Balancing Motherhood While Running a Virtual Piano Studio
Balancing motherhood while running a virtual piano studio is a rewarding endeavor.
Everyday, I am grateful for the opportunity to earn a living doing what I love and am skilled at while balancing motherhood to my six children.
“Let’s Get Down to Business”, an interview series on mompreneurs, with Carey Gatto of Keller Williams Realty, recently featured my story.
It was an honor to share about my passion to teach piano while balancing motherhood. Enjoy this video with the transcript below.
Carey Gatto: Hi everyone, this is Carey Gatto with Keller Williams Realty. Today, on Let's Get Down To Business, I am talking to Catherine Sipher, who is the owner of Blossom Piano Studio. Hey Catherine, how are you?
Catherine Sipher: Okay, thanks for having me.
CG: Can you start us off by describing your business?
CS: My name is Catherine Sipher. I'm with Blossom Piano Studio. I bring the joy of music into hearts and homes through virtual private piano lessons. I offer high-quality piano lessons focused on developing strong technical facility, musical theory, foundations, and musical expression all through zoom.
CG: Excellent. Sounds great. So, what inspired you to start your business?
CS: Well, it is a bit of a personal story, but I found myself in the middle of a divorce with six children, having been a homeschooling mom of all those children. I needed a way to provide for my children. So, I went back to my roots, which was music and teaching piano. I have a degree in music and being a piano teacher is what I've always wanted to do. I had an in-person studio back in the day before I started having kids and I decided to go back to what I love and what I do best, which is teaching piano. But the world had changed. We were in the middle of a global pandemic. We were only about a month in when I started my piano studio online. I didn't know if this would work at all. So, I just put out some messages out on Facebook world and said, “Hey, sliding scale to get started. Let's see. Let's experiment. Let's see if this works.” It took off and it did really, really great. So, now I have a fairly full studio of 28 students, ages five through adult, beginner through super advanced students. Many of the students that started with me two years ago are still with me. I am committed to staying online and virtual because I am a mom of six and I need to be able to be home for my kids and not have so many people in and out of my house. This is the best solution for me, my kids, and for me being able to pursue my passions and my loves and my skills.
CG: And it's so much more efficient. You don't lose all that commuting time.
CS: Absolutely yeah, for me to drive to somebody else's house or for them to drive to me. So, it's been a great fit for many of my students who are too busy to drive someplace. It allows them to not have to be geographically tied to find a quality piano teacher within a certain driving distance.
For many of my adult students it works very, very well for their schedule, too, because they also aren't taking the time to drive some place else. Some are having their piano lesson in their lunch break. It is really interesting to see how virtual piano lessons have been able to fit into everybody's lives in such beautiful ways.
CG: Excellent So would you say you have an ideal client?
CS: The ideal client is anybody that's interested in taking piano lessons, willing to commit to the practicing at home, and open to the idea of experimenting with technology a little bit. We have definitely learned some interesting workarounds to make virtual piano lessons just as effective in the virtual environment as they are in the in-person environment.
CG: Yeah, definitely. And what keeps you motivated?
CS: So much keeps me motivated. I view myself as a teacher as more of a coach and as a mentor. It is the honor of watching my students blossom as individuals as they take those risks to perform for me.
Really every piano lesson is a risk, right? It's an act of courage to practice something and then come to a piano lesson, performing it for the teacher knowing that the teacher might say, “Hey, that's wonderful!”, or “We need to tweak something.” They're really being very vulnerable when they come to their piano lessons. Then, to prepare to perform for other people, requires a whole other level of mindset, focus, vulnerability, and courage. It is truly a joy and an honor to watch these students master either those basic techniques, or overcome that measure, that one passage, that was really throwing them off, seeing them develop some grit and determination and some perseverance, and helping them step into their confidence. It's just an honor to watch them blossom. I can't tell you how many times I end up tearing up in the middle of piano lessons as my students get that thing that they haven't gotten in so long or many weeks or even just that day right as we rehearse it together.
It's my students that keep me motivated and then obviously my family and my children as well.
CG: I love that. I love that you talked about vulnerability and being so conscious and aware of that, because in my experience of taking music lessons, that's a huge piece of it, not being afraid to fail or mess up. CS: Many of our lessons are obviously about the nuts and bolts of teaching piano, about the technical facility, playing musical expression, and learning the piece of music. But it's also about learning about our own inner person and growing in strength and confidence. So, in a lot of our piano lessons, we also talk about mindset, frame of mind, and what we're doing with our thoughts while we're performing.
CG: What is a little known fact about your business that perhaps you learned over the time that you've been open?
CS: Virtual piano lessons work. They are highly effective. I am using all the same skills that I used during in-person lessons, and then some, to help make sure that my piano students are receiving a high quality piano instruction. I was recently a part of a study by a college student, a master's student, about if virtual piano lessons are effective. She was asking me all these interesting questions about how I teach (and a lot of nitty gritty basic technical details that I won't get into here.) But every answer that I had revealed that I'm teaching in a virtual way exactly like I was in person, and that was really comforting and encouraging for me to see. This does work! I make it work by having both my students and myself have two cameras on us at the same time, so we're still connected face to face and have facial expressions while we talk to each other. Then we also have another camera that is facing towards our hands so that I can see the details of what they're doing on the piano. I hold my hands up a lot like this so they can see me play. I can really see what they're doing with their hands and sometimes even their foot, if they're pedaling. So it definitely works. It just takes a little bit of ingenuity. CG: Yeah, that's really smart. Well, do you have a mompreneur moment that you wouldn't mind sharing?
CS: Well, as a mom was six (my children are ages 15 down to 3), –you probably just heard one of them– you never know what's going to come through the door and when it's going to come. It's just those unexpected moments. Sometimes I pause a lesson for a minute to change a diaper or go get a snack for the three year old. You just never know. I think that the other joy or mompreneur moment is when my kids say, “Wow, that's you. You know how to do that?” When I show them things like my website or my video, they’re surprised. And I think, “Yeah, your mom knows a few things.”
CG: Have any of them gotten the music bug? CS: Sadly, no. Some of them have started taking a few lessons, but I’m mom, so it hasn’t really worked. I do have enough kids that maybe some of the younger ones still have a chance at it.
CG: And where are you located?
CS: I'm in Millis, Massachusetts, but that doesn't limit where I can serve. I have students that are in Indiana, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and all across Massachusetts. Because it's virtual, you don't have to drive, so there are no limits. There is no border. So, if you know anyone at all that is looking for piano lessons, and is willing to give the virtual platform a try, I'm here. CG: That is awesome. Well, thank you so much, Catherine for sharing about your business today. I really appreciate it. CS: Thank you so much for having me. It's been a joy.
CG: You're very welcome. And thank you so much for watching.
We'll see you next time on “Let's get down to business. Take care.”