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Meet Regina Ngo of Regina’s Music Studio in South Pasadena

Today we’d like to introduce you to Regina Ngo.

Regina, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I started Regina’s Music Studio as an accident. I was frustrated that there weren’t more music schools in the San Gabriel Valley that genuinely cared about their students, and I wanted to make a difference. Music and the arts were always such an important part of my life, especially growing up in one of the most dangerous neighborhoods of San Francisco (Hunter’s Point), and I wanted to provide that safe space to other people.

I started off with an old car and a big dream at 18 years old–and three students from all different parts of Los Angeles. I drove to Gardena, San Gabriel, and Pasadena to teach. Soon, word got out that there was a piano teacher that kids liked, and I was driving to Redondo Beach, Glendale, Covina, La Cañada–anywhere in Los Angeles you could imagine, I taught. I was putting 500 miles on my poor car every week and exhausted to the bone, but the difference I felt myself making was worth it. It soon became too much for my car, time, and sanity–I was still going to school full time–so I opened a little studio out of my home in South Pasadena. When my Yelp presence grew, even more, I needed to bring on another teacher to help me–that’s how Andrea Choi became part of my team. She was my best friend at USC (where I did my undergrad while running RMS) and I asked her to teach me. She has been an integral part of the development of the studio, and I’m humbled and grateful that she had stuck by my side this whole time.

Today, RMS serves about sixty families in the Pasadena/San Gabriel/San Marino area. I didn’t think it would become this, but it has. We are looking to open our first commercial space this coming February 2017, and I have decided to bring on another USC colleague, Ellen Pavliska, to the team. I’m thankful that I have Ellie and Andrea as my rocks to keep me grounded and focused.

If you told me five years ago that I’d be 23 years old with my own business, I would’ve probably laughed at you, but this is what it’s become. RMS has instructed hundreds of students and I couldn’t be more proud of the profound impact music has made in so many peoples’ lives. It’s the best feeling ever.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
There are struggles around every corner! I don’t think you’ll ever meet a small business owner who has had a smooth sailing path.

I remember being terrified about starting in the first place. I was 18, young, and scared–I had taught already for four years back in San Francisco, but with guided supervision. What would people think of me, an 18-year-old, driving around LA to teach children and adults? But I think the more I established my presence, the less age mattered. I demonstrated that I was a good piano instructor, and learned the ropes of operating a small business along the way–it was a great learning experience and I learned so much along the way that I would’ve never been able to learn in a classroom environment.

There were other struggles when I opened up my studio in my home too–on top of needing to relocate to South Pasadena to open up a location (I had decided to open in South Pas before even having a home OR a piano there!), I couldn’t continue teaching some of the students in the further parts of Los Angeles (towards South Bay.) That was heartbreaking. I did my best to place them with qualified colleagues in their area and I still maintain a good relationship and positive influence in many of their lives, which I am grateful for.

There are still struggles now, the biggest one right now being looking for a commercial space (have you ever visited prospective locations as a 23-year-old? They usually don’t take you very seriously!) but I have an incredible network of friends, colleagues, and clients who are all rooting for me. I couldn’t do anything or be anyone without them.

Please tell us about Regina’s Music Studio.
Regina’s Music Studio specializes in quality piano lessons. We’re unique and different because we focus on what we’re best at–which is training students with tried and true techniques to provide a strong foundation in the fundamentals of piano playing. Our students receive a well-rounded education in note reading, rhythm, improvisation, composition, and hand technique. Because all of us went to USC for our training in piano pedagogy under some of the most legendary piano pedagogues, we all know the appropriate way to address each individual student. Some schools stick all students on the same books or methods regardless of the child, but we take the time to assess every individual student and their learning abilities, and we go from there. I’m so proud that our students develop a genuine passion after many years of instruction–some of them score the highest scores in SoCal on the prestigious Associated Board of Royal Schools of Music examinations (ABRSM), and their playing alone speaks volumes.

Do you look back particularly fondly on any memories from childhood?
My favorite memory was one of my dad and uncle carrying a beat up, old spinet piano up the flight of stairs into our home. It was missing keys, hadn’t been tuned in years, and was left on the street curb for whoever wanted it. It was always my mom’s dream to learn an instrument, so despite the piano’s poor condition, it ended up in our dining room. We still have it to this day, even though it doesn’t work. It’s too sentimental for us to throw away.

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Image Credit:
Khris Sanchez, Redux Images.

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