages ranged from 6 months to more than 80 years old.
Strengthening communities is at the heart of Meredith’s vision to grow her business. “The level of need for connection in our communities is so great right now. In every town and every community, we need to come together, on a local scale as well as on a national scale. We can use our skill set in music to help make businesses and communities stronger.”