PopRock Blog

PopRock Academy is a performing arts school that caters to students with a passion for the arts. Our diverse curriculum includes instruction in acting, dance, music and voice coaching. We also help students prepare for their auditions by offering training in TV/Film, Commercials, Voice-Over and animation. PopRock Academy is located in Temple City, California and serves residents across the greater San Gabriel Valley area and online students.

treasureRecently in my creative writing class as one of my student was about to present their work for the week, he qualified their presentation before we started with an "it's not that good." From there, I immediately paused the class and gave one of my famous "Life Lessons from Paul Kwo" moments. I thought it would be a wonderful thing to share here with everyone as well, a lesson I had learned over the years being in the entertainment industry.

Many of us have probably heard the saying "One person's trash is another person's treasure." It is especially true in the world of creativity. Simply put, nobody knows what the next big thing is, only time will tell. Squid Game was rejected for 10 years until it became the biggest show of all time on Netflix. Stories after stories about rejections until something is accepted is the normal for the world of creation. So when I teach students in my classes, I have made it an effort to never discount anyone's ideas. Certainly some ideas have traditionally been "not so good." But every idea at some point was probably a "not so good idea" until it isn't anymore. Stan Lee talks often about when he first pitched Spiderman to his publisher, the response he got was that it was the worst idea ever. But now is the biggest superhero in the world. The truth is, you never know.

So my encouragement to all my students is keep going. Keep working on your ideas. If you like it, keep pursuing it. Keep developing it. Because if you like it, someone else out there probably does as well. You will find you audience somewhere if you keep working on it. The key is you have to work. If you put enough hours into it, continuously ask yourself hard questions, developing your idea. It will come to fruition in some way, shape or form. While some ideas by itself may ultimately end up in the annals lost to time, but the butterfly effect it has on your subsequent ideas are invaluable and will open up worlds of possibilities. And sometimes, just sometimes, that original idea after years laying dormant in the back of your mind, is reawaken to new life now that you have gained new experience, bringing a new perspective to your original thought.

Create on my friends!

Written by Paul Kwo

The Real cost of Piano Lessons

By Paul Kwo

Recently I came across one of the most ignorant articles on piano teachers and suggesting that there's no reason to pay piano teachers $60 an hour. Here's the link to the original article if you are interested. http://parentingsquad.com/the-high-cost-of-music. [UPDATED: Feb. 4, 2014. The article has now been taken down. Hopefully for good.] Normally I see an article that I don't agree with I just kind of ignore it, cause there's a lot of people out there that are just silly and clueless. But this one hit a bad nerve on me. So I just had to respond to this. I emailed both the website and the author on how completely ignorant that post is.

Here's my main problem with the whole article. It's comparing the rate a person pays a piano teacher (pre-expenses) to the rate a physicist or hospital psychologist makes (post-expenses). And even worse is that the author uses the US department of Labor stats for the other occupations and fails to use their number for music teachers. http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes251121.htm The actual number for music teachers who do not teach at a accredited school or University is $57,240. If she's going to use those numbers on the labor board, she should do her complete homework.

So the real thing is we study music and we teach music because we love music. We didn't start this journey to make a ton of money. We didn't go into this thinking teaching piano will make us millionaires. The fact is we just want to do this cause we want to spread the joy of music. That's all there is to this. It saddens me to see how some people think we are out there to steal them of their hard earned money when in fact we are barely surviving. We love what we do and we just want to spread the joy of this love.

But here's a breakdown on what that author doesn't know about piano teachers in case if you are interested.

The author suggests that piano teachers make $120,000 for a 40 hours work week charging $60 per hour. Here's the reality of it:

Most schools get out at 3pm ish. Most piano teachers (or any other private music teachers) can't start teaching until 3:30pm in the afternoon. There are no clients available in general before 3:30pm for the most part. Most piano students are between the age of 5 and 17. And so at the latest, piano teachers may be able to teach till 8:30pm. That's if they are REALLY REALLY lucky to find students who will come in at 7:30pm. Even that's hard. But I will give that to Lain. So that's 5 hours a day on week days that they can work. Making it a total of 25 hours a week. But that's ONLY if they literally have a back to back studio that can be maxed out. And I know most teachers can't do that. People's schedules don't always work out. Usually you take out about 30 minutes from each day to compensate. So that's 2.5 to 3 hours gone. We are looking at around 22 hours of weekday teaching if the teacher is really popular, established and has a full studio. Then on Saturday, they can teach around 8 hours, 9am to 5pm with an hour break in the middle. So that's a total of 30 hours of maximum teaching hours for a teacher. Which is about right based on what I know from all my friends who are ACTUALLY piano or music teachers like me.

Bear in mind that doesn't mean a teacher doesn't work for 40 hours a week. The other 10 hours go towards studio maintenance, administrative work (scheduling, rescheduling, calling new clients, preparing for events such as recitals, running recitals and other events, continual training, networking, marketing etc.) They all add up. A teacher can easily work over 40 hours a week but only gets paid for 30 hours.

So what does this mean? It means the GROSS, not NET income for a piano teacher is $93,600 a year for a 52 weeks cycle. Of course teachers can't work 52 weeks a year. We have to take some sort of vacations too cause we are human and we deserve some time off every now and then. So let's just go with a 2 weeks vacation a year cause we are just that dedicated. $90,000 a year of GROSS income.

Now comes the FUN part:

Piano teachers who run their own studios are a business, and with every business there IS a cost. Piano teachers doesn't get to keep every penny that comes in. Lain apparently thinks that piano teachers are the exception to the rule.


Yes there is rent. Just because a teacher teaches from their home doesn't mean there's no rent. If a teacher doesn't have to teach at home, they can rent a smaller space, or an apartment instead of a house, or something that's cheaper and doesn't have to be in that better part of town because they know some students wouldn't come to them if they were there. So YES there is a COST! So let's even be conservative about this. The cheapest rental I can find in my area of town (which $60 to $65 per hour for piano lessons is about the going rate) is around $1000. I know there's no way I could have my piano studio at that kind of a place. I would have to rent at least a $1800 place in order to house my grand piano and attract enough students to have full 30 students studio studio. So that extra $800 a month is really attributed to my work. And in actuality I pay way more than that cause I have a commercial location for my piano studio. But I am going to go with that amount just to help Lain in her argument. That basically comes out to $9,600 of money I have to spend to be a teacher. So that brings down the NET to $80,400.


Most beginning piano teacher doesn't do it, but a full time teacher with 30 students will most likely take some sort of insurance policy to protect themselves from the enormous amount of students coming out. That comes out to around $1000 to $2000 of insurance total a year depending on the policy. But we can go with the more conservative side and say $1000 a year. Now we are at $79,400.


Speaking of insurance, guess what, unlike a physicist who enjoys the University providing a wonderful coverage of health benefits, a piano teacher gets to pay their own bills in its entirety. So we are looking at $100 to $500 a month. Let's meet in the middle and say $200 a month. That's a $2400 bill that a physicist with a lovely health benefit package from their research facility or a hospital psychologist which a full medical coverage program at their work doesn't have to pay, or pay very little out of pocket. But I will add some out of pock cost so the company only pays half of it. $1200. So now we are at $78,200.


Phone bill $40/month. Piano tuning $100 a quarter. Books and teaching material $500 a year. Office supplies $200 a year. Just off the top of my head that's $1500. I'm sure I've missed other things here and there. But now we are down to $76,700


A good teacher continues to get training. Take a master class with a master visiting town. Join the music teacher association. Do a teaching workshop. Learn some new marketing technique. So on and so forth. But fine, I will give it to you that everyone trains, so we won't even count this amount. $76,700


Recitals doesn't just happen. There's rental involved. You might get lucky and find a free place. But chances are a teacher has to pay a few hundred for each recital. That's $500 to $1000 a year depending on what they end up finding. Not to mention they don't get paid for the event. Let's just go with $700. $76,000


Piano studios are a business. And it's an easy target for IRS. So having a good CPA, not the one at your local H&R block, is important. A good one for a business can run $1000 to $2000 a year at tax season. Fine Most people spend $200 for tax purposes. So we will use the lower rate and take out the $200 that you normally would spend. $800. So now we are at $75,200

Yes teachers get a lot of students through referrals. But that doesn't mean they don't need to go and do some advertisements still. Most teachers who do have a 30+ studio have done some sort of ads on some level and networking etc. Around $1k a year. That's $74,200


$74,200 is on the really conservative budget of a teacher who happened to be able to find all those students without having to spend a whole lot and finding the perfect insurance policy etc. But that's never the case. The more realistic number is $65,000 for a full time teacher with 30 hour of lessons a week. You may not be charging everyone at $60/hour. But whatever. We will keep the original rate. Now keep this in mind also, this $74,200 still is before tax, EMPLOYER, not EMPLOYEE. The teacher has to pay BOTH employer and employee portion of the tax. That's an extra $6k to $10k the teacher gets to pay that your University physicist or Hospital Psychologist doesn't have to. That brings down the number to $65k. So a REALLY SUCCESSFUL piano teacher who has a big studio can make this money and they are really is making $32.50 an hour before employee tax.

But here's EVEN MORE.

A piano teacher has to BUY a piano ($3000 to $20,000+) depending. If they are charging $60 per hour, chances are their piano is in the $10k range. Then they have to make sure their studio space is presentable (any necessary remodeling) so parents will feel comfortable to send their kid there. A physicist just shows up to their work.

So the author is completely out of place comparing a private piano teacher with people who work for a company. The $60 per hour cost covers the teacher's time as well as the operation cost, similar to a physician who runs their own practice. If a psychologist run their own practice, I can guarantee you that their rate isn't going to be the $46.12 per hour cost. The last time I checked if I had to book an appointment with a psychologist, it sure isn't that rate. It's in the hundreds.

So before you post an article wondering why piano teachers are being paid $1 a minute, as you walk your child up the mile long marble pathway in front of your piano teacher's home to your child's next lesson, and preach some misconstrued idea of how a piano studio work, at the expense of all the multi-millionaire piano teachers out there...oh wait...THERE AREN'T MANY OF THOSE OUT THERE...I rest my case.

Did you or your child decide to become an actor? It's a dream many of us at some point may have had while watching our favorite TV show or movies. It sounds glamorous and acting doesn't seem to be that hard.

And you’ve probably heard lots of different stories about how the child of a friend of a friend’s cousin booked a few commercials, and you’re wondering how did they do that. But you have also heard the horror stories. You have heard how scammers come around telling hopefuls how talented they are and that they would put them on the silver screen, only to steal their hard earned money and disappear forever.

So now you are also scared about the whole process, thinking it’s probably not something you can do.

I didn't know anyone in Hollywood when I started. Neither did my parents. They were immigrants who had nothing to do with the entertainment industry. I had no connections but I managed to find my way to live my dream. I got my agent and eventually started booking roles. It is absolutely doable for anyone to become an actor if it is what you want.

So how do I get an agent then?

Not so fast...

Many people think the first thing you need to do is to get an agent. But that's the last thing you should be doing. Getting an agent is not going to book you a job. It's like getting a job recruiter before you start college. It would leave a bad impression on the agent, and when you are actually ready to go, the agent wouldn't look at you anymore.

The very first thing I will offer you is: Get Educated!

We want to help you get the right information FREE so you can feel safe navigating through the entertainment industry. With the correct information in your hands, you will gain the confidence you need to make your dream come true.

So here’s your basic guide to starting in Hollywood in 6 basic steps in the order you should do them in. Part 1 of this guide will give you the first 3 of the 6. Be sure to get our second part as well.

1. It's Show Business, Nor Show Job

“There's no business like show business like no business I know...” From the hit broadway musical Annie Get Your Gun.

The first thing to ground yourself is that when you decide to be an actors (or when your child decide to be an actor), you are getting into the business of acting. It is a business. The actor is the product and your job is to develop the product until it is marketable, and then you market the product.

Hollywood is a multi-billion dollar industry. In fact, some single films can gross over $1 billion. The SAG-AFTRA union rate for a day-rate actor in 2019 is $1,005 for an 8 hour work day. That's as much as an iPhone. So you betcha they expect that kind of quality of work delivered by the actor. Be honest with yourself and ask is your product truly worth $1,000+? Would you spent $1,005 for a product that never went into development?

So the first thing you must do when you go into business is to develop your product. For the business of acting, that means the actor needs to get training.

2. Get training

Nobody does it alone.

Repeat after me: Nobody does it alone. This was the most important thing I learn from one of my acting teacher Joe Hacker at the University of Southern California.

Most of us start alone not knowing anyone or anything about the industry. So the first thing you need to do is to start surrounding yourself with people who do know more about the industry than you do. Some great places to do so are community theater groups and acting schools. When you find the right one, they should be filled with both aspiring actors who are in the same boat as you, and veteran actors who can show you how to move forward with your career. If you still have doubts, you actually do know someone in the industry now. You know us! You know PopRock.

The biggest myth you have to get out of your mind is that all you need is talent. It is simply not true.

First, nearly everyone out here in Hollywood is talented. This is the place the most talented people on the planet come to compete for the biggest jobs. Talent isn't enough.

In fact, I would even argue talent is not even that important. I have known many people with talent who end up going by the wayside. They end up quitting acting, losing to people who has “less talent” than they did, simply because those people worked harder. Those are the ones who put themselves through classes by working multiple jobs to pay for them. They keep training and keep working on their crafts. When the right opportunity presented itself, they jumped onboard. Just like a smart kid who doesn't study and work hard will fail, a talented performer who doesn't train and practice hard will also fail.

So find a great program with great instructors who have real world industry experience to give you good guidance.

But be weary of any school that ask you for thousands of dollars up front in training fees and promise to make you or your child a star. No one can guarantee stardom. However a good training facility will give you the skills you need to be successful in the business of acting.

3. Write your resume

Now that you have gotten your training, you can start marketing yourself or your child.

Just like any other job interview, a resume is essential to becoming a working performer. For a new person entering the industry who has no real experience, community and school productions are a great place to get started and put one your resumes until you have better credits. Also your training will show casting directors that you are serious about your craft.

There are multiple ways to format your resume, and none are necessarily better than another. The basics are the same no matter which way you go.

TOP: Name and contact information
MIDDLE: Credits
BOTTOM: Training and other skills

When listing credits be sure to list them by relevance and importance. My resume design is modular so that way it can be shifted around depending on what I'm going in to audition for.

There are other nuances to writing an acting resumes as well as how to adjust them for submission websites. Stay tune to get a comprehensive guide on how to make your resume in the future here with us at PopRock Academy.

This is the first part of a 2 part series on how you can get started in Hollywood. In the next part of the 2 part series, I will teach you:
Fundamentals of getting a headshot
How to submitting to casting directors
Other awesome things to do to launch your acting business
To get the second part of the series, join our mailing list here and you will receive our different pdf's throughout the year. You can also contact our front office and learn more about acting and breaking into the industry by scheduling a private consultation.

So get started today in achieving your dreams!

Paul Kwo
PopRock Academy
“Helping kids, teens and adults overcome nervousness, gain confidence to achieve their dreams with acting, dance and music classes.”

Paul Kwo is a veteran performer with extensive credits including work on blockbuster franchises such as God’s Not Dead, Black Panther, Crazy Rich Asians, Fresh Off the Boat, and multiple music albums. He has over 20 plus years of teaching experience working with many students finding major success performing for the Lakers, Kings, Mattel, ABC, NBC, Fox, CBS in Hollywood and beyond.

Best Singing Lessons in South Pasadena, CA

By Paul Kwo

I am often fascinated by so many parents and their reasoning for sending their child to piano lessons. Having been a piano teacher for a huge part of my life, I am thankful for their notion of how music lessons are beneficial for a child's development. Having music theory and piano skills can be enjoyable for a person once they have struggled through ten plus years of lessons. According to many research articles, music lessons can help a child in other school subject matters etc. But what boggles my mind is why parents do not send their child to voice lessons with the same ferocity.

So many parents think voice lessons are only for children who wants to become singers. But oddly that same notion doesn't apply to piano lessons. But if we just pull back a little and think about voice lessons, a different picture emerge. Voice training is possibly the most practical training a student can partake in.

Not counting our attempts to impress our bosses and co-workers during post-work karaoke sessions, in nearly every work field an adult enters, he or she will have to be using their voices. From board presentations to making a sale to clients, our voices are our most valuable tool in accomplish our work. Good voice lessons can certainly have a positive effect in all such endeavors.

1. Voice lessons improves voice textures.

Ever made fun of a co-worker with a thin and nagging voice? The unfortunate reality of the world is human beings are affect by superficiality. Aside from the way we dress and the way we carry ourselves visually, we are affect by what we hear and what we smell. A more pleasant voice certainly will carry more weight when it comes to trying to sell yourself, your skills or your products to any potential employer or clients. This texture certain can be improved with proper voice training. You do not need to be a professional singer to benefit from a thicker and more present voice.

2. Voice lessons improves stamina.

Keeping a healthy voice that can help carry you through long presentations is just another simple reason to train your voice. We all know not to walk into a presentation physically tired. The same is true of the voice. Going into a presentation in front of a board of trustee with a voice that sounds like you've been screaming on a roller coaster the day before doesn't abode well with confidence in you and your project.

Not sure how to get started?

PopRock Academy's friendly front desk staff with answer all your questions on how to start your journey in the performing arts!

Contact our staff

or simply call us at
+1 (626) 282-ROCK[7625]