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As Founder/CEO of the Music Teachers Network, the country’s leading network matching music teachers with students for private music lessons, Mike Simon thinks big; Very big. He’s a dreamer, successful entrepreneur and risk-taker and in the coming weeks, he’ll be just releasing his first record (self titled), a high energy, self-produced pop & rock collection of all original material featuring some of the finest musicians in the country.

After almost two decades running a successful business teaching people how to play music, Mike has followed his passion and made the commitment to his own musical journey, A full two years in the making, Mike’s dedication to quality is in full force on the new record, between his wonderful singing and songwriting, top-flight musicianship and the caliber of people he collaborated with to create the music he is anxious to finally share with the world.

Simon’s great enthusiasm about his new adventure may be due in part because it’s been a long-time coming. “I had several attempts in my 20’s & 30’s to get into the music business as a full time artist but the demands of my company made it really hard. In the last 2 years, my fiancé, Anette, has been a huge support and really inspired me to move forward. I’ve written some of my best work to date in that time and with the knowledge that I’ve picked up along the way, regarding recording technique and engineering, the picture has really come together. Most importantly, I never wanted it to pass me by and die with my music inside of me. This is my passion and everything in my heart told me that now is the time to devote myself to music.

Simon’s great enthusiasm about his new adventure may be due in part because it’s been a long-time coming. “I had several attempts in my 20’s & 30’s to get into the music business as a full time artist but the demands of my company made it really hard. In the last 2 years, my fiancé, Anette, has been a huge support and really inspired me to move forward. I’ve written some of my best work to date in that time and with the knowledge that I’ve picked up along the way, regarding recording technique and engineering, the picture has really come together. Most importantly, I never wanted it to pass me by and die with my music inside of me. This is my passion and everything in my heart told me that now is the time to devote myself to music.

“In 1997, my girlfriend was a pianist and vocalist. A graduate of Boston Conservatory, she was offered a position-teaching piano at a high school in west suburban Chicago. Before long, I started teaching after-school lessons at the same school. We both charged $12 a half hour,” Mike recalls.

Simon’s passion for music and business took hold and he devised a plan to expand their small client base. “Growing up in the North Shore of Chicago, an affluent community, I was familiar with the area and started offering our services by hanging flyers at a popular grocery store called The Grand, in Winnetka, IL,” Mike gained another dozen students this way, but that wasn’t enough for Mike. Always thinking out of the box, Mike had an idea to create an advertisement on 5×7 neon green card stock and insert them in the newspaper of record in his community, The Pioneer Press. “The plan was to reach 10,000 homes, Mike remembers. “I designed the ad myself and made sure it was simple and to the point –‘Guitar, Piano & Voice, Lessons in your home!’ I think the cost of the entire effort was around $800, which at the time was my rent money!” The plan worked better than he had imagined, with 80 families calling for lessons. Mike wondered how in the world the two of them were going to be in 80 homes at once, but he quickly figured out a way that they could. “All we needed to do was hire devoted instructors like ourselves and share the business with them. We would handle teacher training, administration, advertising, billing and sales. That’s how The Music Teachers Network was born!”

When asked about some of his proudest experiences building MTN, Mike was quick to relate a story about the lengths he has gone to secure great teachers all over the country, which has set MTN apart from other companies in his space. “ In the early days I would get on an airplane, fly to a different major city, interview instructors in person and audition them and then set up advertising in that city. Private music lessons are not licensed or bonded like, say, a plumber or a lawyer. I wanted us to be a filter and a resource for finding a high quality teacher; hiring teachers we would want to invite into our own home to teach our own kids was the adage we still live by.”

Simon is also very proud that he was able to self-finance all of MTN’s expansion efforts and realize that because of all of that hard work, that at any one time there are hundreds of music lessons going on every single evening in homes all over the United States. “I never stop thinking about that,” he says humbly. “To me that’s the weight of purpose in running a business like mine. When you get to measure the value that you’ve created and knowing that we have helped thousands of families and kids get a music education is something I’m very proud of.”

Mike’s talent, passion and persistence attracted some of the best musicians in the country to work with him on Break to the Grey (pt. 1), including his longtime friend and drummer from Chicago, Matt Walker (Smashing Pumpkins, Morrissey), who introduced him to other high-profile players like Sean O’Keefe, who produced and mixed Fall Out Boy and Plain White T’s and multi-instrumentalist Pat Sansone from Wilco, who played guitar, Mellotron, percussion and keys on the record. For the final mixing of his self-produced release, Mike took a bold step and asked Grammy-Award winning mixer, Chris Lord-Alge (Bruce Springsteen, Rolling Stones, James Brown) if he’d lend his legendary skills to the music and, fortunately, he agreed. Mike was thrilled. “It’s easily the best education I’ve gotten in such a short period of time. I can’t thank Chris enough for the hard work he put into the project. It’s really been an amazing experience to work with a legend like CLA! “

Musically, Mike draws from an eclectic group of artists who influence his sound. “I’ve always been attracted to melodic songwriters that have a story to tell.” He loves John Lennon, calling him, “the greatest songwriter of all time.” He is also quick to add to the mix singer-songwriters Neil Young, Bob Seger, Bruce Springsteen, Cat Stevens, Gordon Lightfoot, Jim Croce and Harry Chapin along with iconic rockers like Jimmy Page, Pete Townshend, Alice in Chains, Santana, The Rolling Stones and Eric Clapton.

Mike is obviously very excited about the road ahead and his always-positive energy about his new adventure is infectious, “I know a lot about running a business but very little about the music business. I think historically though, it’s important to follow your own vision and not pigeonhole yourself into a cookie-cutter/assembly line approach to any business, especially the music business. This is why I decided to combine personal music pursuits with the Music Teachers Network. The music business is in a constant state of change and I think one’s approach to marketing music should be as unique as the music itself. My primary goal is to bring my music to the masses while expanding opportunity and entrepreneurial accessibility to musicians the world over. I love working with world-class producers, business people and musicians. For me, that’s the goal! The journey; to realize my best and to bring that to the world for as long as I can.”