We had the good fortune of connecting with Beth Secrist and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Beth, why did you decide to pursue a creative path?
I’ve been involved in the arts since I was a kid. I started piano lessons at 9 years old with the belief that music would be my career path and it was. When I graduated from High School, I went to music school and studied applied piano (performance) at a small college in Pennsylvania. I taught private lessons in high school and in college and then continued to teach privately. Though music was always my passion, I ended up working in the corporate world for many, many years in a variety of industries. Eventually, I came back to music, started my own business and never looked back.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I’m a pianist, teacher, author and entrepreneur. This is more than just a business to me, this started as an idea that I had when I was 15 years old. It stayed in idea form for a very long time and I worked in many industries over the years until finally realizing that music was what made me happiest. To make a long story short, I left the corporate world in 2009 and came back to music and started taking steps toward building my business, which I officially started in 2012 and I’m happy to say that up till the beginning of 2020, we’ve grown every year. I’m also happy to say that we made it through 2020 and are rebuilding to get back to where we had been previously.
I’ve been teaching now for over 30 years and it’s the most fun profession I’ve ever had. The thing I’m most proud of are my students! They’re so much fun to work with–I love the whole process, from the very first lesson to watching them perform something they’ve worked so hard on, struggled with and finally ‘got’. Helping each student develop as a musician is a lot of fun, and so rewarding–it’s still my favorite part of this business.
This is a long and slow process, not just as a business owner, but as a musician. Building a music school doesn’t happen over night and it’s not easy. When I started MMI,I knew what the end-goal was: I wanted it to become a conservatory, much like what Vivaldi had created in his day. I knew I wanted something special that would benefit humanity and outlive me, and as corny as it sounds, I wanted to leave the world a little better than I found it, in my own small way. So, I started with one small thing–teaching out of my house. As I grew that, I started to expand in other areas, wrote a few method books with a dear friend and colleague that we continue to use to this day and eventually, I started the studio and began hiring teachers that taught other instruments. I continued little by little to grow my small business to where we are now. We still have a long way to go to reach the vision I have for this, but I’m happy to say we’re on our way and we continue to inch closer to the goal each year.
There have been many times when I’ve questioned my own sanity and why I didn’t choose an easier path, that made more money, that grew faster, etc. but the bottom line is–I chose this because I believe it matters, because I believe studying music and playing music can make us better if we let it, I know that music teaches us how to think and process information incredibly fast and that’s a skill that can be used in every area of life, because I believe in the vision of what our school can become and the positive impact it can have on those associated with us, and mostly because I love it.
There have been many lessons I’ve learned along the way and continue to learn new things all the time. One of the most important things for me has been to delegate, to stick to what I’m good at and outsource those things that I’m not good at, don’t like doing or will procrastinate doing. That’s not to say that I only do the things I love and am good at–I still do many things that fall into the category of less desirable, but necessary and that’s ok. It’s all part of the process and this is a long process.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Colorado is such a cool place–you can really take your pick. If you want to be in Denver, we’ve got a great music scene and now that things are starting to open up more–summer concerts will be coming back! Seeing a show at Red Rocks is a must and there are other many really great venues for live music in and around Denver, both bigger like the Pepsi Center and smaller like Ogden and Paramount Theaters.
Sporting events are huge in Colorado, so depending on what time of year you’re visiting, you’ve got plenty of choices.
People in Colorado tend to love the outdoors and spend a lot of time in the mountains here with the incredible natural landscape (at least the parts the developers haven’t gotten their hands on). There are lots of activities to choose from–hiking, biking, skiing, water sports, camping, train rides with incredible canyon views depending on what part you’re visiting, hot springs, wine country.
As far as food goes–I have a few personal favorites:
For breakfast: Toast in Littleton or Benedicts in the tech center or Syrup in Denver;
Lunch/Dinner: Brewery Bar III in Lone Tree–the best green chili in Denver.
For dinner: Cherry Creek Grille–everything on the menu is great, but my favorite is the French Dip; Crepe n Crepe in Cherry Creek is also fantastic–excellent savory and sweet crepes for brunch, lunch or dinner. They also have excellent mimosas and hibiscus!
If you want a fancier dinner, Flemmings is outstanding.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Helen Seward was my primary piano teacher growing up and one of the kindest human beings I’ve ever known. She was much more than a piano teacher, she was a mentor and dear friend. I spent most of my Saturdays with her growing up. My lessons were supposed to be an hour, but were frequently 2 or 3 hours long. She was incredibly patient, kind and the greatest teacher-not only in music, but in life. My parents also deserve recognition as they were a huge driving force in my music education and development. My mother drove me all over the place for every musical event, audition, performance–you name it. Their belief that I could do it really helped to push me along the path.