By Bill Parry
Long Island City’s Sage Music was honored by the U.S. Small Business Administration last month. The popular music school’s founder, Jason Sagebiel, received the Veteran Small Business Champion of the Year Award, from the agency’s New York District office.
The award is considered to be the most prestigious small business awards competition, officials say. The winner is formally recognized as one of New York’s top entrepreneurs and small business advocates.
“To be recognized as an established leader in small business within a vibrant, artistic community is a privilege and a great honor,” Sagebiel said. “Small businesses are the heart and soul of a neighborhood and help foster a sense of belonging and creativity. This award encourages me to continue to inspire even more students to pursue their passions.”
The Iraq War veteran and one-time U.S. Marine scout sniper moved to Long Island City nine years ago after landing a job with the Humanities/Music Department at LaGuardia Community College.
He opened Sage Music in 2011 at 44-02 23rd St. and added a second school in Greenpoint, Brooklyn . Combined, the two schools employ 11 music teachers, catering to 320 students of all ages with the goal of transforming them into musicians.
“This is a big award that adds credibility and prestige to what we are doing here,” Sagebiel said. “It means that we’re selected as the top performing business owned by a veteran.”
Born and raised in Texas, Sagebiel returned from the war with a serious brain injury he suffered while stationed in Kut, a city 100 miles south of Baghdad. He had to relearn music after he was robbed of his memory and developed a method that helped him make that possible.
At Sage Music, they teach the unique and innovative curriculum that Sagebiel discovered during his rehabilitation. It combines music lessons with psychology, a holistic approach to health and well being, and communal creativity. The school offers guitar, piano, cello, violin and voice lessons.
The SBA award, and a poll in which borough residents voted Sage Music the top Art School in Queens, has Sagebiel connected with his community. “There’s a stereotype of Texans as adventurers,” he said. “I’m feeling more a part of Long Island City, where I’m surrounded by other musicians and artists that come here to learn and work.” He will celebrate that connection as the music series he debuted last year returns to Gantry State Park Thursday evenings through the summer.
“LIC Concerts will feature classical and jazz during July and pop and rock throughout August,” Sagebiel said. “And we’re going to finish up with a Kids and Family Day on the first Sunday in September. That will have performances that can be enjoyed by children and adults at the same time.”