3 Credit Card Processing Recommendations for Small Business

Credit Card Processing Word WallBy John Gardner

For years, we’ve paid by credit card at department and grocery stores, at restaurants and gas stations. Now that we are handing our cards to the order-takers in fast food drive through lanes — is there anyone NOT accepting credit card payments? Well yes, but it is getting easier for the individual or small business entrepreneur to bring it on.  Read more ›

Posted in Business strategies, Internet web design and ecommerce, Monetizing, Sales and Marketing, Small Business, Work from Home Tagged with: , ,

Succeeding vs Not Failing

By John Gardner

Success Vs Fail SwitchIt was a typical interview question, “Why should we invest in you?” 

The next thing he said got me thinking and prompted this short post,

There is a difference between succeeding and not failing. I am concluding that those who start a job to succeed do much better than those whose goal is to “not fail”.

I made a quick list of how students, teachers, parents, bands and employees see different topics from perspectives of succeeding and not failing. What else could I have said?

Read more ›

Posted in Parenting, Public Schools, Respect, Small Business, Teaching, Teaching Music, Types of education Tagged with: , , , , ,

Tribute to 2 Days of Band

For anybody who thinks band is for nerdy/geeky people, let me review a Fri/Sat in the life of the local high school band. Name any athletes on any team (or their parents) who have a two day schedule like this. If you know of some, APPLAUD them. I want to APPLAUD these students and their parents.


2:00. Pep rally. And the band must play.


4:15. Call time. School just got out a little over an hour ago, but the marching band members are back to school (most never left), getting into uniform for the Homecoming Parade. Weather shows rain starting prior to the end of the parade.

“We’re going to get wet”, said NO ONE IN THE BAND.

5:00. Parade starts and rain does, indeed, come and the band walks the 5 blocks back from the end of the parade route to the high school in a steady rain.

During the parade, parents are coordinating pizza, getting ice, water in the cooler, plates, napkins, serving table. Also during this time (starting earlier, actually) parents have dropped two cars off at Transportation to drive two school vans back to the high school to hook up to two equipment/uniform trailers. One goes to the stadium while the other waits to load equipment.

6:00. Dinner. Taking off the uniform jacket, the students get a quick pizza dinner — sitting on the auditorium stage and band room floor to eat. Then it is time to line up to go to the football game. The rain has stopped and there is a beautiful rainbow.


Parents are helping load the trailer and move it to the stadium.

7:00. Game starts. The band marches the half-time show, but must stay for the rest of the game.

A weld on the bass drum broke prior to performance, so two parents stood on either side supporting it — and then another parent repaired the broken part for Saturday.

9:30. Dismissed. ….until morning.


8:30. Call time. Rehearsal is indoors because of the steady to periodically hard rain. We also find out that one of our band parent officers has a medical issue and neither he nor his wife will be able to travel with us to contest today. Other parents step up and step in to replace all the responsibilities of food, prop movement, etc.

“We have great parents.”

Did you notice the time
between arrival and lunch.
Can you say: “REHEARSAL”?

12:00. Lunchtime, with another line of band parents serving up “walking tacos”, veggies, fruit, cookies and water. Someone had to make the taco meat and numerous band parents donate food needed from a published Google Docs list posted each week. Also, during the lunch prep time and afterward, parents are packing “Snack Bags” for students to have on the return trip later from the competition site back to the high school.

Instruments, equipment loaded.

1:15. Final meeting in band room to review the projected schedule, including discussing possibilities of an indoor performance due to rain. The rain that has now passed is headed toward our competition site.

1:30. Load and leave. We are traveling in one fewer than comfortable busses due to tight finances. There are chaperones on the bus, but the directors drive the staff to the competition — partly because we are under the impression that the critique is not going to happen until the end of the evening portion of the competition.

We have zero concerns about student behavior because

“We have great students.”

We drive in and out of multiple intense rain showers. It doesn’t look good. But as we near the school, the rain stops and it looks like they are preparing the field for an outdoor show.

3:15. Uniforms. It is now bright, sunny, with rapidly increasing HOT & HUMID conditions. Not the best for black uniforms…..but at least it is not raining.

3:47. Warm-up cycle. Have you ever wondered where the bands go? Below is today’s route. Keep in mind that a middle school and a high school are moderately large buildings (compare size and distance to the size of the football field…..that’s a lot of walking). And the schedules are precise.


3:47 Leave staging area (busses) for Physical Warm-up
3:52. Physical Warm-up
4:16. Transition
4:21. Music Warm-up
4:45. Transit to field
4:58. Stage
5:01. Perform


6:00. Awards

8:05. Arrival back at school. Unload instruments and equipment and go home. Twenty-five minutes short of a 12-hr day for students.

Dealing with rain, heat, humidity, less than perfect eating arrangements, a crowded bus…and lots of other things, where you might think that teens would be complaining horribly, right? Not these teens. They do their jobs and they deal with the circumstances that are outside their control.

All teens should experience marching band, don’t you think?

Thanks for reading.

Posted in High Schools, Marching Band, Music Department, Music Performance, Personal experience, Teaching, Teaching Music

Dream, Focus, Follow and Never Give Up

By John Gardner

DreamAnyone with a Facebook or Twitter account can find entries like, “Ugh, have to work today” or “only 2 more hours ’til I get off”. And many of these posts are from teens that have just entered the work force. If they say this after their first few months, can you imagine what life will be like after they’ve been at it for decades? They get it from their parents, though, who often make the same complaints. Stop doing what you hate.


Students often have to work jobs to help pay their way through college…. and sometimes those jobs provide encouragement to finish the degree. My college grunt work jobs included dishwasher, fast food handler and 3rd shift custodian. Summer work was in a stock room in a large Cincinnati department store. Those minimum wage jobs were not fun, but were temporary and served a purpose. Those jobs pushed me to succeed in college.

As seniors (and even juniors) begin to decide on college majors and career directions, I often hear variations of, “I’d love to do music, but I want to make more money, so I’m going into…..”

“God Bless, Good Luck, 
and may you and your money 
live happily ever after.” -G

But what do you WANT to do? Read more ›

Posted in College Prep, High Schools, How May I Serve YOU?, Job Search, Teaching Tagged with: , , , ,

When the teacher hears this “L” word from the parent.

liarIn a previous century, pre-cell-phone, almost pre-historic era, I had a memorable exchange when a pastor parent called me a liar when I told him what his daughter had done.

How do you think I should have responded?


As I walked into the small high school office, two band students had their backs to me as they used the counter phone. I entered just in time to hear one of the girls explaining that she was going to get home late because

Mr. Gardner called a mandatory rehearsal.

The caller’s friend, who may have already made her call home, saw me first, displaying a shocked face as I approached and asked for the phone. In front of the two band parent secretaries who also heard the student, I simply shared with the parent….

Hello, this is Mr. Gardner and there is no after school band practice today.

I handed the phone back to the girl and went on about my business in the office, not listening to the rest of that conversation.

A few minutes later, in the hallway, with no witnesses, of course,….this normally smiley, friendly, terrific student and valued bandster unloaded some vocabulary on me to express her displeasure. I might have brushed off a temporary anger burst, but I couldn’t ignore what she said — and I knew her father would agree. So I went back to the office to use the phone. Keep in mind that I had just caught the daughter in a lie.

Pastor A____, this is Mr. Gardner again. I just want you to know that your daughter just used some bad language with me that is both unacceptable and disrespectful. Because this is the first time I’ve had any trouble with her, I’m not going to write-up anything through the school, but will be giving her some temporary extra band responsibilities as discipline for her behavior.

(Details shared.)

Pastor: My daughter doesn’t curse.

Sir, I’m not giving you second-hand gossip. I’m not telling you what I heard or what someone else told me. I’m giving you a first hand report about a face to face conversation to let you know that I will require your daughter to spend some extra time working in the band room as discipline for her behavior, and wanted you to hear it from me.

Pastor: You’re lying. My daughter wouldn’t say those things and you’d better not discipline her.

The daughter later apologized, completed her mandatory volunteer work around the band room, and hopefully learned and grew from the experience.

But I never visited her father’s church.


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Posted in Communication, High Schools, Parenting, Personal experience, Public Schools, Respect, Storytelling, Teaching

You should never have just one reed


Playing on one reed til it breaks or dies = Bad idea!

  • You will break it just before a performance and the new replacement reed is too hard……because
  • Reeds change over time, getting softer as they go. The cane in the reed gradually breaks down from your saliva. It is gradual enough that you don’t notice it until you have to replace it.

My recommendation and why

Get a reed guard. They cost about $5 for a plastic guard for clarinet/sax players. Get one that has a place for four reeds, or buy TWO of the 2-reed variety.

Get FOUR reeds. Put them in the reed guard(s) and find a way to label the guard (not the reeds) either 1-2-3-4 or A-B-C-D.

ROTATE the reeds. Play a different reed each day. In most cases, rotating four reeds will go longer and better than playing four reeds individually until they die.

Rank/Rate your reeds.
I = performance grade
II = good for practice, but not for performance
III = maybe time to replace

After I have all four reeds broken in pretty well, once I find one that I would be comfortable using in a performance, I take an ink pen or marker and put a single verticle mark [I]on the end of the reed (that you can see when the reed is in the guard). If I have a reed that is less than performance quality, I’ll put TWO vertical marks [II]. (If/when my performance reed deteriorates, I will add a second mark to it). A reed that gets to a [III] mark is probably not worth keeping.

REPLACE a III reed with a NEW one and get it going in the rotation.

Posted in Music Department, Teaching Music Tagged with: , , ,

Looking for help defining an educational perspective

By John Gardner

education level conceptual meterConsidering the variety of educational experiences of just the four in my immediate family (me, spouse, two sons) – I should have an interesting educational perspective to write from, but I am struggling with the focused perspective part.

With family experience at school types that include public, elite, private, top-tier, Christian, Catholic, sacred, secular, Ivy-league, city, state, academy, college, university and boarding — my struggle is where to begin?


  • inner city geographically segregated but integrated student body – me
  • multi-cultural in predominantly Jewish neighborhood, bigger city, east coast
  • mid-sized mid-west – two sons
  • really small rural – my first teaching job

Within the public system, we experienced arts, athletics and academic, including regular, AP (Advanced Placement) special GT (Gifted and Talented) multi-grade-level classes, pull out groups as well as off campus college classes during high school. And we have experience from within and without a teachers’ union.

Not all (even within the family) agree, but I tell people…

“For us the [public] system worked but we had to work the system.”

Three of us attended PUBLIC/STATE UNDERGRADUATE colleges (University of Kentucky, Tennessee Technological University) while one experienced “top-tier” PRIVATE UNDERGRADUATE (Duke University) plus semester studies at New York University and OVERSEAS summer studies in Ghana and Costa Rica.

GRADUATE schools include STATE IPFW (IU), Ball State, and Ivy-league secular PRIVATE GRADUATE school (University of Pennsylvania). Also graduate study at Southern Baptist Theological SEMINARY.

We have TEACHING experience in PUBLIC primary through secondary, CLASSICAL CHRISTIAN primary and secondary, CATHOLIC primary through middle school, PRIVATE undergraduate universities, PUBLIC CITY/STATE undergraduate college/universities, and PRIVATE SECONDARY BOARDING SCHOOL — plus management/oversight and teaching responsibilities in a PRIVATE SCHOOL OF PERFORMING ARTS and on the school board of a PRIVATE CLASSICAL CHRISTIAN academy.

Our collective DEGREES include BACHELORS in English, Music, Music Education, MASTERS in Secondary Education, English, Music (in progress) and Divinity (in progress) a DOCTORATE in English and additional specialties including Library Science and Music Therapy.

Educational experiences are in the STATES of Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Tennessee in systems run by private, religious and public boards under Democrat and Republican governors and state assemblies.

Religious schools include Liberal Arts Christian, Classical Christian, Catholic and Seminary.

So, what do I write about???

Comparing, contrasting, supporting or criticizing

  • Public, Private and Religious
  • Catholic-specific / Traditional Christian / Classical Christian
  • Economics: Poverty vs Privilege
  • Diversity or lack thereof
  • Segregated, Integrated, Multi-cultural
  • Compare states
  • Gifted and Talented – as special ed or contrasted with…
  • Unions and other political factions

I’d really appreciate your input. Thanks for reading.

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Posted in Classroom Teacher, College Prep, Communication, Consulting, High Schools, How May I Serve YOU?, Teaching, Types of education Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Are teachers real people?

Teacher Student Love

By John Gardner

Do students see teachers as real people? I’ve seen posts and heard student comments about the weirdness of seeing a certain teacher at the grocery or department store or in a restaurant. For some, seeing that homework-assigning, discipline-distributing, command-issuing government employee from the mandatory classroom changing a flat tire, cutting grass, experiencing pain or tragedy, showing emotion or some other evidence of humanity is just plain “creepy”.

Creepy is official teen talk, by the way.

Teens see people over twenty as aging, if not old. Twenty-five is close to historic and anyone past thirty is, well, old enough for grandparent or senior status. Teen girls, no doubt, experience unsolicited, unwanted, inappropriate comments and advances by online creepers.

Yet knowing that, as a teacher over 3x their age, I enjoy (please don’t tell me if I’m wrong) a fantastic relationship with the teens I am around. Most give me more than the obligatory student response to a teacher command. I respect them and love their youthful enthusiasm and it could be their ability to sense that which moves them somewhere past polite and even into comfortable talking to this elder. Yes, some of them would still call it borderline creepy if I were to offer transportation to a walking-in-the-rain teen, but overall, unless I am completely be-fooled, I think I have earned okay status.

To those born to teenage parents who were born to teenage parents, I may be older than some of their grandparents. I have, in fact, been called “G-pa” (as well as G, Mr. G, G-man, G-ster, G-dog and more).

So, the question is, when I periodically see a post or hear a comment that goes something like… (not directed at me, I trust)

“You’re old enough to be my dad….don’t talk to me.”

….do teens really see teachers, at any age, in a non-humanistic way?

Enlighten me, please….and thanks for reading.

Recent posts you might want to consider, include:

11 Things that Fire and
Music Departments
Should Have In Common. 




Teacher Student Love




Is it ever ok for a teacher to LOVE students?



The most views of any post I have ever published....so far.

The most views of any post I have ever published….so far.

10+ Values Marching Band Students Learn

Posted in Communication, High Schools, Public Schools, Respect, Social Media, Teaching Tagged with: , , ,

Follow your Dream

By John Gardner

Anyone with a face book can find entries like, “Ugh, have to work today” or “only 2 more hours ’til I get off”…. How many people do you know who are in jobs they hate?


High School and College students often have to work jobs to help pay their way through college…. and sometimes those jobs actually encourage them to continue the college trek. My college grunt work jobs included dishwasher, fast food handler and 3rd shift custodian and my summer work was often as a stock boy in a large Cincinnati dept store. They were not fun, but were temporary and served a purpose. Do the work and don’t complain. Focus on the goal.

As seniors (and even juniors) begin to decide on college majors and career directions, I often hear variations of, “I’d love to do music, but I want to make more money, so I’m going into…..”

“God Bless, Good Luck,
and may you and your money
live happily ever after.” -G


But what do you WANT to do? Read more ›

Posted in College Prep, High Schools, Repost, Sales and Marketing, Teaching, Teaching Music Tagged with: , , , , ,

Three questions about private music studios

By John Gardner

Classic music Sax tenor saxophone and clarinet in blackIn preparation for a Skype interview by Andrew Ingkavet, a music teacher in the Greater New York area, I asked if he had any questions he wanted to share in advance — so that I could be especially prepared for those.

“I have lots of questions, but these are the main three.”

Safety, Transparency and Reputation
When Coaching Students

 1. Why do you feel you have been successful in your market? (Strengths)

My market includes 1-1 music coaching in person and remotely, teaching in public high school and private university settings, and working as a Virtual Assistant for teachers, parents, students and small business owners — virtually anywhere.

My combination of training in 1) music performance, 2) teaching music and 3) sales give me some unique skill sets to draw on. One other reason I am successful in working with teens is that I “love, admire and respect” them — and I tell them so.

Proficient musician make better teachers. I studied for four years each with two clarinet teachers using opposite techniques. One taught me like a father to an adopted son. The other used bullying and intimidation tactics. I did learn much from them both. There was one problem I try to avoid in my teaching, however. I never heard either of them play or perform. My private lesson teacher through high school was reportedly one of the best in that part of the state at the time. He was also a high school band director. But I never saw him with a clarinet in his hand. I never heard him demonstrate what he was describing. At the university, I occasionally heard my professor warming up before I went into my lesson, but he very rarely demonstrated what he was talking about. I never heard him in a faculty recital either.

As a teacher, I make sure I demonstrate what I’m talking about. The education world calls it modeling.

The reason I want you to keep your fingers close to the keys and to use chromatic fingerings is so you can play fast…..like THIS!

Having a good read, a solid embouchure and control of the airstream give you a better opportunity to play the high notes…..like THIS!


Because my degree is in Music Education, I have studied the psychology of learning, of recognizing different types of learners and understanding how to match my approach to the learner’s strengths and weaknesses.

A few years ago, I lost three students when the university negotiated a teaching arrangement with the principle clarinetist in a professional orchestra. They had promised a recruit that she would study with this guy, but he refused to travel for one student — so they asked me for some of mine. He was an amazing performer (better than me) … but he was a terrible teacher. He knew what he was doing musically, but couldn’t explain that to students. In one semester, one of the three students sold her clarinets and the second changed her major.

I got my job back….but there were two fewer clarinet majors. The third returned to me.

Most music educators are good musicians — and if they teach in the public school system, they are also trained in education.

I left education for twenty-five years — to go into the small business and sales worlds. I find myself using some of my sales training in my teaching.

Salespeople learn how to ask qualifying questions to gather information to get a clear picture of the situation. Students (and even their parents) are not always good at explaining themselves well. So many times, by asking questions and gathering information, I find that the real issue is nothing like the first comment made. My sales skills also kick in when a student is telling me what he/she “can’t” do, i.e. memorize music, march, continue in band, play a solo, etc.

Robot and shield “Times Have Changed:
Open Schools of Yester-year vs
Secure Schools Today

2. Do you use any technology or software in your day to day running of your business? If so what and how?

Google Docs for collaboration. In our music office at school, all three music teachers can be in the same room, working on the same document at the same time — and seeing what each other is doing.

By creating a Google Form, which itemizes responses.

Finale is my music notation program of choice, partly because it integrates with Smartmusic. With Finale, I write, edit, arrange or transpose parts. I can also create special exercises or rhythms for a certain individual or to help with a particular piece of music. Smartmusic is great for making exercises interesting with accompaniments — but it also includes an assessment component that students can use for private practice at home.

In the band room, I use the Blue Tooth feature on my phone to play a recording through the sound system — or to make my metronome loud enough to be heard.

I use YouTube to post video or audio of rehearsals for student assessment.

The high school where I teach has a 1:1 program (1 iPad per student), and I’ve put, as an example, our basketball pep band book into digital format for download into iBooks. Students have used iPads vs 3-ring binder notebooks at games and other performances. Students can also snap pictures of their music folders at school so they can practice at home without taking their folder home.

In working with remote students, usually from a rural area with little access to expertise on some instruments, I use Skype or Facetime. At one school, students are set up in the band director’s office and he is in the vicinity. I usually have the student point the camera so I can see (depending on what we’re focusing on) fingers or embouchure. A couple times, early on, I’ve observed minor discomfort when a teenage girl is pointing a camera where I can see her fingers, but also her torso…but that discomfort fades as they get to know me — or when I react to it by asking them to change the camera angle.

I use Google Voice for my VirtualMusicOffice.com business — because it rings to my cell without my giving out that number. It has voice mail where I can have separate greetings. And I get the messages via email and text, with the option to read or listen to the message.

Phone Word CollageHow I Use Google Voice
In My Small Business

 Especially when making calls to students or their parents, I use an app on my phone to record the conversation. Similarly to the idea of the airplane’s black box, if all goes well, I delete the recording as soon as I’m sure there is nothing on there I would need. It can also come in handy for getting a name or number I didn’t quite hear — or for clarifying something when either student or parent tries to tell me what I said.

Cracking and crumbling of the word Trust

Broken Trust and the
Damage Bad Teachers Cause

 3. What trends do you see happening in the private music school space? (Opportunities?, Threats?)


As public schools continue to tighten budgets, often resulting in reductions or elimination of music programs, parental interest in providing music for their children increases through private music studios and even schools of performing arts.

Because of the increased hesitancy to send children and teens to teachers’ homes, teachers are opening private lesson studios in music stores. This is good for the music stores because of the increased traffic. And the setting satisfies most parental safety concerns.

Another growing trend are Private Schools of Performing Arts. Several large churches have created Schools of Performing Arts as an outreach to their communities.

Bellevue School of Performing Arts, Memphis, Tennessee

Stevens Street School of Performing Arts, Cookeville, Tennessee

For the past ten years, my son has been the administrator for the Stevens Street SPA. Not the largest, but they have dozens of teachers (college town) and approaching two hundred students. They have to spread their end of semester recitals over two to three evenings to get them all in.

At first, the schools thought we were competing with them and wouldn’t support us or encourage students to come. But over time, they have seen that our students are well trained and it even helps their programs — so I now go to several schools to speak to students and parents.

Stevens Street School of Performing Arts "Petting Zoo", an alternative to the band/orchestra instrument selection programs offered by most public schools.

Stevens Street School of Performing Arts “Petting Zoo”, an alternative to the band/orchestra instrument selection programs offered by most public schools.


The biggest threat to private teaching studios is the legitimate concerns have about Safety, Transparency and Reputation of the teachers.

Another concern is economic. As a teacher in a public high school, I try to help students who have been playing on their 6th-grade student instruments for 5+years without proper maintenance. I have students who struggle to pay the $35 we require for marching band shoes — and we keep a box of used shoes (donated by graduates). Over the years I have secured far too few scholarships and grants to help provide lessons for deserving students.

The interviewer, Andrew Ingkavet, operates ParkSlopeMusicLessons.com.


Posted in Classroom Teacher, Personal experience, Teaching Music, Virtual/Local Services Tagged with: , , ,


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