Transcript Snapshot 005 – Amy Chaplin

Transcript: Snapshot 005 — Amy Chaplin

Transcript for Snapshot 005 – Amy Chaplin

[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.

Welcome back. We’re doing a special series on the podcast this summer called Studio Snapshots. Rather than the in-depth, process oriented interviews you are used to hearing, these rapid fire interviews give us a glimpse into a guest’s 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 Amy Chaplin. Here’s Amy’s snapshot. Hi, Amy. Welcome to the podcast. Thank you for being here today. Can you introduce yourself and briefly tell us about your studio?

[00:01:09] Amy Chaplin: Sure. I’m really excited to be here. Thank you for inviting me, Andrea. My name is Amy Chaplin. My studio is called Studio 88. I have a piano studio in Bluffton, Indiana, which is Northeast Indiana. And I have had my full-time studio open for about, I think I’m in my 11th year now. But I’ve been teaching piano lessons since let’s see, I graduated high school basically. So something like 23 years, something like that. It was always kind of part-time, you know, a small handful of students on the side up until like 10 years ago. So my studio I have about 25 students of all ages. I’ve taught anywhere from preschool lessons through elderly adults.

[00:01:57] Andrea: Awesome. And what are you celebrating from the last school year?

[00:02:00] Amy Chaplin: Well, there’s a few things. It’s kind of hard to narrow it down sometimes, but I think the first thing that came to mind was just being able to have a full recital again with my students. During, you know, COVID everything, of course we were all doing the online thing. And then like last year I just did some mini recitals with smaller amounts of students. So it was kind of funny because I didn’t even realize until we were coming into the recital, like, oh my gosh, like, this is the first, you know, First time that we’ve had this big recital in a couple of years. So that was cool.

The other thing I was thinking about was retention. And this is something I just feel very blessed to celebrate every year, is that I just have students that stick around and, you know, you just see a lot of struggles with teachers sharing things on Facebook and stuff. And I just feel like I’ve always been blessed with great families and students that just continue piano lessons for years on end.

And I try to always actually calculate my numbers. This year it’s like 96% retention. Like I only lost really one student that you know, could continue. And when I talk about retention, it’s like, usually if there are students that are school-aged children that could continue. Like, I don’t really think about seniors in that or adults necessarily to me, it’s just those school-aged kids.

[00:03:08] Andrea: Well, it’s a huge celebration.

[00:03:10] Amy Chaplin: Yeah, it is and then the third thing is not really studio related, but I feel like I should mention it, was finally launching my podcast, The Piano Pantry Podcast, which I’ve been wanting to do for years and years and years. That was just like a huge thing that just makes my heart happy.

[00:03:24] Andrea: Yes. And we will link to that in the show notes too, so people can listen. Um, and it’s always fun to have a fellow podcast around the podcast. Flipping gears here. How were you challenged last year or did you have to learn any hard lessons?

[00:03:35] Amy Chaplin: I don’t know if I would say hard lessons, but I have really been trying hard to recover from perfectionism and just continuously working on things and working on things until I think that they’re, they’re perfect. And sometimes I realize that I just have to kind of let it go, you know, they say things like, just ship it, just get it out there. And that is really hard to do. So, yeah, last year I had been working on a resource, actually, a couple of resources for years on end and again, then I’m perfecting them, perfecting them. And I finally just like, I got to get this out here and I told my husband, if I don’t do this, like I’m going to go nuts because I just got to stop perfecting things. Anyway. So I finally hit, go on a couple of resources. One of ’em was like a Christmas book, helping students learn to play them by ear using cord charts and stuff. That was kind of a big, let go, like just get it out there and get it done.

[00:04:25] Andrea: Awesome. Yeah. Yeah. I totally relate to that. And this may lead into the next question but did you take any risks or go outside your comfort zone last year?

[00:04:33] Amy Chaplin: Oh my yes. I would consider myself a, I don’t know if you’d call it like a life skills teacher or a life skills piano teacher where like my main goal is I want my students to be able to have piano skills that will just serve them in everyday life.

That is like being able to play at church or being able to sit down when they’re at someone’s house and just play something just like that, or, you know, improvise at the piano just for fun. I’ve never consider myself competition focused type of teacher. And while I’ve always kind of mentioned those, you know, opportunities to students, if I think it’s something they might be interested in, Hey, you know, you could do a competition or you could do festivals. I’ve never really pushed it because it’s not my thing. Like, I just don’t feel like that’s what I want my focus to be in my lessons and my teaching. Not that there’s anything bad in that or that, you know, the quality of that high level is something to strive for. Definitely. You know what I mean? Like it’s just, that’s how I see myself as a teacher.

So anyway, so I had a couple of students, sisters ,that have been playing duets pretty regularly. They’re about the same level. They’re middle school, early high school. And I just threw it out there at the end of the year of the previous year. Hey, you know, this is something you could consider next year is doing a duet competition. Of course they’re like, yes. I’m like, ah!

[00:05:44] Andrea: Now I to do a duet competition.

[00:05:46] Amy Chaplin: Yeah. So, so we did it and it was a great experience and I definitely learned some things myself. Like everybody has imposter syndrome. And even though I have a master’s degree in piano performance and pedagogy, like even I feel like I’m not good enough. Am I good enough to actually put my students in competitions? And they did great, like in our state, the competition that they did, they have like divisions around the state or districts, I should say. And they have to hit a certain score. And if they hit that certain score, they can go onto state and the girls hit the score and they got to go onto the state level and it’s like, oh my gosh, I can do it. You know? So it was in when, both in mindset for me and for them as well.

[00:06:27] Andrea: Yeah. That’s fantastic. And what do summers look like for your studio? Both for your students and for you?

[00:06:34] Amy Chaplin: Well, I have always striven to have a light load in the summertime. Now I’m blessed that, you know, my husband and I both work, but we always consider him the primary breadwinner. And so I’ve had that flexibility where, you know, I can say, eh, I don’t want to teach as many students in the summertime. So I have always allowed flexibility. My policy statement says that students are strongly encourage to take summer lessons. Especially for the first three years. But after that, you know, if they choose to not take summer lessons that’s okay. But in order to hold a spot in the studio for the fall, they do pay like a holding fee deposit. That’s non-refundable. So I usually have about maybe 30% of my students take lessons and usually equates to about a day and a half of lessons. So I love it. It’s a great time for me to also catch up on other creative projects in the summertime.

And the format that I’ve always used for 10 years. And I’ve had a lot of teachers online that have heard about it that have been interested and, you know, intrigued by it is to offer students to take six lessons over the course of eight weeks. And what that does is that says I understand that you have life. That you have vacations and things that you want to do. And I want to offer flexibility to you. So, no, technically I’m not getting paid for those two weeks, but I’m making myself available for eight weeks. And the nice thing that I kind of like is some weeks, like I may have all of my students in one day and I have an hour break that I can go work on a project or something like that, or practice piano myself.

So it’s just a wonderful format that has worked super well for summer lessons and for my adult students throughout the year as well.

[00:08:07] Andrea: And what are you doing this summer to prep for the upcoming school year?

[00:08:10] Amy Chaplin: Well, one thing I’ve learned in the last few years is to not wait until the week before lessons to do like all the new things that I want to do for the school year. I used to do that and it just got to be so like kind of frantic and hectic. So one of the big things was like, I collect all of my students’ binders ahead of time and I clean them out myself. I put a new calendar in them, stuff like that. And I did that at the end of the school year, like their last lesson.

And then the next week I cleaned them all out and distribute ’em back to them. Now, some of them I held onto if they weren’t taking summer lessons, but that’s just like done and I don’t have to worry about that in August. The other thing is rest, of course. Making sure that I try to like take a step back and not just invest all of my free time in my creative projects.

[00:08:57] Andrea: And this one is supposed to be fun. So what’s one project or area of your business in which you spend maybe irrational amounts of time? Just because you enjoy it or you’re a little crazy in that way or whatever.

[00:09:09] Amy Chaplin: Well, probably a little bit of what I’ve already mentioned is just like perfecting the resources that I am working on with my students, like tweaking it, like, oh, I should make this bigger. Or I should make this, you know, gray and not black or, you know, silly little things that just end up taking too long. And the other thing, and when you’ve mentioned this was, um, Not really studio related, but personally related, like I like cooking, which you may or may not know from everything I do online. And I have a tendency to kind of obsess over perfecting my recipes, not my recipes, but like my recipe manager, I use an app called paprika. Oh, okay. And it, you know, it’s great because you can save links to recipes online. But it’s stored in your own like account. So like you can edit it as much as you want, so it downloads it off the website and you can edit.

So I’m like always like tweaking the layout or the order of ingredients or, you know, making it easier to read or things like that. And it’s just like, I spend way too much time.

[00:10:02] Andrea: I also use Paprika and know what you mean editing, like wanting every recipe format to look the same. I totally like this question because you get to see that side of people.

Is there a book you read in the last year that you’d recommend for listeners summer reading list?

[00:10:18] Amy Chaplin: Well, luckily I write down all the books that I read because I would’ve had a hard time thinking back. But the one that I came up with, excuse me, that I think teachers would find beneficial is Think Again by Adam Grant. Have you read that one, Andrea?

[00:10:34] Andrea: I have not.

[00:10:35] Amy Chaplin: Okay. So he also has a book called Originals which I read, I don’t know, a year or two ago, which is also excellent. But the whole premise of the book is about opening our minds, encouraging others to think again, and to create communities of lifelong learners. So it’s just about like rethinking what you feel like you already know and believe..

And I pulled a quote out of the book that I thought would really describe the book well, and what it’s about and kind of the goal and the quote from the book says, “this book is an invitation to let go of knowledge and opinions that are no longer serving you well, and to anchor your sense of self and flexibility rather than consistency.”

And I just really think that this book is great for us as teachers too, because I think often we can get kind of tied into how we just do things all, you know, this is how I do this. And I think sometimes we have to think again, like, is what we’re doing actually serving our students well? Like, yeah, maybe it served you well 10 years ago, but is it serving today’s students well?

[00:11:31] Andrea: Mm-hmm yeah. Is there a particular time in a teacher’s career where you think that book might be helpful, like after they’ve taught five years or 15 years? Or is it kind of applicable to anyone?

[00:11:42] Amy Chaplin: Gosh, that’s a great question. You know, my initial response would be, it would be like for teachers that have been teaching for a while, because I think sometimes the longer we teach, maybe the more we kind of get set in the way that we do things.

 Just because you start knowing what works well and what works with your personality and your students. But I think it’s also good for new teachers because when you’re starting your studio, this is your audience and you’re, you’re starting your studio and you’re trying to grow your studio. You have to think outside the box and, you know, in order to, to grow your studio quickly, you can’t just say, well, this is just the one way that I’m doing things. You might have to open up yourself to different opportunities. And I think that this book in that way is very applicable.

[00:12:21] Andrea: So any stage really. Okay yeah. Thanks. And where can listeners get in touch with you?

[00:12:27] Amy Chaplin: Well, I have two websites. My studio website is, but I don’t know that that would serve listeners very well. You will find me mostly on my website for piano teachers,

[00:12:39] Andrea: All right, Amy. Thank you so much.

[00:12:41] Amy Chaplin: Thanks for having me, Andrea.

[00:12:48] Andrea: Thank you for taking the time to be with us, Amy. We’ll include a transcript and all the links mentioned in this episode at The Music Studio Startup website is also filled with lots of other resources for music teachers, just like you, who want to set up their studios for success this summer.

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

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