Transcript Snapshot 009 – Christina Whitlock

Transcript: Snapshot 009 — Christina Whitlock

Transcript for Snapshot 009 – Chrstina Whitlock

[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 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 Christina Whitlock. Here’s Christina’s Snapshot.

Hi, Christina, welcome to the podcast. Thank you so much for being here today. Can you introduce yourself and tell us briefly about your studio?

[00:01:12] Christina Whitlock: Hey Andrea. I was so excited to get this invitation because you have had some of my very favorite people on this series. So I am thrilled to be amongst them. So I am kind of a lifelong piano teacher. I started teaching 27 years ago now. I was hired at the ripe old age of 14 to teach at my local music store and I just have never stopped. So I have a pretty sizable studio in my current location, which is in Northeast Indiana.

I had 48 students this last spring. I am undergoing a great downsize because I just hit my limits. We’ll talk about that later, I’m sure. So I also teach adjunct at Taylor University where I oversee the piano pedagogy program there and also run a community music school for them and all the other collaborative and side gigs we all have. And just for fun, I started a podcast in October 2020. And that’s the Beyond Measure Podcast that some of you may know .

[00:02:19] Andrea: Yeah. So you’re among the guests I’ve had who just have a lot of free time in their lives and don’t really know what to do with it.

[00:02:25] Christina Whitlock: We all do. You know, music teachers are just, we’re such a lazy bunch.

[00:02:29] Andrea: So on that note, what are you celebrating from the last school year?

[00:02:33] Christina Whitlock: I am celebrating that it is over. No, I’m teasing. I really did. I, I just, I feel like I just have learned this lifelong lesson over and over again about accepting too many responsibilities and last year, for a multitude of reasons, left me just with too many commitments and I have a young family and I got through. Everything was fine. Like my studio work was good. My collegiate work was good. My family pulled through with me just fine. But I suffered. Like my mental health, my physical health, all of it was like kind of down the drain by the time I hit May. So I’m working really hard to reprioritize my life and my health and all these things. Right. So I’m really, I’m celebrating that I made it through. We can all do hard things, right?

But at the same time, I should say something slightly more uplifting and that’s the thought that one of my struggles is that I have a lot of people who are willing to do a lot of things to get into my studio so it’s very affirming. I get lots of borderline comical requests from families that, I mean, I had a woman last week that put her two year old on my waiting list because she said, I know we’re going to want you. And I hear how hard it is to get in. So I’m putting her on now and you call me?

[00:04:01] Andrea: That’s incredible.

[00:04:03] Christina Whitlock: Yeah. And I don’t, I mean, you know, I hate to sound arrogant in any way, but I get humorous things fairly regularly and I think, all right. So while I’m very much a people pleaser and it’s hard for me to tell people no and to turn them away, I guess there’s a silver lining to that that at least people want to be here. Right. so, yeah, I’m going to celebrate affirmation of the fact that some people think I bring value to their lives.

[00:04:28] Andrea: Well, we’ll have to do a whole other podcast episode on that topic, fostering that waiting list and what you’ve done there. But I do thank you for sharing that. So many teachers relate to the, I took on too much responsibility, so I appreciate you sharing that with us. I know it’ll bring encouragement to a lot of listeners. That may dovetail into the next question. How were you challenged last year?

[00:04:50] Christina Whitlock: You’re exactly right. It is pretty much the same thing, but I do, like, I just think, as you said, so many of us struggle with this problem. Because in general, those of us who are drawn to music teaching and studio work are just really competent, like talented individuals. We’re capable of a lot of things. That’s how we’ve accomplished what we’ve accomplished in life. Right. So, The fact is though at the end of the line, if we spread ourselves too thin, then we’re not accomplishing anything really well. And that to me is just so disappointing. And that’s where my struggle really lied this year was that everything was okay. Probably better than okay. But it wasn’t to my standards and that’s a whole other topic of course, but, you know, because of course we have to watch out for our standards and make sure they’re realistic and those kinds of things. But at the same time, we want to meet our expectations for ourselves. If they’re healthy.

But yes, that is 100% my challenge this year. That I feel like maybe I’m a little closer to understanding. Even though I already feel like I’ve learned that lesson many times over in the last many years.

[00:06:03] Andrea: I think you have to relearn it in a lot of seasons. Did you take any risks or go outside your comfort zone last year?

[00:06:10] Christina Whitlock: Well guess it’s been a little more than a year, but I will say the podcasting thing as you know, is a little, feels risky in the end. I mean, it’s really not. That’s why I finally got mine off the ground, as I realized, oh, what is the risk involved in this? Not really all that much, but I just also think it’s hard to put yourself out there in a society where everybody is really good at like drawing lines in the sand and seeing things on very extreme perspectives. So again, people pleaser me is really afraid of someone coming back at me and being like, oh, what you said on that episode was so wrong. Honestly, no, one’s done that yet. Thankfully. So I appreciate that by the way. But I don’t know. So I do think that that pushed myself outside of my comfort zone, but I will also tell you this: that in an effort to combat all of this demand that I’m dealing with here in my studio, I am in the process of bringing four digital pianos into my home studio. So I’ll have my grand here and four digitals and I am starting one group class each evening for four students. And I am really excited about that. I taught group piano in college and always loved it.

And that has been well received amongst my studio families, because I explained to them that some of them needed to do that or they weren’t going to have lessons anymore. So they went right along with it. So it’s been great. And I’m looking forward to that.

[00:07:45] Andrea: Okay. And what do summers look like in your studio for your students and also for you?

[00:07:50] Christina Whitlock: My approach with summer is to make sure that there is some degree of flexibility. Mostly because through the academic year, because I am so full and I do have family obligations, I feel like I run things really strictly and I don’t make a lot of exceptions and, you know, no makeup lessons and all those kinds of things.

So I always feel like if I can give families as much choice as possible during the summer months that at least shows them that I do have some degree of flexibility, right? So they basically get three options. They can take six lessons. And this is for June and July, I should add. So my summer term is two months and they can take six lessons over those two months or they can take four lessons over those same two months.

Or they can pay a holding fee, which is like, probably about two thirds of the cost of the four lesson package. Anyway, so they either pay to hold their spot without having any lessons or they take four or six. And through those lessons, I generally will offer a couple of specialties. So this summer it was composition.

They could take a composition emphasis or this year was an emphasis on duet playing with another student. And the third, I always call business as usual, so we can just keep doing their thing if they don’t care about any of my chosen specialties for the summer. And I would say this summer, I think I had probably like split and thirds equally. So I think I had about a third in each category, so that’s kind of fun for me too.

[00:09:18] Andrea: So a slightly lighter schedule, different content, just kind of freshen things up a little, gives some variety. That sounds fun. And what are you doing this summer to prep for the next school?

[00:09:27] Christina Whitlock: Well, here’s the deal. I’m getting these keyboards, right? So that’s quite a bit of my time and energy. And so they’re getting delivered in just a few days, actually. So my current project is to decide exactly where they’re going, cause I keep changing my mind. But I also do a ton of repertoire planning for my students in the month of August. So I like to look down the line and I kind of project who I think is going to do like what competitions and what festivals and things in the spring. And I try to plan out what I want them playing for those kind of Keystone events. And this is overkill to so many I know, but , it’s a fun mental exercise for me and it helps me like avoid the situation which I’ve had in the past where, you know, so and so wants to do this competition, but then all of a sudden I realize they don’t have a Baroque piece, you know, and we have what, like four weeks to learn an invention or something. Which never goes well, right? This is not ideal for anyone.

So I like to just kind of make sure that it’s all planned out. They don’t get the music yet necessarily. You know, I divvy that out, but I like that the planning is done and one fell swoop and I just deal better with batching that than trying to tackle it in different times throughout the year. So I guess that’s my big summer setup.

[00:10:47] Andrea: Okay. Sounds fun. And what is one project or area of your business in which you spent irrational amounts of time?

[00:10:53] Christina Whitlock: Well, it’s probably that. It’s repertoire planning for sure. I love repertoire, Andrea. I just can’t even tell you. I teach a ton of music. I cannot limit myself to like one series or one anything. And so my students spend most of their time in what we would consider supplemental repertoire and we’ll use method books kind of as supplements for basically sight reading and quick learning projects and that kind of thing. I know it’s really bizarre.

[00:11:24] Andrea: You took the 80 -20 rule over there.

[00:11:26] Christina Whitlock: I really do. Absolutely. And I just love it because that, I mean, as a piano teacher the repertoire is like, that’s the draw of our instrument in so many ways, right? Is that there’s such a wealth and we’ll never be able to play at all in our life. And likewise, I want to teach as much of it as I can. So with that, that means I just, I assign a lot of music and I constantly will. Like, I keep notes in my phone on each student and every now and then I think of a piece and I’ll be like, oh, so and so needs to play that. And I keep the tabs in my phone and it’s just, I just constantly think of music to assign students. It really is my life’s obsession.

[00:12:06] Andrea: I love knowing teachers like you because when I need some new music ideas I know exactly who to ask cause you guys know everything about what’s out there. Thank you for the work you do.

[00:12:16] Christina Whitlock: Anytime, Andrea. Anytime .

[00:12:18] Andrea: Is there a book you read in the last year that you’d recommend for our listeners summer reading lists?

[00:12:23] Christina Whitlock: I read a lot of books. I love a lot of books. I was trying to think kind of off the beaten path for you for this question. And so I try to reread Brene Brown’s The Gifts of Imperfection every year or two. It just, it speaks to me and it speaks to the way I relate to other people. But that’s all about just kind of trying to cultivate this approach to what she calls wholehearted living, right? And how it speaks to our motivations and our emotions and why we do what we do and why we feel the way we feel. And it’s just, there’s so much good in there to take for yourself. And also as you, you know, deal heavily with the public, I think there’s a lot of gems there. So I’ll go with that. Yes. I also love Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. Just as a, kind of like a creative brainstorm. I don’t agree with everything she says, but I also like reading things from other perspectives than mine. So Big Magic is a good one too.

[00:13:22] Andrea: Okay. Great recommendations. And where can listeners get in touch with you?

[00:13:26] Christina Whitlock: So I am slowly but surely cranking out a new website, which is That’s me. And it’s probably close enough to being publicly consumable that I’ll just leave that there now and that’s kind of a catchall for the studio work I do and then this myriad of projects I am now taking on for teacher development.

[00:13:50] Andrea: Excellent. We can put any other links in the show notes for social media and all that. All right, Christina. Thank you so much for being here today.

[00:13:57] Christina Whitlock: Oh, it was so much fun to meet you, Andrea. Thank you.

[00:14:05] Andrea: Thank you for taking the time to be with us, Christina. We’ll include a transcript and all the links mentioned in this episode at The Music Studio Startup is also filled with lots of other resources for music teachers, just like you, who wanna set up their studios for success.

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

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