We continue our Face of Franchising series interviews with Brian Gross, President of Bach to Rock. Brian spoke with us about the music school franchise, including its interesting way of making music education more fun for kids.
What was your career path like? How long have you been with Bach to Rock?
I joined Bach to Rock in 2008 as the Vice President of Marketing and became President in 2011. Prior to that I served as president of Rileyroos, a children’s footwear company, and also was the general manager of Barton-Cotton Inc., a direct marketing and print production company. I began my career in banking at Bank of America and then moved into brand management for Kraft Foods. I also worked in brand management for Cover Girl at Procter and Gamble, and as director of business concept development for Sylvan Learning Centers. I earned a Bachelor of Science in economics from the University of Delaware and an MBA from University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler Business School.
How did Bach to Rock take the visions of a Julliard-trained musician and make a service that was accessible to everyday people?
Bach to Rock is a franchised music education school for students of all ages, from early childhood through high school and beyond, with a unique twist. We don’t just provide individual music lessons; we turn music into a team sport by creating student bands that learn to play sets, record music in a studio and perform in public. We offer students exposure to all forms of music — Top 40, classical, hip-hop, blues, country, gospel, jazz, a cappella, bluegrass, electronica and more. We believe learning to play music should be fun. It’s called “play” for a reason. We were founded on fun and we continue to this day to make learning music fun so that students stick with it longer and learn it faster.
How would you describe the impact franchises like yours have on their communities?
There seems to be more demand for music education now than ever, given that schools are not spending on the arts like they once did. We fill this void in a community. Parents know the value that learning to play an instrument provides and seek these experiences for their children. This connection to the community drives your business. We look for franchisees who are outgoing and want to feel a more meaningful connection to their communities and it is this connection to the community that fuels your business.
What makes Bach to Rock stand out in its field?
At Bach to Rock, we’ve come up with a unique approach to teaching music that engages kids from the very first moment and keeps them interested long after they would have given up on traditional lessons.
On average, our kids take lessons for more than 70 weeks, which can cost several thousand dollars. This outpaces what we believe is the typical 20-24 weeks a child sticks with traditional lessons. The innovative Bach to Rock approach is based on the belief that everyone learns faster if they get to play the music they love with their peers. It doesn’t matter whether it’s ZZ Top or Tchaikovsky or Jay-Z; it only matters that the child is really into it. Our teachers use age- and skill-appropriate musical arrangements drawn from our large library of songs so students can begin playing almost right away. We put our students into bands in their favorite genres and get them performing together in public venues. That makes them feel like stars. It makes learning fun.
Describe a person who would fit in well with the Bach to Rock franchise system.
Our franchises are typically run by leaders with strong backgrounds in management or business, who may also have a passion for music or childhood education.
The investor-owner need not be a musician, but he or she does need the ability to build a team of energetic, dependable and committed musicians. The day-to-day heavy lifting of the business will be done by a full-time school director, leaving the franchisee the ability to focus on more of the activities that generate sales and profitability. Because each school has a manager, franchisees are not shackled to a single location.
The model was built from day one for franchisees who want to start with one school and eventually grow a chain, multiplying their income with each school they open.
How long does the start-up process typically take?
It can take four to six months, depending on whether you open your school in an existing location or build one from the ground up.
What kind of support should an incoming franchisee expect from Bach to Rock during the start-up period?
We are with you every step of the way – from searching for real estate to negotiating a lease to finding an architect and general contractor to choosing equipment and furniture for your school to being on-site before and during your opening to training your staff. You will receive 80 hours of face-to-face training and on-site support supplemented by weekly conference calls, webinars and online resources. Your success is our success.
What’s the biggest piece of advice you would give to an incoming franchisee?
Two franchisees recently said to me that they wished they had followed our advice, counsel and guidance more closely during the start-up process. The biggest piece of advice I can give an incoming franchisee is to trust that we’ve spent 8 years building million-dollar businesses and we’ve learned, often the hard way, how to do something right. Take our learning and apply it. Don’t make the mistake of repeating our mistakes because you think you can do it better.
What’s next for Bach to Rock in terms of expansion?
We have schools on both coasts, and we hope to build 500 of them across the country in the suburbs of Philadelphia, Chicago, Boston, Dallas, Houston, Atlanta, Phoenix, and so on.
We’ve also recently launched an initiative of a proprietary digital communication system that empowers students, parents and teachers. This interactive tool, called Harmony, supports Bach to Rock’s face-to-face music education methods with the ease and efficiency of touch-screen tablet technology. It brings the Bach to Rock curriculum to life in a way a parent can quickly understand, almost instantly showing them what their child has mastered — whether it’s recognizing a quarter note, reading the treble clef or knowing what sharps and flats are in which key signatures. The parent can also see what musical skills and concepts their child has yet to conquer. Harmony also provides Bach to Rock students with access to online resources such as proprietary arrangements, streaming music and homework assignments. This helps them to focus on their practice time at home and can lead to faster mastery of concepts.
Thanks to Brian for speaking with us! To learn even more about Bach to Rock, please visit its profile page.