The road to launching Downbeat Academy

What was the result the last time you searched for something music education-related on the web? If you’re like me and my confidants, the results were...less than fruitful.

Published on Apr 13th, 2020

Updated on Jun 16th, 2022

What was the result the last time you searched for something music education-related on the web? If you’re like me and my confidants, the results were...less than fruitful. Go on, search “John Coltrane solo analysis.” What generally comes up in my search results is the following:

  • Published John Coltrane transcription books
  • Clickbait posts trying to encourage users to buy an eBook titled something like “Play like John Coltrane in 5 Easy Steps”
  • Outdated posts published on Blogger (RIP)
  • Ultra-opinionated pieces written about whether or not John Coltrane is good at phrasing.
  • Wikipedia

Put yourself in the shoes of a student who is trying to learn what methods Coltrane uses in his solos. What would you want to see?

Abstracting a little bit, put yourself in the shoes of a beginning trombonist who doesn’t have access to private instruction due to financial or geographic constraints. What would you want to see?

Put yourself in the shoes of a general music teacher who has been tasked with leading a beginning jazz band and has absolutely no idea what repertoire to choose for an upcoming festival. What would you want to see?

As a group, we’ve collectively experienced these problems as teachers, students, and musicians, and have consistently questioned how to solve these problems; both from a personal perspective, as well as with our students. We’ve built Downbeat Academy in an attempt to answer these questions by providing an environment that is friendly for all students, teachers, and professional musicians. How?

  • We’ve taken extreme care to build the technical foundation of Downbeat Academy with the ability to pivot, adjust, scale, and hopefully revolutionize the music education space. Meaning, we can build what our users want and need, and adjust that path based on the feedback we get. This plays into the overarching mission of Downbeat Academy to build a music education platform for every musician, by every musician.
  • We’ve tapped into our network of musicians, educators, and students to assess what they think we need to build and how what we build will serve them best..
  • As contributors, we all have experience in the professional operation of the music industry; from performance, education, and student perspectives. This enables us to maintain a robust feedback loop of the content we’re producing and how it’s being received by the community.

I’ve always suffered from starting projects with extreme vigor and tenacity; with every intent to see the project through to completion, but end up getting sidetracked and losing steam as the project progresses. I know that I’m not alone. My focus suffers from regularly bouncing around to different topics, concepts, and ideas throughout the day, sidetracking and interrupting me from other tasks and it’s something I’ve been working on for my entire adult life.

I also have a penchant for overworking myself and often “suffer” from the inability to turn off and stop working. I would like to thank my mother for this “work ethic,” who would get home at 8:30 or 9 every night after a day as the head coach of gymnastics at Seattle Pacific University and continue to do paperwork, plan for the season, and organize the youth program until midnight or later.

How we got here

The road to getting here from a technical perspective has been one of exploration and experimentation, yet the road to getting here from a strategic and planning perspective has been the greatest challenge. Who would use it? Why should people read what we have to say? Will we be able to gain any traction? Skyler Floe, Greg Feingold, Thomas Graham, and I pondered all of the questions from numerous points of view and decided to take the next six months to build the current state of Downbeat Academy with a focus on user experience, fluid functionality, and scalability.

I think we’re on the right track, but we couldn’t successfully build a platform like this without feedback from the community. If you have any feedback that would help make this a positive experience for everybody looking to advance their knowledge of music or on their instrument, don’t hesitate to reach out and contact the team.

Greg, Skyler, and Thomas have shared this vision with me, not just as professional collaborators, but as close friends.. They continue to push the envelope forward in terms of what’s possible, what’s needed, and how to do our best to help students to the best of our ability.

What’s next?

We are by no means done with functionality, collaboration, and other features for Downbeat Academy, we’re really just getting started. Our to-do list of features and content types is, to put it simply...lengthy. We’re planning additional content like podcasts, video content, and related types, as well as more in-depth course content to deep dive into specific topics and methods.

Want to get involved?

Does this sound like something you’d like to contribute to? We’re a small team right now with a lofty mission. We need help. Shoot us a line and let us know how you might contribute to our mission. We’re always looking for new contributors from different musical walks of life. If that’s you, we’d love to chat!