People are making their way into Kitchen Pass this week to say goodbye to their favorite server, Ken Weaver, who is hanging up his server apron for good after 32 years in order to start his own business doing what he loves most: Music.
Weaver worked at Pizza Hut for more than two decades and at Kitchen Pass the last 23, with the two overlapping some.
“I’ve had the same job for more than two decades, and to make a change is frightening to me, but I have no doubt it is going to be successful,” Weaver said of opening Weaver’s Piano Academy.
While many people know Weaver through the restaurant, many are likely familiar with him through him playing piano for churches, weddings, funerals, concerts and school musicals.
He worked for many years for schools on contract, whenever schools needed him.
After vocal music teacher Jim Kindall left Parsons High School, Weaver’s hours began to mount as vocal and instrumental teachers coming into the district did not play piano that well.
“I just kept coming in and gradually added more hours onto my schedule, and more hours, until it finally became a full time job. And I’m completely grateful now that I have all the benefits to go along with full time. I think this is coming into my seventh year of full time with the district,” Weaver said. “So serving at the restaurant wasn’t my primary job.”
He is looking forward to this school year working with band and orchestra music departments and with new vocal music teacher John Womeldorf, but he is also looking forward to teaching piano after school and hopefully instilling his passion in others he teaches.
“Over the years many people have asked, ‘Ken, do you teach piano, and if not do you know who?’ And I’ve given them names of the two ladies in town I know taught,” Weaver said. “I just had to say no, because it wasn’t in my schedule and all that. The timing didn’t feel right.
“I taught more than 25 years ago and had 23 students at one time,” he said. “It was a lot. I was a college student, waiting tables and doing this on the side. As the kids left I just didn’t take on any new students after that and it just kind of dwindled. I decided if I was ever going to do it again, I was not going to take on that many students.”
Now, 25 years later, he has the benefit of all those years of experience and further development of his techniques, allowing him to look back and see all his own personal growth in his craft that will allow him to be a better teacher.
“The learning process never ends. It is always continuing and evolving,” he said. “The universe just kept giving me hints of ‘maybe it’s time you reconsider teaching privately.’ There were two high school students I worked with just briefly at the piano, and they were completely responsive to the instructions I was giving at the piano, and they were grateful for that and I thought to myself, ‘This needs to be more. I need to do this more.’ So I started looking into it. I started asking around town about what are people pricing? What are people willing to pay for piano lessons? I got involved with a Facebook group, Piano Teachers Central, and I’ve gotten a load of information from them about pricing and business management and all of that. There’s a lot more to it than just sitting down at a piano and watching a kid play and giving instructions. There’s the whole business side of it.”
He was elated to learn about My Music Staff, a cloud-based software program specifically geared to small music studios. With a subscription to My Music Staff, there was a website creator, so he now has a website at weaverspianoacademy.mymusicstaff.com.
“All the scheduling can be done through that. All the payments can be done through that. I can write notes to the students on that website. … All communications can be done through this website, and I think that is essential to keep all communications in one central location, because I am going to be busy with other things still, school, churches.
“All the lessons will be done here at my house,” Weaver said, as starting out it’s too expensive to rent a space and a piano. “I just think it is going to be cost effective to do it from here.”
Weaver’s Piano Academy will run in two semesters per year. Fall semester will be defined as August through December. The spring semester will be January through May. Upon the acceptance of each new student and at the beginning of each semester, a list of lessons will be provided. This will include the agreed upon day and time of each week’s lesson.
There will be specific days off, and weeks, each semester, in which he will be working on concerts or school musicals.
Music lessons are not paid for as individual days/lessons but rather in tuition for the semester. Payments can be divided up monthly. Makeup lessons will be offered. This fall, as he is kicking off the business, the beginning semester will not start until September, so the fall semester tuition will be prorated. He is starting to schedule students this month, so parents can go to the website and register. All pricing, policies and procedures are listed on the website.
Space is limited. He said he can take up to 18 students with 30 minute lessons each.
“If there happens to be an advanced student, I can take them for an hour a week,” Weaver said. “I will only be teaching on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays after school. My plan is to teach from 4 to 7 p.m.” Wednesdays he will leave free for make-up lessons.
He will keep a waiting list for other students interested in lessons, so as there are openings, he can pull from the list.
He anticipates working with all ages and skill levels.
“Ideally, I would like advanced students to work with, but I realize to get those advanced students you have to go through the process — start them young, teach them the correct techniques, teach them correct practicing habits — to get them to the place where we can enjoy making music together.
“It just takes a lot of time and practice,” he said. “Learning to play piano is not going to happen learning to play piano 30 minutes once a week at my house. Learning to play piano is going to happen outside of that, through however much time you give outside of the lesson to practice. You spend hours and hours. On major concert pieces, you can spend months, sometimes a year. The actual performance lasts two minutes 30 seconds, but you have spent countless hours on perfecting the piece.”
Speaking of perfection, Weaver said his business mantra will be a quote attributed to Ludwig Von Beethoven: “To play a wrong note is insignificant. To play without passion is inexcusable.”
“So we are not going to worry about wrong notes,” he said. “Every musician, every pianist, every singer, we all hit wrong notes all the time. We’re not going to get bogged down with that. We can correct that. But the beauty and experience of making music is what I think is important. The passion of it all.
“I am excited to teach the young ones on how the piano works, the different sounds it can make. I am excited to teach students who have been with other piano teachers and see what I can help them with. I’m excited to teach the advanced students and make them more of a musician and not just a pianist, but a better musician as a whole. I’m just excited,” Weaver said. “The timing seemed right, so let’s just do this.”