Katherine Forrester Schneewind has two passions: country music and financial planning.

For Schneewind, a Bachelor of Arts degree in music therapy from the University of Minnesota eventually led to a career in finances. She uses her approach to music to help inform her financial planning at her new firm, High Note Wealth, in Deep Haven, Minn., where she is CEO and founder.

“Mathematics and music are rooted in the same area of the brain,” Schneewind said in an interview with Financial Advisor magazine. “I’ve always been interested in the stock market and finances, and I helped my mother with her finances.”

Schneewind started out as a music therapist working with traumatic brain injury patients, but she soon transitioned to financial planning with Northwestern Mutual. That was more than two decades ago. At Northwestern Mutual she was a wealth management advisor and was the recipient of the 2016 Top 50 Women in Business Award given by the Minneapolis Business Journal, as well as the 2017 and 2011 Top Women in Finance Award presented by Finance & Commerce magazine.

Then last November she launched her own firm with her brother, Michael Forrester, who is chief investment officer and president at the independent registered investment advisor.

“Having a background in music and music therapy makes me more empathetic and a better listener,” which helps to connect with clients and prospects, she said. “I still play the piano and sing but only as a hobby now. Money is a sensitive topic to many people and [having been a music therapist] helps me approach and connect with clients.”

High Note Wealth’s typical clients are women in transition, such as from a job change, divorce, disability or death of a spouse. They also are often business owners or corporate executives with complex finances who need to balance growth with risk. The firm starts with a financial plan and then reverse engineers into the investment part of the picture, she said. Most of Schneewind’s clients followed her to the new firm, which now has $500 million in assets under management.

“A lot of my clients have been with me since 1996 and that longevity is testimony to how successful we are at building relationships,” Schneewind said. She would like to see the firm add a few clients each year from referrals. Clients fall into a wide range of wealth levels from $500,000 in investable assets to $15 million.

“We would like to be a billion-dollar firm but we want to grow purposefully," she said. "Adding value for our clients is the most important thing. I wanted to have my own firm so I could expand the offerings for clients.”

Each new client to High Note Wealth receives an audit of their finances. “That makes us different,” Schneewind explained. “We look at the client’s situation and see if there is a way to improve it. Sometimes we find people who are already doing fantastic, and we tell them that. Then we position ourselves to be the one who can help when seasons change.”

Schneewind said "seasons" for a person could be life events, including pending retirement.