Alumni of the Month: December 2009
John and Peter Coco '04
What is your edge (strength)?
John: Well, I’m formally trained in music but I have found that my strengths in business have helped to establish and promote success in the companies that I own.
Peter: Besides music, my strength is being able to manage a lot of areas simultaneously – sales, graphic design, marketing, branding, photography, and all of the creative minutiae of running a business.
Both: Written materials, diverse skills, business acumen, self-sufficiency, and having things done the right way for the benefit of the students.
What at Hofstra gave you your edge?
John: The liberal arts education and diversity.
Peter: Despite being a performance major, I still had to do a liberal arts course load. I was forced to diversify my skill set and become multidimensional.
In one word, how would you describe Hofstra?
What was your major?
John: Music education.
Peter: Jazz and commercial music (performance)
What was your favorite class?
John: Songwriting, Dr. Lalama.
Peter: Jazz Improvisation, Dr. Lalama.
What is your fondest memory of Hofstra?
John: Performing with friends for various Hofstra events.
Peter: The night I played a concert (double bass) with the Hofstra Orchestra backing me up.
What is your field of specialty, and how did you come to work in the industry?
John: My speciality is business. I worked at a number of different things before taking up music in college and each one gave me a specific set of skills which are useful to me now. As a performing guitarist, it occurred to me one day that I could construct tools that were not on the market which would solve problems facing guitarists. This paved the way for Gravity Guitar Innovations. Our products are sold in major music stores such as Sam Ash across the country.
Peter: Teaching music performance, being a jazz freelance bassist, and working with other jazz artists. I played in a rock band throughout high school and have always been very attracted and attuned to music. When I entered college, I knew I wanted to be a music performance major and pursued my path aggressively. It was through personal contacts, and contacts made at Hofstra, that I was able to branch out in the jazz field both during and after college.
Who in your field do you most admire?
John: Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple Computers, for combining creativity with business.
Peter: I would have to say that my biggest inspiration in business, and life, has been my father. Even though he is not a musician, he was always an example to me of what a businessman and owner of a company should be. As a display manufacturer, my father knows everything about his business; from the ground up, he can do any job that his employees can. All his employees always give him great respect because they know that he knows their job as well as his own. If they ever have a question about a fabrication technique, a type of metal to be used in production, or anything else, my dad knows the answer. So, in this way, my dad taught me that I need to really know my business, and always be willing and able to do any job required, whether talking with a customer, teaching an instrument, scheduling a 400-person recital dinner, or the like.
Also, my dad was never afraid to take big risks, seeing that the rewards of taking these risks were worth the risks themselves. I never had any qualms about starting my own business, because seeing my dad through the years always gave me confidence in myself as a business owner.
What was your first job after graduating from Hofstra, and what was the most valuable thing you learned there?
John: I started MAGC (The Music Academy of Garden City) while at Hofstra. I found there was a need for qualified, professional music instruction and had been working teaching kids in their homes. The demand grew, so I solicited help from some friends who were also teaching private lessons, and MAGC was born. I also taught as an adjunct music professor at Nassau Community College, where I learned the demands of being a part time professor while running a business.
Peter: Camera salesman for a local camera shop. I learned a lot about sales, how to run a business, photography skills, how to talk to people, and how to pitch. These are all skills I use now in my work at MAGC and as a performer.
What advice would you give current Hofstra students?
John: Don’t wait until graduation to start building your career or deciding what you want to do. No one owes you anything you have to earn it. Be independent!
Peter: Don’t wait to act like a professional; do it now. How you present yourself is important. What you put in is what you get out of it.
How do you balance work and life?
John: I make my family my first priority. Sunday is family day. I always try to have at least one meal with my family per day. Also, I always make sure to make quality and quantity time for my 2 year old daughter Genevieve. She and my wife Gabrielle are the loves of my life. I have also found it helpful to work late after the family goes to bed, and avoid too many extraneous activities like TV and the Internet.
Peter: Agreed. Keep Sunday free for family time or relaxing. Include your family in what you do to maximize the time.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
John: I would like to franchise the Music Academy and have 5 locations on Long Island.
Peter: I would also like to see MAGC franchised, and be able to do more performing. I would like to play on a Grammy Award-winning album, write more of my own music, and plug into the New York jazz scene in a larger capacity than just teaching.
What is the single most rewarding experience in your career thus far?
John: Seeing my original inventions in chain music stores, teaching, and seeing my guitar ensemble of ten year olds do a recording of their very own.
Peter: As a musician, having the opportunity to perform in Italy at the Teatro Olympico. As a teacher, seeing one of my first students go to a great music college.
What is it like to work so closely with your twin brother?
John and Peter: We have learned to always be open. Like with any family, there are always going to be some issues, and some times when we just don’t want to see each other. However, we know that in order to really work well, we have to be as honest as we can with each other, and not take advantage of the fact that we are family.
What has been the biggest challenge in opening/running your own business?
John and Peter: Time and hard work. It’s not complicated, simply time consuming. Phone calls, updating paperwork, finding staff members (faculty), keeping up with the day-to-day work, and scheduling. It can be very difficult to schedule everything and still make time for yourself and your family. That being said, when you work collaboratively and know how to communicate with your partner and your clients, the work becomes very robust – and not simply day-to-day tedium.
Twin brothers John and Peter Coco are the co-founders and owners of the Music Academy of Garden City (MAGC), which provides Garden City and the surrounding areas with the highest quality musical education available – connecting students with dynamic music educators and performers. The pair realized the necessity of a school such as MAGC while still Hofstra students, both majoring in music (for Peter, music performance; for John, music education). Peter is an accomplished bassist and pianist, and John is an accomplished guitarist. Both brothers’ entrepreneurial spirit and creativity helped them successfully build, grow, and market the MAGC.
Peter Coco has toured extensively throughout the United States and Europe, and performed and recorded with artists such as Grammy-nominated jazz vocalist Jane Monheit; Bucky Pizzarelli; Frank Vignola; drummer Matt Wilson; Tony Bennett’s musical director, John Bunch; and vocalist Janis Siegel of Manhattan Transfer. Peter has also contributed lessons and articles about jazz bass to talkbass.com and Mel Bay’s basssessions.com. Each summer, Peter conducts a jazz camp for high school students through the MAGC. There, he leads ensembles and teaches jazz repertoire, improvisation and performance practice.
John has performed with Anthony Hart, Tony Tedesco (John Pizarrelli), Frank Vignola and Jerry Weldon from the Harry Connick Jr. Band. He founded Gravity Guitar Innovations which manufactures original tools and accessories for guitar that are sold throughout the country. John has written articles and music for internationally published magazines such as Just Jazz Guitar and Acoustic Guitar Magazine. Both brothers continue to actively perform solo and in ensembles across Manhattan and Long Island in addition to running the Music Academy of Garden City.
Both brothers continue to actively perform solo and in ensembles across Manhattan and Long Island.