Caption info: Encore Creative Center student Claire Peterson, right, listens to her sculpting instructor, Rachel Kitzmiller, left. Encore offers a varied list of options for creativity for kids and families. (Courtesy photo)
By Gaye Bunderson
Proving that even a pandemic can’t pause artistic passion for long (if at all), Danika Starrharrt opened Encore Creative Center in Eagle in August of 2021. The center encourages families and individuals to find their creative voice through a varied list of artistic pursuits – from symphony to sculpting, from drawing to dance.
Danika had been teaching music lessons out of her home since 2004 and said, “The center was the next progression. It’s a small business, but with all the families already involved, we were ready to grow by the time it opened.”
And how are things going so far?
“It has grown faster than I expected,” Danika said. “I had my eye out for a while to find a space conducive for what we’re trying to do. I’d been building plans and collecting ideas for years, but once this space opened up, it only took a month to get the center off the ground. I have a passion about it, and people have connected to that passion and are the reason that it is what it is today.”
Danika is no newcomer to the arts, nor does she bring to them limited experience in her craft. Her skills are varied, like the list of offerings at Encore, and she has been refining them for several decades. She has conducted a symphony and held music camps, and she is a singer and songwriter who has a dozen solo albums to her credit.
Perhaps most impressive is the fact that she plays more than 20 instruments and, as a devotee of musical theater, has both written and directed musicals for teens. Her interest in preschool music education led her to found Song Bugs, which can be found online on YouTube.
Her love for all things family started with her own family when she was growing up. Both her parents were highly creative, she said. “Both quietly taught me to march to my own drum, but also to always do right by others and care about people.”
Encore Creative Center is self-funded through student enrollment; providing lessons from home for so many years served as a built-in client base and, from that, Danika has drawn many parents and children to her center. “She always finds a way to engage the children and teaches holistically,” said Arin Hening. Arin’s daughter, Alena, is 6, and pursues piano, violin, singing, and oil painting lessons at Encore; her son, Adam, is 4 and takes lessons in piano and violin.
“It’s nice that Danika has a center and that it’s not just music but also dancing, singing and lots of other things,” Arin said.
“I like that she has a variety of classes at the same time,” said Steffanie Garcia, whose sons are 10 and 11 and whose daughters are 5 and 7. “My daughters are in musical theater, and my boys are into creating things, so they’re taking sculpting.”
Danika said: “It’s beautiful walking around the center and hearing and seeing these amazing creations coming out that never existed before. Creating is something we’re all created to do. It fulfills us – kids and adults alike. No one is ‘not creative’. Encore is a safe place to feel accepted, enjoy the process, and practice doing hard things that lead to serious skill.”
Her passion for what she does caught on quickly with both clients and instructors. She currently employs 15 instructors who are all experts in their fields. When looking to hire an instructor, Danika looks for three main pluses they must have: positivity, professionalism, and experience.
“There’s an element of work involved and it can get hard. Instructors have to have a passion for that work to carry them through the demand of serving others because it’s not about us as the instructors, it’s about the students,” she said.
Because Danika has a daughter she homeschools, she is interested in helping other homeschool families as well. “With the rise of homeschoolers,” she said, “we can serve that community. Currently, 50 percent of families coming to the center homeschool their children.”
Parent Brendan Baldwin explained: “We homeschool and the center is a great way to add enrichment to the day and not just doing it after 5 p.m. Our kids are doing piano and art classes.”
The center is also very much a part of Danika’s daughter’s education. She is able to go there and get involved in what’s happening in all the arts.
Danika promotes her classes as being for 2-year-olds to adults. Mostly, it is an after-school program for children, occasionally with siblings, and sometimes fathers and mothers taking part in classes all at once. “Some parents take classes along with their kids, and we have people who bring their whole family, and each family member goes to a different class on the same day, at the same time.”
Anyone from any part of the valley is welcome at the center, and instructors, though largely from Eagle, also represent local communities from Caldwell to southwest Boise.
At the time of the writing of this article, many of the programs were full, but some were still open. Danika was looking forward to the new year, stating that, “In 2022, more classes can open up with more people coming.”
Encore is in a building with two floors and is located at 1045 S. Ancona Ave. #140 in Eagle. There is also a brand new location in south Meridian [see contact information below].
As owner/director of Encore Creative Center, Danika keeps busy. She carries both entrepreneurial and artistic streaks in her DNA, and that’s all right with her. “I’m driven. I don’t like to sit around doing nothing,” she said.
Said Brendan Baldwin: “What she does is so unique, to do all of that under one roof. In other places we’ve lived, we saw nothing approaching that, until now.”
For more information, go to www.encorecreativecenter.com, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call (208) 352-3042.