As I’ve navigated my way through my career, I’ve gotten a lot of questions and commentary from colleagues and other people who usually mean well. “Anna, when are you going to open your own studio?” “Wow, you sure do a lot of driving!” “Wow, your schedule is packed!” “What’s up with the ducks anyway?”
I’ve been teaching private lessons for over a decade, and have been teaching what has now become the Miss Anna’s Music School kids for 7 years. That’s seven years of driving, schedule inflexibility, relying on whatever kind of keyboard or piano is in the student’s home, working most nights until 9 or even 10 pm, and oh man, did I mention the driving? I thought I would outline the myriad of reasons why a studio will be beneficial not just to myself and the Millenium Sapphire (yes, that’s my car’s name), but more importantly, to all of you as well.
Yes, driving is a big factor.
I log roughly 150 miles a week traveling to students. Combine that with my personal driving, and I am filling up my gas tank every 5 – 6 days. I’m also spending roughly 7 hours in my car a week commuting between houses. That’s a lot of podcast listening! It is my hope that I can open up a studio that is in Woodbridge, Fords or Perth Amboy, since that is where I (and many of you) already live.
I am actually a pretty go-with-the-flow kind of person… when I can be. But when my schedule is dependent on being at different locations around the area at specific times, it is sometimes just not possible to move a lesson due to a scheduling conflict or illness. By opening a studio, I will be able to have a little bit more flexibility in my schedule. I will have more times available for lessons so you will have a better chance of finding that perfect time slot – one which can progress through the school year, unaffected by holidays, sports, other extracurricular activities, doctors appointments and other things that come up from time to time. If a student receives steady, regular instruction, with no interruptions for a baseball game or after-school activity, they will stay focused with practicing, make better progress and actually enjoy playing their instrument. And isn’t that the whole point?
Buying a piano is either an expensive investment in a skill that your child will cherish and carry with them for the rest of their lives, or it is an expensive investment in a large piece of furniture that is going to start collecting dust in six months. It’s hard to tell how long a student is going to stay with piano lessons so you are hesitant about shelling out all that money. Or you can’t find a good cheap one on Craigslist. Or maybe you simply can’t have one in your home due to noise or space constraints.
I get it.
But that doesn’t mean that your little piano player can’t have the experience of playing on a fine acoustic piano once a week at their lesson. One of the first items on my list is a baby grand piano for our new studio. It’s something I’ve personally always wanted and something that every student should have the chance to play on. Baby grand pianos, even used, can cost a minimum of $5,000 to $10,000 but if you were to hear one, you’d know it is worth every last penny. Having lessons on an acoustic piano is not a substitute for having one at home, but if a piano at home is impossible at the moment, being able to take lessons on one is the next best thing.
Set and Setting
Kids know that when they go to school it’s time to learn. When you go to the park it’s time to play. When you go to the studio, it’s time for your lesson. But what about when the teacher comes to your living room? The mindset of the student and the setting they are learning in is often times just as important (if not moreso) than what the student is trying to learn. I can’t wait to create a space that is encouraging for all my creative, budding musicians, without the intrusions and distractions of their home lives. I understand that for many of you, it is infinitely more convenient for me to come to you than for you to come to me. However, I think the benefit of travelling to my magical, musical studio (ok, it’s probably not actually going to be magical) will be not just fun, but might help students who have focus issues whether they are internal (active brain) or external (yappy poodle) (yes, I can admit it, my own dog is a distraction half the time).
Duets and Ensemble Playing
One of the most fun things about music is the chance to get together with a whole bunch of musicians and rock out! Music can be just as social an activity as any other after school activity. It’s something I didn’t really get to enjoy until much later on in my musical studies, and it’s something I hope to be able to share with my students. Playing duets between students (as opposed to students being accompanied by their teacher) is a fun and important part of music lessons that teaches not just musical skills like active listening and understanding harmony, but can also teach skills that spill over into every day life – taking turns, delegating, listening to others, trusting others, communicating clearly. Not to mention, being able to create music with another person is just a downright fun and rewarding experience.
At the studio, I hope to continue the group guitar classes that I have been offering for two years now, but I also hope to start a guitar ensemble, open to students of both classes and one-on-one lessons. If space permits, I would like to start a children’s choir at the studio (if I’m shooting for the stars here I would love to actually produce musicals with a middle school aged group). Maybe even a rock band or two. Workshops for budding singer/songwriter types with actual successful local singer/songwriter types. Masterclasses with other professional musicians and teachers. Finally, having a neutral space to work with piano and guitar students on duets will be much easier to coordinate instead of trying to figure out when we can all get together at so-and-so’s house this week and at the other student’s house the following week and is everyone available at the right time and does this student’s mom feel comfortable having a bunch of people in her house on a random Tuesday afternoon. It feels like a lot which is why I haven’t done much of it yet. But I really, really, really want to be able to do this! Group events are something that I’ve been incredibly eager to add to my list of services.
Having a Home Base
Can I tell you a secret? I legitimately daydream about how I would decorate the walls of this studio. There would be obligatory studio announcements, of course. But also pictures from past recitals and events. A map of the world to see where all the different composers lived. Space to post about student accomplishments, musical or otherwise. Of course, lots and lots of rubber ducks. One of the things I look forward to most is having a place for the music we create to have a home where we, the students, and the music are all celebrated. Because, like, isn’t that the point?
This is all going to be a bit costly…
I’ve been working on spreadsheets (if you told High School Me I’d spend my spare time playing in Excel instead of The Sims I’d have laughed in your face) and the cost of all of this is not really a lot as far as business start-ups go, but they are costs nonetheless, and the money has to come from somewhere. It is my hope that I can launch a successful Indiegogo crowdsourcing campaign to raise some of the funds, and then apply for a business loan to cover the rest.
So this is where you come in.
Over summer 2017 I will be launching a fundraiser to cover my start-up costs. There are basic costs like a security deposit on the lease, the baby grand, furniture and a computer, and then there are stretch costs like music games, handheld percussion toys, even the gear for a composing/recording station – a computer and keyboard, plus iPads and other tech accessories. (Oh, and don’t forget the rubber ducks.) There will be perks ranging from MAMS swag – bracelets, tshirts, backpacks, temporary tattoos – to live musical performances and prepaying the year’s tuition at a discount. Every little bit (and big bit) will help. Even if I don’t reach my fundraising goal by my deadline, Indiegogo still funds me, meaning that even if all I can do is raise the funds to cover the rent for a few months, that combined with a small business loan will give me the boost I need to make this dream of mine a reality.
I hope you’re ready to join me in this dream. This is truly going to be a great adventure and I hope we’ll be able to embark on it together.