Alright – so today we’ve got the honor of introducing you to Matt Westmoreland. We think you’ll enjoy our conversation, we’ve shared it below.
Alright, Matt thanks for taking the time to share your stories and insights with us today. What’s the backstory behind how you came up with the idea for your business?
As a professional musician with a large, well connected industry network, not only did I teach private lessons for other music studios, but for many years I watched friends teach for big-box and mom-and-pop lesson studios alike. Unfortunately, I saw a lot of unhappy, uninspired, and underpaid music teachers with correlating high turnover rates. I saw students and families being treated as nothing more than a dollar sign or blank check in the eyes of studio owners who didn’t take the time or make the effort to get to know their own clients. Student retention rates were often of the highest priority, over the music instruction itself, and some teachers were reprimanded for student/client losses that were oftentimes completely out of their control. I watched carbon-copy lessons that could have been duplicated, boxed up, and shipped out in a factory based on the lack of individualism and personalization. Most concerning, I saw a lot of bored students that, if they once had inspiration and a desire to learn their instrument, had all but lost that spark. Client-teacher interactions were limited to the once-weekly lesson so if a student had a question during the week regarding their practice assignment, they had no choice but to wait until their next lesson rolled around and would be left guessing at the answer, watching a Youtube video, or practicing incorrectly which we all know is incredibly frustrating and hard to undo.
I knew there had to be a better way and I was determined to find it in order to give both students and teachers the music lessons I believed they deserved. Dynamic School of Music was born from the realization that there was a dire need for high quality, personalized music instruction. A fresh, dare I say dynamic, approach to lessons that has the ability to keep students engaged and inspired to learn their instrument for years at a time, and a need to build genuine client relationships. I had seen what was out there and I knew I could make a positive change in a number of these areas. My goals are to provide our students with the highest level of music instruction possible while maintaining a positive, rewarding, and innovative work environment for our teachers.
Awesome – so before we get into the rest of our questions, can you briefly introduce yourself to our readers?
For someone to truly understand how I’ve built my success, we have to go back to my high school days. I was a student at a 5A high school where I sat first chair trumpet in the concert band, jazz band, symphony orchestra, brass band and participated in marching band annually. I had been taking piano lessons for 7 years prior to starting trumpet in middle school & therefore music was a big part of my life. At that time, I already knew that I wanted to be a musician but it wasn’t yet clear how much my grandfather influenced that decision. When my grandfather, a middle-eastern traditionalist, found out that I was considering a career in the arts, specifically music, he found it necessary to ridicule me for my decision. To him, the thought of me becoming something other than a doctor, lawyer, or engineer was “disgraceful” to the family. Although his opinion was hard to accept considering he was a man I highly respected and looked up to, I used his words as fuel to prove to not only myself, but to my family as well that one day I would be successful in this industry. Thankfully, my parents were overall supportive of me in my quest to “make it” as a musician but did give some push-back, understandably so, when I decided to pursue music full time. Their primary concern was that I was not going to be able to financially support and provide for myself by solely playing gigs. In their mind, a “full time musician” was someone that played gigs until 4am and received, at most, beer and/or drugs as compensation. This was, and is, completely untrue. My mother guided me in the direction of music education; she believed this could be an outlet in which I would receive a steady paycheck while also pursuing my desire to perform. At first, I was 100% on board until my fourth year of college when I decided that the last thing I wanted to be in life was a band director. Nothing against band directors, many of whom are good friends, but once I learned about the ridiculously long hours, many of which occur outside school hours, that come with being a public school music teacher, the lower than ideal pay, and additional job expectations outside the scope of teaching, I knew that was not the path I wanted to explore. Here in Texas, football reigns supreme and is every school’s first priority, so it seems. This means that the band programs split the semesters into “concert season” and “marching season”. If I was to teach in the public schools, I would have chosen to teach at the high school level because I felt that in that setting, I could’ve really pushed some kids to follow their dreams. I was all about making musicians better players but the thought of having to run a marching band gave me nightmares.
So, my focus shifted from music education and I decided to follow my “dream” of being a renowned pianist in the metroplex. I made some progress in this area but still felt that something was missing; I wanted to find a way that I could truly give back through music. I thought back to some of my fondest childhood memories: visiting my private lesson teachers’ homes and getting better at my chosen instruments, yes, but also working closely with a mentor to build a stronger sense of self and identity, gaining confidence, and learning discipline all while having so much fun in the process. I remember that getting to spend quality, uninterrupted one-on-one time with my private teachers was what kept me interested in music and made me feel connected to something more than just the music. The ability to do that for the next generation of students, teaching one-on-one private lessons, was the “something” that I felt like I was missing.
How about pivoting – can you share the story of a time you’ve had to pivot?
When I originally started Dynamic School of Music (DSOM), I was the lone instructor and I traveled to students’ homes to provide the lessons. This meant that I was spending a lot of money on gas and spending far too much time in the car – time that I could have been teaching. I was exhausted teaching 7 days a week while maintaining my typical performance schedule (playing at church, in wedding bands, an original project, studio session work, etc.). In February 2020, my fiancé and I moved from Downtown Dallas to the suburbs of Fort Worth. This further complicated things as it only added more time on to my drives, not to mention the increase in fuel consumption and tolls. In March of 2020, when COVID became prevalent, I pivoted along with the rest of the education field to an online-only lesson format. I really wanted to make the most of online teaching and not lose sight of my “why” in all of the chaos and changes. I really tried to embrace the online teaching format and I had a lot of fun exploring new teaching tools, strategies, opportunities and challenges, while maintaining a level of fun and authentic connection with my students: something I think everyone needed at that point in time. I quickly progressed to using a multi-camera setup which allowed students, at least in some ways, to feel like they were still sitting at the piano next to me.
Because I could run the business with little to no overhead during the 2020 lockdown, I was able to reallocate funds to hire a wonderful CPA to assist with the financials, something that I, as a musician/music teacher, felt was out of my wheelhouse. I was able to focus on general business expansion as well as formulate a strategy to reach and maintain a higher level of instruction overall. I made sure that every client felt that they could reach out to me at any point with questions (not the typical approach of ANY studio I’m aware of). I also now had time to write songs/arrange current songs to address specific students’ goals. Fast forward two years – we now have 4 amazing instructors, students all over the country, and have expanded from teaching only piano to: piano, trumpet, voice, songwriting, acoustic & electric guitar, ukulele and electric bass.
Any thoughts, advice, or strategies you can share for fostering brand loyalty?
I believe that fostering brand loyalty really goes back to building strong client relationships. People show loyalty to brands they trust: brands that work for them. You have to really get to know your clients, personally get to know them, to understand them and understand what’s important to them. At Dynamic School of Music, I’m fortunate to have found and hired instructors who share my vision of what private lessons should look like and our instructors are all truly invested in their students and their students’ goals and successes. Overall, DSOM is very goal oriented. A student wants to go to college for music? Great, we focus on building a repertoire list and skills necessary for college auditions and entrance exams. A student wants to perform at their school talent show? Awesome! We’ll focus on building the confidence needed to perform in front of their peers, talk about managing stage fright and what to do if you make a mistake, etc. An adult student is taking lessons simply to explore a new hobby and may pick up a song to sing at karaoke or play around the campfire? We’ve got that covered too! Depending on their wishes, we may skip some of the rudimentary music theory lessons in favor of getting them playing or singing as quickly as possible so they’re able to accomplish their specific goals in a more manageable time frame for an adult with a full life and schedule. As a studio, we go above and beyond your typical lesson teachers. We support our students both in and out of lessons by creating a mentorship, personally getting to know our students and their families both as musicians and as people. We create opportunities for students both within the studio and in the community to enable them to become the best musicians and performers they can be. We take an interest in what makes them tick, what inspires them, and what their challenges are and we try to teach them both musical and life lessons during the course of their time with us. While there may be other lesson studios in our area, these are just a few things that we feel set us apart and things we feel, as an unintended result, fosters brand loyalty.