20 minute read.
I recently caught up with a friend of mine who I’d lost touch with for a while. We’ve both been busy with work and life. I’d been wanting to write a business article for a long time, but was trying to decide on the best candidate for this particular subject.
After thinking about it, one name popped into my head of someone who runs his business with extraordinary integrity, incredible passion, and sharp business acumen. And to boot, he is one of the nicest and most generous guys I know.
His name is David Reedy, and he’s been co-owner of Reed Music Studio for 30 years. I was fortunate enough to get to know David back in April 2009 when he started teaching piano to my oldest daughter.
How I Met David
My wife and I decided one day to inquire about David taking our daughter on as a student. She’d been practicing with other teachers for years, and we saw that she had real potential to excel beyond her current level of instruction.
We were reading a local magazine and noticed an ad for Reed Music Studios. We noticed right away that David was known for training students to win State piano competitions. He was a highly sought-after instructor.
So for us, it made perfect sense to pair them up, but only if we were lucky enough to secure his services. It turned out that he had a waiting list of students that all wanted him as their teacher. But after some phone conversations and back and forth emails, we were absolutely thrilled to learn that he accepted our request.
Since then, our daughter went on to accomplish great success at piano competitions for years. Now that she is in college, she still plays beautifully after 8 years of wonderful training, and it’s because of the deep sense of values she learned from David.
Working with David
I’ve also had the pleasure of doing photography services for David’s studio honors recital events for a few years, as well as take business portraits of him. I even had the distinct privilege to do photo shoots on two separate occasions with him for his music CD’s. He was extremely easy and fun to work with.
As you will read in this interview, my daughter was not the only one who has benefited from David’s excellent tutelage. David has trained hundreds of students over the years to reach incredible heights in music, and continues to take on new students all the time.
You’ll also find out in this article what made David start his music business, and how he managed not only to sustain, but thrive and grow all these years, even while serving in outside leadership roles as well as working on his own projects.
So here it is: David Reedy in “A Brilliant Example of How to Provide Clients with Exceptional Value”
The subject of this article is about extraordinary people in the community that have a long time successful business, and who are well-known and respected for their product or service. I would like to introduce David Reedy, co-owner of Reed Music Studios.
I will be stressing themes of “doing business with honesty and integrity,” and “providing clients with exceptional service and value” in this article. We’ll also be talking about how to start a business with an innovative idea, and what it takes to make the business successful as well as keep it successful.
NJ: Hi David. Thank you so much for allowing me to tap into your busy life a bit today, as you share some insight on your great success in the music education business. Tell me about your experiences learning piano as a child, and what sort of struggles and successes you had.
DR: My introduction to the piano was rocky at best! I was sent to lessons as a 5 year old to my great aunt’s house on the other side of town. She had a piano and an organ against the wall, and a full-size bear rug on the floor, complete with head and claws.
As I sat at the piano, my back was against the rug, and I was convinced it was going to come alive and eat me. I cried and complained before every piano lesson, and eventually was sent home for good because I couldn’t sit still and was always distracted.
We had an old upright piano in the basement, and after a few guitar lessons in the third grade, I learned how to tune the guitar to the piano. I found an old sheet music of the Blue Danube Waltz, seven pages with variations!
I taught myself all the notes and spent countless hours learning it. One day while playing it, my mother said “I think we should try this again” (with a new teacher), and the rest is I guess “history.”
NJ: Who influenced you when you were growing up, and how did they inspire and motivate you (for example, teachers, friends, relatives, mentors, or famous musicians)?
DR: My mother used to clean the house while listening to classical music from her record collection. I remember loving Byron Janis’ recording of the Rachmaninoff Second Piano Concerto, and something about it just consumed me.
I swear I burned a hole in that LP! Rachmaninoff remains my favorite composer to this day, and I even named my dog after him.
Once I resumed lessons, I was so fortunate to have a wonderful teacher, well trained and who really loved what she did. She guided me and gave me opportunities that helped me blossom.
I recall my first recital: I was playing Beethoven’s Fur Elise, and I remember sitting and waiting my turn, and seeing all the older students and hearing them play. I was immediately driven to be as good as they were and consequently it propelled me to practice even harder.
NJ: What made you decide to pursue piano to the professional level you have achieved? Was there any one catalyst or cathartic moment, or was it a number of reasons that drove you to focus intently on professional music?
DR: My father owned an earth construction company and wore a hard hat every day. There were three other siblings in my family, but I was the only one who pursued music. I couldn’t think of anything else that I loved more.
When my teacher told my parents I needed a grand piano, it was the farthest thing my Dad ever thought he would purchase. If it were a bulldozer or dump truck, it would probably have been easier, but he bought me the piano!
Both my parents supported my artistic endeavors throughout my life; lessons, a grand piano, a college education, and loaning me the money to start my studio.
There was no bank that was going to give a 22 year old “kid” a loan to open something never heard of before. My father knew the value of being your own boss, and that also stuck in my head.
NJ: How long have you been in the business of teaching music? Was it always something you wanted to do? Why or why not?
DR: 2017 will mark the 30th year of my business, Reed Music Studios. I started teaching some lessons while in college at my parent’s home on the weekends and really enjoyed it. Given the “be your own boss” seed that was planted in my mind, I was thinking larger than teaching in a living room.
I did some reading, and heard about some studios in the nation that were organized, professional, and with multiple students and teachers. I was determined to give it a try here in La Crosse.
NJ: Describe the process of how you decided to start a music teaching business and what it took to make it successful, sustainable, and growing.
DR: I knew that if I was going to give this a shot, I had to do my homework. I was my father’s son, but he was a smart businessman and wanted and deserved some research into the venture.
I contacted the business department of UW-La Crosse about doing a survey in the community to explore support for an organized, professional studio.
At this time, I was also teaching about 30 students in a music store in town. I called a meeting with the parents of my students, and gave them my proposal. Everyone in the room was completely on board! I owe a lot to that first group of parents, for without them this never would have happened.
The doors of Reed Music Studios opened in September of 1987 with those 30 students, and has now grown to over 400 students and eighteen teachers. I sold half of the business in 2004 to one of the teachers on staff, and that also allowed me more time to pursue civic and personal ventures.
Because of my dicey first experience with lessons, I was determined to have a welcoming atmosphere for students and teachers. Therefore, the slogan “Professional Instruction in a Professional Atmosphere” has been there since day one. And, there has never been a bear rug in the studio!
NJ: What do you love about being a music teacher and a music teaching business owner?
DR: I know it sounds impossible, but I really love what I do. I never go to work dreading the day. I get to work with fantastic people on the staff, and most of all incredible students of all ages.
With one on one instruction, you really get to know your students, and they become friends first and foremost.
I really feel like I’m making a difference in their lives, and hopefully inspire them to make music a part of their future, and they will want to support the arts throughout their lives. I firmly believe that everyone needs some artistic element in their daily lives.
Music is around us all day long in more ways than we can count, and I feel privileged to be able to be a small part of fostering an appreciation for that.
One thing I truly love about what I do is very personal to me. When I see one of my students play, and I have started them as a beginner from day one, just knowing that I taught them their first note gives me such pride.
I recently had a student performing the Rachmaninoff Second Piano Concerto as a 16 year old. I taught him his first note at age five.
It was an overwhelming emotional moment to witness him playing the piece that inspired me to love the piano. I felt that my life had kind of come full circle at that moment.
NJ: Tell me some of the most common struggles and challenges you encounter as a music teacher and owner of a music teaching business. Are they different today from when you started your business and how?
DR: I think the biggest struggle that faces my profession is competition for the student’s time. Nowadays, there are so many activities pulling at students’ time and schedules.
However, music is only a part of a well rounded life, and there are plenty of people and parents who value it and keep it thriving for their families. We are in an era where most families have both parents working, and that also makes extracurricular activities a challenge for those families.
The dawn of the internet and technology in general has given us a sense of “instant results” for most things, and the study of piano will never be one of those. It takes work, dedication, and time, but the results far outweigh any strike of a computer key.
David is no stranger to giving outstanding presentations at his honors recitals. He is a master at public speaking.
NJ: You’ve recorded and released two successful albums of your own piano music. What was your inspiration for wanting to take on this very personal project, and how were you able to work that into your already busy schedule?
DR: In 2013, I decided I wanted to surprise my parents with a recording to thank them for supporting me throughout my life. I had been a classical pianist all my life, but also enjoyed playing lighter things on the piano, including some of the great pieces from the WW2 era, which was their era as well.
During 2011-2013, I was President of the Board of the La Crosse Symphony Orchestra, and as a parting gift to my fellow board members, I thought this recording would be appropriate. I had it professionally done, named it “As Time Goes By” and thought that was the end of it.
A friend of mine played it at a blood drive, and was bombarded with people asking where they could buy it. She insisted that I make more and started selling them. I ordered 100, then 300, then 500, then more. I never imagined that 1,400 would sell and it is now sold out!
Here is the slide show that was projected on a big screen and displayed at his CD Release party, which also featured music from his album:
That spurred another recording in 2014 “Rhythms of Life.” With the new recording I decided to do some charitable works, and partnered with Festival Foods and was able to make a nice donation to the Humane Society.
I also donated several (200 CD’s) to the Gundersen Health System’s “Stepping Out in Pink” for breast cancer to be given to survivors in the survivor’s tent. They were used for oncology patients and during chemo treatments to help relax them.
I got several personal “thank you” notes telling me how the music moved them and helped them through their struggles. I will treasure those notes forever, as that is the true magic of music and what it does for the soul.
NJ: What do you see for the future of your business in music education? 5 years? 10 years?
DR: In the future, I hope my studio continues to thrive, and perhaps expand into a second location to better serve the growing La Crosse area. The day has now come when some of our former students have their children enrolled in the studio.
That is a great honor and gives me the inspiration to always keep excellence as our hallmark. To have someone value music because of what you may have done for them, and then come to you entrusting you to pass it on to their children is the greatest gift of all for a teacher.
NJ: Any last thoughts on how to be successful in business, or any tips, tricks, advice, or words of wisdom for anyone wanting to start up?
DR: If I had to tell anyone a word of advice when starting a business or new venture, it would be to start with a vision and mission, and hold onto it through good times and bad. And lastly, never stop improving or thinking of ways to make things better.
NJ: David, I want to thank you very much for giving such detailed, honest, and candid answers in this interview. You certainly have shared a lot of helpful information for anyone wanting to know the ins and outs of starting and running a highly successful business, and what it takes to succeed, thrive, and grow.
Here are some comments I had on things that David said, which specifically struck a cord with me.
I found it fascinating that David’s parents with their diverse backgrounds and philosophies were so supportive of him, even though it wasn’t exactly working out with his first lessons.
I had a similar experience with my own daughter when she started out with piano lessons at age 7 with a mother who home-schooled her children. My daughter just could not get engaged with the lessons no matter how hard we tried.
I also love that his dad influenced him with his entrepreneurial spirit, and encouraged him to be his own boss. So many of us choose the route of being an employee, thinking it’s the only way to be financially safe and secure.
The Value of Entrepreneurship
It wasn’t until I started running my own photography business on the side that made me appreciate being an entrepreneur. It’s when I started to understand the immense value of being responsible for my own business.
There are always good and bad things that goes along with it, but if you embrace change and remember why you started, success is attainable. You’ve got to think in terms of staying for the long haul if you truly love what you do.
I completely agree with the “instant gratification” attitude that seems to permeate the minds of many people these days, and the privileged mindset that makes so many business owners think they don’t have to work hard to develop trust, integrity, and honesty with clients to get results.
David shows through his work that he truly believes hard work, dedication, and especially time and patience are values that will never be replaced.
I thought it was great that David talked about the intense pride he felt knowing he gave so many kids a solid foundation in music education. That also makes me think of my daughter immediately. When she comes home for winter and summer break from college, she still practices piano every day and fills our home with beautiful music.
She always plays her favorite pieces, but she also actively teaches herself new pieces of music. That was all because of David. He instilled the value of music in her, and it will last her entire life! Then I think of how many students he has taught over the years and how he gave them those same values for their entire lives. His gift is priceless and limitless!
Giving Back and Paying Forward
It impresses me every day that David decided to do personal projects of recording his two albums, but what impressed me most about it was that he gave back to the community by donating to worthy causes.
At his CD release party, I started a slideshow of his photo shoot pictures with his own music playing in the background. He got up and gave a short presentation to sincerely thank all of us who participated in the production, and I thought it was a perfect display of public speaking.
That just shows how much he cares about the people of the La Crosse area, and by seeing the continued success of his studio, it shows how much his clients trust, love, respect and care about him.
List of David Reedy’s Credits and Credentials:
- Member of the Music Teachers National Association since 1988
- Member of the Wisconsin Music Teachers Association since 1988
- National Certification from Music Teachers Association in 1999
- Awarded the “Award of Excellence” from the Wisconsin Music Teachers Association, 1991, 1998, 2000, 2005, 2006, 2009, 2011, 2013 and 2015
- His students are consistent first place winners in the WMTA State Piano competitions
- Frequent adjudicator for WMTA and WSMA district and state competitions
- In 1999, started the La Crosse Symphony Orchestra’s Rising Stars Concerto Competition which he currently co-chairs
- Served as a board member of Friends of the Symphony
- Past President of the La Crosse Symphony Orchestra Board of Directors
- In 2015, awarded “Board Emeritus” by the La Crosse Symphony Orchestra
- In 2012, designed and launched an endowment campaign for the La Crosse Symphony Orchestra that raised over 1.5 million dollars
- Holds the Permanent Professional Nationally Certified Teacher of Music designation from the Music Teachers National Association
Performances by David Reedy:
- Solo performance with the UW-La Crosse Orchestra in their Carnegie Hall performance in New York City
- Soloist with the La Crosse Symphony Orchestra
- Soloist for the inaugural concert for the Chancellor of UW-La Crosse
- Many recital performances throughout the La Crosse, WI area
- Accompanied several area instrumentalists in performances and competitions, which included a master class at Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis, MN with cellist Yo-Yo-Ma
- Released solo album “As Time Goes By” in 2013 which sold over 1400 copies
- Released solo album “Rhythms of Life” in 2014 with proceeds mostly donated to several area charities and worthy causes
Publications about David Reedy:
A Student Management System for Reed Music Studios: A Manuscript Submitted to the Department of Computer Science and the Faculty of the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse – By Ha Bui in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Master of Software Engineering April, 2010
Sources and References
Many thanks to the wonderful design services of Renee Chrz at Innovative Graphics.
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