Mrs. Gee, Trophy Wife.
Establishing a brand name can be a challenge, however, for Sondra Gee, the name “Mrs. Gee, Trophy Wife” is her preferred title. As a business owner, the mother of four boys, and the wife of a rock star musician, Mrs. Gee believes that all women should bring out their inner trophy wife — and she is not referring to the stereotypic definition of the term.
“I wear the ‘trophy wife’ badge proudly,” states Mrs. Gee, who gets a laugh when she refers to herself as such. “All women deserve trophies for what we do!”
Mrs. Gee explains that whether a woman is the first lady of a church, the mayor’s wife, or the spouse of a governor, there are certain responsibilities associated with that role — and the same applies to being the wife of a notable band member. Her husband, Jon E. Gee, has been John Mellencamp’s bass player for over 23 years.
In a way, Mrs. Gee grew up with celebrities. She is from Indianapolis and went to North Central High School with Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds and his brothers. According to Mrs. Gee, Kenny would get on the school bus and bump everyone’s head with his guitar case.
“Jon and Kenny played a bit together,” Mrs. Gee explains. Jon and Sondra (pre-trophy wife days), met during her senior year of high school and had their first date on the 4th of July. They married ten years later.
“We were married on a Sunday because we wanted our friends to attend, given all the musicians and hairdressers who are friends of ours,” she shares.
Mrs. Gee’s life path is driven by creativity. Initially, she attended IUPUI with the intention of studying architecture, but quickly realized that the field was not for her. Mrs. Gee describes herself as more of a free-flowing creative artist, and architecture is a more precise art form, so she regrouped. She pivoted to Indianapolis Beauty College and Christine Valmy International School of Esthetics in New York City. After graduating, she traveled the Midwest as a makeup artist, doing makeovers in upscale department stores and local theaters before settling back in Indianapolis and working at a beauty salon.
Not long after the Gees were married, Mrs. Gee opened the Just for You Day Spa in Broad Ripple. No longer in business, Just for You Day Spa was the first day spa in Indianapolis. Ahead of its time, the spa offered multi-service options to celebrities and exclusive clients for its seven years in existence.
In addition to being a mom, an entrepreneur, and supporting her husband’s career, volunteering often took center stage in Mrs. Gee’s life. After an ineffective run for City County Council, Mrs. Gee felt she was best served behind the scenes supporting candidates such as Virginia Blankenbaker, Sue Anne Gilroy, and Mitch Daniels. During this time, Mrs. Gee developed a creative desire to help others. With her ability to think outside the box, Mrs. Gee, Visionary Trophy Wife, conjured up something quite fabulous.
“When Jon is home from being on the road, he loves teaching music. I recognized the next natural step for us was to blend my entrepreneurial spirit and both of our passions for music and creativity, so together we opened the Carmel Music Academy,” she says. Their academy has won several local and national awards since opening in 2011 (more trophies!).
The Carmel Music Academy has a “sky’s the limit” motto. When Jon started out in music, he was told that he would never make a living playing music. In fact, Jon shares that he was told: “Hell will freeze over before you are in a national act. You will never play the bass for a living.” He has clearly proved his naysayers wrong.
Some of the Gee’s former students are doing big things in the arts: one student signed on with a national recording company in Nashville, one played with Sugarland, one was in “Jersey Boys,” and another played with Debbie Gibson.
Carmel Music Academy teaches students how to hear the music and how to feel the music, then they incorporate theory and reading music. The students learn theory and reading very quickly once they start playing well.
The truth is, most rock stars can’t read music. In fact, in a documentary on Chet Atkins, Atkins is asked if he could read music, and he famously replies, “Not enough to hurt my playing.”
Written music was intended for communication purposes, however, music as a means of communication transcends across all spoken languages.
Data supports the Gee’s approach. Muscle memory is powerful and having a multi-sensory experience with music makes it easier to retain, and therefore, easier to learn. The Gee’s method is also intuitive. Their unconventional means of teaching may be why they are so successful.
“Our goal is to make musicians for life,” explains Mrs. Gee. “We encourage exploration, which is why we have multiple instruments in each of our music studio rooms. Exposure to other instruments is important for growth and piques their curiosity. Once a student realizes they could carry over what they know to another instrument and have the ‘I can do this!’ experience, it’s a special moment.”
Carmel Music Academy pulls the best out of its students and teachers through Gee’s creative approach. It seems to be working, because their students are winning trophies — which Mrs. Gee proudly displays.