Front and Center: Hannah Best, Regional Lesson Manager at Music & Arts

By Laura B. Whitmore

As a child, Hannah Best had the opportunity to pursue her favorite interest, music. Today, her full-time mission is to share that opportunity with other budding musicians as the Regional Lesson Manager at Music & Arts, one of the largest musical instrument lessons providers and retailers in the U.S. She shared some of her business and musical philosophy with us, along with an encouraging message for people of all ages: it’s never too late to learn to play an instrument!

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WiMN: Can you share a bit about your job and what your favorite aspects of it are?

HB: My job is a sales position. I’m responsible for finding ways to recruit and retain more students who want to learn music so that we are able to further grow and develop our business. I’m also responsible for finding ways to recruit and retain private music teachers who want to share their love and passion for music in one-on-one private lessons with students of all ages. This involves everything from deciding what instruments we need for each store, to teaching employees how to speak with customers about lessons, to handling questions about paychecks for teachers and what studio equipment we will order for each new store we open.

I am a very lucky person, because I get to interface with our employees and teachers every day. The best part of my job is teaching employees how to connect with students and their families so that more people can be involved with music. I was not able to take private lessons until I went to college and I want more people to have this opportunity.

WiMN: Ah, so you are a musician as well! Please share your musical experience with us.

HB: Yes. I started singing when I was eight years old with a church choir. Over time, I tried sports and dance, but my passion for music took over. I joined a touring city choir when I was eleven that toured the U.S. and Europe. When I got to high school, I toured with a blue grass band for four years. When I reached college, I studied music full time and received a B.A. in Fine Arts & Music from Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene, Texas.

WiMN: What is a typical work day like for you?

HB: I start the work week in the office at 6 AM, answer emails until 10 AM. By this time, many of our retail locations are open and I begin to make phone calls to members of the sales team. This could be employees in stores, district managers, directors, or teachers. I also travel to visit our stores. In 2017, I spent over 70 days on the road and visited over 60 retail store locations. The goal of each visit is to teach employees how to become stronger at selling lessons to customers and growing their lesson programs so that more students will begin to learn music in our stores. I finish my day in the evening and this time may vary if I’m out on the road.

WiMN: In the past you managed a music store. What was that like and what were some of your biggest challenges?

HB: Managing one of our stores is a unique experience. You interface with customers about renting instruments, repairing instruments, selling instruments and supplies, in addition to handling lesson related business. You really need to run your store as your own business, but with the resources that a larger chain offers. Your ability to shine as a manager and as an employee is easier to do because you’re the first person to see the customer. You can completely turn their day around with your expertise and knowledge.

One of the biggest challenges is keeping up with all of the responsibilities that come with managing a music store. It may seem fun to be around musical instruments and talk about music every day, and don’t get me wrong, it is. However, few retail gigs juggle repairs, rentals, sales, and lessons. More than 10 of our locations nationwide teach over 400 students per week. The average Music & Arts store has 12 or more teachers working inside. That’s a lot to manage. Overall though, I’d say it’s both hectic and rewarding.

WiMN: Music & Arts is really lesson and family focused. Can you share some of the programs and promotions you run for the company? I know your annual National Open House Weekend is coming up June 22-24, 2018.

HB: Yes! This is one of my favorite things about the company. We are the nation’s largest private music lesson program, giving over 1.7 million lessons per year, with over 35,000 students taking lessons each week, and over 2,800 teachers. Our average store has 250 students taking lessons per week and our primary focus is on the customer. Our goal and vision is to excite people about playing music, teaching music, and supporting musicians and their passion for music. We connect with this heavily through the lesson program.

Our most successful lesson event that we do twice a year is the National Open House Event. This year we are offering a free guitar for new students! In 2017, we signed up over 1,500 students in two weekends. Then, we offered a lesson promotion during our Black Friday sale. Students could sign up for one month of lessons and get a free guitar. We signed up over 400 students on Black Friday in 2017. What made it so successful? We put our teachers in the spotlight. Our tagline, ‘great teachers, inspired learning’ is absolutely true. We have dedicated, amazing teachers that really do inspire students. When we opened our doors and invited families in to check us out, they met our teachers and the rest is history!

WiMN: Do you see more girls and women taking lessons now than in the past? How have music lessons evolved?

HB: Over the past five years, we started seeing more women in the stores signing up for lessons for members of their families and for themselves. I believe this stems from having more positive (female) musical influences in the media. When girls and women are empowered by other women, they’re inspired and this has translated into our lesson program.

WiMN: I know in the past women have encountered challenging situations when they enter a music store. Does Music & Arts have any guidelines to ensure that all customers are treated with respect? Do you have any other thoughts on this issue?

HB: Music & Arts treats all customers fairly regardless of their background. Music is for everyone, and we engage all customers with this mindset. We’ve also hired and promoted more female employees in our stores in the last five years. It’s not uncommon for women or girls to be able to interact with more women in our stores during their shopping experience.

WiMN: What are some tips for students looking at joining a music lesson program?

HB: I’m full of tips! For students that want to join a music lesson program, my best advice is to start now. Don’t wait! For younger students, speak with a member of your family to let them know you’re interested and that you want a chance to explore the world of music. For adult students, you’re not too late to start! You can begin an instrument at any age. Next, do some research! Contact any M&A store and let them know what type of music you want to learn. Chances are, we have an expert teacher ready to go and we’re ready to teach all ages, all styles, all levels and we want more people to love music as much as we do.