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Music academy in Coquitlam suddenly closes its doors — for good

Salina Cheng said the financial impacts of the pandemic, as well as the loss of two prominent piano teachers, forced her to shutter the academy at the end of February.

A well-known piano teacher who runs a music academy in Coquitlam is apologizing to customers for closing her business without warning.

Salina Cheng told the Tri-City News on Thursday (March 2) that she had no choice but to shutter the Salina Cheng Music Academy that had been running out of Henderson Place mall.

She cited financial pressures during the COVID-19 pandemic and the recent loss of two prominent piano teachers, plus a receptionist, as the reasons.

Cheng, who had the business for sale but was unable to find buyers, relayed the closure to her 150 students and their parents in a notice dated Feb. 28.

“I didn’t know we were going to close until last week,” she told the Tri-City News, adding, “It was a very painful, last-minute decision…. I have to close it because I have no better alternative.”

Cheng said she’s tried to speak with many parents about the decision — including some who contacted the Tri-City News this week; however, she said, some are angry and demanding immediate refunds.

She plans to sell her company assets, such as four grand pianos, three upright pianos and percussion instruments, to pay back the money that’s owed.

“I’m trying my very best to resolve the issue, but one thing I need from everybody is time. I don’t have money in the bank right now.”

Cheng started her business 26 years ago after immigrating to Canada from Hong Kong; it was incorporated 19 years ago, on Feb. 26, 2004.

The academy was based at Lincoln Centre before moving to Henderson Centre. It was successful, she said, but “the pandemic was devastating. A lot of students quit and so did some teachers. It was a very stressful time. I was trying my very best to hold onto the academy.”

Cheng said she managed to keep it afloat over the past three years through government wage subsidies and her own cash injections, but in February she couldn’t meet the rent.

She asked a friend to look over her books; they concluded the business had a dire future.

Now, she’s asking her former teachers to take on her customers in their homes or at private studios to continue practising music.

“The welfare of my students and teachers is my biggest concern.”

And once the business is wound up, the 68-year-old entrepreneur said she plans to retire.

On Monday (March 6), she’ll also submit her resignation to the board of directors of the CDMF Performing Arts Society, of which she is president, but she plans to continue as a festival volunteer.

The 70th annual festival, which sees hundreds of young competitors vying for a spot in the provincial contest, takes place March 25 to 31 at Riverside Community Church in Port Coquitlam.

Meanwhile, Cheng said parents who want to have their lesson money returned are asked to email her at [email protected].

“I apologize to anyone who is inconvenienced,” she said.