Today we’d like to introduce you to Bobby Apperson.
Thanks for sharing your story with us Bobby. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
Hello! When I moved to Los Angeles I was working in music advertising and tech. I worked as a developer on some music apps and the lead developer on some big-name artist websites, but I really desired to get back to actual music-making and where else in the world to do that but LA? I re-opened my music school under my own name and quickly grew by word-of-mouth and online reviews.
What I found was that LA is a different market than where I grew up in Texas. If you or your child are taking music lessons here you’re probably less interested in the classics, a strict teaching style, and grooming certain students to be career musicians. Parents want their kids to have fun and adults want either just a creative outlet – or they DO crave that path to a music career. I was always inclined to reject the conservatory model I had through college (UT-Austin) studying classical music and composition. I always strive to be and was sought out as a teacher for being more fun and teaching music theory and chords from lesson one via rock, blues, and pop, on top of the typical materials and reading-first approach. It worked, and people liked it.
Quickly, I was overbooked and looked to hire other teachers to join the team. In early 2016 I renamed the school Songsmith LA and looked to expand from teaching voice, piano, and songwriting myself to adding a much-requested guitar teacher, female voice teachers, and more.
We teach drums, performance, recording and production, trumpet, and more on request. I picked our teachers and some of the new teachers helped me pick even more; they’re people I wanted to study with and jam with when I was younger, and they’re performers, writers, and all teach more than one instrument or area. Some have their own studios, some travel to student homes, and some are online.
In addition to lessons we’ve always hosted meet-ups for songwriters; that’s a part of why we’re named Songsmith LA. A Songsmith crafts a song, be it an original song or a song they love and want to learn for themselves. So, our groups are workshop-style, sharing original songs and snippets, where we’re stuck, getting feedback, and finding writing partners. As we expand we’ll be doing that more with piano, guitar, and voice lessons, too. We also host house concerts, mixers, and open mics!
We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
It’s never a straight line, right? I started teaching piano from my house; I quickly found the setup wasn’t right and within a year found a studio space in Atwater Village. It was beautiful and business boomed; however, I had some health issues and as I was rebounding the owner sold the studio (it was behind a house). So back to my house I went but in a different space I made. Then I had some life changes and had to sell my home.
All that moving is not easy for anyone; so currently, we rely on teacher studios, student homes, Bedrock LA studios, and online lessons. In 2018 we are setting up a central studio space in or around Echo Park. It will have 2-3 rooms for lessons and practice, available for both students and members of the community to rent. It will be a space for musicians to write, record, and rehearse, as well as to meet up for shows, workshops, and community. Think those lovely co-working spaces you see — except you’ll be allowed and ENCOURAGED to make noise.
The other transition was that I no longer teach piano myself. That was hard on the kids, of course, but my focus is now on coaching voice and songwriting, including singer-songwriters, and writing myself. We have wonderful teachers for piano from North Hollywood to Eagle Rock, all teaching various styles, who took over for me!
So, as you know, we’re impressed with Songsmith LA – tell our readers more, for example what you’re most proud of as a company and what sets you apart from others.
We specialize in making music fun! No, really. Most of the hundreds of students I’ve taught in LA have said the same thing: We make it fun. Many adult students came to me, most after a long absence from lessons, and said their teachers growing up were strict and made them hate lessons. Even some transfer students have said that about some piano teachers in Los Angeles, which always surprises me. Isn’t music supposed to be fun and rewarding?
The other difference is that we specialize in songwriters and singer-songwriters. That’s certainly not exclusive, but this is LA and we get a lot of budding musicians. Some are in bands, some tour, some are big producers, but they all want to either learn something new or polish their existing knowledge. That’s the difference a school provides versus when it was just me; if a songwriter is studying voice, lyric-writing, chords, and keys with me but wants to pick up guitar, well I can send them to one or more of our 3 teachers who play guitar, which I don’t!
Then when they’re ready, we have performance opportunities for them to try out their new chops and songs. Open mics are all across LA but they’re intimidating and in big, public spaces full of strangers! This is nurturing with instant constructive feedback. We encourage them to record and post their songs and then to get out there to those other venues.
Our approaches are inspiring for musicians of all ages; because we include multiple styles and songwriting from day one, young students come back to a lesson with original songs and riffs during their first year of piano or guitar lessons. That’s always so exciting for everyone and makes us proud. Some kids come into a lesson and show us a song they taught themselves by ear after just 3-6 months in lessons!
So, what’s next? Any big plans?
We are excited for that central, physical studio space we mentioned for lessons, rehearsals, shows, and classes, so stay tuned for that!
- Half hour lesson….Up to age 7…$45
- 45-minute lesson…Ages 7+…$60
- One-hour lesson….$75
- Address: 5803 Burwood AveLA 90042
- Website: www.songsmith.la
- Phone: 213-259-9679
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org