BYU alumna Emily Applegarth adapted her music business to the impacts of COVID-19, providing online and in-home music lessons
BYU music alum Emily Applegarth has been passionate about music since she was a child.
“All growing up I was a music nerd. I even made my own notation system for the piano, even though all I had was a dinky keyboard,” said Applegarth. “I was the kid who couldn’t focus in school, so when I started taking music lessons and excelled in high school, people were surprised to see that I didn’t quit. It’s a lot of discipline to learn music, but doing something you’re passionate about is important.”
Applegarth continued to follow her passion for music in college, earning a Bachelor of Music in saxophone performance with a minor in Asian studies. Before graduating, Applegarth started Miles Ahead Music, a music school where kids take private music lessons from professional teachers. The business officially kicked off in May 2018 as a brick-and-mortar school in American Fork.
“I hired on a lot of my friends to teach different instruments and it expanded so that we could hire well-known people in the music community as well,” said Applegarth.
In March of this year, not only was Applegarth busy making business adjustments due to COVID-19, but she had recently given birth to her second child. Applegarth couldn’t have run her business during that time without her team.
“We worked together to come up with a system where kids could learn online. It was difficult because there’s a lot of sound issues when working online, but those issues have been perfected,” said Applegarth. “In a weird way, COVID-19 brought us closer together as a business because we have to rely on each other so heavily. We communicate more frequently now.”
Bobby Alger joined the business as the new manager in May of 2020, right in the middle of the pandemic. Alger studied Spanish at BYU with a double minor in music and business management. He plays the trumpet and jazz piano and played for the Young Ambassadors before graduating in 2020.
“When the pandemic hit, we had to find every advantage for the business. We revamped the website, organized customers and updated the surveys for leaving students,” said Alger. “Basically, we had a pipeline that had a lot of leaks and we were forced to look at the infrastructure and repair the holes to make everything as efficient as possible.”
During the pandemic, Miles Ahead Music transitioned away from the brick-and-mortar model.
“Looking back I’m so glad we left the brick-and-mortar school so that we could expand our student base,” said Applegarth. “Because we did that, we are not just teaching in American Fork anymore. Now, we teach from Provo to Layton.”
The teachers started offering lessons in students’ homes, taking precautions like wearing face-masks and using hand sanitizer. Applegarth noticed the positive impact one-on-one musical lessons had on the students during a time of limited social interaction.
“Students have taken this opportunity to excel and understand the real meaning behind music and connecting with other people,” said Applegarth. “All of our teachers are amazing musicians and are great at loving everyone they come in contact with. Having a person like that in your home is uplifting for everybody.”
Alger believes that having music at this time is a blessing to both the kids and their parents.
“For some of these kids, music is all they have and it’s all they can do during the pandemic,” said Alger. “It gives them something to work on and look forward to.”
As an artist, Applegarth understands the struggle it can be to pursue a dream that may seem far-fetched to others.
“There’s always going to be pushback when you try to do something good. And if that’s happening, you’re in the right direction,” said Applegarth. “If you have something you want to get involved in, don’t let people tell you it’s impossible because they’re definitely wrong.”