TPM 33 | Music Teachers

 

Many music teachers out there are struggling to find the resources they need. What if there is a community that can help them with that and provides support at the same time? Today’s guest is Jessica Peresta, founder of The Domestic Musician, which aims to help music teachers thrive in teaching and creative entrepreneurs succeed in online business. In this episode, Jessica joins Bree Noble to share her journey of being a music teacher and the common struggles they face. From classroom management to home-life balance, she knows these things too well. This eventually led her to create an online community where music teachers can access lesson plans and socialize. Join in the discussion to learn more about how Jessica helps uplift the community through the great support within The Domestic Musician!

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The Domestic Musician: Creating A Community For Music Teachers With Jessica Peresta

I am excited to be here with Jessica Peresta. We are going to talk about her journey and how she started making money with the things that she automatically did well. That’s going to be helpful for you. I know that you all have skills and knowledge that you are probably not monetizing. That’s what the show is about. Before we get there, I would love to know, Jessica, how you got started in music? What was your journey from there to where you are?

Thank you so much for having me on the show. I have loved connecting with you. I’m excited to be here. My musician story started at six years old. It wasn’t my music teacher in the school but my homeroom first-grade teacher had a piano in her classroom. She would always play it for us, which is odd because you don’t hear that happening much. I remember sitting behind this upright piano and hearing her play Jolly Old St. Nicholas. My dad got a piano that was being given away and put it in our home. I was walking by it like, “Why do we have this? Nobody plays it.” I was determined to learn how to play it.

I came home that day from school, tinkered around and learn the melody of Jolly Old St. Nicholas. It wasn’t perfect. I was six years old but my mom was like, “Did your teacher teach that to you?” I said, “No.” “Did you watch her play it?” “No. She played it for us in class.” Long story short, I got in piano lessons. Music became a passion of mine right away. It took me through college. I started as a Piano Performance major and then I switched to Music Education in my sophomore year. I play the clarinet. I did that through college as well in orchestra, band and all the things. I started my career as an elementary music teacher but also taught private lessons. I was a piano accompanist. I did one million and one thing. That’s how my personality is. I feel like I probably say yes to too many things.

I started at a school that hadn’t had a music program for years. I helped build it back up from scratch. I had no resources, no instruments. Right out of college, that’s where I started. After that, we moved to a new state. My school was closing. It’s like all the stars aligned. I took a break. I got recertified to teach. I kept having family members and friends say, “It would be nice if he could teach my child piano.” I was like, “I don’t live near you.” I have friends that were in the state I was in who I had taught piano lessons to their child. I said, “It’s easy. Why don’t I develop an online piano course? It’s simple.”

I met a friend who was an entrepreneur, a different niche than I’m in. She was giving me some ideas of how to start an online business, how I could build a website and then a blog. I didn’t know what any of that stuff meant. It was new to me. I have no business background. I didn’t even know much about online businesses. I go to websites to look for things but I never thought about what it’s like and how to build a business. I developed an online piano course. That was how I started then a blog that went along with that. I kept thinking about my story of my elementary music teacher journey. I knew music teachers were out there who may be not the same story as me but had similar stories of, “I don’t know what to do because I have no resources. How do I start? How do I teach music?” Needing tips and ideas. I started developing my blog to serve that audience as well. A membership site was launched, a course and a book. I have two shows. I’m doing 100 things.

You sound like me. You’ve got all the things, the two shows, the book. I have this exact same thing. I have three shows. One of the shows is completely almost entirely run by someone on my team. I have two shows I run. I have a book. I have everything, membership, exactly like that. When we are multi-passionate, we are excited about what we are doing. We feel like there are so many things we want to share. That can happen. Before we dive into all the specifics, do you feel like that has been good or do you feel like you are splintered in one million directions, you need to double down and focus on one thing?

I invested in some online business courses to help me determine. I am multi-passionate. I have Squirrel Syndrome. I want to do all the things but I also know I could. I also know it’s not effective. If you are trying to speak to all the people, you are not speaking to anyone because your message gets blurred. People were like, “What do you do?” Even though you do all the things. It is good when you are starting out. It was good for me to focus on a lot of different things because that helped me to determine. Even though I’m good at this and I like this part of my business, I don’t know if I want to continue that forever. I think that’s okay. I could do that but I’m going to let that part go so I can narrow in and focus on who I want to serve, the offerings I want to serve and focus on that well. You can do it all but it’s hard.

That’s a good point to have that time of exploring. I’m big on multiple income streams. I point out constantly because of COVID, if you are focused on one income stream and that one disappears, you are screwed. It’s good to have a bunch of different things you are doing at first but then you can double down on one and be like, “This is the one I love. It’s already growing.” You don’t want to double down on a thing that you haven’t tested yet to see if it’s working. You did that. You tested all the things. You were like, “I feel passionate about this thing. I’m going to go in this direction.”

Maybe you still bring in a little bit of income from those other things. Maybe you still have a few piano students. It’s not like you are going to shut it down. If you are going to focus on helping teachers, you are going to put all of your energy and focus into that area because that’s what you love. I love that you are bearing that out through your story. I wanted to go back to when you first started being a music teacher. You are very resourceful and very scrappy. How did you start? We always create these courses for things that we wish we had when we started. What did you use to figure out how to start teaching music when there wasn’t anything to guide you?

It was hard. I want to be honest about that. First of all, as a brand new teacher, you have learned all the things in college. I did my student teaching. I thought I would walk into a classroom that had resources waiting for me to fall back on. Maybe the teacher before me would have left some stuff. It was not that way. What I started with honestly and I encourage the teachers I work with is every kid has a body. If you don’t have instruments, do body percussion. I also started them singing. We did a lot of singing because I also say, “Every child has a voice.” I didn’t let it stop me that, “I don’t have instruments. There are no books to teach with. I don’t have the latest technology.”

I started with what I had, which was to get these kids singing, get them up and moving, get them to explore their bodies by doing different body percussion, which is padding, clapping, snapping. I did find in the cabinet some old textbooks from the early ‘90s. I knew they were very outdated. I didn’t want to use the CDs to go along with them. I pulled them out of the cabinets. I remember sitting on my living room floor, scattering them around me, looking through these books and pulling the songs or activities I thought would work with my students after I got to know my students. Not the students down the street but my kiddos. I pulled out the songs that I thought would work.

Don't take offense when people are leaving your community. It's not you. Maybe they have gotten what they need from it. Click To Tweet

From there, the next year I was able to start building up and go, “I know I have these songs and activities to work with. What do I need?” I would go to various workshops, professional development opportunities and buy new resources. I use my own money a lot upfront. That was the honest truth. I was able to finally get a stipend two years down the road to finally purchase my first set of instruments, which was rhythm sticks because they were the most inexpensive thing. I slowly started building the program out from scratch. It did break my heart when my school was announced it was closing. We found out we were moving anyways. It was a labor of love. It has helped me transition to online business.

There are exceptions to the rule but for me, things don’t happen magically right away. It takes a lot of work, pivoting, trial and error, seeing what works, what didn’t work. That’s exactly what happened in my classroom. It was overwhelming, “What do I do? I don’t have anything.” It was getting the kids singing and interested in music. That was what created a passion for music. I still get emails from some of those students of, “I went and did middle school music or high school music.” Some of them became music majors in college. It’s neat to know that I helped plant that seed. It was tough.

You were helping tons of other people plant that seed. That’s the ripple effect, which is cool. My husband’s a professor. I love when the students come back and are like, “I did this because of you. I went on to get a degree in English. I’m teaching English because I took your Literature class.” It’s a rewarding thing as a teacher. I love that you are taking that mindset into online business. That’s why many people dabble, fail and then give up because they haven’t taken that mindset of, “I’m going to have to try a bunch of things. I might have to pivot. I’m going to have to be building. I would probably have to keep reinvesting. I had to invest my own money and things I should have been paid for by the district.” You are passionate about helping kids.

It’s the same thing with online. I didn’t pay myself for years when I started. I knew that this thing could be bigger than that and I needed to make it bigger than that. That’s why you have been successful online is because you already had that mindset. I wanted to plant that in the readers. Know that if you have a course idea, you try it out and only a few people buy or nobody buys, that doesn’t mean it’s a bad idea. It means it might need some changing and tweaking before it works. From what you said about the school and what you did, I love that you found the things that were going to work for your class and then you build on that. What’s great about being able to offer what you do online is that the teachers that are taking your membership have a headstart. They don’t have to do that. They can take what you have. They can build on it and not feel so overwhelmed at the beginning, which is what’s great about online courses and memberships. What do you offer there?

That was my goal. In fact, in my messaging, I say, “I want to help you go from feeling overwhelmed to confident.” I don’t know if you have heard of Stu McLaren’s Tribe Course.

I took Tribe. It was the very first iteration of Tribe when I opened up my academy as a monthly membership. Before that, it was only a yearly membership. I was a Tribe generation.

I did have a previous membership site for Music teachers. I wouldn’t say it was terrible but I will be honest. I did not know what I was doing. It was like, “I was going to offer this. What could I do this week? I will give them a lesson plan. Maybe I will do a sporadic Facebook Live.” It was all over the place. Retention was terrible. I don’t blame any of them. It was like, “What is going on in here?” The passion was still there. It’s never gone away. I knew it was needed. I have been online. I like to be a silent listener, listening to what others are saying, what they are needing and what are they asking for. I was like, “It’s so needed but how do I do this?”

After figuring it out, I knew I wanted to offer completely a year’s worth done for your lesson plans, where I tell teachers, “If you come in and you don’t want to sit down, plan it all, here.” In there, I say, “I also know you are going to come in with different resources and other online programs you probably already use or your district has said use this curriculum. I also show you how to use what I offer in conjunction with what you have to.” Along with the done-for-you lesson plans, there are implementation videos, planning resources. We also do monthly mentorship calls. We offer one-on-one coaching there for various people depending on what they need. It might be new teacher calls or if you have transitioned from secondary music.

We do have an active Facebook community where I’m going live consistently. We do members of the month. We started doing member shares, where once a month a member from our community will share something that’s working for them in their classroom, whether it’s with teaching, classroom management, something with work, home, life balance. I’m probably missing stuff but that’s the main thing. It’s offering them support in various ways. I also know that for me, I thought about the different types of learners I will have in the community. Some want the video. Some are there for the community. Some are there for the lesson plans. You don’t see them in the community. When they pop up and ask a question, you were like, “Who is this?”

Everybody is there for different purposes. They all learn in different ways. We are always strategizing on how to create this membership and keep it going. For me, it is about bringing new people in. I want the people who were in there to know, “I am 100% in. I am here to serve you with whatever you need.” We have a good retention rate. You are always going to see people leave but it’s cool. This launch in winter, two people came back who had left previously. Don’t take it personally. It’s not about you. I saw a cool quote. It was relating it to a college course of, “Don’t take offense when people are leaving your community. It’s not you. It’s maybe that they have gotten what they need from it.”

You don’t want to have kids that keep repeating a college course. That means you are doing something wrong. They are not getting from point A to Z. If members are leaving, it’s various reasons. It could be, they are in a busy season. They don’t have time to apply what they are learning but they may come back. I love having a membership site. I also have a course. To me personally, I love the membership model because of its ongoing support. I love showing up and serving like that.

TPM 33 | Music Teachers

Music Teachers: If you’re trying to speak to all the people, you’re not really speaking to anyone because your message gets blurred.

 

I had my membership and then I decided I wanted to do a course. It didn’t resonate with me. People were on a different wavelength. They didn’t want to come and get help at the calls. They wanted to go through the thing and complete it. I love the membership aspect because of the fact that I get to know them over the year. People I have seen through multiple albums that they have created completely transitioning their business to different things. It’s amazing to see people grow that are in the academy. We have been around for years. I get what you were saying about that.

I love the membership model. We do almost everything that you mentioned for yours as well. They need that support. It’s hard to find a group of people that are doing what you do, especially with teachers. There is only one Music teacher per school or district. The people that you know maybe that are doing it are far away. It’s great to have that way for people to commune, especially when we have had to keep everything virtual. For musicians, you can’t even do meet-ups and stuff locally. That’s what is great about the membership model. I wanted to ask you about doing all of this while also being a mom of three.

I feel like we are the same person. I’m a mom of two. I started all this when my kids were younger. They are self-sufficient. One turned eighteen and the other one is twelve. When they were littler, it was hard to organize that. I personally have kept up the same habits that I did when they were little so I could get work done. I got up super early and all that. I have so much time now because I kept these habits up. The kids don’t take up very much time. I would love to know how have you been able to balance all of this as a mom? Are you still doing any local teaching of any kind or is this all online?

I’m only online. I have been thinking about going back to teaching part-time. With that said, I love being able to show up, serve online and have my own flexibility in my schedule.

How have you balanced this from starting out as a mom? How old are your kids?

I have three boys. They are 11, 9 and 6. Balancing when I started my business, they were baby, 2 and 4 or 3 and 5. They are very little. It was crazy. When I hear people say, “I can’t start a business because I’m a parent.” I’m like, “I feel like anybody can use an excuse to not do something.” For me, I have been work outside the home mom. I worked when I taught my oldest until he was two and then a stay-at-home mom. I then work from home mom. I can tell you all three are equally hard but equally rewarding at the same time. Working from home, building a membership site from scratch when your kids are awake or when it’s summertime and they are not in school, they are wanting you to entertain them, you were like, “How am I supposed to do all this?”

First of all, if you are reading this and you are a mother that we are a parent at all, it’s okay to have multiple passions. What I mean by that is you can be passionate about your work and being a mom. For me, I knew I needed that for myself. One of my dreams is to be a mother. I love it. They come first. My family is everything. I know that I am also passionate about music and wanted to help serve in a business model. When they were little, I got it before they woke up. I am a morning person. When that alarm clock goes off at 4:30 or 5:00, there are certain days you were like, “I don’t want to.” I remember those quiet mornings sitting in the living room with my laptop open with a cup of strong coffee and going through building this membership site out, “How am I going to do this?”

At this point, my website was there. I did have a blog. My show was newish. Everything is a stepping stone. When people come into an online business, it’s overwhelming if you look at all the things, instead of taking it one step at a time. Everything doesn’t have to get done right away. You will learn as you go off, “I have a blog but I want a show. I have a website. Do I like this website or do I want something different?” I would get up before they were awake. During nap time, let’s say the baby was still napping, I would strategically put a movie on sometimes at that time in the middle of the day to have one hour but one hour block of time. I would work when they went to bed but not every night because I knew I still needed my time. I have a husband. We still need to spend time together.

I don’t like working on the weekends. When I was working when they were little, there would be times I would have to work on the weekend a two-hour block of time. It was amazing how much time I was able to get things done. I love the time-blocking method. If it’s on the calendar and I’m blocking out a two-hour section at a time here, stuff’s going to get done. I turn my phone over. I don’t have any distractions around me. I have a to-do list sitting in front of me of what I need to get done.

You can set aside the time but if you sit there and go, “What I’m going to work on?” You had everything all set up so it’s go time.

Let’s use the membership site as an example. I’m going to focus on building out the lesson plans maybe for the first month. When I launch, I will build them out as we go. The next morning, maybe it’s focusing on adding things to the calendar that I’m going to share with my membership site. All those little tasks take a long time. It’s blocking out time but also having an outline, bullet points or on your calendar of what you need to accomplish that day. Once it’s done, it was like, “I was able to accomplish more than I thought I could in that two hours.” It is very possible to work when you have small kids.

Every child has a voice. Click To Tweet

You have been going for a while. Do you have anyone helping you on your team or are you still doing all this yourself?

I don’t know, whether to call her a virtual assistant but she’s more of a community manager. She is my go-to person. Her name’s Katie. She was one of the founding members of my membership site. She has been with me from day one. We have connected. She was in the Facebook group developing, “I developed a planner. Does anybody want it here?” We would go live, which is fine with me. We hosted Facebook Lives. “The new teachers are in here. I want to offer support.” I didn’t ask her to do this. She wasn’t even doing it to be like, “Look at me.” She has a heart for serving. I knew I was at the point where I needed to hire someone else. I was like, “I needed to delegate some stuff off.” I was a part of one for years. It was like, “It’s time.”

I emailed her and was like, “Would you like to talk? I will give you specifics coming on my team. I can give you some tasks to do.” She was so excited. She has been with me now. It has been amazing. Going back to the mundane tasks of little things like responding to emails or creating Canva quotes, even going in the Facebook group. I have a free Facebook group too. Going in there and keeping the community going, all those things are very important tasks but I didn’t realize how much time it was taking for me to be able to focus on the work I needed to do so.

My community manager is the same way. She was not a founding member but she was a very early member. She has been with me since 2017. We’ve got a lot ahead of you with Katie. It worked out well for me, for sure. It’s because you had all these systems in place from when your kids were little, once COVID happened, your kids were home and all that, where were you able to handle that easily because you already had some of this with having little kids home anyway?

I knew it was going to be crazy for a little bit. What I tell people about building an online business is upfront. It’s a lot of work. Not just building out your business but taking the training like, “How do I email people? What do I do on social media?” All the things you’ve got to figure out but it was cool. I was at the point in my business where I wouldn’t say things were coasting but I still have to show up at work. I was able to say, “I have to help them with their schoolwork through this hour to this hour.” We are back to time-blocking. I had to readjust my calendar, move certain things around where maybe I would have daytime meetings or showing up on my membership. I had to be very clear with my members too of, “I’m going to be able to show up during these hours instead of these hours.” I had to move things around. Having those systems in place when they were little-bitty, once COVID hit, it was very hard juggling it all with them being home again. It was also like, “I do have some good systems in place that I’m very grateful that I set up upfront.” It was helpful.

I’m sure your members understood because they were going through the same thing. Suddenly, they all had kids home too if they were parents. One other question about COVID because I feel like it’s changed, especially many things for education, did you find that people needed different things that they have to do stuff all online? Did you teach your teachers how to use Zoom? Sometimes they weren’t getting that kind of support from their district.

Ironically, my membership site was almost one-year-old when COVID hit. It was launched in the summer of 2019. It was new for all of us. This was unexpected. Not that my membership site wouldn’t still serve them but I knew the lesson plans for example. It was created for in-person teaching. Some of these aren’t going to be helpful for what they need. I went back through all school year in 2021, what I have been doing and saying, “If you teach virtually, modify this lesson this way. If you teach on a car, modify this way.” There was so much mindset stuff that these teachers are dealing with. Some of them were at risk of losing their job as a Music teachers, especially when teaching virtually and not knowing how to use Zoom.

It’s the simplest things that we think everybody knows that they needed help with the little things like navigating Google Classroom or, “How do I upload a lesson plan for my students to see?” Ironically, it’s cool to see how all the stars have aligned. I started my Master’s in Educational Technology in 2021. With what I’m learning, I’m like, “I can tell them to do this.” They were like, “It’s helpful.” It wasn’t even for that reason. It wasn’t like, “The teachers are in COVID. I’m going to get a Master’s in this.” There had been my plan all along. It’s like, “What in the world?”

There are certain things they had to learn. Canva, Google Classroom, “How to do breakout rooms?” All the things that suddenly they were forced to learn. That’s cool that that happened that way. You are getting your Master’s in Educational Technology. What’s the reasoning behind that?

It’s twofold. One is to give me more skills in how to help the teachers with integrating technology into what they do in a current or post-COVID world. Even if they are in the classroom, they are being asked to use technology more. Not like, “Here’s a technology platform. Use it.” Principals are more and more asking teachers to integrate technology into what they are already doing. For music educators, it’s tricky how to do that. Also, it’s helping me tremendously in my online business with systems and websites. Some of this stuff I’m already aware of but it doesn’t mean I’m always about refreshers. We do shows, blogs and websites. They relate it back to helping K-12 teachers.

For me, that’s going to be my business. Hopefully, forever. It’s not just learning how to use technology but it helps you with even coaching and mentoring. I looked at the degree plan and all the courses it described what it would be doing. It’s a completely online degree. I went to every single one of those courses. It’s something I am excited to do and to learn about. I knew I wanted to get a Master’s and it was going, “Do I do music or do I do something with education?” When I saw educational technology, I went, “This is the one that makes sense.” That’s how that happened.

TPM 33 | Music Teachers

Music Teachers: It is often the simplest thing that we think everybody knows they need help with, like navigating Google Classroom or uploading lesson plans.

 

I love that you were tripling down on Music educators. Your Clubhouse club is called Music Educators of Clubhouse. I love that you are calling out your perfect people. You are smart.

I have a club called The Elementary Music Teacher Club.

The other thing is called Music Educators of Clubhouse.

It’s Music Education Chat.

If you are on Clubhouse and you are a music educator, check that out. She has rooms going on. Let them know how else they can connect with you. You got a show. You have a website, membership site, all that stuff.

You can find me at TheDomesticMusician.com. I have a show called The Elementary Music Teacher Podcast. Another show is called the Learn Music Together Podcast. You can find all the things on my website. Also, I’m on Instagram. It’s probably where I’m the most active, @JessicaPeresta. At Clubhouse, @JessicaPeresta. I would love to connect with any of you. Reach out and let me know how we can connect.

People knowing about your journey, how you took what you learned, have used it to help so many other educators and that whole ripple effect. I know that is going to be encouraging and inspiring to them. Thank you so much.

Thank you so much for having me. I have loved this conversation.

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About Jessica Peresta

TPM 33 | Music TeachersJessica Peresta graduated from Oral Roberts University with her Bachelors of Music Education in 2004 and earned the top music educator award. She went on to build a music program from scratch at a low income school in Tulsa, OK, earning the Teacher of the Year and Teacher of Today awards during her second year of teaching. Jessica has used her expertise to found The Domestic Musician, LLC where she mentors and supports elementary music teachers through her HARMONY membership site, The Elementary Music Teacher podcast, and her blog. Jessica published her first book this summer called “Make A Note: What You Really Need To Know About Teaching Elementary Music” and is currently pursuing her Masters in Educational Technology from The University of Arkansas.