Transcript Snapshot 011 – Tony Parlapiano

Transcript: Snapshot 011 — Tony Parlapiano

Transcript for Snapshot 011 – Tony Parlapiano

[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 are 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 Tony Parlapiano. Here’s Tony’s Snapshot.

Hi, Tony. Welcome back to the podcast. Thank you so much for returning today. Can you introduce yourself and tell us briefly about your studio and maybe a brief update on what’s changed since we last spoke?

[00:01:13] Tony Parlapiano: Sure. Yeah. My name is Tony Parlapiano. I’m a piano instructor, creator of a curriculum called Popmatics, where I focus on learning by listening and helping students to play the music that they hear. Primarily focus on independence so that they can be able to play and create, not having to rely on standard notation or chord charts, but to be able to go direct to source and take what they hear from the radio and put it right onto the instrument.

And as far as what’s changed since the last time we spoke, I was doing entirely private lessons at that time. And now my studio has changed to more of a like a kind of a school setting. They’re all group sessions, but not really group lessons in the traditional format where you have a specific group that meets at a set time each week, but more of kind of an open class scenario where I have a schedule of events and everybody is invited to attend any class that they’d like.

[00:02:11] Andrea: What are you celebrating from the last school year?

[00:02:14] Tony Parlapiano: This has certainly been one of the most challenging years in my studio, and I’ll say that the, the celebration is really in finding a new structure for the way that I deliver lessons. And just in general, the format and the amount of flexibility that I’ve been able to offer families.

The biggest celebration is that I find many teachers are in a situation right now where they’re having to rethink their lesson policies and their rates as things in the economy are getting more expensive. And so the trajectory has been to increase rates, tighten up on policies, and I’ve tried to move into a different direction where I’ve been able to offer families more flexibility at a cost that was less than what they were paying before.

So it’s a little bit of a different experience, but I’m very much celebrating the fact that I’m going to be the one thing that people pay for that isn’t going to just keep increasing over time, and that I’ve been able to secure this format where I can deliver an incredible experience and reach a wider audience at a very affordable rate and just make the lesson experience very accessible to all.

[00:03:26] Andrea: That’s awesome. That is definitely a celebration. How were you challenged last year?

[00:03:31] Tony Parlapiano: I was challenged in so many ways. The biggest challenge, you know, a year ago today, I was still offering private lessons and I was fortunate to really thrive through the pandemic and moving to online lessons. I’d been teaching online for 10 years before the pandemic, so it was a very comfortable transition for me, and I really was able to maintain a lot of my flexibility and as things were, the school year was kind of closing out last year, and spring sports started to open back up and people were ready to go back on vacation.

I started to notice that my accommodating personality and my very flexible arrangements with my families was starting to really interfere with my family time and time with my children. So I didn’t want to return back to this very strict format and I wanted to make this kind of big change with the way that I offer lessons.

And I think the biggest challenge was that it happened very quickly and it was very clear in my mind of what I had, that the vision that I had was very clear in my mind, but it was not clear to the families that I was asking to participate in it. And I think I kind of just trusted too much that everybody would just follow along. And I think I confused a lot of my families in the process by having this big concept and kind of inviting them onto the construction zone while it was being built.

[00:04:58] Andrea: I can understand that, like trying to invite them to be part of the process of creating the thing.

[00:05:03] Tony Parlapiano: Very much. It was, I’m not in the habit of quoting Mark Zuckerberg, but where he says, you know, ideas do not come out fully formed and that’s, that’s what it was.

I just had this great concept. I was very excited about it and it was really poor timing to announce it because it was heading right into summer and it was confusing to families. And they were very busy and it just wasn’t communicated very well to the families. And so because of that, it led to just a lot more change than I ever anticipated and that I would’ve ever been willing to just bring on, you know, it was, it was, I’m pretty routine person and I like my daily rhythms, and this has been a, a significant change.

However, at the, at the same time, I wouldn’t change a thing. I’m so happy with the way that things are running now.

[00:05:52] Andrea: Mm-hmm. There’s so much more we could get into in a longer format episode, so, we’ll, I’m sure we’ll have to return to this, but that leads well into next question. Did you take any risks or go outside your comfort zone last year and what’d you learn from that?

[00:06:04] Tony Parlapiano: I took a big risk without really knowing it. It’s just kind of what I was saying in the last one. It’s, I didn’t really anticipate how big of a risk this was. I was just really excited about the idea and didn’t realize that it’s a great idea, but not necessarily for the clients that I had. And so, I believed in it so much and it was so important to me to move forward with this new format, but it was not something, my customers were customers, my clients, my students, my families.

It’s not something that they were asking for. And they were used to a particular thing and they didn’t really embrace the change along with me. And again, a lot of that was my fault for just not being able to communicate it clearly to them. That was the big risk. But unfortunately, I was a little blind to seeing it.

However, it’s led to a lot of growth and experience of learning. I’m really learning like a whole new side of the business that I never really had to worry about with travel teaching, where I would meet with students and be with people for 10 years. It’s been exciting, but at the same time, you know, very challenging to kind of learn all of these things that I’d never really had to deal with in the first 15 to 20 years of running the business.

[00:07:17] Andrea: Mm-hmm. And what do summers look like in your studio, both for students and for you? Maybe it’s different now this summer than last summer.

[00:07:25] Tony Parlapiano: You know, summers have never really been any different for me. I, I always joke I said, you know, it’s like lessons as usual. I may occasionally wear shorts. Like that’s the only difference with summers.

Like I don’t change anything about the format. I’ve always maintained a lot of flexibility and just worked it out when I was doing private lessons, but now that the way that I’m running my program where it’s just a schedule of events and people have access to it, they’re subscribed. They can come whenever they want.

There’s a lot of flexibility with them being able to pick and choose the times that they come and how they want to use the program. There’s a lot of recorded content, so some people are using it that way. They don’t even come to the live classes. They rely on a lot of the recordings, and there really doesn’t have to be any change.

Which is really nice. And I will take off a little bit more time myself, but I also have a business partner now that I’m working with Angela Senich, and she can cover some of my classes. So now when I take off classes, it’s like we got a sub to teach. So it’s, it’s really nice to have that level of flexibility.

So I anticipate giving myself a little bit more freedom for myself, but the student experience is not going to be really too much different. They’re going to be used to the same opportunities that they have now.

[00:08:30] Andrea: On that note, what are you doing this summer to prep for the next school year?

[00:08:34] Tony Parlapiano: There’s no preparations for the next school year because it’s really just the same thing every day.

The, the way the program runs now is students really generate the content through the questions that they ask. So they ask for material, they ask when we’re in class, questions come up, and that just becomes content for the next day, and things are built out. There’s a very specific thing that we’re trying to do, and really the, the songs that we choose to study are just a subject for this overall big format for where I teach the curriculum of Popmatics and really the approach of learning by listening and trying to get everyone to develop their own process, which looks a little different for each person, but we all learn from each other in that way. So there’s not really any changes. It’s every day is a little unexpected of exactly what’s going to happen, but the overall general format everybody knows. So there’s not going to be ever again this feeling that anything is different or that I need to prepare or plan for anything, or that there’s going to be a big change. It’s just the structure is in place now, and there will be times where I take days off, but it’s going to be lessons as usual.

You know, we don’t have to discuss schedules or anything. Nobody has to tell me when they’re off. It’s just they’re free to come when they’re available.

[00:09:41] Andrea: Okay. And then you’ve got a normal routine of creating new content and putting out new lessons and things like that. That just continues throughout the school year, it sounds like.

[00:09:50] Tony Parlapiano: Yeah, every day. Uh, I teach four, usually four classes a day, and we have a theme. We have this thing that we call the Sunday recorder. It’s like a weekly song puzzle that we collectively as a studio, we pick a song of the week and we all try to learn that by listening, you know, not through chord charts, not through written music. But we all discuss it together and discuss all the various elements of that song.

So that’s the one thing that’s kind of consistently rotating is we have a new subject each week that we’re studying together. We learn from that and take the, um, kind of make connections from week to week with each song. But it’s, as far as like the lessons, it’s not so much, it’s just everything’s a continuation. And when you have a group. It’s really more of a community experience. You can rely on the community to work together to create the experience just through their questions and letting them interact. So I don’t have to ever really be concerned with like, what am I going to teach today? Because I know that the students are always going to come with questions and let me know how things are going. And it’s great because they then they can all learn from each other as well.

[00:10:52] Andrea: That sounds really fun. What app or tool has made the biggest impact on your studio or life management this year?

[00:10:58] Tony Parlapiano: There’s a platform called Discord that many might be familiar with. Technically it’s a social media platform, but we have a private server and this kind of acts as our online learning community. So in addition to the live classes that we host on Zoom, there’s a whole online community on Discord, and it’s set up very much like a virtual college campus.

We have a welcome center when people arrive, a bulletin board where we make announcements. We have an area where we have our, what we call Popmatics 101 which is our main classes. And so each of our classes has a channel where I post notes from class. We have a channel for videos. I do recorded videos, and a channel that I call Popmatics To Go .So when people can’t make the live classes, they can catch up on recorded content. We have music library where things go. We have an area in there where people can talk a little bit more casually about other interests. Like we have an art channel where people share their artwork. We have a books channel where people discuss books.

We have a memes channel where people share music jokes, those little music memes that we have. Pet picks, so people are always putting in pictures of their pets. So this idea of just community building things. And every student has a locker on Discord, and that’s probably the best asset that we have because the lockers provide every student a private channel where they can post recordings of things that they’re working on.

And when they come to class and they take notes, they put it in their locker. So they have this one place where they can store all their information and we only offer feedback or listen to their recordings if they request it. So they have that option as well. So it’s great because we have the online classes, we have the learning community, and then they also have this private channel where they can just put recordings and just leave a trail of effort that they’ll be happy to look back on and be able to just see all their progress that they’ve made while they’ve been in the program.

[00:13:00] Andrea: Uhhuh, it’s like the hallway between classes, it sounds like.

[00:13:03] Tony Parlapiano: Very much so.

[00:13:05] Andrea: What’s one area of your business where you tend to get carried away or go overboard? You know, something you nerd out about or just really enjoy digging into?

[00:13:14] Tony Parlapiano: I can’t believe I’m going to say this, but it’s actually, it’s emojis and names.

So this is a very detailed program. We have several different classes and we have a lot of unique names for things. And I also like to attach an emoji to each of the names. So for example, we have four stages of the curriculum, which could be thought of as like your freshman, sophomore, junior, and senior year of college.

And the names for those, like the first one is called Units. And the emoji for that is a puzzle piece because we think of that like the initial pieces of each puzzle, and it’s like the sorting process and looking at each concept individually. And so that’s. For example, an emoji there. And then when we have something like our stage four, which is called system essentials, I use a diamond for that one.

Cuz those lessons are very hard, but they’re very valuable. So I like to capture a bit of the feel of the class in an emoji. So these all mean something to me, and I’m known to totally derail a meeting with my partner if I feel like the name of a particular channel doesn’t just feel right or if the emoji I’m trying to decide on which emoji I want to represent that channel on the server.

So it sounds pretty ridiculous, but it’s really important to me.

[00:14:41] Andrea: I love your honesty. That’s exactly what this question is supposed to get at, is those almost guilty pleasure things that we spent too much time on in our businesses. That’s awesome. And I’m sure after listening to this brief interview, listeners are going to have questions and be just really intrigued by your program. So where can listeners follow along and find out more about what you’re up to?

[00:15:02] Tony Parlapiano: The best place would be to go to and we have a tab on there that says free. And we have a few different things that you can choose from if you’d like to participate in our Sunday recorded, which is our weekly listening challenge.

The full experience happens inside the program, but there is a level of support there for people who’d like to participate for free. There’s a little template there. We also have a nice little improv challenge called the Campfire Challenge, which is open to all. It’s totally free. It’s a live 10 free lessons on, it’s like a storyline where you learn, and we have a lot of teachers that participate in that and take what they learn from there and share it with their students.

So is the place to go, and from there you’ll be able to find access to come hang out with us on the server. As I said, there’s a level of free support there that you don’t have to be a member to participate in some of those things on the server.

[00:15:54] Andrea: Alright, Tony, thank you so much for coming back.

[00:15:57] Tony Parlapiano: Thank you for having me.

[00:16:04] Andrea: Thank you for taking the time to be with us, Tony. 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, including our popular, self-paced Business Building 101 course.

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

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