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Shaping Professional Futures at Music Room and Uplevel U: Music, How an Education-Based Music Business Is Helping Schools

Updated: 14 hours ago

It’s always so bittersweet working with the high school seniors.


Having an extremely low turnover rate of students at my studio is only 95% great.  There’s only measly 5% that’s very difficult to deal with- graduation.  The majority of my students stay with me for several years and lately, it seems like I’m dealing with the mixed emotions of seeing a few students graduate and move on with their lives each year.  


A professional with her intern

Not all of them are going into a collegiate music program.  Actually I seem to breed a lot of engineers, which can be a very creative and analytical profession and the soft skills that accomplished musicians nurture seems to feed into the engineering mind.  Or maybe I’m biased- the two engineers in my family also participated in performing arts in high school.  I don’t really know… I might be theorizing. 


Yesterday I spent my last hour at the studio teaching two brand new units of AP Music Theory to my one senior (who will be starting in a music education program in the fall at SUNY Fredonia) before her exam four days from then.  This particular individual is a more accomplished and more disciplined musician than I was at her age.  She also did an amazing job at our internship at the studio and is able to earn some money this summer by subbing and helping to repair our rental instruments that are coming our way in about a month before she leaves for school.  Lessons with her are bittersweet.  I do not look forward to losing her this fall.  


Other students of mine are approaching NYSSMA level 5 and 6 solos and we keep a “Brag Board” of students that make it into All-County and Area All-State ensemble opportunities.  Students passing through our studio are in amazing hands to do amazing things in their lives, partly because of the opportunities that their parents are investing in them with us.  




The Craving For Higher Level Instruction While In An Education-Based Music Business



But let’s talk about this internship program a little.  It started in maybe 2015 with high school seniors that were looking to be in a music program in college.  Some have excelled in the program and have gone on to get Master’s degrees, teach, and other opportunities.  Some do not finish.  It’s rigorous.  There’s a portfolio that is completed and a long instrument repair checklist that they witness, help and complete as the opportunities are available during their time.  It probably takes around 150 hours of time.


The 2023-2024 school year was the first year we graduated two interns and the first year we took on a college student instead of a high school student.  Being located near Villa Maria College, which houses a Music Industry program, an internship is required, and because our program focuses on accountability and hands-on tasks as much as possible, Music Room is a vibrant little place for budding professionals to get thrown into the experience in the most nurturing way.  Interns learn about music retail, music business, studio music education, event planning and music repair in between 3-6 months depending on their hours with us each week.  


Why did this come about?  Why was it important to focus on shaping young professionals?  

This is a business of education.  If we have interns, it tells every other client and customer that we care about music education on all levels and are willing to invest our time on it.  Interns take time and extra work, but to those that have that extra passion about their line of work, it’s worth it to watch an intern grow into it.  


I often thought about going back to get a DMA or PhD in Music Education.  I even knew that I wanted to expand my (very lengthy) Master’s Thesis into a highly researched dissertation on educational methods in pitch reading, since my beginning note readers learn to read in an average of two half-hour lessons.  I want to back up my methods with data and publish it someday so other teachers can teach pitch literacy as efficiently.  


I even knew how I would use that DMA.  I wanted to run a Music Education department at a college and be only responsible for growing young music teachers.  The only downfall would be that I would have to uproot my life in Western New York and relocate to anywhere that had the position available.  Once I ventured into music business ownership, those plans were put aside and I started the internship program afterward, so that somehow I could still do this… and not take on any student debt with the cost of a DMA.  



Creating the next era of music professional development on a laptop


The COVID Era Continues to Make Us Rethink Things, Especially Music Education in the Schools



The era of COVID lockdowns shook Music Room to its core to the point that financially we are still recovering.  I watched education facebook groups from the sidelines to hear what teachers of all kinds were saying about virtual schools and policies.  Teachers have been leaving the profession in droves as a result from the exposure to how vulnerable and broken the educational system is. Now locally all of the COVID relief funding is running out for the school budgets and teachers are being cut everywhere to make up for budget deficits, despite shortages.


I wanted to help, but have been in no position to enter the workforce again because of a full lesson schedule and business to have open to the public.  I knew that teachers needed help and support, things created to make their lives easier and have a lot of soul-searching of what that method of help was, I realized the answer was right in front of me.  


 

How A Small Education-Based Music Business Helps School Music Teachers


In all my years of teaching privately, I had established efficient methods to teach just about everything and most of it was through trial and error.  I thought I had great collegiate training, but I learned much more through my first 10, even 20 years of teaching and I still continue and refine today, especially as technology improves.  Could I share that with other teachers?  Could I help teachers save time and reduce their trial-and-erroring?  Could I help save someone’s career?  Could I continue to shape professionals over the internet from across the state, country or world?  Could music teachers finally have access to relevant professional development at home because of my project?  Could my little education-based music business help schools with a critical need that music teachers have?


And by that time the answer was yes.  That project is Uplevel U: Music.  This is where it came from.  This is my way to change the world and leave a legacy of my music instruction behind someday when I leave this world, even if the technology is irrelevant by then.  The methods can and will  live on.  

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