Transcript Snapshot 012 – Janna Williamson

Transcript: Snapshot 012 — Janna Williamson

Transcript for Snapshot 012 – Janna Williamson

[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 Janna Williamson. Here’s Janna’s Snapshot.

Hi, Janna. Welcome to the podcast. Thank you for being here today. Can you introduce yourself and tell us briefly about your studio?

[00:01:10] Janna Williamson: Sure. Well, thanks so much for having me. My name is Janna Williamson and I have a independent studio in my home in the far western suburbs of Chicago. So if you take the train out for almost an hour, you’ll arrive in my little suburb, which is an old town, and we have an old house. Anyway, just, it’s a really nice home and place to have a lot of kids from ages six to, I think right now my oldest is 17. Basically elementary through high school, and then I have two adults.

I have never loved teaching adult students. I just have two at the moment who convinced me somehow that I should actually teach them, and this is the current season I’m in. I have done other things in past seasons, so I’m sure your listeners have also had that feeling of, I’ve done early childhood in the past or other things, but right now it’s just the one-on-one private studio in my home. Awesome.

[00:02:00] Andrea: And that is a perfect setting the stage for our interview today because this is about this moment in time and looking back on your past school year and looking forward to the next one and kind of what’s going on in your studio right now. So thank you for setting the stage for us.

What is one thing you’re celebrating from the last school year?

[00:02:17] Janna Williamson: That’s a great question and it really doesn’t have much to do with my private studio. I launched my first online course for piano teachers this year, and that was a huge undertaking. Probably much more than I thought it was when I was all said and done.

So that is what I am most proud of right now. Of course, I’m also very happy with student success as well, but my studio has been running kind of as it always has been for for many years, so that’s what I’m celebrating at this moment.

[00:02:45] Andrea: Awesome. And can you give us the name of that course?

[00:02:48] Janna Williamson: It’s called Preparing Confident Performers. It is dripped over the course of six weeks, so it’s six modules all about how to teach, piano students specifically, although much of the information would apply to other instruments as well, but how to teach students how to perform and it’s aimed at like the everyday teacher who’s going to hold recitals or send their students to festivals or exams. So just your average students as well as more advanced students, giving them a lot of tools as well. But it is a comprehensive course covering vision for your studio and how to create a recital as well as how to teach memorization and deal with performance anxiety. Everything in that whole topic.

[00:03:30] Andrea: Excellent. And we will link to that in the show notes for anyone who wants to learn more.

[00:03:33] Janna Williamson: Great, thank you.

[00:03:34] Andrea: What was one way that you were challenged last year? Or did you learn any hard lessons?

[00:03:38] Janna Williamson: Well, that’s the same answer and, and truthfully, the technology aspect was by far the hardest part. I would say, I’m really middle of the road on tech. I’m not a dinosaur. I can handle a lot of the basic tools in life, but this stretched me to have to make decisions around what kind of technology I wanted to use. As well as figure out how to use a new system. And that just takes a lot of time. I feel like I look at things and I’m like, oh, I can do that in this amount of time.

And then I get started and it just takes way longer to actually learn and execute a new system. So that, that was the biggest challenge for me. And on top of that, then having to sell that to other people. Which is a huge mindset thing, as well as just being willing to go out and, you know, say I’m offering this. Please come pay for it. That is a big challenge for me. The good news is I feel really good about what I created, so I have no trouble saying I’m proud of this. But man, doing the actual selling for me is a big challenge.

[00:04:40] Andrea: Yes. There’s so many hurdles to a new launching, a new thing like that. So sounds like that challenge was also a celebration in part, just persisting.

[00:04:48] Janna Williamson: Yes, I guess so.

[00:04:50] Andrea: Well, that might lead into the next question too. Did you take any risks or go outside your comfort zone last year?

[00:04:56] Janna Williamson: Yes. I think the selling part is the more risky part of it. I mean, figuring out technology just takes more time if you don’t do a very good job of it, the first, on the first round. So yes, the selling part of it, kind of even saying, I’ve been thinking about doing this for a long time and then putting it out there in front of other people and seeing if anybody will buy it. And thankfully I did have a few people buy it, so, and I’ve got response. But yes, that’s, that’s the risky part of it.

I also have had a few risks in my private studio. We had a number of personal things happen last fall, and so I probably could have actually taken more students in the fall, but I had a child with a health issue and we had a tree hit the back of our house, which required a lot of work to be done and, you know, multiple things along those lines that kept interrupting time spent working and I kept thinking I should take a couple more students. I really have the room. And then I kept not being able to do that. So then when I actually did look for a couple more students, nobody was there, which is really unusual for me. So I had to kind of think about, do I actually wanna market anything right now?

So tho those were all difficult mindset things and just a lot of thinking through what do I actually wanna spend my time on? And that can feel risky if you are worried about then not spending your time on the thing that’s actually going to be most productive or most financially helpful, or the best use of your time, I guess.

[00:06:20] Andrea: What were your personal takeaways from that? What are the lessons that you’re taking forward into how you operate or just manage anything in the future?

[00:06:29] Janna Williamson: Yeah, that’s a great question. I’m not sure I have a great answer for that. I think there is definitely something to be said for listening to your gut reaction to things in the moment. Because I, I had multiple times in the fall, like I said, where I interviewed a student and I thought, this is just not the right thing right now.

And kind of listening to my gut in that way, which then proved helpful when I did end up in the ER with my son and those kinds of things. So there’s part of that. There’s also, I am in the privileged position where I’m not the primary breadwinner for my family. My husband is, and so I do have that luxury of being a little bit more flexible with how much income I’m bringing in.

Not that we don’t rely on my income, we do, but I think listening to your gut and then just really continually coming back to what your priorities are and what your priorities are in this current season. And for me, the priority is not taking on more beginning piano students at this very moment. Although I have done that this year because I have wanted to fill some slots.

I had seven seniors graduate in the past two years, so that was a very large amount of turnover for a smaller studio. I have about 20 students. So that’s a big number in two years to leave. So it was just juggling how many new students do I wanna do? How much more time do I wanna spend on serving other teachers? How much time do I need to give to my own family in this particular season?

[00:07:52] Andrea: Mm-hmm. So looking forward to summer, what do summers generally look like in your studio for your students and also for you?

[00:08:00] Janna Williamson: I am really committed to taking a break for as much of that time as I can. And so in the past, what I’ve done is a nine month tuition and then required students to take about four lessons. They could take more if they wanted to, but to basically make up that 10th month and then we would plan for two months of very minimal income on my part. So it was essentially 10 months, and finally I thought, why am I doing that when I could just do 10 months of tuition and make this much simpler? So finally this year be, I had multiple circumstances of the last few years that didn’t make that possible.

Finally, for this past school year, I did a 10 month model, which means I started a little earlier in August and I’m ending a little later in June, and people are paying August through May, those 10 months, which then just means I can say it everybody, you can take a total break for the eight or nine weeks, whatever it is, between when we finish and start up again.

Or if you wanna take a few lessons you can, but I’m planning to take off. I think it will be, I haven’t totally set every single date yet. I think it will be almost exactly a month, and at the end of that month, I’ll be attending N C K P here in Chicago. So there’ll be a little bit of professional development in there, but basically vacation with my family during that time. Rest. Clean up my studio, maybe go through some, some music, and then teach a few lessons just right outside of the term., but really pretty much planning to start mid-August again.

[00:09:29] Andrea: That sounds lovely. And what are you working on this summer to prep for next school year?

[00:09:33] Janna Williamson: That’s a great question and because we are actually recording this before, I mean, I think I still have six weeks at least of lessons left right now because I am going farther into June this year. So I’m not quite mentally there. I do need to do, it’s been a little while since I did a full library, kind of figure out what I have and what I need. And I acquired quite a bit of sheet music this year because that’s a habitual problem for me. So I need to do some filing and culling, taking things outta the library and figuring out what students need for next year.

I do like to use what I have, so I really would like to go through that. That’s my main thing. And then my kids, my last child is entering middle school next year. So our schedule is gonna change slightly because we will no longer have the elementary school as part of our schedule. So I do need to actually kind of figure out what that’s going to look like, how that’s gonna affect my teaching times. And think about how many students I can then have in the fall, which it sounds like all my students are planning on coming back, so I’m not gonna have any, any, you know, just open slots kind of magically appearing as it were.

[00:10:41] Andrea: Ah-huh. Okay. So kind of a reset it sounds like. Physical studio reset and schedule.

[00:10:45] Janna Williamson: That’s the main thing.

[00:10:47] Andrea: What app or tool has made the biggest impact in your studio or life management this past year?

[00:10:52] Janna Williamson: I was thinking about this question, and like I said, I’m very middle of the road on technology and I don’t think I really implemented anything new this year outside of learning the art of a course platform. So that was, I wouldn’t say that has really made my life much better. That was just difficult, but it’s done now. I’ve figured out how to use that. I would say that Google is my friend. My husband, and I always joke that Google Maps is the best app out there for everything. And I use Google Docs and sheets for a lot of things in my teaching.

Don’t use maps as much in my teaching, I would suppose. But I will just throw out a random shout out to Amy Chaplin, who introduced me to the Paprika Recipe app this year. And that has been life changing in my kitchen. So I love the Paprika app, but that has very little to do with teaching piano.

[00:11:45] Andrea: You know, if your personal life is smooth, your, your professional life is gonna be more smooth too. So.

[00:11:51] Janna Williamson: That’s true. And Amy’s whole blog with Piano Pantry is the idea that it is actually difficult to cook for a family while you teach lessons throughout the afternoon and evening. She has a lot of things around streamlining that, and that app has actually helped me streamline some of that. So it has been helpful in that way.

[00:12:06] Andrea: We use that one as well. And what is one area of your business where you tend to get carried away or go overboard just because it’s something you enjoy?

[00:12:14] Janna Williamson: I think for me it’s written communication. I will write out an email or something first to view communication, and then I will go back and tweak like just little tiny words over and over again because I have a passion around clear communication and my husband shares this passion.

So if I ask him to proofread something, he’ll be like, oh no, you could say that sentence in eight less words if you just, you know, clean this up right here. And I will do the same thing for him if he needs help with that. So I could edit written communication all day long and it would not ultimately be very beneficial. You’ll be clear, but it’s probably relatively clear in the first place.

[00:12:54] Andrea: Is that something you enjoy or is it just something you are compelled to do?

[00:12:58] Janna Williamson: I really enjoy clear communication., like I think that makes my studio much better because I don’t have parents trying to wade through confusing things, so I really value it.

I’m not sure. I don’t know. Enjoying is a difficult word. I probably get to the end of, you know, editing for 30 minutes and think, why did I spend all that time doing that? That wasn’t necessarily enjoyable. But I do value it a lot and it becomes a little bit of an obsessive quality.

[00:13:27] Andrea: It’s satisfying. Okay.

[00:13:29] Janna Williamson: Yeah, I guess that’s true. It’s satisfying once you send that off and you’re like, that was really clear.

[00:13:35] Andrea: And where can listeners get in touch with you and follow along with what you’re up to in your studio?

[00:13:39] Janna Williamson: Well, my website is just my name, And if teachers are interested in resources that I have for them, then the best page is

But I didn’t mention my YouTube channel yet, which is also just Janna Williamson. That’s my YouTube channel where I have a lot of things, particularly around intermediate repertoire, how to teach effectively, especially historical repertoire. I’m the lady talking about the old dead guy composers online, and I’m on Instagram at Janna on piano.

And just note that Janna has two Ns, J A N N A on piano, and then my course, which we will link as well.

[00:14:17] Andrea: All right, janna, thank you so much. I hope you have a wonderful restful summer.

[00:14:21] Janna Williamson: Thank you.

[00:14:28] Andrea: Thank you for taking the time to be with us Janna. 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 wanna 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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