Former radio programmer launches new musical venture

In his former days as a music radio program director, Rick Schmidt helped launched the careers of such hit bands as Sister Hazel, Creed, and Shinedown.

His next venture: A music school in Lutz.

Schmidt is the new franchise owner of Bach to Rock, which offers a progressive music education for all ages.

The school, slated to open in October, will be located in the Van Dyke Commons shopping plaza, at 17463 N. Dale Mabry Highway.

Former 98 Rock program director Rick Schmidt is the new franchise owner of Bach to Rock Tampa music school, in Lutz. The school, scheduled to open in October, will be located in the Van Dyke Commons shopping plaza, at 17463 N. Dale Mabry Highway. (Courtesy of Bach to Rock)

The Bach to Rock franchise calls itself “the music school kids would have designed for themselves.”

Schmidt describes it as “a music school on steroids.”

Before taking on the franchise, the Odessa resident said he’d been searching for music lessons for his four children for the past few years.

Uninspired by local offerings, he caught wind of Bach to Rock — and figured he’d open his own.

“As a parent, it sort of worked that I just got the most expensive music lessons ever,” Schmidt jokes about opening a music school.

It marks the Tampa area’s first Bach to Rock franchise. Nationally, there are more than 30 locations of the franchise that first opened in Bethesda, Maryland, in 2007.

Bach to Rock Tampa will offer individual and group lessons in piano, voice, guitar, drum and DJ/EDM production. It also offers music programs for preschoolers and toddlers, and beginning piano for children in kindergarten through second grade.

Students at the school will quickly be able to form bands once they learn the basics of music theory and how to read music. The school will have between six and eight music instructors to start.

Weekly ensemble instruction and band formations will lead to public concerts, Battle of the Bands and recording sessions in the school’s professional recording studios.

Schmidt explained: “The goal is to get you into a band and get you playing out on a stage within a couple of months, and get you comfortable being out and getting practice on your songs.”

Students will be free to learn various instruments and play music of all genres, whether it be alternative, country, pop, classic rock or jazz.

They also will be encouraged to play current hits — everything from Taylor Swift and Katy Perry, to Imagine Dragons, Twenty One Pilots, and so on.

“There’s so many kids nowadays that go from (listening to) a country song to a hip-hop song,” Schmidt said, “so I really like the idea that there’s multiple music genres.”

In addition to music instruction and performances, Bach to Rock Tampa also will host summer camps, birthday parties and corporate events inside its 2,100-square- foot space.

Not everyone has to be a rock star
Schmidt said the goal of the new school isn’t necessarily “to find the next rock star.”

Instead, he wants kids to learn to play music — and have a blast doing it.

“You don’t have to be a rock star to play a song,” Schmidt said. “The goal is to try to get them to play, to get them to have fun and enjoy it.”

For students who exhibit exceptional musical abilities, Schmidt believes he will be able to leverage his music industry experience and connections.

“I have radio ears,” said Schmidt, who spent 20-plus years in the industry before stepping away in 2007. “I can hear a single and go, ‘Hey, let’s tighten this up, let’s do this, let’s move this bridge over here.’”

As a music radio program director, Schmidt ran Tampa’s 98 Rock and DC101, a heritage rock station in Washington D.C., that famously housed Howard Stern’s radio show in the early 1980s.

He also programmed stations in other locations, including Gainesville, Tallahassee and Jacksonville.

With an ability to spot talent, Schmidt gave airplay to rock bands like Sister Hazel, Creed, and Shinedown — well before they were famous and sold millions of records.

One of Schmidt’s favorite tales comes from doing radio in Tallahassee in the 1990s.

When he was helping to record some commercials for a local bar, he was handed a 6 ½-minute song on a cassette.

Schmidt liked the song, but urged the bar owner to tell the band to cut the song’s length for radio play.

That band happened to be Creed, which went on to sell more than 50 million albums worldwide.

Before their massive popularity, Schmidt remembers Creed playing “all these tiny little gigs” such as Tallahassee’s The Mill Bakery, Eatery and Brewery.

While working at 98 Rock a few years later, Schmidt gave early airplay to another band, based out of Jacksonville.

That band was Shinedown. It has since sold more than 10 million records worldwide and produced a dozen No. 1 singles on the Billboard Mainstream Rock charts. That is second of all time, behind Van Halen and Three Days Grace, which each have 13.

“It’s neat to see them become that,” said Schmidt, who now works in marketing.

Schmidt hopes to enlighten future Bach to Rock students about the history of Florida’s deep-rooted music scene.

Lesson and performance rooms will be named after those Florida-based artists and groups, as well as others such as Tom Petty and Casting Crowns.

A wide assortment of memorabilia will permeate the school’s hallways and walls, including references to Matchbox 20, NSync, and Lynyrd Skynyrd — who each broke ground in Florida.

“Having that Florida theme is really important for people to just sort of recognize, ‘Wow, there’s so much talent here in this area,’” Schmidt said.

To learn more about Bach to Rock, visit BachToRock.com.

Published August 8, 2018

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