We had the good fortune of connecting with Max Tepper and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Max, we’d love to hear more about how you thought about starting your own business?
After playing in a touring rock band for several years (The Natural History- writer of Spoon’s Don’t You Evah), I began working with young children as an assistant teacher at preschools and enrichment centers (My Gym-type places). I earned my degree in early childhood education and worked my way up to co- and lead teacher in the preschool classroom. After 7 years of being part of preschools, I found that I was missing a certain freedom that I experienced in The Natural History. I loved being with, teaching, and nurturing young children, so my work was to figure how to create a scenario that was a better fit. When I started Music with Max in 2012, I was combining my love of music and working as an early childhood educator with a more “freelance,” “independent contractor” lifestyle. I immediately knew this was my “home.”. In some ways, I’ve had to work a lot harder- hustling for clients, lots of cold calling (still an essential part of my job!)- but I’ve found the experience very rewarding.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
Working with young children has been a journey for me of learning to release control and be with the children where they are in that moment. Blank stares, screaming and crying, children rolling around on the floor, simultaneous altercations: It all happens in the preschool classroom. My growing comfort with the uncomfortable (at least, uncomfortable for me), has made me a much better teacher. This has led to more joy and genuine excitement when making music with the children and- most importantly- less unconscious pressure from me onto them to “have fun.” Intern, without that pressure, the children have more fun and there’s more of a genuine connection between them and I. As a regular meditator, I would call this mindfulness. Paying attention to the breath without gripping and gently coming back to the present when my attention has strayed.
As I mentioned before, cold calling schools about my teaching has been an essential part of my business’s growth. Thankfully, it’s something I really enjoy- even when it’s not fun i.e. being told “no” 2 seconds after calling, getting hung up on, or- as we’ve all done- someone taking their frustrations out on a solicitor. Even as my reputation has grown throughout my business’s 10 years, I still need to pick up the phone and let people know I’m out there… Learning to ride that wave of being assertive but not pushy. It’s an art for sure. My skin has grown tremendously since I first began. Now it’s about starting a conversation with a school and seeing where it will lead. Of course, for those just starting out in any business, you want/need to work, so there’s more desperation and it’s more difficult to “play it cool” and allow the client space to think about working with you. The less pressure the better, but you can’t be totally passive. Again, it’s an art and requires experience at “failing” in order to get better and more comfortable.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
My wife, she’s been there for me throughout it all. I admire her so much. She’s great to talk to when I’m feeling stuck and she can encourage me to move towards what feels uncomfortable, but growthful.
I’ve also had the same therapist for years and he has been instrumental in helping me create a stronger sense of self. I wouldn’t be the husband, father, friend, small business owner, and teacher that I am today without that relationship and my decision to stay with
the process of therapy ( especifically psychoanalysis ).