Making money may be the major goal in entrepreneurship, but without getting that satisfaction of serving others or pursuing your true passion, it may all be for naught. Singer and Vocal Coach Tara Simon joins Bree Noble in sharing how her career eventually brought her to the vocal coaching stage, helping others hone their singing talents. Tara reminisces how the doors of coaching opened to her, giving her a bigger life mission than just earning cash. She also explains how her simple source of passive income grew into an established group of vocal coaches, which is now making the most out of the increasing demands of online lessons.
Watch the episode here
Listen to the podcast here
Tara Simon On Finding Purpose In Vocal Coaching
I am here with Tara Simon and I’m excited to get to know her and for you to get to know her and find out a bit about her journey as a musician and how she works with musicians. Tara, can you give us a bit of background on your journey?
Yes. Thanks for having me. It’s a pleasure to be here. A quick cliff notes because it’s a long story is that I’ve known I wanted to be a singer since the age of three. I thought that the image of my career trajectory was going to be that I was going to be a performer and I trained for it. I moved to New York the day I turned eighteen. I did Broadway at nineteen, a lead role in Fame toward Europe and came back. Something always seemed to be missing though when I was performing. Somehow, no matter where I went or what I did, somebody would always ask me after performances, “I have this daughter. I have this grandson. Do you coach?” I’m like, “No, I’m a performer. I do not coach. Thank you. Goodbye.”
It would be frustrating to me no matter where I went. I always shut that door. Years passed and I was living in a place where there wasn’t much to do at the time. I found myself living in Greenville, South Carolina for a few years. I was forced to look at my day and be like, “How do I monetize this by doing something that I want to do and it’s in my wheelhouse.” I can’t perform that many places unless I move again. The door was open for me to coach this young man named Peter Rosset. He was 11. He wasn’t even a vocalist, he was a pianist, but he had Down syndrome and was told “no” everywhere he went, and like, “You can’t do this, you don’t have the capability,” and that made me mad.
His parents brought him to me one day. I wasn’t even advertising lessons. I don’t know how they found me. He came and he played a seventeen-page Chopin piece for me in my living room. I looked at his parents and I said, “I’m going to put the cards on the table here. This kid’s a better pianist than I am right here, but I can promise you one thing. I’m never going to tell him no and I’m always going to be as hard on him as I am to any other student that I would ever coach.” Fast forward a couple of years later, God used Peter to change my heart towards coaching and I found deep purpose and meaning in it. I found that it was a high calling in my life and the image of the way I was supposed to be using music, and my talent was not self-serving as a performer which is fine for others to do. I think it’s great, but for me, my sweet spot is in pouring into others.
It’s what I find that I get more joy, purpose and satisfaction out of. As my heart changed towards coaching, what was a living room thing turned into an actual business. I realized that caring about the human condition by way of music was something that was a real hot commodity. No one was doing it. I moved to Atlanta and I opened up a brick-and-mortar in Atlanta, Georgia. This was a couple of years into coaching Peter. He came to visit one day, shortly after New Year’s, several years back. He got to see the studio and I sat him down on the white piano that I have where I do all my YouTube videos on.
I sat him down and said, “Peter, do you know where you are?” He said, “Yes. I’m at your studio. Your new studio.” I said, “Yes. Do you know why it’s here?” He said, “No.” I said, “It’s because of you.” We hugged. We have a video of that. It was meaningful to me, for him to get to see that because Peter was fighting for his life. He got bone marrow leukemia. He had been going through chemo at that point for a little over a year. We would have piano lessons in his hospital room. I would take my keyboard and we would play.
I still wasn’t any easier on him then, but that year Peter died of bone marrow leukemia. I carry him in my spirit every day. I carry his legacy with me and my coaches and everybody at the studio knows about Peter because, without Peter, I don’t know if I ever would have gotten it. I don’t know if I ever would have understood my “why.” That’s the most important thing for any entrepreneur reading this whether you’re in music or not, it’s easy to get obsessed and entrenched in the product, whatever that may be whether it’s tangible, intangible. You talk about who’s my avatar? Who am I selling to? You’re obsessed with the analytics and you’re obsessed with this data that you can collect in order to capitalize on it, but behind every piece of data is a breath and behind every piece of analytics is a heartbeat.
As I started to care about the heartbeat and realize my “why” that is when my business exploded and I had to hire coaches. I had to open up space and do courses. All of those things snowballed as a result of operating out of a sweet spot that had a genuinely, honestly, good intent for other human beings. I don’t care if it’s a service that you provide or if it’s a product that you offer. It’s about the service of what you do in your level of expertise towards others rather than the bottom-line dollar amount or what you can get out of it. You’re going to get what you need out of it anyway, but it’s that Law of Attraction where if you serve and you put things forth that are benefiting others especially when it comes to their human condition, it’s going to come back to you. It has for me, tenfold. I live such a blessed life. I love my life. I love what I do. I’m a workaholic not because I’m obsessed with money but because I can’t seem to stop doing what I love to do.
I get that. I feel like I’m a workaholic too but for a good reason. I don’t ever feel I’m way overworking myself because I’m enjoying a lot of it. I’m curious because we were talking about your “why” and for you, it turned out that performing wasn’t your “why.” It wasn’t the way that you felt you were having the most impact on the world and coaching was. Some musicians, their “why” will be performing. I’m curious, how did it feel different to you? When you were performing in Fame and all the places you were performing, how did the impact that you had there feel different than the one when you started to realize, “Coaching is my calling?”
In Fame, I was about 2.5 months in and we did nine shows a week instead of eight because we were sold out. It was insanity.
What part did you play?
I was Serena Katz. Those opportunistic producers figured out that I could dance. Not only was I the lead singer aside from Carmen, but I also was dancing and my role wasn’t supposed to dance. I did all the things. I was tired. I was always hungry and overworked but it was great. I remember 2.5 months in, the curtains were raising and I was yawning. I got stopped mid-yawn by the bright lights hitting my face. I was like, “This is not good. I’m bored.” Here I am at the pinnacle of what I thought would be my career success. I went to a performing arts high school. I’ve trained for this all my life. Everybody told me from three, “You’re going to be on Broadway. Your name’s going to be in lights. This is your purpose.” I’m living my purpose or what I thought was living out my purpose would be and I’m yawning in the middle of my purpose. I said, “I am missing the mark in some way here. What’s going on?”
For me, it was the yawn versus waking up at 6:00 AM excited to start my day because I know that there are going to be lives that are impacted one one-on-one. For a performer, if the idea of entertaining and bringing high value and your best to a stage where you’re inspiring people. Maybe there are kids in that audience who are wanting to be you someday and you sign those autographs afterwards and the applause makes your heart beats faster, then you’re in your sweet spot. You need to stay there. There’s nothing wrong with that.Behind every piece of data is a breath, and behind every piece of analytics is a heartbeat. Click To Tweet
I’m not saying that I chose better. I’m saying that in my heart, I’m designed to do something different. I had to reconcile that for a long time because it was a bit of an identity crisis. I’m like, “I’m a performer. I am not a coach. This is not who I am,” but I feel God had to speak to my heart saying, “No, I am who you are and I’m telling you that you had the right idea. You’re going to sing but you had the wrong image of what that looked like in your life. Your purpose is missions-based music. Your purpose is to reach one, teach one, not reach masses and get applause.” That’s all awesome. If that’s your purpose. I got it wrong. I thought it was mine and it wasn’t.
I love that imagery of when you knew that this wasn’t quite it. For those that are reading whether you are fueled by writing amazing songs that you want to get certain messages out into the world with your songs. It doesn’t matter what it is. You’ll know when you hit it because you’ll get out of bed and you won’t be hitting snooze. You’re like, “I cannot wait to get started.”
There’s a real sense of despair and confusion in the waiting. After the big yawn of 2003, I came back to New York City in my little apartment. I’m like, “Now I’m up for hairspray and fiddler on the roof.” The calls are coming in and I don’t want it. I’m like, “Who am I here? What am I doing? This feels wrong. It feels I’m turning down opportunities. You’re taught never to turn down an opportunity. In theater, you say yes and figure it out later.” I had to sit and be still and for me anyway, pray about like, “What now? What do I do? I don’t even know who I am at this point.”
If you’re willing to sit in that uncomfortability for a bit, I promise you it’ll be revealed to you. Don’t stay on the wheel that you know you’re not supposed to be spinning because you don’t know how to get off and sit still for a second. You have to sit still in order to look to the left or to the right and see that new path. There will be a point where if you’re making a shift, there will be uncomfortability and uncertainty, but know that and sit in that and trust that there is a new direction coming.
When you found that direction, you decided to go out and build a brick-and-mortar studio and you had that. Do you still have that?
I do. It’s still turning and burning in Atlanta.
How has that changed with the pandemic? Had you already been doing some stuff online? Did you switch modes?
I feel we set ourselves up for success unknowingly so long ago. Because I started technically coaching in Greenville, South Carolina, and I moved to Atlanta, I eventually moved my students over online to Skype from Greenville because I couldn’t keep driving back and forth every week as the studio in Atlanta was growing. For the past years, we’ve been doing lessons online. Once I started my YouTube channel several years ago, our international student base skyrocketed. We have been never busier than in COVID because we have it down to a science.
Our coaches are well-versed and trained in latency, online, knowing how to mitigate that, knowing how to coach and get progress out of someone without being in the same room or without needing to touch them. There are a lot of nuances that are different between online lessons and in-person lessons. As far as vocal studios, we cornered the market on how to make that happen with excellence. Several years ago, our online business versus in-person business was probably 70% in person, 30% online. I would probably venture to say easily that our online business is 85% and our in-person business is 15%.
You built the systems to be able to take advantage of that. You were ready. When COVID happened, you could deploy and take advantage of the systems you’d already built. What I’m interested in is, you have a YouTube channel and people find you there. Was there any uncomfortability about getting other coaches that you are working with or working with your students? Because they come to you and they’re like, “I found you on YouTube. I want to work with you.” Was it weird to try to duplicate yourself with these other coaches?
That’s a great question. I could probably stand to have about 20, 30 coaches under my belt working for me right. I have five vocal coaches other than myself. Here’s the process which I did undergo to hire every single one of them. There are a few things. First of all, they have to be working professionals in their craft. I don’t consider them if they’re not. Two, I stalk them for months before I ever let them know that I’m stalking them. If they’re performing out, I will go see them perform. If they’ve got stuff released, I will listen to it. If they’ve got a CD opening, I will go to it and they don’t know, I go. I watch how they interact with people. I watch their performance. I want to make sure that they’re operating at a level of excellence that’s befitting of my brand and then I make contact with them. I will then say, “I’ve been watching you. Are you interested in pouring into the lives of others?”
It’s because you’re great at something doesn’t mean you’re great at coaching. You can be a great singer, but a terrible vocal coach. There’s a difference. The heart is behind it. The work is the art, but the heart behind it is most important. I’ll interview them. If I feel they have the heart and I see that in their interview, then I start to train them and that takes months. I hand train every single one of the coaches. It takes hours and days and weeks of my time, but I can say by the end of it that they are me with a different face. I can confidently rest knowing that any student that comes to me that can’t get into my schedule and can get into theirs is going to get the best training that they possibly can get.The work is the art, but the heart behind it is the most important. Click To Tweet
That is the way to do it. That’s great that you have a system and you have complete confidence in everybody that you’ve hired. I love the whole stalking people. I know for me, I’ve hired people after watching them and working with them in a different capacity and them not knowing it was even thinking about asking them to work for me.
It’s the best. My coaches are what enabled me to live in a different state and fly up there once a month to manage. They treat that building like it’s their own. They operate with such a high level of integrity. They are not just amazing coaches, they’re amazing people. We have such a great family culture in my business. We’re tight. I’ll take them out to dinner when I’m up there. We are more a family than we are a business. I’m so proud of the team that’s been built there. They are what makes me great.
You don’t even live there. Where do you live?
I don’t. I live in Florida, which is where I’m from. I have a little boy and it was better for him to be down here with family than fly down here and be alone, and George, we don’t have any family up there. I fly up instead of us flying down.
That makes sense. You have built a business that can run without you. I want to talk about your YouTube channel because I know that you’ve gotten an international following because of YouTube and you’ve been able to build your coaching business around the world. What made you think to go all-in on YouTube? How do you think that you have gotten the success you have on YouTube?
We didn’t do much advertising other than SEO for the business. I was like, “What would happen if we tried? We’re already doing great. Let me see if I got creative and tried to be more active on social media and what would happen?” I hired a videographer to do some videos, short, little one-minute Instagram tips and tricks. We got finished early one day and we had some more time left and the guy was like, “You want to do a long-format one for YouTube?” I was like, “Okay.” It happened to be a reaction. He’s like, “Why don’t you react to what you think about the singer?” I was like, “Okay.” I sat down and I picked a video and I reacted to what I do every day. I react to people singing and I coach them. I broke down what he was doing, we put it up there and I started getting subscribers by the thousands instantly. It was insane, 2,000 a day, every day for a long time.
Do you have a sense of what brought all those subscribers to that video? Was it the title that hit on what people were searching for? Did people share it?
No. I think it was a matter of good timing and random blessing. When I released the vocal coach reactions thing was on the cusp of being a big thing, but also not many coaches were doing it, so there were only a few top ones. There weren’t as many so the pool of views was not as saturated. The fact that I knew what I was talking about, coupled with the production quality and the artists that I was choosing set me apart from the others. The other thing is that I can sing. I’m a performer so I can demonstrate vocally what I’m talking about when I’m reacting.
If someone’s doing something and I’m like, “They should have done it this way instead.” Instead of saying what they should have done, I’ll sing it so that people can hear. I know other coaches do that and their reactions and I don’t know why but they don’t. That’s a big differentiating factor between me and other reactors. Maybe they do sometimes, but I haven’t seen it. I’m known for that. Walking the walk and talking the talk. It was timing and the fact that it wasn’t too saturated. I chose the videos and the production quality was good. I knew what I was talking about. It’s all those things.
That’s an important point that you did something that wasn’t saturated yet and it may have been by accident. It was something you did naturally, but it turned out that there weren’t so many other videos doing that at the moment.
It wasn’t by accident though, because I was still trying to do stuff. I was filming something else and while that may not have been my mark, I was still in the attempt mode. I was still going after different things and trying different things and something happened to hit. That’s what it’s going to be like for you. You don’t sit there and you’re like, “What can I do? I’m going to zig. I’m going to zag.” Maybe the zag doesn’t work and the zig does, but it’s not an accident, because you were still going after things. You were knocking on different doors and one happened to crack open and you kicked the thing down.
You plan something and you do it. Let’s say you’re doing videos and you don’t just put it on YouTube. Maybe you also do Instagram, Instagram TV, Reels and TikTok. You try those things and one of them will probably hit in some way more than the others.
As a testament, I’m not nearly as big on TikTok as I am on YouTube, not at all.Look outside and serve others. The answer is always in the service of others. Click To Tweet
Do some testing, find a platform that you resonate with the best and that they resonate with you and then go all-in on it like she has. I know that you are a big proponent of recurring income and finding ways to get that stability in your income for your music career. How can musicians be able to set that up for themselves especially now with the focus on doing more things online?
I am a huge believer, fan and beneficiary of courses. I believe in the online course model. I think that is where the world is headed. If COVID has taught us anything, it taught us that we can educate ourselves online as efficiently as we can in person. It was big before, but now more than ever, people are starting to realize, “I can self-educate. I can do this online.” It’s as valuable, if not more. I don’t know about other courses, but if you buy mine, you own it for life. You can go back. It’s like watching a movie. You notice new things the 2nd, 3rd, 4th time. There’s value in courses big time and there’s value also in subscription-based models.
Let’s say that you’ve got a lot of technical wisdom and you released this great post once a month that people can subscribe to for a nominal fee a month. It’s about volume. It could be that. It could be a private Facebook group that’s $10 a month for people that you go on and you do live and you answer questions. I have one of those. If you buy my course, you can do Facebook private. It’s called The Vocal Gym for $10 a month. I go in there and I answer people’s questions. I’ll go live sometime. I’ll react to a random person like I do on YouTube and I’ll post it privately.
There are many ways to digitally monetize your time and make some passive income. You have to answer two questions though first and I like to backend it. The first is, who would you most like to serve? Who is that person? The second question is, what in you is valuable that you can give to them? If you can answer those two questions, then you have the product. You have to build it out. Who would I like to serve? I want to serve people who think they can’t sing, for whatever reason, but mostly if they were told “no.” If they were told by someone they couldn’t, if their confidence is low, I want to rebuild the way they think about themselves. I want the vehicle to do that to be through music. That’s my person.
How am I going to do that? I happen to be a kick-butt singer and I know all sorts of ways to get through to people and helping to explain it in a way that they can understand and then they can execute themselves, which serves them. I’m going to do that. I’m going to create ways to make this a course that I can create one time and sell always and that lots and lots of people all over the world can not only afford but benefit from. If you can do that for yourself, you’ve got yourself some courses and some passive income that you can create. It’s upfront work and then backend maintenance.
You can always combine that like what you’re doing with the Facebook group, The Vocal Gym. You can have that thing that people buy and they can always have it and go back, but they can also get that ongoing support.
That’s what we’re doing, 100%. It doesn’t have to be one or the other. It’s all income. Everything that I said is something that I’m doing.
This has been awesome. I loved learning about all the ways that you are helping musicians. I especially loved the part about the “why” because I think that it’s so important. There are so many people with what’s going on with the pandemic that are pivoting for different reasons. Some people are pivoting because they have to. Some people are pivoting because they discovered that they are doing something a different way that they hadn’t even tried before. Is there anything else that you want our readers to know?
If you’re not sure what you’re doing in life or where you should be going, I encourage you to look outside yourself and serve others because the answer is always in the service of others. You will find yourself, your direction when you get your eyes off of you and start looking towards someone else.
How can they find you online? How can they connect with you on social media? How can they find your YouTube channel?
If you Google Tara Simon Studios anywhere, you’ll find me. You’ll find the website and YouTube. You’ll find me on Instagram @TaraSimonStudios. We are all things Tara Simon Studios. If you’re interested in learning about the courses that we have or you want to get into there, you can also find that on our website. All of the courses that we have live are on the homepage. You have to scroll down. Thank you for having me. It was a pleasure being interviewed by you. I hope that your readers got a lot out of this.
You are welcome. Thank you for all of your inspiration and expertise.
About Singer and Vocal Coach Tara Simon
Tara Simon is a professional singer, songwriter and celebrity vocal coach. She became widely recognized as a top finalist on the second season of the X-Factor. Her determination and drive to succeed began early. She moved to New York City on her 18th birthday, her sights set firmly on Broadway. When the audition dates for Fame were announced, the creative community in the Big Apple was set on fire with excitement.
After waiting in line for ten hours, she sang from the heart, and landed the role of Serena Katz where she spent the next several months on an international tour with the show. After touring Europe, Tara Simon attended Palm Beach Atlantic University, where she gained her Bachelor of Arts in Music and Performance.
Since then, Tara has performed at a wide array of notable venues, released several hit singles on iTunes and has performed for A-list celebrities and dignitaries such as Simon Cowell, Sugarland, Britney Spears, Justin Bieber, L.A. Reid, President Trump and Governor Rick Scott. In 2012 Tara was selected as top 6 in her category on the X Factor Season 2. After her first audition, Simon Cowell said with a smile, “I believe we’ve only scratched the surface of what you’re capable of.”
To date, Tara Simon’s YouTube reactions to vocalists’ performances have skyrocketed her into worldwide exposure once again. With hundreds of thousands of subscribers and millions of views overall, she is easily one of the most highly sought after vocal coaches in the world. Tara has rolled out multiple groundbreaking digital courses based on her innovative vocal methodology “Sing Smarter Not Harder”, designed for singers at any level on their vocal journey.
America’s Got Talent star Angelica Hale and Broadway diva Loren Lott are just some examples of highly successful artists who study with Tara and rely upon her methodology for their vocal health and success.