September 25, 2020

Utah music business thrives through coronavirus

SOUTH JORDAN, Utah — All across Utah, businesses had to rethink their plans with the arrival of the coronavirus. And when your business teaches people how to make music, you can’t exactly deliver lessons curbside — all you can do is try to take them online and hope people keep showing up.

For Jaime Varner, music is often an escape — a soothing path away from the worries of everyday life.

“So my mom plays and taught when I was a kid,” she said. “She taught lessons in our home our whole life.”

Varner said she begged to take lessons herself. Once she began, learning the piano consumed her life.

As an adult, she became a teacher herself.

“Had my baby grand in my living room that I would teach from,” she said. “And I had like up to 80 students there.”

Her sister taught in the basement. Eventually, it became too much.

“Crazy because the students were coming in and out all the time, so we thought we had to move elsewhere,” Varner said.

That’s how she ended up as the studio director of the South Jordan location of the Piano Place, a growing Utah business with three locations. But just when life was in perfect harmony, everything went out of tune.

“I think it came with a lot of anxiety of, ‘What’s going to happen to this business?’” Varner said.

The coronavirus closed businesses across the country, leaving Varner wondering how many students would keep up with online classes, or how many parents could afford it.

“I started realizing, maybe another problem we’re going to run into is our clients losing their jobs,” she said. “And we did see some of that, for sure.”

Owner Brady Davies felt the same anxiety.

“It was terrifying at first,” he said. “It’s funny, you can only do so much. We built this building, we put tons of money into all these soundproof rooms, and doing all this hard work, and that’s what we were terrified about.”

Masks are now required, since in person classes resumed. (Photo: KSL TV)

But while enrollment did drop, the classes kept going.

Davies said he had items for remote classes sitting in his Amazon account, and once schools were cancelled, he immediately bought it all.

Varner said she was surprised at how many students stuck with it.

“All of the events were being cancelled, all of the sports and all of the other things,” she said. “I almost think parents appreciated like, ‘Hey, here’s something we could still do.’”

“If there was any time in the history of the world where kids were more bored, it was during those few months,” Davies said.

While the business continues to run online classes, most of the students are now back in person — wearing masks and trying to improve their skills.

“At least at the South Jordan studio, we actually have more students than we did before COVID,” Varner said. “We’re new, and we’re growing, so that’s kind of expected.”

In a time when many businesses are struggling, one is thriving — and if you ask Varner, it’s all because music provides an escape.

“At least for me, in this crazy time when I was feeling that anxiety of like ‘Are we going to make it through this,’ it’s calming,” she said.

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