This is a longer post than usual, so please be a little patient with me. I have so much to be appreciative of. Last Sunday was the 10-year anniversary of the tragic events of 9/11. I spent much of the day reflecting on what life was like at that time, and, what has happened since.
Simply Music was very much impacted by the events of that day, and the direction of the organization was forever changed. Here’s a quick background about where we were then, and where we are now.
I first released the Simply Music program in January of 1998. By the end of 1999, I was operating several studios in Sacramento and, in addition, Gordon Harvey and Kerry Hanley had established a small group of teachers in Melbourne and Perth, Australia. We were a very small operation at that time. Towards the end of 1999 I had an opportunity to market a Learn-at-Home program that I had developed. An investor came on board and over a three-month period we launched head-on into a USA national TV marketing campaign.
This response to this was immediate and enormous. Simply Music went from being a very small, $250k per annum business, to instantly generating revenues of approximately $1 million per month. It was an overwhelming experience, and we were totally unprepared. We had no access to critical data, our administrative systems were hopelessly, overloaded, our costings were completely inaccurate, and, it wasn’t until 90 days later that we discovered that the entire project had been running at a loss and we had accumulated very significant debt.
When I realized this, I immediately took the program off the air, and systematically began to overhaul the entire project from the ground up. Many people, aware of our situation, stepped in and offered all sorts of support, and it was this that carried us through the following year.
18 months later, right when we were down to the very last of what financial resources we had access to, we had re-invented the entire project and pooling the very last of what finances we had, we invested in a national campaign. It’s success was critical to our viability as an organization. With all systems go, and with all media having been booked and paid for, the campaign was set for launch on the early morning of September 13th, 2001.
The events of September 11th, 2001 brought a shocking halt to the entire venture. It was a tragedy that consumed the attention of the nation, and much of the world in fact, and nobody had any interest in watching anything else on TV other than the news. I was stunned with what had happened – deeply affected by the death and pain and suffering of so many and at the same time, sick to my stomach as to what impact it would have on ability to keep the possibility of Simply Music alive. Truthfully, it was a time when I really had no idea whatsoever as to how we would be able to get through this.
48 hours after the collapse of the World Trade Center buildings, I wrote an Open Letter to our staff, teachers and community. Here is what I said at the time.
September 13th, 2001
To all Simply Music teachers, staff, partners and associates….
I want to say a few words about the current state of affairs and its untimely impact on the Simply Music project. Needless to say, the world has been forced to turn its focus and attention on the tragic events surrounding the destruction of the World Trade Center, the attack on the Pentagon and the unavoidable and horrific reality of terrorism. I am deeply saddened by the loss of life, the extent of personal tragedy and the display of humanity at its worst.
The effects of this reach beyond the obvious, and this is clearly a multinational issue. Closer to home, it has had a dramatic effect on the Simply Music project.
As you all know, Simply Music has unfolded in stages. First, its creation, development and codification, next, the establishing of our teacher base in Sacramento, Perth and Melbourne. In 2000, we launched our Learn-at-Home programs nationally, and immediately thereafter, the voluminous growth challenged us beyond our capacity.
The last 15 months or so have been very complex and difficult times. With essentially no revenue, and the burden of significant and lingering debt created by the breakdowns of our initial launch last year, we have called on the physical, emotional, spiritual and financial support of many individuals. It has been an inspiring and emotional time for me to see so many people, in both Australia and the United States, make personal and oftentimes very significant sacrifices in order to support this project and maintain its ‘life-line’. Our ability to be where we are now, is clearly a function of your support, assistance and contribution. It’s what good people do when they know they are being told the truth and have a heartfelt belief in what they are supporting.
In many respects, over the last 15 months, the combined efforts of the Simply Music ‘team’, have been directed towards a national re-launch. Although we have uncovered many opportunities and have begun dialog, at various stages of development, to partner in other projects that represent enormous opportunities for us, the first step is to re-generate a revenue stream. In the life of this project it is a critical resource and the only means that we have to allow us to proceed and take advantage of the myriad opportunities that we are surrounded with.
There is an economic reality to this and any business. Ours, quite simply, is that we have poured all of our efforts into sustaining ourselves for however long was needed in order to be in a position to re-launch our campaign. All of our remaining and gathered financial resources were invested in this new beginning. We have chosen to do this via a national TV program, this time however surrounded with new vendors, media buyers, duplication and fulfillment house partners etc., etc.
The campaign was to begin today. In our eyes, we had an eminent victory in our sights. We had been able to meet head-on, and overcome the problems and challenges involved in sustaining ourselves until such time as we could re-emerge. Now, with the obvious and appropriate national attention on the World Trade Center tragedy, we are facing what, in all likelihood, will be another major setback. The reality is that, although we have been able to get through up until now, it may take several months for the mindset of the people in the United States to return to a place that would allow our type of campaign to re-launch again. Our challenge, more difficult now than ever before, is to find a way through this.
I am confronted with a paradox. The problems that I am addressing with Simply Music, are minuscule in comparison with the loss of life, the devastation and severity of the tragedies that thousands upon thousands of other families, individuals and businesses are having to deal with today – none of which anyone could have predicted a week ago. Notwithstanding, it is our own immediate reality, and those circumstances surrounding the Simply Music project, that I am faced and charged with the need to resolve. I believe that I have a personal and spiritual duty to do that with courage, clarity, wisdom and high-spirits in the face of adversity.
I want you all to know that the Simply Music project is in a fragile and difficult position. I also want you to know that while that fact is real, we are absolutely steadfast in our commitment to bring this wonderful project to fruition. The bottom line is that we will continue to honor our responsibility to the project as a whole, and to you all as individuals. God-willing, with your continued support we will succeed in finding a way through this. This is a project that is meant to be, and any great endeavor that stands to make a major social contribution, will have challenges and problems of equal proportion.
I am asking for your continued and renewed support. If there is any way in which you can find an additional means by which to support us, now is the time. For some of you it may mean taking on an extra few students, for others, including those who have been waiting for specific projects to come to fruition, it may represent the gift of more patience.
This is a time when we have an opportunity to consolidate and, to whatever extent is possible, be united. Although a significant part of the success of this company rests in my hands, the majority is distributed across the shoulders of us all. Thank you for the role you play in that.
As an Australian citizen and U.S. Permanent Resident, it is a privilege for me to live in this extraordinary country. There are a great number of individuals here with an abundance of strengths and qualities that, as a whole, create a culture that has every right to claim itself as a world leader. Although my roots and foundations are Australian and in my heart it represents ‘home’, it is here in the United States that I live, and it is here that I believe I am meant to be in order to give birth and wings to the Simply Music project.
In conclusion, while your attention, thoughts and efforts may be focused on whatever part Simply Music plays in your life, I ask that your concerns and prayers go out to the victims, families and loved ones caught in the aftermath of the current tragedy.
With kind regards,
And now here we are! 10 years have passed. We have a thriving organization that has had healthy growth, year after year, over the last decade. We have a vast network of educators throughout the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. We are now in preliminary discussions about moving into Europe and Asia. We are free of operational debt and are profitable. We have established relationships with institutions that are now coming to fruition in new and unique ways. We are working with Hohner corporation, a multinational instrument manufacturer who are the largest in their field, and, in partnership with them, we are converting our curriculum to the accordion. We are making great progress in converting our curriculum to braille for sight-impaired suitability, and we are introducing our curriculum into a school for the deaf that is the largest in the USA. We are currently in the development stage of a scientific study into Simply Music’s impact on neurology, specifically, brain telomeres. We have new programs being developed, new and far-reaching opportunities that will expand our global outreach, and numerous other possibilities that will dramatically impact our ability to contribute music to the world.
Simply Music is fundamentally, factually alive and thriving!
I appreciate the support of all of the children and parents who learn with this method. I appreciate all of our remarkable educators who are so steadfast in their commitment to the vision of a world where everyone plays, and, in particular, I am deeply appreciative of all of our staff, educators and community members who were a part of Simply Music on September 11th 2001, who stood by us, who lent their support and who contributed to our ability to keep this possibility alive.
Although Simply Music is not a product of 9/11, it was given wings in a new way because of 9/11. I would love to believe that, for all of those people who lost their lives, they may somehow know of the many great futures that emerged out of their loss, and, as one of the organizations that made it through that difficult time, tens of thousands of people around the world have been contributed to, and millions of people in the future will be contributed to, as a result.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
Founder and President
Simply Music International