In March 2020, Canada was issued orders of lockdown to help contain the spread of COVID-19. I was sitting in the restaurant of The Holiday Inn in Burlington after my six-year-old had his last swim class there. We were eating french fries when the waitress came over and asked me if I heard that schools were shutting down and borders were being closed. I stared at her in disbelief and then my phone started dinging with emails from teachers and parents about their music lessons and what was to become of them. The next few weeks was a whirlwind of emails and searching for online platforms for teachers to continue teaching their students piano, voice and guitar. It was mad! I don’t even remember it all and I was glued to the TV all hours of the day watching for news updates on what the Governments plans were. It was a mess.
Thankfully, it was March Break so we had a bit of time. We hoped it would blow over during the break and then got the news that the country was locking down certain businesses in phases. People scrambled to work with their kids at home and conduct business meetings online via video conference platforms and kids did schooling online as their own teachers scrambled to put together online lesson plans.
The world was in chaos and people were trying to survive, business’ trying to adjust to the change. As a music school, we were lucky that we could switch our lessons to online and most parents were receptive. There was the odd family that said online wasn’t for them and that was completely understandable. We all dealt with this the best we could. Surprisingly, the teachers of Featherstone Music adjusted quickly and their students enjoyed meeting weekly and keeping up some kind of normalcy. Then the BIG news came from the Government – Canada was going into a full lockdown. Everything was closing except for essential services. People lined up once a week to get into grocery stores, toilet paper was nowhere to be found, wipes were scarce and the canned goods and flour aisles were bare. It was like the end of the world but we kept pressing on.
I reached out to my accountant/business advisor, Ryan Kagan, for help. My music school didn’t qualify for any of the government loans and our teachers couldn’t collect the CERB. Our enrollment dropped significantly and credit memos were issues for when the air cleared.
Ryan, always a man of many ideas and forward thinking said, “You know what you need to do, you need to make an app”. I told him he was crazy but listened to his proposal. He had a whole plan and vision as well as a number of people he would reach out to – investors, lawyers, developers, bank reps, etc. He really knew what he was talking about and I thought, “Why the heck not? Let’s go for it!”
So, we started with weekly conference calls on the phone where he started presenting me with all sorts of ideas. This was in April and just the beginning. Ryan did his research and got quotes for our development idea, reached out to investors, we interviewed and met virtually with different people that would be good for our project and finally found the perfect fit – Arcane Four Studios in Ottawa. I met with Jonathan, a senior developer, on the phone late one night with Ryan and we went over details of our vision. Jonathan was so excited to be a part of this and was the perfect fit! His team is passionate about music and musicians themselves as a hobby. I felt really good about the connection.
Ryan started putting together the business plan and we spent the summer gathering our information and documents for our funding presentation. We put our team together, sourced out an advertising firm to use and hired administration. It is important to us that this app is developed by musicians and teachers and run by musicians and teachers. The thing is, that these sorts of projects are normally developed by capital seekers who are looking to profit on a mediocre and inexpensive to develop product. You rarely see this type of thing run by the actual people it was invented for – it just doesn’t exist on such a large scale for a number of reasons, but mainly that artists often lack the business experience, the connections or funding for something of this scale. I feel very grateful that we can produce a product for teaching online but also a product for teachers to work at a social distance (or just regular old teaching face-to-face, if we ever get back to that point again!)
Musicology will be an app created BY TEACHERS FOR TEACHERS. Over the last five months I have done extensive research online, joined group discussions, held meetings with teachers to gather their must haves and implemented these needs into our business plan and must-have list for the developers. In fact, Jonathan often receives weekly emails from me when I hear a teacher talking about wanting something for their online music lessons, and these wants are transmitted to him and filed away for later when we cross that bridge in the development process.
We have a long road ahead of us but I promise the wait will be worth it. Currently, the video conference part of Musicology is being constructed. Immense research went into this to find the very best audio/video conference software out there. You have to understand that other video conference apps were not designed for teaching music. The bones of current conference apps will never be able to compare with the bones of an app directly produced specifically for teaching music online. Musicology will be the most superior teaching app out there because we all actually care about the project and are not just looking to make a buck.
That’s the story behind the scenes for the last five months. I’ll be adding a weekly blog about the development process of Musicology and encourage everyone to please comment and reach out to me. I WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU so we can create the absolute best music teaching software out there! Our website and Facebook page is currently being “beautified” so stay tuned for news there as well.
Until then, be safe and be well.