MAGAZINE RECOGNIZES UNIQUE, INNOVATIVE BUSINESS
by R. Diane Moshier
Most know her best as Bob and Peg Brown's daughter. Some may remember her performances in Sturgis High School musicals in the late 1970's when she played Amaryllis in "The Music Man," Nannette in "No, No Nannette," Jeanie in "Brigadoon" and her biggest part as Eliza in "My Fair Lady" in 1980, the year she graduated from Sturgis.
Others will remember her talents as she grew up performing during services at the Sturgis First United Methodist Church. "I still do that," she says referring to the church she attends now.
Sheri (Brown) Marshall and her husband Craig recently received national attention in the May issue of Money magazine, where a cover photo and feature story recognized four of America's best home businesses.
In January, Craig found the contest listed on the Internet. The couple applied and filled out forms. "We were called two weeks later," said Sheri. "That was a good sign for us."
In February, Money called and said they had won one of four places. The Marshalls' winning category was "Most Innovative Home-Based Business."
Their home and business is located in Lewisville, Texas. Back in 1987, the Marshall's, both music teachers, were members of a friend's a cappella caroling business called The Living Christmas Card. The owner offered to sell out and the Marshall's bought. From one quartet, the company acquired 80 singers in four cities, Dallas, Detroit, Fort Worth and Houston. They book performances separately and with symphonies for the holiday season.
"All the singers learn the music the same way, by audiotape," explains Sheri. "They learn the dynamics, breathing and phrasing by the tape." All are trained musicians. The Marshall's look for blendability and adjustability in vocal style for their singers.
With the growth of the company Sheri quit teaching her 10-year position as a teacher of elementary and middle school music last year to stay home and manage the business and card for their two-year-old daughter Sara.
"It came to the point of sing or swim, take the risk." said Sheri. "It was worth it. We were losing business."
She now markets and schedules two days a week, sending press kits to booking agents, mailing letters to clients and researching new markets.
Costumes are a large item. Sheri collects patterns and looks for rich looking fabrics.
All the female singers wear elaborate dresses of the Victorian era. "It's an aristocratic English look," she says.
Craig maintains his full time position as manager of the University of North Texas' nine jazz bands. Currently, they are independently distributing CD's of The Living Christmas Card singers. The company is looking at a major distributor for marketing the tapes.
Since the magazine exposure, Sheri states she has received calls from previous symphony employers for scheduling and from other symphony directors seeking to hire the singers for new programs.
Even though they have not recouped their original investment, states Sheri, "It has incredible potential."
Sheri's brother, Jim, owns Brown's Auto Service on E. Chicago Road. Another brother, Steve, recently moved to Kalamazoo. Her older sister, Lori, lives in Tennessee.