The best advice you were ever given: Interview of Wendy Brentnall-Wood
What is your official title?
Founder and Director of Wendy’s Music and Wendy’s Music Franchising Pty Ltd, ANZCA Examiner, 2015
What project will you be working on in three months from today?
I will be developing the online content and delivery of my unique Wendy’s Music Instrumental and Singing Teaching Method.
In one sentence, describe your role in that project
My role in this project is as Content writer, Lesson Planner and overall Syllabus Designer.
What skills are necessary for a person in your position?
A detailed knowledge of instrumental music teaching for multiple instruments (currently working on Piano, Guitar, Violin, Singing, Drums, Flute, Clarinet and Saxophone)
What kind of training did you do to get to your position?
Firstly I completed a Bachelor of Music Education degree at Melbourne University, whilst I also trained as a classical Pianist under May Clifford to receive my A.Mus. A Performance Diploma. There was also many years of training on multiple instruments from a young age. I played Recorder, sang and started piano in primary school, studied Clarinet, Oboe and continued Recorder (Soprano, Treble, Tenor and Bass), continued to sing and took up Guitar and Percussion whilst in secondary School. Later as an adult I also studied Violin, Drums, Trumpet, Saxophone. There was no specific training on writing my own teaching method. It came from years of teaching beginners, observing their frustrations and trying different strategies to improve the learning process.
How do you try to keep a balance between your work and family commitments?
Life/work Balance has always been a struggle as I have been a business owner for over 30 years and the responsibilities and my own high expectations mean that I often work 7 days a week and usually average 60 hours a week. My saving grace is that I have an incredibly supportive husband who contributes as much if not more to the running of our household. He has always been a “hands on” Dad and encouraging spouse!
Why do you think live classical music concerts are important?
Live music in general is important and classical music has so much to give to every generation if only they had exposure from an early age. Live music gives our ears a chance to hear subtleties that can’t be heard from recorded music and the “human” factor of being close to a performing musician gives the added dimension of the visual whilst making the emotional impact of the actual music even stronger.
What is your profession’s greatest challenge today?
Music surrounds us in our everyday lives and yet it is not valued. Musicians whether they are performers or teachers train for more years than any other profession and yet many struggle to earn a living .My profession which is Music Education has ongoing challenges and benefits with the development of technology. The popularity of YouTube as a means of self teaching can be a positive thing for allowing people to get started making music themselves, yet also a frustration as many people don’t see the value in formal lessons, because so much is now available free online. Quality teaching is not valued.
If you could change just one thing about the classical music industry with the wave of a magic wand, what would it be?
Classical music should be less snobbish and formal and more available to the everyone from an early age, alongside other genres.
What advice would you give someone who wants to do what you do?
Find a great partner and learn to take time away from work! Running your own business can take over your life. It’s not that you have to keep work and life separate, but you do have to learn how to “switch off” for your own sanity. A great partner is one who respects your need to work odd hours, long hours and talk through ideas at random times, and who helps carry the household load of chores and family commitments without making you feel guilty.
What are the biggest mistakes you have made in your career?
My biggest mistakes have been in who I employ.
Trusting that others can do what I do and are as dedicated as I am. I’ve employed many, many people in my business as admin assistants, studio managers, teachers, bookkeepers and various marketing and financial consultants. Of course I am passionate about my business and what I am trying to achieve, which means I work longer hours than a regular employee week, will prioritise my business over myself and sometimes have no social life at all!
Although my expectations of the quality, care and speed that work gets done remain high, I have had to adapt to the variety of personalities of employees and learn to understand that as employees their dedication will never match mine!
Another mistake I found was to try and make the job suit the person, rather than a person that can fit the job. People can be trained in skills they lack ( if they are willing)if they have the right attitude and work ethic, rather than choosing someone that only has skills but the wrong attitude.
What do you know now that you wish you knew when you got started?
Keep your eyes on the numbers at all times.
What was the best advice you were ever given as a child or student that you still apply today, and who gave it to you?
My father was a great problem solver and I frequently went to him for advice as I was growing up and as a young adult. He also ran his own business as a builder. Often in situations when I couldn’t make a decision he would say to me “If you are not sure – then don’t do it!” and I have used this “gut instinct” type approach many times to help me make a decision.
Wendy Brentnall-Wood is a Music Education entrepreneur. Wendy put herself through a B.Mus.Ed at Melbourne Uni, by teaching privately from age 18 and has played and taught around 10 instruments with Piano and Woodwinds her specialty. Wendy has spent many years writing and testing her own teaching program for students from age 3 to seniors. Wendy’s Music has operated in 4 retail music studios, approximately 40 primary schools around Melbourne, Australia since the 1980’s,employing and training many hundreds of teachers to teach instrumental music professionally, effectively and specifically how to use her unique program. Wendy continues to develop her program and franchise network using the latest technology to keep it constantly fresh.
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