Dr. Sally Podrebarac is a skilled musician and educator based out of Fort Worth, Texas. As an accomplished soloist, she appeared with several nationally respected orchestras including the Santa Fe Symphony, New Mexico Philharmonic, and Amarillo Symphony.
After completing her master’s degree at Northwestern University, Dr. Podrebarac went on to obtain a doctorate at Texas Tech (TTU). As a highly adaptable individual, her career consists of teaching, performing, and working as a sales manager at Houghton Horns, one of the country’s leading horn shops. There she takes great pleasure in helping customers select the perfect instrument based on their skill level.
Currently, Dr.Podrebarac runs various online courses for her brass students at Tarrant County College and through her private studio. She teaches all manner of horn instruments, including trumpet, trombone, tuba and her primary instrument being the French horn.
Together with her husband, Dr. Podrebarac has created a company called Yellow Door Prints to give scholarly musicians the opportunity to get published and peer-reviewed on musical topics, including under-represented composers, genres, or histories.
Where did the idea for [Insert Company Name] come from?
My husband and I started a company called Yellow Door Print. It gives scholarly musicians a way to participate in the body of knowledge in our field without the usual complications of having to have position or influence. We provide opportunities for anyone in the industry to contribute towards whatever they are passionate about. We put extra emphasis on under-represented composers, genres, or histories. We like to provide individuals with the opportunity to express themselves while exploring new musical avenues. That is what Yellow Door Prints is all about.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I have several jobs, so my day-to-day is often busy. I think of Houghton Horns as my day job. We are only one of two shops in the country that have an extensive collection of instruments including, custom horns from a wide range of makers and brands. We have customers coming in from all over the country. I spend my day helping people find the right instrument for themselves, and I run guided instrument appointments. I also work alongside customers to answer any questions they may have. Sometimes individuals are looking for advice on how to sound better on a particular instrument, or are wondering what music to purchase. I do a lot of work with customers and helping them get what they need. During evenings and my days off from working at Houghton Horns, I teach my classes at Tarrant County College. Right now, they are all online, as everything seems to be during COVID.
How do you bring ideas to life?
The biggest thing is communication, especially when it comes to my teaching. Music is very collaborative. When I have a student that wants to meet a certain performance objective, it’s all about communication with the student, their parents, or their band director, to help bring that piece to life.
What’s one trend that excites you?
Definitely the use of online platforms. I am really excited about teaching online because this way I can connect to students that not too long ago I would not have been able to teach. I do have a number of students out of state, and online teaching has really helped bridge the distance between teacher and student to help learning happen. I am really happy that right now online lessons are popular because I think we can really help students that otherwise do not have access to a teacher.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
As a musician, it is all about hustle and making things happen for yourself. It is really important as a musician to be proactive and be open to doing something other than the norm that you trained for. Obviously, my academic degrees are in music performance, but the bulk of what I do for work currently is not in performance. Before the pandemic I had gigs, and I am sure that will return once the pandemic subsides. However, most of what I do for work are opportunities that I have sought out and created for myself, so I think being motivated and a self-starter is one of the habits that makes me productive.
What advice would you give your younger self?
I would tell my younger self to feel free to make mistakes and actually live life. One thing I have learned is that mistakes are inevitable. Life is not about the rat race, where you are going through school in an extremely competitive environment like music performance and you get very focused on one thing, which is getting a job in an orchestra. The advice I would like to give to my younger self is that there is more to life than just this one thing that everyone is telling you that you have to be.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
My answer is specific to music performance: The Wagner tuba is a really important instrument. Few would agree with me on that, but it is something I am very passionate about. Most people are unaware of what a Wagner tuba is. It is an obscure brass instrument that is used in some symphonies and with certain composers but unfortunately does not get much credit. There are maybe fewer than ten pieces it is used in, and no one writes for it currently, but as a horn player, I think it should be far more prominent than it is.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
I recommend people prioritize communication. I find that has been the biggest help in all the different jobs I have had. It is easy to be complacent and think things will work themselves out, but it is better to be proactive. Take the time to voice your concerns and ensure everyone else is on the same page.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
As far as growing my private studio, it does take time. One of things I have prioritized is establishing a presence in the area so that all the directors know me and know what I can do. I have given free master classes and free lessons so people can get to know me and that has led to positive word of mouth that helped me grow my business. People know who I am now, and many come to me for lessons instead of me having to always go out and look for students. I also have a website that has been a big help. Hornbysally.com is a place that is there for students and teachers so they can read about me and listen to my playing and understand my thoughts on teaching.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
I think the biggest failure I have faced so far was coming out of school expecting some big spot to open up for me and realizing that it was not going to happen and that I would have to create something for myself. It was quite a wake-up call. I went through school, got my doctorate, and thought I would be focused on a career right away, that I would be performing and would get a college teaching position because I had done my ten years of school. However, the reality is that there are not enough jobs for everyone. Every school you go to is always building confidence in students that you will be able to start a career with your education, but frankly, most people will find out that they have to make their own path. For me, that meant piecing together a lot of things I am passionate about, so I have my teaching; I have Yellow Door Prints where I get to focus on under-represented composers; and I have Houghton Horns, where I get to help customers find instruments.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
If I was going to start something new it would be to have a music store that could rent out Wagner tubas and mellophones. Those are two instruments that are very hard to come by, and I think if it could be monetized somehow it would be a good business idea.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
For a long time I volunteered at a small animal rescue shelter and they have guinea pigs and rabbits. We took in a rabbit and have spent some money caring for it and giving it a home. We put a hutch together, and we recently spent some money getting our rabbit groomed. It was well worth it because she is not ready for us to groom her just yet.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
Zoom. That is how I teach all my online lessons and it works very well. I was doing it before the pandemic, and I was actually pretty good at it. A lot of teachers had to adapt to the situation and adjust to teaching online, but I was able to expand what I had already been doing. I think I will keep using it after the pandemic, especially for those students who are out of state. I feel like I can be just as effective on it.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
The book I would recommend is called The Perfect Wrong Note by William Westney. He was a professor I had at Texas Tech while pursuing my doctorate. His book talks about how failures are opportunities, and mistakes are an invitation to create something new. In music, we get so locked into the idea that everything must be perfect or else it is worthless when it is simply not the case. It is okay for something to not be perfect. It is okay to make a mistake. You are still worthwhile and evolving as a person.
What is your favorite quote?
My favorite quote is by Vissarion Shebalin, a 20th century Russian composer. I did my dissertation on him, so I am very passionate about his work. He was purged, so nobody knows who he is, but I am trying to help bring him back. He said, “Are you afraid? You see, I have to warn you. We’re going to start with the Central School of Music, then it’ll be the Conservatory. So far, so good. But when we go our separate ways, you’ll have to be prepared to suffer very fierce criticism that will go on for a long time. So I’m going to ask that question once again: You’re not afraid, are you?” It all relates to the Soviet Union and the purge and all the pressures he faced as an artist.
• Failure is an opportunity. Adversity is an invitation to learn.
• Every student is different. Don’t just assume that the same thing will work for everyone.
• Know your own value. Don’t ever work for free unless it brings you happiness.
Steve (Stefan) Junge hails from Germany and helps with the day-to-day publishing of interviews on IdeaMensch. While he and Mario don’t share a favorite soccer club, their enthusiasm to help entrepreneurs is a shared passion.