Music in motion: piano teacher creates mobile studio
The idea of the mobile piano studio was born out of necessity. While Monson has been teaching piano for 20 years, she formalized the Sarah Monson Piano Studio in 2012.
When the pandemic struck, Monson’s hours at the Music Mart were cut. With three children at home, it was a difficult time for Monson.
“My husband was able to keep his job during the shutdown, but as a two-earner family it caused anxiety and stress,” she said.
Before qualifying for unemployment under the CARES Act, one of Monson’s Music Mart colleagues donated hours to him.
“It was such an incredible gift, and to be the recipient of such kindness was such an encouragement during these particularly uncertain days,” she said. “I cry even thinking about it.”
Sarah Monson is teaching 5-year-old Ivy Petzold in her mobile piano studio on Tuesday, September 29, 2020, in the parking lot of the Music Mart in Rochester. The trailer is equipped with side-by-side pianos. (Traci Westcott / [email protected])
Although Monson could still give piano lessons online, she had to find a way to make her piano instruction more viable for in-person lessons in order to maintain her income. “It meant either quitting music altogether, as it is the most uncertain business one could choose, or reinventing, once again, how to build and maintain a viable business model,” he said. she declared. She chose the latter.
Before the pandemic, Monson was teaching at his students’ homes or in a small space at the Music Mart that couldn’t accommodate two pianos and social distancing. Neither worked for face-to-face classes during the pandemic, and her home, which did not have readily available space for a studio, was too far from Rochester to allow classes. With unaffordable retail space, Monson considered the idea of converting a bus that she could drive to her student’s home. Eventually, she landed on the concept of converting a cargo trailer into a piano studio.
After checking with the city, county and the Music Mart, his idea of building a studio for two pianos in a trailer started to come true.
“I was a little worried about how The Music Mart owner Joe Meidl would feel about having a trailer parked in his parking lot, but he was only supportive,” Monson said.
By applying for a combination of loans and grants from his local bank and the Small Business Association, Monson was able to purchase a trailer and begin the process of transforming into a piano studio.
Fortunately, Monson’s husband, Trever, was trained as a carpenter, so he could help customize the trailer. After receiving the cargo trailer at the end of July, it was insulated, wired and refurbished to house two pianos and everything Monson would need to teach his piano students by the third week of August.
“I think my favorite is the office that my husband built in the nose of the trailer,” she said. “Everything is made from recycled materials and… he also built it so that everything has its place and is bolted for easy transport.
The renovated trailer is large enough to allow a distance of 6 feet between the two pianos it houses. This allows each student to use a newly sanitized piano while Monson can demonstrate techniques on his own piano without sharing the same keyboard. The mobile studio also has vents and a fan to create proper airflow and includes surfaces that can be wiped down.
The mobile studio can also be taken “off the grid”, as it has its own power source. And, since she owns it, Monson doesn’t have to pay rent. She was quick to add, “Besides, it’s so, so fun.”