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15 Minutes with Krysti’s Music Studio, BCE Edition

Entrepreneurs Krysti and Phil Schey answer questions about their Bluffton-based business, Krysti's Music Studio, which also provides instruction in Ottawa, Shawnee, and Spencerville. Classes include piano, guitar, voice, ukulele, violin, woodwinds, and art.

This interview can also be viewed at https://youtu.be/687CdwVwv2A. 

 

KRYSTI: This is Krysti Schey... 

PHILIP: I’m Phllip Schey. This is “15 Minutes with Krysti’s Music Studio for the Bluffton Center for Entrepreneurs.”

Q. When did you first start teaching music? When did it become a full-time job? A business as “Krysti’s Music Studio”?

KRYSTI: We started teaching music back in high school.

PHILIP: High school for you, college for me. She had enough students that she started sending students to me.

KRYSTI: I started teaching my poor brothers and cousins, and I kept seeing students in college. And by the end of college I had probably 40 students or something crazy like that. And so I had just built it over time. It was a gradual thing.

As far as when we became Krysti’s Music Studio, that just kind of came naturally. 

Q. Tell us something about your philosophy or approach to teaching music.

KRYSTI: I think we have fun and hope that the students have fun, too. I think that everyone can make music. I try to help students find that joy of music and playing. There’s so many benefits of learning music: cognitive skills and brain activity.

PHILIP: I like to build rapport with students, so we get to have fun, kid around with each other. Get work done, but have fun. I like to use analogies with my students: “It’s like this... or it’s like that.”

For instance, rhythm is like ice cream. You get one scoop and that’s your quarter note. Two scoops and you’ve got a half note. It takes twice as long to eat that. Nom. Nom. And then I get to make eating sounds and that’s fun.  

So there’s different ways to share with each other instead of just being a teacher, we get to be personable with our students. 

Q. When did you become an employer? Are your teachers employees or independent contractors?

KRYSTI: So in 2009-ish, I graduated and noticed some people were asking me “can you do guitar lessons? Voice lessons?” And I guess being a people-pleaser and wanting to help, that’s how that started. We started out just doing independent contractors, but a few years back we switched everyone over to being employees.

Q. Tell us a little about your locations and range of classes.

KRYSTI: We have a couple locations, but most of our students come to Bluffton. And here in Bluffton, we can do piano, guitar, voice, ukulele, art lessons, violin. And then in Shawnee and Spencerville our teacher Rebecca can do piano, voice, or any woodwinds. And then our instructor Carla in Ottawa is there one day a week and can do piano or voice.

We are super lucky that we have two of my previous teachers teaching for us. So, Carla Wyant being one of them and then Deb Niswander taught me back in the day, so that’s pretty special. 

Q. Tell us a little about your students. Youngest? Oldest?

KRYSTI: We have students ages three and up to adults. Our age three classes are different than starting someone at six. At age three, we start with music appreciation and getting them used to a steady beat, finding sounds high and low, and that kind of thing. Most students are elementary, junior high, high school. And we have quite a few adults, too.

PHILIP: And the range of music they explore varies, too, because we like our students to have some say in what they like to study. Especially as they get on in their elementary studies. Some students really enjoy the classical sounds and some enjoy jazz and ragtime. Some enjoy popular things and Disney, and so there is a whole range that can be explored.

Q. What has changed the most over the years you have owned and operated Krysti’s Music Studio?

KRYSTI: I would say we have had to become more organized. I used to make notes in a little notebook and make little check marks. Our accountant likes us to use QuickBooks. (Laughs) That keeps us more organized.

PHILLIP: And probably the biggest change is just the size of our operation. When we started we were teaching out of practice rooms at Bluffton University. And then [Krysti] was teaching out of her house, and then we got married and I was teaching there, too. And then we got other teachers with other instruments and it took up our teaching space!

So the place we are living at now, we were really blessed to find that. We teach upstairs and live downstairs. We have expanded to have higher capacity.

Q. Are remote/online classes still part of your teaching options?

KRYSTI: We had done online teaching before things shut down last year. We were kind of....

PHILIP: ....We hope this works!

KRYSTI: It worked, it worked.

PHILIP: It provided its own insights. That’s something we discovered as piano teachers.

KRYSTI: Yes, you can see how their piano sounds at home. Seeing [students] in their own environment.... Sometimes they do even better because they are used to their own instrument. Some are choosing to continue online and it’s a good option. I had a student who moved away and carried on remotely for a few years. 

Q. What is your favorite part of the business?

KRYSTI: My favorite part of the business would have to be watching a student grow over the years, not only as a musician, but as a person. That is something unique to teaching privately. You can have a student from age seven to when they graduate from high school. To see them develop as a person, to be a role model in their life, to see them struggle through things, and overcome things, that is super special.

PHILIP: It’s the “light bulb moments.” Every teacher wants to see that. It’s something they can be proud of and we can be proud of having witnessed. 

Q. Do you have advice for other family businesses on work-life balance?

PHILIP: Hmm. Good luck! 

KRYSTI: Yeah, good luck! Especially when you have three little ones running around. We’re lucky that we have some really good babysitters in our families and another. They really help us out.

PHILIP: For us, being piano teachers, most of our students come in the after-school hours. Which means, by nature, we’re second shifters. We knew early on that we would need to homeschool our children from a practical standpoint and just from a family standpoint. 

We want to be with our kids, we really want to invest in them. That was a family decision that we made because of the business that we’re in. It allows us to do the best we can on both ends. We can try to do the best we can as a family and have our undivided attention on the business as well.

KRYSTI: And don’t answer the telephone during dinner. (Laughs)

PHILIP: Nope, not worth it. Not worth it. That’s what voicemail is for!

Q. Other observations for entrepreneurs?

KRYSTI: I would just say, don’t give up if things seem hard or people don’t take you seriously at first. 

PHILIP: It was a thing [Krysti] had to deal with at first. When you’re young and you’re single and you’re trying to get out there, it can be hard, and you’re trying to establish your professional demeanor and environment.

But it’s something that she overcame and there have been lots of people throughout history who’ve been told “you can’t do it” or “you're not going to do it.” But they did it.

KRYSTI: It can be helpful to hear that. Because you take their thoughts and you think about it and figure that out.

PHILIP: Challenge accepted.

KRYSTI: So I would say just be as encouraging as you can to other new businesses, especially young people finding their way.

Q: What do you remember about your early lessons?

PHILIP: So I went to Temple Christian, me and my brother, and my piano teacher there was the music minister Terry Smith. He was my first piano teacher. And I remember going in there... It was in the church choir room and I remember that yellow piano. I actually tuned it in the last couple of years. 

And I remember he was writing out, teaching me about rhythm. He had a piece of staff paper and was writing it out, I think in gel ink. And he gave that to me and I would take it home to work on it on our big upright that used to be a player piano but didn’t have the player mechanism in it anymore.

And I remember he always had a jar of Laffy Taffy and I always chose the purple or the green one. And then I would go back to class because it was during recess.

KRYSTI: Candy is very important. Our students will let us know if our candy jar is low. 

I have so many good memories of lessons. I’ve had so many good teachers over the years. Just for one reason or another, they would stop teaching and I would go to another. 

So many good memories, but I’ll tell you about one: I was taking lessons from Charlotte Applebeck and she had assigned a song from one of these Disney books that I really wanted to play. And I worked on it at home and there were like six or seven verses. (Laughs) And I wanted to play ALL of the verses. 

I played all six or seven for her during the lesson and she didn’t say anything about stopping. I’m thinking now, myself, maybe you’d get the idea after the first two and say “Okay, that’s good!” But she let me keep going.... And I remember that because she was so encouraging. You feel like: “She wanted to hear me play!”

Q. Tell us about Phil’s piano tuning services.

PHILIP: Piano tuning, that’s one of the things we offer here. I started in about 2010. If you want to schedule a tuning you can call us here at the studio at (419) 233-5255. Tuning helps make sure the sound of the piano is where it should be. Because there are all these strings in there that need to be tightened up, because they get loose during the winter or they tighten up during the summer.

For a student, you want to make sure that the sound at home is like the sound we have here at the studio. It helps to increase the life of the piano, so that things don’t warp and get out of shape. And overall, it’s just so much more pleasing. I have calls that say, oh, I have had it tuned in 2-3 years and it sounds horrible. Or some say, oh, it was my mom’s and I don’t know if it was ever tuned. 

So it can be a range, but the best case scenario is tuning once a year. Even twice a year if you want to be persnickety. 

KRYSTI: So, thank you for hanging out with us today. We’ve had fun answering these questions. If you want to get in touch, you can call me or text me. My number is (419) 233-5255. Or you can look us up online at http://krystismusicstudio.weebly.com/. Thanks, again. Take care!

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The Bluffton Center for Entrepreneurs serves emerging and growing businesses in Allen, Hancock, Hardin, and Putnam counties by providing networking, mentoring, and education services.

For more information: blufftonentrepreneurs.com, [email protected], (567) 525-6667.