MA’s Director of Alumni Engagement, Heather Sammons, recently caught up with and interviewed Bella Bromberg '19 about her growing tutoring company, Summus Tutoring, as well as pursuing her dream to be a musician all while attending Barnard College at Columbia University.
You recently started a tutoring company, Summus Tutoring. What made you decide to do that?
I saw a need. Students and parents are now expected to have a robust tutoring program outside of their regular school routine. It is not just exhausting emotionally, physically, and mentally for both students and parents, but it is also quite financially taxing and not a possibility for many families, especially those who are already in a financial bind, and even more so during COVID-19. Thus, the target market for this business is those who are looking for an affordable but high-quality option for their children or for themselves. We want to work with motivated students and self-starters, because that is the kind of energy that this company was founded on.
And in all honesty, another one of my central inspirations for founding this company was that I need income to fund my music career—electric guitars are expensive!
The tutoring is a way I can make money, where I believe wholeheartedly in the mission of the work.
As a student at Barnard College at Columbia University—double majoring in English and Philosophy and pursuing minors in Film, Spanish, and Italian—how are you managing college, your new company, and being an aspiring musical artist at only 19 years old?
Being a young person is so weird right now. We aren’t supposed to be at home, but we are. Everyone is flailing around not knowing what to do, but that’s exactly why I think I’m doing so much. It helps my mental state, and it’s within my control. It may seem like a lot, but being my own boss allows me to control my own schedule. I manage my music myself, and I have hired tutors to work under Summus Tutoring, so it’s not all on me.
As Summus Tutoring is starting to gain traction, I do anticipate balancing my schedule will get more difficult, especially because I am taking a pretty heavy course load this fall. I have hired a few C-suite execs which has been helpful to spread out some of the workload, a skill I acquired through MA! Some of my employees are friends from MA including Navika Budhraja ’19, a Computer Science major at UCSD. We help each other while putting good old-fashioned MA collaboration skills to the test.
I will always find time to write songs, play my guitar, and conceptualize music videos. Music is my outlet and my hobby. I use my own managerial skills to decide when and how to promote myself. During COVID, I’ve had more time to create music and to strategize release dates, all things I can do easily with technology and social media today. You can find my music almost anywhere—my website and social media sites, but also on YouTube and Spotify!
How has COVID-19 affected Summus Tutoring?
If anything, it has been good for us. Since everything has moved online now anyway, there is a huge need for our services at the current moment. Students of all ages are struggling with the transition to online school, and they need support in academic and artistic areas. We are a company that probably would not have been a super successful business venture before society’s transition to primarily remote work. Our tutors are in locations all across the country, so the online model actually serves us quite well. Human beings need art to soothe their soul, especially during a global pandemic. And this is not just about academic growth, it is about personal growth as well.
Besides starting Summus Tutoring you are actively trying to become a musician. When did you realize you had an interest in music?
My music days go back to when I was four years old, my Korean mother forced me to learn classical piano, and I absolutely hated it. I remember ripping up the pages in the book, but no matter what she made me practice every single day. Now, I look back and realize it was a blessing. Today so much of my music has a classical influence. It’s something I can dive into and use to help me get through difficult or exciting times. I like sharing stories in my writing, but also keeping it vague so the listener doesn’t entirely know the whole story. When I write, it just comes naturally to me. I remember at five years old writing short little songs for fun, and I’m hoping one day I can say those were my first hits!
How did MA support your musical aspirations and where you are today?
MA opened my mind to so much. In my World Music class my Freshman year I remember having to learn about musician’s influencers. We had to pick a song off the radio, research that artist’s influencers, and track the music back into history. I learned how to perform and handle an audience, learned storytelling, and I vividly remember one of my favorite teachers, Chris Detrick, always saying, “You have to tell a joke!” Minicourse my Sophomore year, Song by the Sea—songwriting with KaTrina Wetzel, also had a huge influence on me. Some of the songs I had the opportunity to write that week, I have put out on my extended player (EP). I also look at fellow alum Rozzi Crane ’09 as an idol and true inspiration!
Some of my closest friends play a major role in my music and are helping me achieve my dream. In my recent video, Better Than Saturday, Kameron Jamasbi (KamJam) ’19 help me produce it, Taitum Brooks ’18 filmed the video, and the featured dancer was Madeline Rodriguez ’19.
If not for the things I learned at MA, both tangible intellectual information as well as learning how to learn, I never could have started Summus Tutoring, nor would I be chasing my music career. MA really molded me into who I am not just as the artist that I am, not just as the student that I am, but the human that I am, and there are so many people I owe for this: Laurie, Jared, Chris, Mark, Pam, and Glenn. The teachers and staff are what make MA so special. Even though I am no longer at MA, my teachers are still extremely helpful and supportive in my music career, and I am so grateful.
I’ve heard your music, and I’ve had the opportunity to sit down with you (via Zoom) and chat. You are an incredible human being with many talents. What is the best way for the MA community to follow you and listen to your music?
Wow, thank you! I would love for the MA community to follow me and support me on my journey. If you want to check out my music visit my website, and if you’re looking for a tutor (or to become a tutor), visit Summus Tutoring, and I will make sure you get the help you need. Getting the support of the MA community at large would mean the world to me!