Transcript Snapshot 001 – Ken Thompson

Transcript: Snapshot 001 – Ken Thompson

Transcript for Snapshot 001 – Ken Thompson

[00:00:00] Andrea: Hey, it’s Andrea with Music Studio Startup, the podcast about the business of teaching music. Learn from the startup stories of music teachers who are doing incredible things with their studios. Be inspired by creating musicians who are branching out and thriving as entrepreneurs. Be empowered by the insights of experts who will help you grow your own studio. Let’s get started!

Let’s get started.

There is no doubt summer has arrived. Here in St. Louis we have temps of over 100 degrees more days than not this week, but what I’m really looking forward to this summer is the opportunity to change things up. Zoom out from the day to day and focus on some of the bigger strategic projects that there just isn’t as much time to tackle during the school year. We are doing a special series on the podcast this summer called Studio Snapshots. Rather than the in-depth, process oriented interviews you’re used to hearing, these rapid fire interviews give us a glimpse into a guest studio at a moment in time. They’re part reflection, part anticipation of the future, and fully a celebration of where these teachers are today.

Today, I’m talking to Ken Thompson, who you may remember from way back in episode 31. Here’s Ken’s snapshot.

Hi, Ken. Welcome back to the podcast. Can you introduce yourself and tell us briefly about your studio?

[00:01:30] Ken Thompson: Absolutely. Thank you so much for having me back. It’s a thrill to be speaking with you again. My name is Ken Thompson. I’m the founder and CEO of Musical Arts Center of San Antonio, which is known as MACSA. We’re in San Antonio, Texas. We’ve been around for 23 years. I think when I had spoken with you, it was in 2018. We have about 35 teachers: 12 staff at this point, mostly piano, about 30 ish piano teachers, seven voice. And if you do the math, you’ll see that’s like 37 because we have some people that teach both and we have some string teachers and, uh, clarinet teachers as well.

[00:02:07] Andrea: Awesome. And your earlier interview, has always been a favorite, so I really appreciate having you back and today’s format is gonna be a little bit different. Instead of the deep dive we normally do we’re just gonna do a quick snapshot of where your studio is today, at this moment, in the summer of 2022. So to kick us off, but what are you celebrating from the last school year?

[00:02:27] Ken Thompson: Well, surviving the last school year, I think it was pretty crazy, you know. I mean what an opportunity. At some point you can make a deep dive into how everybody made it through the pandemic. But, you know, we got back. We were enthusiastic. We got hit with Delta, and then we got back on our feet again and hit with Omicron, which was very, very challenging for our students and teachers in the country and the world, of course.

But yeah, we did well. I would say we’re, we’re coming out enthusiastic, excited about the future, ready to do even better next year.

[00:02:57] Andrea: Amen to that. How were you challenged last year?

[00:03:01] Ken Thompson: Well, I kind of alluded to that a little bit, I guess. You know, the thing that happened with, uh, we also had challenges over mask mandates and, you know, integrated some, some people back into the studio and trying to. Honor the concerns of lots of different stakeholders and people with widely different opinions. Very challenging to walk through all that. But we did. And part of what made that work so well was we were really good about setting up meetings with our teachers and staff and really getting people’s input.

And we also allowed them to kind of make a lot of those decisions on their own. And, uh, that really, in terms of implementation or if we had then disagreements with clients, which we had. We had, the same day, people quit because we required masks in certain situations and also some people quit because we weren’t requiring masks in all situations. So it was like literally there was no way to make everyone happy. So that was probably the biggest challenge of the whole year is just maneuvering through all that.

[00:03:58] Andrea: For sure. Did you take any risks or go outside your comfort zone in the last school?

[00:04:02] Ken Thompson: Oh, my goodness. Well, I would say I actually have, I I’ve took a big leap this week.

Actually. I’ve created a master plan for the next three years. Kind of following up with some of the stuff I talked about in the last podcast. Of course, in between the last podcast and now we, like I said, we have the pandemic and all that,. But we’ve hired several more full-time staff members and in a way we’re basing that need for the staff members, as well as the revenue to pay the staff members on our future expansion, which goes what we have not actually done yet. We’re just gonna do it and we’re using our reserves to pay them in order to be prepared for our growth. And of course, you know, intellectually, I know it’s the right thing to do, but there’s some teeth chattering, I would say on that. But, um, I’m, I’m looking forward to how they’re gonna make everyone’s lives a lot easier and things work a lot better.

[00:04:54] Andrea: I cannot wait to do another deep dive with you about that because yeah, anyone who hasn’t listened to your original episode should hear about how you’ve built a sustainable studio model for yourself and for your teachers, cuz it’s fascinating. What do summers look like in your studio for your students and also for you?

[00:05:10] Ken Thompson: Thank you for asking. You know, we at many times thought of doing summer camps and it’s still super tempting to do summer camps and things like that. Yet we keep finding because we mostly teach private lessons. I mean, we are, goodness, must be 96% private lessons. That when you really get into it, it’s hard to make it work financially for us.

Because again, we have so many piano teachers, which typically do private lessons. So basically what we’ll have is that individual studios will sometimes do like sort of group activities together and things like that. But typically we’re just rolling along, like we do the rest of the year, except for the fact that especially this year everybody’s going on vacation. So, um, we’re right in you’re CA you’re talking to me in the week, basically that we are like, oh yeah, they’re those numbers diving again. And so, yeah, we’ll lose about, I would say 20%, in the summer, but then typically there’s a lot of people signing up as well, but that’s sort of what we’ve done. We’ve just, you know, rolled along. I will suggest to people, we used to try to separate our summers as a separate section of our offerings, I suppose, or like a, a separate semester. We found that actually that gave more people, they would sort of think about quitting then more rather than just kinda like, Hey, well, let’s, we’re moving along through June let’s talk about what we’re gonna do. So we found that by. Kind of not making a separate summer as a school itself is actually, we tended to have fewer people be like, whoa, it was almost like they, well, you reminded them that there was an option to stop in the summer by asking ’em what do they wanna do in the summer.

Instead, you just sort of tell ’em, well, we’re gonna do this. See you next week. yeah. See you next week. You know, I mean, come on. And then, but even so of course, a lot of people are going on break this year.

[00:06:51] Andrea: And what does a typical summer look like for you in terms of prep for the following school year? And is this summer any different?

[00:06:58] Ken Thompson: Good question. I would say the difference here is, is that the staff hiring that I just mentioned more towards what we’re gonna be doing a year from now, and then basically, so, so what’s happening now. This is okay from the master’s plan perspective is I have a much clearer view of where I want us to be in two years. Like, very clear. And so from that perspective, I’ve kind of dropped down what we need to do this summer through the following year. So I guess I’m kind of thinking a bit more, like from this standpoint through 12 months. Obviously our marketing is gonna be pretty strong over the summer, but it’s more like just heading into this year with our activities and things like that.

And also communicate, I, I will say one of the things we did, we just hired a communications director, which we’ve never had before to help us communicate to our stakeholders. And part of that is getting them excited about the year. And of course what we’re gonna be doing coming in 12 months.

[00:07:51] Andrea: Wow. Okay. And this last question’s just meant to be fun, but what is one project or area of your business in which you spend irrational amounts of time?

[00:08:00] Ken Thompson: Irrational amounts of time. I think, I think almost every part of the business, I spent irrational amounts of time in some ways. Although it’s probably hard for people to see that the thing I’m real excited about some of the new faculty we have coming on board. And one of them, I was doing their, we do several interviews before they come on.

So we were doing the technical interview, like the one where we talk about how they teach and, and all that kind of stuff. And we just, I just can’t stop talking about piano technique to people that love to talk about piano technique. I mean, it was, it just gets kind of ridiculous. I get giddy talking about, you know, large muscle groups, small muscle groups, fine motor skills, and how it all fits into how you do when you’re under pressure. It’s just ridiculous. That’s pretty much my biggest nerd out thing. I would say. And I had to stop myself. I, it was going overtime in the interview and, and she was very polite. See, that’s the sad part is that I catch myself doing this in trainings too. I’ll keep going and going and going and I’ll turn around. I’ll look at all these very, you know, politely pleasant looking faces, and I’ll know it’s time to move on to another topic. So that kind of keeps happening.

[00:09:02] Andrea: I love it. I love it. Do you have any books that should be on our listeners summer reading lists?

[00:09:08] Ken Thompson: Definitely. So I actually last summer, my wife got me this book and it has changed my life. It’s called The Laws of Human Nature by Robert Green. It’s a really big I’m on my second read through right now. I’ve underlined like almost every word in this book. I’ve bought this book for several people. It is an amazing book, especially once you get in terms of how it might apply to working with a lot of people.

Well, frankly we do work with a lot of people. Don’t we? I mean, that’s the whole thing. If you’re teaching, you’re working with people, if you’re, and you’re also like a person, you know, so this book is just astoundingly helpful and I’ve found it to be so incredibly important in terms of simplifying patterns of behavior and my understanding of them and not also reacting sometimes when people do something kind of sideways. Also keeps myself from doing things that are kind of, you know, like, well, where did that come from? Just amazing book. So I highly recommend that. It’s definitely not probably a beach read. I don’t think they’re gonna make a movie of it, but I mean, it is so amazing, so that as well as the EOS and the book from last time.

 I highly recommend this: The Laws of Human Nature by Robert Green.

[00:10:23] Andrea: All right. Thank you. That sounds fascinating. Where can listeners get in touch with you?.

[00:10:27] Ken Thompson: They can reach me at my email, which is KThompson@MACSA, M a C S a I N And my name K Thompson. Love to hear from people.

[00:10:38] Andrea: All right, Ken. Thank you so much.

[00:10:40] Ken Thompson: Thank you so much, Andrea. It’s a pleasure to talk to you.

[00:10:48] Andrea: Thank you for taking the time to be with us again, Ken. If you haven’t listened to Ken’s original episode, I highly recommend it and will link to it in the show notes. Those show notes will be at You’ll also find details for the summer cohort of Business Building 101, which will be starting next week.

This course is gonna help you get clear on your studio goals and develop your own roadmap for getting there. Whether you’re brand new to teaching or you’ve been teaching for a while and your studio just isn’t quite what you’d like it to be, I want you to check out Business Building 101. It’s gonna give you a huge jumpstart towards the studio you envision, and can save years of frustration and financial struggle. Teachers who actively participate, usually find that it pays for itself within a few weeks. Drop me a message if you’re on the fence. Once again, the show notes for this episode will be at

That’s all for today. Thanks for listening. I’ll be back next week.

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