Meet Rick Schmidt, owner of B2R Tampa & B2R Orlando

Rick (left) with Pete, from the band Candlebox.

Rick (left) with Pete, from the band Candlebox.

With deep roots in the radio and music industry, Rick Schmidt knows how to help student musicians grow and evolve their talents.

Rick and his wife Holly own not one, but two Bach to Rock music schools in Florida (two hours apart!).  Rick focuses on the schools, while Holly continues in her corporate role in the health care industry.  Plus, they have four children. It all adds up to a busy and fulfilling life! Before opening the Tampa school, Rick enjoyed a 20+ year career in the music and radio industry.  Highlights include programming Tampa’s 98Rock and some of the nation’s largest rock radio stations, signing recording artists to music labels and marketing large events and venues.  As a radio program director, Schmidt helped launch the careers of Florida bands Sister Hazel, Creed and Shinedown. Rick also represented various artists that have collectively: sold over 1.5 million albums; scored four top-15 rock hits; received video play on MTV; had music featured in video games, and even had one artist provide the walk-up song for former Tampa Bay Rays baseball all-star, Evan Longoria.  In 2018, he decided to tap into his industry background to offer families a meaningful and valuable music education experience for their kids by becoming a B2R franchisee.

Why did you choose to open a Bach to Rock school? And how did you hear about B2R?

We were determined to open a business and looked at other franchises in many categories.  A friend, Joe Bourdow, was on the board of the International Franchise Association and suggested that I find a franchise that I would love…even on a bad day. My professional life was music-related so I researched options and found Bach to Rock.  I was impressed with the executive team and their vision for the future.  I wanted a music school that taught more than Mozart and Led Zeppelin.

How long has your school been open?

We opened the Tampa school in November 2018.  In July 2021, we purchased the Lake Mary/Orlando school from the previous franchisees, who opened it in February 2019.

How have you made your business successful? What have been the keys to success?

Hire good people who WANT to teach.  Create an environment where your customers enjoy their time at the school.  Give your staff the tools they need to do their jobs. Make sure you know your customers’ names.

I describe our schools as quirky but professional. I want our lessons, branding and community involvement to be awesome and top notch. Our schools may have a teacher in a suit…or with green hair or neck tattoos.  We joke. Seriously. Okay, not seriously.

Meet Ally, assistant site director, Orlando.

Meet Ally, assistant site director, Orlando.

What would you tell a prospective franchisee about starting a B2R?

My best advice for prospective franchisees – there are best practices – but I urge you to find what works best for your business, your staff, your customers and your community.  I own two schools and while they share a similar philosophy and vibe, the customer demographics and staff are not the same, so there are subtle differences in managing them.

Also, if you are not good at details, you need to hire and retain people who are because there are A LOT of moving parts that will impact your business. Someone said, “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff,” and I disagree.  Always sweat the small stuff. For example, if you order fast food and the restaurant always forgets one order of fries…do you say, “Well, they got most of it right…”  I doubt it. Details are the difference between good and great.

Final thought - the work doesn’t stop when you get to the grand opening.

Any words of encouragement?

If you need help, don’t be scared to ask.  There are tons of people who made missteps before you, so learn from our mistakes.

Have you run into any tough spots?  If so, what are they and how did you work them out?

Yes. That “little” problem called COVID.  My school in Tampa had been open 15 months and entering March 2020, it was going to be our best month ever.  By April 1, 60% of our enrollment and revenue were gone.  Local regulations required us to close our doors.

Bach to Rock moved quickly and helped us shift to online lessons, which were taught and monitored via Zoom from our teachers’ homes for 3 months.  Prior to the pandemic, we never offered virtual lessons, so the franchise and franchisees learned on the fly on how to make it work. 

I felt comfortable reopening in June 2020 after installing massive UV air scrubbers on our 10-ton AC units and establishing mask/cleaning protocols at the school.  Some students returned to the in-person lessons and others remained online.

The Lutz/Tampa location was one of the fastest Bach to Rock schools to regain billing and students. As we enter March 2022, it will be our best month ever…nearly 20% higher than March 2020.

Meet Chris, site director, Orlando

Meet Chris, site director, Orlando

What do you enjoy most about owning/operating a B2R?

I had a great moment at our Battle of the Bands in January 2022.  I watched student after student perform (in front of a Grammy winner, a rock DJ who is heard on 100 radio stations, and the former band manager for Creed & Paramore) …and they killed it.  Two years ago, some of these kids could barely hold a guitar or a drumstick.

Seeing students build confidence and grow as musicians is cool. I love hearing parents say, “I can’t believe my shy child just got up on that stage and played.” I get to see it firsthand.

What’s the most popular class or lesson at your school?

Piano and guitar.  The use of digital keyboards to make video game music has really piqued the interest of a lot of young gamers.

Tell us about your expectations of being a B2R franchise owner.

I expected to be extremely busy and that’s been more than true. I’m not sure I expected the brand’s growth and the number of new locations that are coming nationally.  That has been exciting because new owners bring fresh ideas and industry connections.  At our first annual franchisee convention in Nashville, I had the chance to present to the group about what works for my schools, but at the same time, I was eager to open my ears and learn other ways to execute better. 

Only a handful of franchisees have multiple locations and adding a second was an eye-opener for me because I only had one view on how things were being done day to day.  The operating recipe for the Orlando school is similar to Tampa but some elements need to be a little different for each location. 

In summary, I am a little more open to listening than I was two years ago.

Rick joins the Tampa team, Savannah, assistant site director and Steven, site director.

Rick joins the Tampa team, Savannah, assistant site director and Steven, site director.

What is the best way to represent your B2R school when you meet prospective families/students or are talking about B2R in the community?

  • We are Bach to Rock…so the music we teach could be country, pop, jazz, alternative, classical, etc. I think that is important because some music schools are completely classical focused, and others live off 70s rock.  Beyond traditional instruments, many of our schools (including my Tampa school) teach DJ mixing.
  • We have opportunities for students to play in bands.  They practice as a band and perform locally at real music venues. Our bands also have opportunities to track in our recording studio.
  • Our facility is great. Our stage rooms are really cool.  We are not a grandma music school (no offense to grandma music schools).
Rick takes a turn in the Beat Refinery DJ studio. 

Rick takes a turn in the Beat Refinery DJ studio.

What has surprised you the most about owning a Bach to Rock school?

I had heard stories but until you live it, you don’t believe it. I have seen kids come for lessons with a sibling toddler…and now, that sibling toddler is taking lessons.  You can spend years with families and develop friendships.  Music lessons are not a one-time purchase…in many cases, they can lead to long-term relationships.

Tell us a bit more about the atmosphere of your school. What do you think keeps students coming back?

Again, we are quirky but professional.  Our school looks great, our teachers are great, and we make jokes and have fun.  I think that it’s a warm and inviting environment for students of all ages.  A wide assortment of music memorabilia adorns the school, including references to Matchbox 20, NSync, Tom Petty and Lynyrd Skynyrd — who each debuted in Florida.

Rick has some fun on stage.

Rick has some fun on stage.

What are your goals for the future with your B2R school?

COVID impacted the Lake Mary/Orlando location. Since taking ownership in July 2021, I believe many of the operational challenges have been addressed and our numbers have doubled from January 2021 vs. January 2022.  To continue that type of growth, our goal is to focus on forging more partnerships and being more visible in the community. Lutz/Tampa has operated extremely well and is doing great. Our goal is to keep striving to be the best! Thanks to our directors (Steven & Savannah) and the teaching staff, my primary job is to maintain relationships with the area schools, venues and businesses.

Rick and his team have some fun promoting summer camps!