Music Gro: Growing Creatives

What I Learned in 2022…

I do my End of Year Reflections and New Year Projections and Goals in November and early December of every year.

First, here is my process.

I go through my calendar and list (by month) what I actually did during the year. Then I review that bullet list and reflect on:

1) What went well (those are things I will keep doing)

2) What did not go so well (things I either need to stop doing or significantly change)

3) What did I learn

4) What do I want to change moving forward

5) What my dreams are for the next year of business

I let all of that ‘percolate’ for a while and then I go back through to add anything important. My reflections are done in a series of journal posts answering questions about my processes and products (outcomes). I also set aside ‘dream’ sessions where I simply dream and let the imagination wander asking all the ‘What If?’ questions. All of those journal entries are compiled and organized into my End of Year Review and Dreams/Targets for the New Year and a new Vision Board.

I also review quarterly financials and savings reports. [I am not a big fan of sharing numbers publicly because I do not want to spark the ‘comparison’ game or sound boastful (or whiney). We ALL work hard and we ALL do amazing work in our businesses. There is no need for comparison.]

I share this process to give insight into my process and to inspire you to create your own version of it, or create your own unique process. On to what I Learned…

1) I LOVE to Learn!

I am always reading books, listening to podcasts, listening to live discussions, reading articles, watching documentaries, and trying to expose myself to different ideas, music, art, and people. Travel is also a way I love to learn and hopefully I will get back to that soon. Learning new things helps me to be a better person all-around, but also helps me be a better teacher and coach. I attended some wonderful Continuing Education classes with specific teachers and leaders this year. I also started taking audiation lessons from a master teacher this year. When we are learning, we are growing as human beings. When we know better, we do better in all areas of life. Sometimes learning new things requires UNLEARNING old ways. In fact, being able to admit we were wrong in the past, or did not know better, or have changed our minds about some things is a CRITICAL part of being able to learn. A wonderful affirmation of this is Adam Grant’s book, “Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know.”

What new things are YOU learning? What old things do you need to UNLEARN?

2) Audiation

Taking lessons and learning about Audiation, Music Learning Theory, and how to use Music Moves for Piano in my teaching has been one of the biggest game-changers for me personally as a musician, and as an educator. Being on the ‘learner/student’ side helps me remember what it feels like to be a student and learn new things. Applying audiation approaches in my studio has made my students more confident, more musical, more open…and it has been more FUN for all of us! I am enjoying the learning process myself, and look forward to a time when I have so much experience using and teaching it that it becomes almost second-nature.

What would you like to learn that would likely have great impact on what you do?

3) Adding Value vs. Raising Rates

As a consumer I too want to know what I am paying for. When my favorite local restaurant raises prices I can easily see how that is a result of increased food costs and increased labor costs. When my favorite music publishing business raises prices on music books I can see how the increased costs of paper, printing, binding and shipping have caused those price hikes. But service-based businesses are different. Many business coaches or ‘gurus’ preach growth simply for the sake of growth. And who doesn’t want to make more money or grow, right? The problem is that we mistake more revenue for growth when in reality, growth is MUCH more complicated. Growth involves skills, experience, product or service development, networking, community integration, emotional growth, technology. And growth is INTERDEPENDENT on local markets, suppliers/vendors, cost of resources, budget, reputation, and a myriad of other factors that are outside our direct control as business owners. In late 2021 and early 2022 when people were pushing everyone to ‘raise rates’ I was not in disagreement, but I was questioning raising rates just for the sake of making more money. In my case, I was rethinking what and how I wanted to teach in every lesson. I knew what new directions I wanted to go with my teaching and as I headed down those paths, I was able to see how much more value I was adding. THEN, I was able to see how that added value would translate in terms of setting new rates. Raising rates to reflect the cost of living each year should be standard in most industries. But making rate adjustments which reflect major increases are better digested when adding significant value to the products or services offered.

How have you added value this past year? How will you add value going forward?

4) How to approach the deep work of Anti-Racism and Mental Health

This year I enlisted the help of a professional counsellor to help me unravel a few issues important to me. It is a process. While I have always been a justice-seeker and committed to social justice and human rights, I still have work to do – things to unlearn, and things to learn. In the past year my work in my teaching studio, on the Sounds of Encouragement Podcast, events with my local colleagues, and interactions with my children’s’ teachers, have shed glaring lights on issues I care deeply about. In many situations I found myself speechless (which, for those who know me well, never happens) in the midst of confidently spoken racist or misogynistic statements. With the help of a great counsellor and lots of books and podcasts I am unpacking some heavy stuff. I have great plans for the future of my work, but this work around anti-racism, the LGBTQIA+ community, (and more) is foundational, necessary, and life-giving for me and for those I encounter in or out of the business world. My counsellor keeps telling me to remember that it takes time – it’s not a race to some finish line; and that I have to give myself this space to deal with the emotions alongside the information. We don’t like to talk with one another about grief, heartache, and anger but they have been my weekly companions in this journey. Several times a day I repeat to myself, ‘Grace…Grace…Grace’ to remind myself that I still make mistakes and fumble, and that others are on their own journey (and don’t need me to point out their mistakes). The more I lean into the work and the wisdom of those who are guiding me or have gone before me, the more I understand how important it is to be patient yet persistent.

What work are you leaning into?

5) I still have A LOT to LEARN!

I am a fairly smart human being and have learned a good amount in my brief time on this planet. But I still have SO MUCH MORE to learn – about everything! So I am committed to being a life-long learner always looking for ways to improve who I am so that I can be better for those around me.

Farewell to 2022 and Welcome to the Learnings of 2023!

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5 Responses

  1. Wow! What a wonderful reflection friend. I love how you continually cultivate a spirit of curiosity and willingness to learn! Thanks for sharing. You’ve made a brilliant impact in 2022, can’t wait to see how 2023 shapes up for you!

  2. Hi Melissa, what a lovely reflection! I’m curious about the value added, raising rates question. How do you communicate value added to students and clients when the value added is not tangible? When the value added is a shift in your teaching approach, getting trained in MLT for instance. Are you using this kind of value added to “justify” raising your rates in communication with students or is it something that you simply keep in mind yourself as you are setting your rates?

    1. Great question! I made a shift in my teaching overall and shared with clients last May that I would no longer offer 30 or 45 minute lessons. One hour lessons for everyone would include audiation work, improvisation, SEL, Taubman technique, and even some strategies from Music Therapy (I consulted with a Music Therapist first). I spoke with all clients in person as well as emailed, and ‘previewed’ the new lesson format with students before we all took off for the summer. I gave families a month to consider the new approach, to ask questions, and make their decision about whether to continue with the new format and the new rate. I approached everything with language surrounding student health and well-being. I was also able to paint a picture of what students would be able to do musically after growing in their audiation skills. Sharing success stories, sharing interviews from Marilyn Lowe, and videos from other teachers gave parents much more information to consider. Even now, I share a paragraph about audiation in my monthly parent newsletters. I also offer Masterclasses 2x per year so that students and parents have access to people much more knowledgeable than me in areas like Taubman technique, audiation, improvisation, composing, using a DAW, etc. (Masterclasses are done via zoom and I can bring in colleagues from anywhere in the world.) I never feel I have to justify my rates. If I am too expensive for someone that’s ok. There are lots of other options in my area for cheaper lessons. For me, adding value was (and is) about always providing the best quality music education I can provide. Many of my clients know that I am the only teacher in the area doing what I do – no one else uses Differentiated Instruction strategies the way I do; no one near me utilizes Taubman techniques; no one near me uses MLT and Music Moves; no one near me is incorporating SEL. Because they have compared what I offer to what others offer, those that have stayed with me understand the immense value I add to their child’s life. And, now that we’ve had 5 months of the new format, they are seeing the results first-hand. Yes, I feel like the education of parents is constant, but that is part of my job. In my weekly lesson notes I make sure to provide positive feedback about what audiation skills or SEL skills we’ve worked on so that parents can see the growth from week to week even if they never attend a lesson. Yes, some families left the studio because they did not want to pay the higher price but those were families I was happy to see move on because I wanted to decrease my studio size significantly anyway. If you click over to my piano studio page on this website, you’ll see an example of some of the language I’ve used. I also intentionally changed the order of appearance of things like testimonials on my page.
      I hope that answer helps a bit. Feel free to contact me directly with other questions 😉

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