A fifth generation Sarasotan was working at the Packinghouse Cafe and Leroy Selmon's Restaurant when she noticed that area musicians needed a place to interact, engage, and learn from each other. After several years of research, a business plan was hatched and Jenny Townsend is now in her sixth year of running the Music Compound, a performance-based music school that caters to all ages, any level, and any interest.
Hear her story of entrepreneurship, perseverance, a year of mask making, and all the awesome offerings the Music Compound has for all musicians, young or old!
Come along and join the club!
• Music Compound Website & Facebook & Instagram
• JR’s Old Packinghouse Café Website & Facebook & Instagram
• Sarasota Orchestra Website & Facebook & Instagram & Twitter & YouTube
• Sarasota Ballet Website & Facebook & Instagram
• First Watch Cafe Website & Facebook & Instagram
• PDQ Website & Facebook & Instagram & Twitter & Snapchat
• Chick-Fil-A Website
• Big Cat Habitat Website & Facebook
• Sky Zone Website & Facebook & Instagram & Twitter & YouTube
• The Bazaar at Apricot and Lime Website & Facebook & Instagram & YouTube
• Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall Website & Facebook & Instagram & YouTube
• Suncoast Blues Society Website & Facebook
• Realize Bradenton Riverwalk Website & Facebook & Instagram & YouTube
• Bradenton Blues Festival Website & Facebook
• Boys and Girls Club of Sarasota and Desoto Counties Website & Facebook & Twitter & YouTube
• The Blue Rooster Website & Facebook
• Mall at University Town Center (UTC) Website
• Arts and Cultural Alliance of Sarasota County Website & Facebook & Instagram & Twitter
• The Breakfast House Facebook
• Fogertyville Website & Facebook & Instagram & YouTube
• St. Armand’s Circle Website & Facebook & Instagram
• State College of Florida Music Program Website & Facebook & Instagram
Robyn Bell: Joining us today on the Suncoast Culture Club is one of Sarasota's most innovative entrepreneurs who just happens to have her business focused on music education. If you don't know the name, Jenny Townsend then you must not read The Observer Magazine or West coast Woman or any number of publications on the Suncoast that feature small business women leaders and arts executives, because she has been on the cover of all of them. Here to tell us about her life career, her business, the Music Compound and all the summer programs they were offering is the one and only Jenny Townsend. Jenny, welcome to the club.
Jenny Townsend: Well, thank you so much. I love that intro. That was great.
Robyn Bell: You're very welcome. It was fun to write. Jenny, unlike most, everybody on the Suncoast who has moved here from some other place, you are actually a fifth generation Sarasota native. That's amazing. You and your family have seen a lot of changes I'm sure. In our beautiful area. So tell us about your upbringing, where you went to school, how you got started as a business owner and why you chose the Music Compound as your contribution to our cultural arts scene.
Jenny Townsend: So Music Compound is relatively new, but as you said, I've been in Sarasota for nearly 40 years and it all started out east. I grew up east Sarasota on a farm, and that is where a lot of the work ethic came from. And I was in 4-H, my parents had me in sports. If there was any activity, my parents had me into that. So I was actually in a stamp club. Believe it or not.
Robyn Bell: No, I don't believe it. I'll need to see proof of that.
Jenny Townsend: I actually still have that, to be honest with you, I feel like they're going to be worth money one day. So yeah, so I grew up here in Sarasota. I went to St. Martha's Catholic School when it was downtown. And I went to Cardinal Mooney after that. And I had a fantastic experience at both of those schools. I'm still great friends with a lot of the young women and girls or men that I grew up with. It's just such a great culture and tight knit family. And when you're in that type of culture and setting, you have to, make things work in today's world. You can always just go to a different click or you can go to a different school, back then we had to make things work. So a lot of team building skills came into play through that school experience that I had. And then I graduated high school and I wasn't really ready for college. But I went to college, actually came here when it was MCC
Robyn Bell: go MCC.
Jenny Townsend: So I came here for a year and then my parents owned several businesses, which is where I've got the entrepreneurial spirit from. They owned a window cleaning company and we catered to Publix and Walgreens. So I grew up washing windows on the sidewalks of those stores from the age of probably seven or eight to 28.
Robyn Bell: They made you do lower windows when you were seven or eight.
Jenny Townsend: Yeah. I was telling my dad doing the window sills. So, oh, that's a great helping him and things like that. We had a hay business, we had a fence building business, we had a you pick garden. So I was always working as a child. I always tell people, we worked as if we were hungry, even though we had plenty of food, we had a roof over our head. We were just very simple people and just love to working.
Robyn Bell: And you said you grew up on a farm, so it was a functioning farm. Your family did that in addition to the window cleaning business and the other things,
Jenny Townsend: newspaper route, my parents would put me in their car at four in the morning, we'd go deliver newspapers and then they would go home. And then, I'd get ready to go to school. I don't remember every single day, but I was always working and I was brought up to always love for working as well. So I'm very thankful for that childhood. And I'm very thankful for my parents too. So yeah, so finished high school and then came here to MCC for about a year. And then my dad needed me in Orlando to run that side of his business in that division. So I hired a bunch of my friends to help wash windows and for three years I lived there helping him with the business while going to school, got my associates degree. And then I moved back to the Suncoast to attend USF Sarasota, Manatee didn't end up doing that. I got into real estate instead and did that for several years. And the market tanked.
Robyn Bell: Yeah. That'd have been 2008, 2009. Yeah. That's the reason I'm here actually.
Jenny Townsend: Oh, okay.
Robyn Bell: Lost my job because of the market.
Jenny Townsend: Yeah. A lot of people lost their jobs, so I couldn't get a job. Cause all I had was an associates degree, which is unfortunate because I've could have outworked outsold. I could have done anyone's job. But unfortunately I needed that piece of paper to apply for most jobs back then, which is so different now
Robyn Bell: it is it's things have really changed in that regard.
Jenny Townsend: They really have changed. And it's, unfortunate because I do have student loans and debt from that time. But my experience at USF was amazing. And while I was going to USF, I was also waiting tables too. Cause I had my mortgage to pay.
Robyn Bell: Right.
Jenny Townsend: And I was renting my rooms via rent.com, random people living in my house just to pay the mortgage. It was just like an awful time. But the positive side of it is I worked at the Packinghouse Cafe, which is a huge place for live music. And then I worked at place called Leroy Selmons. And I was surrounded by musicians that wanted to place to jam and connect and there was nowhere to go, really? I said, well, why don't I just rent a warehouse? And they said, Hmm, well, are you going to charge us? Well, yeah, I'll do it. I think it paid for it.
Robyn Bell: No, I don't want to do it if I have to pay.
Jenny Townsend: So I quickly learned that musicians don't really want to spend any money and their hours of operation are 11:00 PM to like 4:00 AM.
Robyn Bell: Yeah, it's kind of weird,
Jenny Townsend: Not during business hours that I want it to work. So final semester of college, they said you can go ahead and develop a business plan, incorporate something that you would be passionate about in that there's a need for. And I started working on the concept for creating a place for musicians to interact, engage, and learn from each other. And quickly realized that as far as funding that project, it wasn't going to work. So that's when I turned the business model to membership base for children. And that's where that focus where the whole Music Compound came about. It was originally called when I did my domain name, Sarasota Academy of Music, Sam for short.
Robyn Bell: Sure.
Jenny Townsend: Because back in 2009, one of the only places to buy musical instruments with Sam Ash,
Robyn Bell: Yeah, that was clever. Yeah.
Jenny Townsend: So I was thinking Google analytics. Okay. If they search Sam Ash,
Robyn Bell: Totally.
Jenny Townsend: I would come up and I didn't really like that name when I actually was getting ready to start working on it and expanding it, like the idea of actually making it a reality. So it has turned into being an amazing thing and I'm so proud of it. There's a lot of growth that we can talk about, like how I got from that concept idea of going to college to where I am today. But it takes a lot of hard work.
Robyn Bell: It sure does
Jenny Townsend: People to believe in it and finding a need and a niche. And just following that passion is what I did.
Robyn Bell: And it's in its sixth year
Jenny Townsend: it's in its six year.
Robyn Bell: And you told me before we started recording that the first three years, you didn't pay yourself a penny.
Jenny Townsend: I didn't. Ididn't. So prior to actually launching Music Compound I graduated college and then I got a job traveling the country for five years with two different organizations. And within those five years, I visited over a hundred music schools across the country doing market research. What does the studios look like talking to business owners? I wasn't competition. So they gave me a wealth of knowledge and they all had different concepts, different things that they had that were great and different things that were not so great. So I picked all the things that were great and put them all in a blender and then out came our concept. And one of the unique things that most of them did not have was a concert venue onsite,
Robyn Bell: Right.
Jenny Townsend: And a large, open concept where individuals could still connect and interact and make friends in that lobby. So we have a thousand square feet lobby and the other places it's like four little chairs. No one's talking. So having that vision and having those unique selling points really was the ticket to actually be really successful with a different concept. I've always been a music fan, even though I'm not a musician. So our first location is in the same Plaza that I'm at, but it was 1747 and it was 1800 square feet. And the facility I'm at now is 1751 Cattlemen 6,500 square feet,
Robyn Bell: Oh wow, much larger,
Jenny Townsend: Much larger. And the 6,500 square feet facility, I knew it was going to come available. So that's why I went to the smaller unit and we opened in 2016, by April, I was at max capacity. So I had to move. I had to kick those people out. A little bit sooner than they anticipated. So I was paying double rent my first year for two locations. So that first year, oh,
Robyn Bell: no wonder you couldn't pay yourself a salary.
Jenny Townsend: It was, I had like a negative $68,000 a year. And then the following year, I. I think it was like negative 17,000. And then finally in that third year, we were like positive $1,200. I was in the black.
Robyn Bell: You were the guest that was in year three. That's pretty good for starting a business from scratch.
Jenny Townsend: Well, it was starting it expanding it. And then growing at such a fast rate and you do have the challenges of trying to find individuals that are the right fit for your organization. I did make a couple of bad hires and I had people that saw what I was doing and they wanted to replicate it, or they were
Robyn Bell: Competition
Jenny Townsend: Competition. So there was some struggles through there, so it was really my first company. I mean, I'd done real estate and I worked for my parents, but I was not, like I said, I'm new to the music industry. So there was a lot of challenges, a lot of growing pains and a lot of mistakes made along the way. And I've learned from all of them. So
Robyn Bell: Now, if someone walks up to you on the street and says, what in the world is this Music Compound I keep hearing about what, how would you describe it in layman's terms to that person?
Jenny Townsend: Music Compound is a performance-based music school that caters to all ages, any level and any interest. We have a music community, and you could be a beginner. You could be advanced, whatever your level is, you are welcomed at Music Compound. Come and see us.
Robyn Bell: And so it doesn't matter if I'm the parent of an eight year old or if I'm a 48 year old. And I say, oh, you know, I really want to learn to play guitar. I can come to the Music Compound to take, I would take private lessons there one-on-one?
Jenny Townsend: So we are set up for private lessons. So within it, we are membership based. So within a membership, you get a weekly one-on-one lesson that's private. We have a weekly workshop where you can log on each week has a different topic. It's led by one of our instructors. If you're an adult that includes a jam session.
Robyn Bell: I was going to say, are there some group classes? So that would be a jam session.
Jenny Townsend: We do have groups learning as well, and then we have performances. So we have a virtual performance every single month and a live performance every single month
Robyn Bell: And the genre fancy word here, the genre of music that you focus on, is it specific to sort of rock pop, jazz culture or if I want to be a classical pianist or classical violinist, is there a place for me also with the Music Compound?
Jenny Townsend: Right? So there's a place for everybody. However, if you are looking for orchestra related training. We're going to send you to Sarasota Orchestra. We definitely don't want to replicate what people are doing here. There's wonderful organizations in the community. And if you are looking for that classical style training, we're going to send you there. Or, if you really want Suzuki training, Even though some of my teachers are Suzuki. I may send you to Suzuki. Sure. So depending on what your interests are, however, we do obviously want to cater to anybody and everybody, we have 28 highly talented instructors on staff. And what's cool about Music Compound too, is we're music matchmakers. So if you come to me and you're like, Hey Jenny, I want to take guitar lessons, or I want to take piano. I'm going to ask you a series of questions of what kind of music are you into. What's the best learning style for you? What are your music goals? Are you wanting to perform? Are you wanting to learn, read music? What are you wanting to learn? And then I'm going to pair you with the most appropriate teacher. Let's say you have two or three lessons that teacher's not really right for me. Then we make another switch, but you don't have to leave the concept of Music Compound.
Robyn Bell: And you know, because I'm an instrumentalist, I kind of always go there first, but you also have singing, the people could learn to sing at your well,
Jenny Townsend: We do. We have actually just completed a musical theater program and we did 42nd Street and Seussical. This past season and
Robyn Bell: Have you expanded to dance?
Jenny Townsend: We haven't expanded to dance. There's already enough dance studios in town.
Robyn Bell: Oh, I hadn't thought about that. Yeah.
Jenny Townsend: So, like I said, I always want to work with people. Not want to create competition.
Robyn Bell: Yeah. I guess I was just thinking if you're doing musicals, there's always a dance component and musical, so.
Jenny Townsend: Julie Rohr was part of our program. Actually. She loved that program. So she brought in Vanessa Russo, who has worked at a lot of other organizations in town to come in and do that. choreography.
Robyn Bell: Good. But then you're getting into set building and lights and sound and it's enormous.
Jenny Townsend: Yeah,
Robyn Bell: you didn't, maybe didn't know what you were.
Jenny Townsend: Okay. It's going to be $10,000. And I said, okay, that's fine. I went out of town for a week. I came back the stage that they had at my facility, it was like 24 by 36, maybe a whole entire screen, a projector. Like it was like, 10 by 20, maybe 20 by 40. It was obviously huge. $25,000 later. I had a musical theater program after
Robyn Bell: a little over budget, Missy.
Jenny Townsend: So, but you know what she wanted to do that program. Last year. And because of COVID, those kids weren't able to perform 42nd Street and I wanted to offer her the opportunity. So she's a force of nature
Robyn Bell: And Jenny, if you could pinpoint one thing, that's really helped the growth of your business over the past six years, would you attribute that to?
Jenny Townsend: To our instructors and to our client base. So everybody that comes to Music Compound fits in and we are all about encouraging and inspiring and uplifting individuals. And we do have students that get on stage that don't really sound that great. Honestly, I'm like, oh my gosh, I can't believe we let them onstage so much
Robyn Bell: Some are more talented than others,
Jenny Townsend: but they have the confidence and they inspire those that are super talented, that are afraid to get on stage. And. These kids are making friends. They are becoming a team at our place where maybe they don't fit in and other places they are stars at Music Compound,
Robyn Bell: And it's a very nonjudgmental environment.
Jenny Townsend: It really is non-judgemental and the confidence. And I'm sure, you know, this is where the amount of confidence that is created from performing on stage is probably one of the best services that we offer. And our parents love about Music Compound because they get the chance to perform every single month they can grow, they can shine and the parents are able to see that progress from month after month.
Robyn Bell: Yeah.
Jenny Townsend: I grew up doing team sports. So I wanted to make sure that we had that game per se, every single month where these kids could really shine and see the growth in some of those performances, aren't that great, but they learned from them and that makes those lessons more beneficial for them. They can understand the value of practicing. So I would say our instructors, their approach, and the fact that none of them are entitled. Those egos are out the door and that's where they're left has made a huge impact. And I think our culture as well, we just are a fun place to work. Everybody loves their job, who is passionate about it. And when you come in the door, you can feel the excitement, the love, and the happiness from everybody in it.
Robyn Bell: And how many. Full-time employees, do you have at Music Compound?
Jenny Townsend: So I have five full-time employees.
Robyn Bell: Well, that's fantastic. So that's great.
Jenny Townsend: I have two studio managers. I have a man that does all of our sound offsite events. He does all of our inventory, and then I have two people that work between 20 and 30 hours per week as well. And some of my instructors work. 30 to 40 hours.
Robyn Bell: Yeah, you can set up a lot of back to back lessons. Yeah.
Jenny Townsend: And then with the offsite events or, the onsite events as well, there's a lot of opportunity. We also have a workshop for our teachers every single month. It's an instructor workshop led by instructors for instructors.
Robyn Bell: Nice.
Jenny Townsend: That way. They're all learning from each other as well. So it's, the topics are different. Depending on, you know, maybe it's a student issue that maybe there are a lot of them are experiencing and they need to know how to navigate they'll work together on that. Or maybe it's incorporating improvisation and piano lessons. The technology, there's a lot of great technology and apps available right now that some of my teachers are using and some of my other teachers are not. So these teachers are trying to mentor and help the other teachers.
Robyn Bell: Let me show you how this is working for me.
Jenny Townsend: Exactly.
Robyn Bell: A hundred percent.
Jenny Townsend: They're all growing together.
Robyn Bell: Yeah, that's awesome. And obviously all of the arts and music education we did not have it easy during COVID. So explain to us how the Music Compound handled the pandemic and the effect on the students taking the music lessons.
Jenny Townsend: Yes. So the pandemic was a blessing in disguise for us. And we at first were freaking out, but you know what happened the same week that most of the kids were on spring breaks, we were able to navigate it very quickly and test it on half of our, client base, which was great. So on March 16th, we went online like the Friday before everything was shutting down, went online with all of our lessons. And then the following week, the second cliental base came back and they did online lessons. And then by April 1st, we were completely online. So. Online lessons was a challenge, trying to get people into zoom and the passwords and the links. And it was just a headache. And a half we turned into technology gurus. So,
Robyn Bell: In all the time you're still paying rent on your facility.
Jenny Townsend: So my landlord, there was like, there's just no way you're paying rent. So however, there was mercury retrograde right before that. And one of my staff members it's a funny story, actually. We're a sales driven organization as well. We run it very much like a business because it is a business that you're a for-profit business, so we're sales oriented. So I wanted him to make more sales calls because I wanted to get our numbers up higher where I needed them to be. So we could be financially stable for future things and he couldn't understand. I don't want, why, why, why I'm like. I'm going to send you to the chamber. They had a budget and fitness class. And so I sent him to a budget and fitness class at the chamber and he came back and he's like, I need to make a hundred thousand dollars a year so I can pay for all my kids' colleges. And I said, whoa, I make nowhere near there as the business owner. Like, there's no way I can give you a raise. I'm so sorry. But if you need to go find a job to make that you should go and make that. And so he did, he resigned during mercury retrograde. Which was right before COVID and he had a pretty nice salary. So that went to my bottom line, which was great. So all positive, we are still friends. So that was a blessing in disguise as well. Like there's no way I would have been able to keep everybody. But, so anyways, I will tell you. At the end of the year, he did make that a hundred thousand dollars. He sent me a picture of his W2 and I was like way to go. That was awesome.
Robyn Bell: And it was great.
Jenny Townsend: So anyways, back to COVID and other blessings, so we went online and then my workload and Kaylee's workload went from 40 hours a week to 20. Hmm. And I, sew, so I started making some masks and putting them up on social media and selling them. And I had a couple of boutiques say, Hey, I want to buy your masks. So I have a sewing maching
Robyn Bell: You had a little side gig there, side hustle,
Jenny Townsend: So I took my sewing machine to work. My aunt had a sewing machine I borrowed, and one of my other girls had a sewing machine and I taught all the girls that worked for me, how to make masks. And we turned it into a mask compound and we made over 2000 masks in a matter of like six to eight weeks. And basically that supplemented our income.
Robyn Bell: Jenny, that's amazing. Good for you.
Jenny Townsend: It was awesome. So many other things happen as well. We launched summer camp June 1st. I was promoting it. I said, listen, I don't care what the government tells us. We're doing summer camp. We have people to feed. We have people to employ and parents need to get back to work. So we did that, which was amazing. And we also launched a rockier summer reading program, which is a reading program to encourage summer reading. And for every five books they read, they win a prize from a local business. So we developed that during COVID, as well as a way to drive traffic back into local businesses. And to encourage summer readings. So
Robyn Bell: Excellent.
Jenny Townsend: First Watch is a partner, PDQ, chick-fil-A, Big Cat Habitat, Sky Zone. So basically kids could go and enjoy summer at a fraction of the price and enjoy local experiences in food from local businesses.
Robyn Bell: That's great, Jenny. So good to hear. So what we're coming out of this pandemic, now, things are opening up. People are getting vaccinated, folks feel more comfortable being face-to-face and you know, and kind of in smaller closed areas. Have you seen your in-person lessons and experiences picking up these past couple of months?
Jenny Townsend: They've actually been picking up since last August. As much as the down turn we had, we still ended up on the top.
Robyn Bell: Wow.
Jenny Townsend: At the end of last year, and we're having record breaking months, I've already had to like redo our budget three times because we just underestimated. And with the amount of people that are moving here, they still want music lessons. They are still looking for activities for their kids. So I just feel that it's all happening.
Robyn Bell: Sure. So what would you say your average age of student is at the Music Compound?
Jenny Townsend: The average age is 14.
Robyn Bell: Okay. So it is more younger students. I mean, cause I kind of envisioned. When you say people move here. I think snowbirds that they moved down here. I want to learn to play the piano. All of a sudden, do you get some of that?
Jenny Townsend: So we do actually, you know, a lot of people that are seasonal will actually come and rent studio space during the day to use our pianos and things like that. But we actually have a huge adult base. I would say we have between 30 and 45 adults, depending on the season. In the month, we have two adult bands, our jam session, the fourth, Saturday of the month from 10 to noon has anywhere from. Eight to 15 adults just jamming.
Robyn Bell: Wow.
Jenny Townsend: They're getting out of the house and I'll tell you, there are so many guitars in there. It is so loud. I was there the other day. Cause we had a gear sale. I was like, oh my goodness. Their wives must be so thankful for Music Compouns.
Robyn Bell: you mentioned a gear sale though, because that was one of my other questions is how much. Of the equipment. Does Music Compound owned to make these productions happen?
Jenny Townsend: A hundred percent the Music Compound owns a hundred percent of it. We have a rental program in house as well. So we have a drum rental program. You can rent guitars. Sometimes we'll do keyboards. I don't really like to do the keyboards, but we will do the keyboards. Yeah. And then we do have a lot of gear that we have upgraded. So now we're selling the old gear.
Robyn Bell: Sure.
Jenny Townsend: So, and some of the gear we didn't sell, so we just donated it to Booker Middles VPA program, Carlos Silva over there also works through Music Compound. He's amazing. So yeah, so we have two locations, two as well that are fully stocked with instruments.
Robyn Bell: You mentioned some offsite performances, so if I don't go to the Music Compound on Cattleman, where can I catch people performing?
Jenny Townsend: So sometimes we're performing at the Bizarre at Apricot and Lime.
Robyn Bell: Oh yeah. I love that place.
Jenny Townsend: I know it's a great place.
Robyn Bell: Yeah.
Jenny Townsend: And then we were doing events. So the pumpkin festival we'll do food truck rallies. DSA had us out there doing some performances for a little while. We just had some kids at the Van Wezel. So it just depends on what events are going on that we are part of. I will tell you prior to COVID. Our kids were doing eight to 14 gigs per month.
Robyn Bell: Wow.
Jenny Townsend: I'm not doing that anymore. We are doing two gigs off site and one onsite,
Robyn Bell: It can get a little much,
Jenny Townsend: It was a little too much for the parents, a little bit too much for the kids and for our staff as well. You know, we're paying to sponsor those events and then I'm paying staff to go there and set up the gear we were providing back line. So. It was very expensive to do it
Robyn Bell: Yeah, its a whole separate part of that business. I would think you would need even someone to sort of organize it. And yeah.
Jenny Townsend: So yeah, we're definitely working smarter, more efficiently leaner these days. We were profitable.
Robyn Bell: You and I talked about this because we have a similar situation here at the college where we have a string quartet and a jazz combo, and we get calls, you know, from. Bank. So I need something for our Christmas party or restaurants. And so we use those as run outs. Now those students are on full scholarships so we can load them up with maybe 15 to 20 performances a year. And sometimes they're not at ideal times. But it gets to be a lot. So I totally understand where you're coming from.
Jenny Townsend: Yeah, but we do have, like I said, our virtual concert, which came out of COVID, we were never doing virtual concerts it's every second Friday. And what's cool about the virtual concert is a lot of kids that are shy or that are afraid to get on stage, but still want to share it, submit those videos. So I was looking at statistics this morning for concerts 40, two or 43% is live and the rest of them are online. So I think I'm hoping that number will change slightly, but the concerts are just fantastic. This Friday, I have a young lady that's releasing her first single. And so we're doing red carpet for her and featuring her in the concert for all. And she's inviting all of her fans.
Robyn Bell: It's interesting you say that because as we were talking through my mind, I keep thinking, I bet. In addition, just, just. Learning to play the instruments and doing the performances. You probably have a lot of budding song writers and composers
Jenny Townsend: actually. And we do a songwriting camp over the summer. So that always creates a lot of interest for the kids. Their lyrics are amazing. It's amazing. They're writing about love. They're writing about body image. They're writing about being bullied. They're writing about just anything and everything. Some of these kids are only 14, 15 years old. I'm like, how do you even know about love?
Robyn Bell: That's so awesome.
Jenny Townsend: So it is incredible to see them have a vision and put words on paper. Like you can see their journals and then they come in and they work with our instructors and they actually make it to a song and then they perform it. It is, it's just
Robyn Bell: closing that loop. Absolutely. And you mentioned that the song writing camp, I know you have a lot of summer programs happening as a summer camps. And the reason we're here is because I got the press release about this really cool cigar box guitar workshop. In matter of fact, I was ready to sign up. And then I saw there was an age limit and I had a little cry, but tell us all about your summer camps and this cigar box guitar workshop you guys are doing.
Jenny Townsend: Summer camp is a great time for kids to learn a different technique, pick up a new instrument and work with different instructors. So I have a junior camp, which is elementary, and I have it. Senior camp, which is middle school and high schoolers, the middle school and high school camp is more masterclasses. So songwriting, DJ music, production, performance base, things that these kids probably need some coaching on where they're leaving those egos at home, they're opening their minds and they want some help.
Robyn Bell: V word vulnerability.
Jenny Townsend: Yes. So in the elementary camps they range every single week has a different instrument. The first week of the month, though, we do intro. So yesterday they did drums the day before they did piano. This morning, they're doing guitar, they'll do vocals and other day and they bring it all together. The first week of intro camp really allows them to put their hands and play all the different instruments where they can pick which weeks they're going to come back. And that's the thing too, is with our philosophy. It's not that these kids are running. Music Compound, but they're making the decisions of what instrument they want to play versus their parents dictating it.
Robyn Bell: Sure.
Jenny Townsend: So if they're picking the instruments, then they're going to be more inclined to practice, play that instrument in between lessons and perform it and really take ownership of it. So that's summer camp, which is phenomenal. And we just hired five new teachers to join us for summer camp, which is a great training program for them as well. It's a great way for them to build their schedule up for the school year, too. So summer camp is great. If anybody wants to join, just call my studio.
Robyn Bell: Sounds fantastic.
Jenny Townsend: And then the Cigar Box Guitar Workshop is such a fun event. I did this when we first opened with Steve Arvy, which was like five years ago. That one was intergenerational. And we did it during the summer and that's where parent and child or grandparent child could come together and they would make a cigar box guitar together, and you're using your hands. You're using your mind, you're talking and
Robyn Bell: creative building
Jenny Townsend: and the same time Steve's telling them about blues. He's talking to about famous jazz guitarist. He's talking about the slide. He's talking about New Orleans. He's talking about how he's traveled all across the country and hosted these workshops so it's really, really. Engaging it's educational and it's tons of fun.
Robyn Bell: It sounds really, really great.
Jenny Townsend: And what I think is important to know too about the Cigar Box Guitar Workshop at that there's 10 spots available. It's for ages 8 to 18 and the Suncoast Blues Society is actually funding that. It's absolutely free. So we recently just partnered with Scott and the team over there, the Suncoast Blues Society, and they are providing all the funding for this. And Steve is going to be jamming at the end of it, along with a couple other blues musicians,
Robyn Bell: You know, that is awesome. And I was just in here thinking you should partner with Johnette Isham of Realize Bradenton because they have the Bradenton Blues Festival and you could recreate this in December. When they have their events, that would be really neat.
Jenny Townsend: Yeah. Actually, I've talked about doing that the past few years. It's just getting on the calendar and they have so many other events as well, but that is something that the Suncoast Blues Society has wanted to do along with Steve. Actually one of our students, Trey, he has performed on that stage for the Bradenton Blues Festival. And one of his fans, Joe Bonamassa is going to be at the Van Wezel actually coming up soon. So.
Robyn Bell: What a connection.
Jenny Townsend: And then there's another blues artist as well. That's going to be in town at the Van Wezel the same weekend as our Cigar Box Guitar Workshop.
Robyn Bell: Well, I think that, that is just so cool. Kudos to you guys for putting that on and to the Suncoast Blues Society for sponsoring that that's really amazing and a great use of their funds. So Jenny, tell me. The best part of running the Music Compound and the part you wish you could just punt over the goalpost and never do it again.
Jenny Townsend: So the best part Music Compound is watching growth happen and watching dreams become a reality and lives transform. It is the best part of my job. The teachers. It's the highlight of theirs as well. So that's probably the best part. And now that we're profitable, that's also nice.
Robyn Bell: Nice to pay the bills.
Jenny Townsend: Yeah, exactly. And I'm on payroll now, too, which is great. And I would say the most challenging. Part of the aspect is managing people, which is when you own a business, it is managing, you have a lot of different personalities. We're working with educators and some educators have been doing the same thing for so many years. So trying to transform it into a new way of doing business or a new way of teaching and children today are much different. So, you're navigating a lot of different variables that maybe people weren't navigating when they started teaching 10, 20, 30 years ago as well. And so I think that that can be challenging for some individuals within the organization and. Trying to talk to the teachers through different things,
Robyn Bell: Keeping them up on the technology and the trends and that sort of thing, sort of the, you know, what we would call the staff, faculty development, part of it,
Jenny Townsend: It is. And that's why we incorporated the instructor led workshop as well. I also have been focusing a lot on mental health with our instructors and doing yoga and doing meditation. I send them podcasts every single month, listen to we've actually started doing an award ceremony every year to recognize their hard work. So but other than navigating, staff issues every now and then it's actually like the best job ever.
Robyn Bell: Yes, I can see that and I can see how passionate you are about it and how much fun it is. And I got to get over there. I'd like to like take a tour and I gave you a tour of our facilities here. And I keep thinking, cause you were talking about so many that kids are into the sound recording and music production. And we are establishing an associate of science degree here in that field. And so I think maybe, you know, 18, 24 months down the road there could be some great partnership because our students are gonna need some intern experience, some experiential learning experience as we call it could really help you guys out.
Jenny Townsend: That would be wonderful. And you know, we do a workshop every April as well, and it's called navigating your college career path.
Robyn Bell: I know I contacted you about that and
Jenny Townsend: That's where we bring in local colleges or students that have either a music degree or want to talk about the audition process, which is. Extensive. So let's figure out how we can work together on that. And we have a lot of freshmen, sophomores, juniors, seniors with an interest in music. So I don't know if they want to be educators. I don't know if they want to be performers, but I think exposing them and doing those tours and really working in tandem could help them and we could help recruit for you
Robyn Bell: And getting those first two years of formal music education that you have to have, as you were saying earlier, you need that piece of paper that they could stay local, that we offer that here. So totally
Jenny Townsend: Well, and that's what a lot of our students do that are dual enrolled. So we have students that come to your, music program here, and they're still taking lessons as well. And Sam who was in your musical theater program. So he stayed local and he's like, Jenny, I just love working in Music Compound and I can save money and I can get a great education here at SCF Music.
Robyn Bell: Right. He's doing great work for us.. And let's give a quick shout out to one of your teachers, Zach McKee. Who's one of our best favorite graduates here. He's the band director of Booker Middle, and I saw him on your website, say he's a wonderful saxophone player and teacher.
Jenny Townsend: So he actually interned at Music Compound while he was going to school here and then he went to FSU and then he came back. So he is absolutely amazing. And then Rickey Tedesco too.
Robyn Bell: Oh yes. Yes. Rickey
Jenny Townsend: Is another, I'm a huge fan of his, he's been with us very beginning.
Robyn Bell: Who isn't a fan of Rickey's he's such a great young man. Please French horn in the symphonic band. He's in the musical theater. He's in the choir. He does everything with a smile on his face. Yes, ma'am I love it.
Jenny Townsend: His heart is so big,
Robyn Bell: Huge
Jenny Townsend: So, and huge kudos to his mom too. And the Boys and Girls Club, because the Boys and Girls Club, they have actually funded all of his music education at Music Compound.
Robyn Bell: Isn't that fantastic? That's great. Okay, Jenny, let's say you have a night in Sarasota totally free. What does that night look like for you? Where are you going to have dinner? Are you going to go see a show or a movie or a theater? What do you like to do?
Jenny Townsend: So I would love to do it all. However, my husband is not into love music and doesn't like the arts, unfortunately. So
Robyn Bell: There you go to navigate that,
Jenny Townsend: you know, have to usually buy two tickets and invite a friend, but, you know, I would totally hit up the Packinghouse Cafe. I love the music over there. The food is great. I love the Blue Rooster as well. I love the orchestra and I do love the ballet. . So if I could hit up all of those in one night, I would,
Robyn Bell: Yeah, you might have to do a matinee dinner then a late. Yeah.
Jenny Townsend: I love eating. I spent a lot of money out
Robyn Bell: and we all saved a lot of money this past year. Didn't we?
Jenny Townsend: Yeah. So I do like to cook. But I do like being waited on as well. My work week is Monday through Thursday. So I'll start at five in the morning and I'll go into like six or seven Monday through Thursday, and then Fridays are my mental health days. And then I have some of the weekends off now, but I love Sarasota, obviously being born and raised. I've seen it completely transform. And when I think of the growth, you know, UTC, I remember that being a dairy and the only way to get to it was going off of Lockwood and going down DeSoto Road. And now. Look at it,
Robyn Bell: look at it.
Jenny Townsend: And then same thing with Fruitville. I remember it two lanes at Fruitville and Honore with two little stoplights. So I love it. I know a lot of people that have been here for a very long time. Maybe don't like the change. Don't like the amount of people or the pace,
Robyn Bell: You know, you can't stop growth.
Jenny Townsend: But it's thriving and so many great arts organizations, the Arts and Cultural Alliance did a program several years ago for young professionals. And it was like 350 bucks and you went to eight shows and it was the best deal.
Robyn Bell: That's right. They were gearing it towards young twenties. Yes.
Jenny Townsend: Donors. And so we'd buy tickets and unfortunately did away with that program. But I did that for three years and it was a great way to experience the arts and really see what Sarasota had to offer. And I'm going to the Van Wezel this afternoon for a backstage tour.
Robyn Bell: Nice.
Jenny Townsend: And cause they're doing the move and one of the residents in my building, it's trying to help them with trying to get the height 22 feet.
Robyn Bell: Oh,
Jenny Townsend: They need for their staging and things like that. So it's, I guess a fight with the city or with the residents and things like that right now. So, but they need it. If we want to get better shows that we want to be able to do more and we want to be able to
Robyn Bell: have that fly space to bring in the Lion King and those big shows. Yeah.
Jenny Townsend: So I'm hoping some of the people in our community will see the benefit of that and see how it's needed and how we're all going to benefit from.
Robyn Bell: Yeah. I'm really anxious for all that to happen. Everybody's still kind of up in the air, whereas the Sarasota Orchestra are going to land, but you know, I think everybody working together for the good of all of our arts organizations, That's really what it's all about. And I see that in our arts leaders and you're absolutely one of those. So I'm so glad to hear that you're involved in that. Okay, Jenny, we have reached our rapid fire section. I've got a couple of questions. Some either ors, you got to make some quick decisions. No waffling.
Jenny Townsend: Okay.
Robyn Bell: And if you get all the questions, right, you get a trip to Cancun.
Jenny Townsend: Oh yeah. That would be great.
Robyn Bell: The restaurant in Bradenton okay. Here we go. Guitar or drums.
Jenny Townsend: Drums.
Robyn Bell: Yeah. You liked the beaten on the drums.
Jenny Townsend: I've taken a few drum lessons. I was drumming on the one in the three. Believe it or not for the first like four years.
Robyn Bell: Oh god.
Jenny Townsend: I know.
Robyn Bell: It's just don't even know how you exist in the world. I'm just kidding. Okay. Jazz or rock and roll.
Jenny Townsend: Jazz for sure.
Robyn Bell: Yeah. Who's your favorite jazz musician?
Jenny Townsend: They'll have a famous jazz musician that I love, but I do like jazz music and I love listening to it. And we have a jazz band at Music Compound.
Robyn Bell: Yeah. It's great. And you have improv classes and students learn how to do that. Like that's a whole unique skill.
Jenny Townsend: Yeah. David Dewitt. He actually runs our jazz camp over summer. It actually has a program that he's launching in the fall, which I'm excited about.
Very cool. All right. This one's going to be hard. Whitney Houston or Beyonce.
I guess I'll go with Beyonce
Robyn Bell: or you can say neither, and you know, you have a lot of young ladies that come in and they want to sing in that sort of style.
Jenny Townsend: It's more Taylor Swift.
Robyn Bell: Oh, yes. I can see that.
Jenny Townsend: That or Kelsea Ballerini.
Robyn Bell: Yeah.
Jenny Townsend: So not so much Ariana Grande's thank goodness or Beyonce in those sessions. Correct.
Robyn Bell: Okay. I think I know the answer to this next question, because we talked about them being a sponsor, but if you could just be neutral on this.
Jenny Townsend: Okay.
Robyn Bell: Right. First Watch or the Breakfast House.
Jenny Townsend: I'm going to go with First Watch for sure.
Robyn Bell: And they sponsor your program.
Jenny Townsend: Well, have these amazing juices that I absolutely love. And honestly, that's my go-to breakfast spot. There's one right next to my Cattlemen studio. And there's one right down by my house downtown. Yeah. Everybody can find something on that menu they love.
Robyn Bell: Yeah. All their food is good. Breakfast House is good too.
Jenny Townsend: Yes. My husband was just there with his mom for Mother's Day.
Robyn Bell: Oh, what a nice place to take mom. Okay. A day at the beach or a day by the pool.
Jenny Townsend: I'd say by the beach.
Robyn Bell: Yeah.
Jenny Townsend: I love putting my toes in the sand.
Robyn Bell: Good for you. Do you get out much to the beach? Most of us that live here don't but
Jenny Townsend: So, you know, my husband and I were both born and raised here and just moved downtown two years ago. So now that we are just on the other side of the bridge, we make it a habit to go there once a week, but not like every other week,
Robyn Bell: Maybe on your Friday mental health days.
Jenny Townsend: Yeah, well, he likes to come to, he has to work.
Robyn Bell: Oh, he has a job. What? Alright. Sunrise with coffee or sunset with cocktails.
Jenny Townsend: I'm going to go with sunrise. I love the sunrise.
Robyn Bell: Good. And coffee,
Jenny Townsend: Sometimes tea I'll drink coffee, but most of it's journaling or I'm thinking about different business ideas while I'm watching it come up.
Robyn Bell: Okay. Favorite Beatle.
Jenny Townsend: Oh, I don't even know you stumped me. Are we talking about the Beatles? I do own a music school yet. I guess I go John Lennon.
Robyn Bell: Me too. Totally. Totally. My favorite. Best music venue in Sarasota.
Jenny Townsend: Oh, you've stumped me again. Like for live music,
Robyn Bell: they do what you, it's your choice. The matter.
Jenny Townsend: I'm not very good at this. I would say my venue,
Robyn Bell: Music Compound,
Jenny Townsend: it's just not the best place to do.
Robyn Bell: I went to Fogertyville for the first time, a couple of weeks ago and was really impressed with that space too.
Jenny Townsend: So we have something similar Fogertyville. We do a lot of listening room concerts there. And then we rented out to a lot of bands to use as well, actually, during COVID we gave our space to bands, to use for live concerts and where they got to keep other tips where they could do virtual concerts as well.
Robyn Bell: Cause you were selling so many masks. You can have our space for free. I love that. All right. UTC Mall or St. Armand's Circle.
Jenny Townsend: I'm going to go with St. Armand's Circle.
Robyn Bell: That's such a neat place. All right. Here's your last one? It's the hardest. And as I say, your answer could change lives.
Jenny Townsend: Okay.
Robyn Bell: Roundabouts or stoplights?
Jenny Townsend: Roundabouts.
Robyn Bell: Really? You're not scared of them.
Jenny Townsend: Okay. So I used to hate roundabouts, but now I love them, especially the ones on Honore because I could just zip right through there.
Robyn Bell: Yeah.
Jenny Townsend: Now some people don't know what to do, but I have this thing called a horn and I lay on it. I am very scared to
Robyn Bell: That's who was honking at me yesterday.
Jenny Townsend: I am very scared for the one that that's going to be happening at Gulf Stream. And I feel sorry for everybody that lives there, because I feel like that is going to be where everyone is just gonna be honking the horn because no, one's gonna know how to navigate that. If you think of the demographics that are coming off the key and off the island.,
Robyn Bell: People are going to get stuck in that loop. Like Big Ben knows you can go round around, around rates.
Jenny Townsend: I don't know why we're doing that.
Robyn Bell: Well, congratulations, Jenny Townsend. You are now officially part of the club. Let's say a listeners, very interested in the comings and goings of the Music Compound. Maybe they wanted to take some lessons, find out about some concerts, where would they go to get more information?
Jenny Townsend: musiccompound.com would be the best place to go. However, we do have a Facebook page, which is very active. We do a Music Monday, Facebook live every Monday, tell us it's about what's going on. We feature a student or teacher every single Wednesday on a Facebook live. It's very educational and on Fan Friday, which is a Facebook live. We talk about all the live music happening on the Suncoast. So I would go to Facebook for anything regarding music in the area.
Robyn Bell: Very cool. And we will put a link to your website and your Facebook page and anything else I find in our show notes so that listeners if they're listening on our website, can click right to yours.
Jenny Townsend: Perfect.
Robyn Bell: That's great. Well, Jenny, isn't it funny how this world of our spins, I met you in the clubhouse of your condo building while there for a friend's 65th birthday party. You just happened to walk in. We were introduced. And although I had heard of you and the Music Compound, our paths had not really crossed yet. And that was certainly not the way I thought it would happen, but we talked and talked that night. I was so impressed with you. Even more impressed now having visited with you and find out more about your life and your career and your job, my best wishes for all the continued success of the Music Compound, your summer camps and the super cool Cigar Box Guitar Workshop. I just know that they're going to be a big hit. So thank you for joining our club today and sharing your story and passion for business music, success on our Suncoast.
Jenny Townsend: Awesome. Thank you for having me. It's been a pleasure