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Rising Stars: Meet Bernadette Ashby

Today we’d like to introduce you to Bernadette Ashby.

Hi Bernadette, thanks for sharing your story with us. To start, maybe you can tell our readers some of your backstory.
In my wildest dreams, I never thought I’d run a successful piano studio. I didn’t even know how to play when I got started but I found a Breakthrough Australian Piano Method called Simply Music that unlocked piano playing unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. I did attempt, with the support of my gracious parents, as a child to take piano lessons with a couple of teachers. That way of learning didn’t stick with me. As a matter of fact, I knew music was inside of me and so when I was in college, I hired my own teacher. But I didn’t like learning the traditional way of playing the piano by reading notes. It was unexciting; I just wanted to play. So when I started homeschooling my kids, I was set on making sure they could play the piano even if I couldn’t. That’s when I found Simply Music at a homeschool conference. I thought I was going to teach my kids how to play but it was me that had a passion for music and learning. I couldn’t get enough of piano playing and this playing-based curriculum. I wanted more. So I contacted the President of the Company, Neil Moore.

Interestingly enough, he told me that if I wanted more, I would need to become a teacher. I laughed and said he was crazy because I had only been playing a couple of months. But he was dead serious. So at that split second, I made a decision to become a piano teacher and learn alongside of my students. It’s been a whirlwind of a journey these past 20 years but I’ve had the privilege of teaching hundreds of students, young and old, how to play, with the goal of them becoming a self-generative musician – to have the enjoyment to play and experience any music that they would like to focus on – allowing them to experience the freedom of expression and creativity. I know I started playing and teaching piano as an adult at the age of 37. It’s kind of late in life, but unlike many, I’ve had the opportunity to live out a dream of not only teaching and building a business, but I get to actually play the piano to my heart’s content. I don’t take this for granted and know that it’s my mission to let the world know that it’s possible to live a life creating an income doing something that you love, playing the piano. I don’t ever have plans to retire.

We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
Definitely not a smooth road for me. I’ve had to work on my own insecurities of being an inexperienced teacher and comparing myself to maestro piano teachers and players around me. It was an emotional and mental game of ups and downs, learning to forgive myself and stay focused on my studies to deliver content. Thankfully, I had a support system of friends and teachers that helped my game. I also had the challenge of convincing parents who would pay me top dollar to consider me as a teacher for their kids. It’s about navigating conversations, letting them know that I offered a method that would be a fun and enjoyable way of learning to play the piano. In some ways, that’s what they really wanted for their kids, anyways. In the challenges, I’ve learned to be patient with myself knowing that I was just one step ahead of my students. It was quite the achievement to receive the rank of Master Teacher within the Simply Music community.

Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
As a Simply Music Master Teacher, I teach a remarkable Breakthrough Australian Piano Method that has beginning students playing great sound blues, accompaniment, classical, and pop pieces from their very first lessons. I know it may sound unreal, but I am actually a product of this method and completely understand where students are coming from, especially adult learners. We teach students, ages 6-106, how to build a repertoire of 20-30 songs that they can play without music in front of them, through what we call a playing-based system. When they have achieved this, we begin to teach them how to read music in a non-traditional way. Along the way, they are learning the beginnings of improvisation and composition. I see it as a wholistic way of experiencing one’s musicianship. The growth of my studio has been consistent and as a result, I now have hired other teachers to help me. The management of my studio has had its ups and downs and so having a business coach has been crucial to expanding my studio. That has made a huge difference in mindset training and establishing a foundation for more growth in the future. One of the greatest joys in the time I’ve been a teacher is writing a book about Simply Music called, “A World Where Everyone Plays.” It’s a compilation of amazing testimonies from students and teachers from around the world sharing their piano learning experiences. It’s quite inspiring.

What matters most to you? Why?
Relationships are key for me and drive me to strive for success in whatever I do. My journey has not been an easy one because I started as a novice player and teacher. It would have been easy to just quit when the going got tough. But because of the love and care I had for students and their families, it gave me the impetus to continue to grow in my skills and teaching. I thoroughly enjoy the families that have been a part of my journey. In addition, I had a need to make an income while staying at home with my own kids. Being a piano teacher has allowed me to homeschool my kids, stay at home, and learn to run a business while generating the kind of income I wanted to make. At one point, I had over 70 students generating over 6 figures. The freedom of being an entrepreneur is something that I’ve completely enjoyed. The demands are different but are so worth it.

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