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Marty Fort’s Story on Running his Music Academy Success Business and Schools during the COVID-19 Pandemic

Marty Fort’s Story on Running his Music Academy Success Business and Schools during the COVID-19 Pandemic

Olivia Gribben

Marty Fort is the CEO and founder of Music Academy Success. He is also a small business owner, music instructor, seminar speaker, guitarist, business coach, and University music professor. Read on to understand and learn from his journey.

Catch the interview here.

What Marty Does for His Clients

Currently, Marty oversees the Columbia Arts Academy, the Irmo Music Academy, and the Lexington School of Music in South Carolina. These schools handle students studying voice, guitar, bass, piano, and drums. Marty supervises 80 music teachers and also hires and supervises teaching staff. He is happy that while there have been challenges during the COVID pandemic, they are managing well. His schools did not layoff any staff during these difficult times.

Marty also runs Music Academy Success, an institution that specializes in coaching music school owners in six continents across the world. Marty has managed to combine his business coaching tasks with the management of brick and mortar schools. He has also authored The Ultimate Guide to Music Lessons book, a number one best-selling publication.

One of Marty's best clients (Zeljko Pavlovic) that Music Academy Success ever had did not have any students when they first asked to join. Instead of collaborating with him, they declined his application for the program until he at least had some working experience.

Zeljko later joined the Music Academy Success coaching program after enrolling some students in his school. Today, Zeljko has over 3,000 students located in Houston, Texas, and music schools in three locations.

How did Zeljko achieve the success that fast? According to Marty, some music school owners succeed more than others after the training program. He opines that you have to be resilient and a secret searcher to achieve music academy success.

Marty also mentions the importance of being charismatic and having good salesmanship skills. He says business owners who dislike sales must hire someone who is passionate about sales to succeed.

·       Understanding Secret Searchers

Secret searchers are always on the lookout for the one thing that can help them scale. They attend business conferences and listen keenly to identify one key factor that will be their game-changer. Secret searchers understand that no one but them can transform their establishments and position them for success.

How did Marty Transition from being a Business Owner to a Coach?

Marty did not plan to become a coach, but the business chose him. His goal was to become a music professor, and he started teaching at the university academia and music schools simultaneously.

To supplement his income, Marty was working in different schools six days a week while still operating his guitar studio. How did the coaching part come along? At some point, Marty started developing solutions to problems that coaches were not addressing, a strategy he has maintained to date. Seeing that the solutions were working for him, he decided to share them with other music school owners. That is how he ended up becoming a coach.

The music industry is fast becoming saturated, and to beat competition, entrepreneurs must do things differently. Marty believes that lacking the drive to bring a difference in the market denies entrepreneurs relevance.

Challenges that Music Teachers are Facing Currently

COVID-19 has disrupted life. Schools are closed, broke, and many of them have had to reschedule lessons. Further, many students are quitting their music studies for other practices. Marty was also experiencing these challenges with his schools.

Finding a Solution to these Problems

To solve these problems, he decided to go into franchising. Together with his team, Marty has come up with the musical ladder system as part of solving these problems. Today, up to 20,000 students in different parts of the globe use this system. Marty is excited that his idea is now a wristband trophy program that recently received nine patents. Again, he is happy that they can develop these solutions at their institution and ensure they are functional before distributing them to their clients.

Navigating COVID-19 Triggered Challenges with Strict Safety Measures

Marty says navigating during the COVID season has been challenging because there were a lot of uncertainties, especially for the music schools. When everything shut down in March, Marty and his team moved online.

Even though they lost some students, they somehow settled. Schools would later re-open on May 18th, and Marty gave his clients a choice between in-person or virtual lessons. Marty and his team came up with safety measures to guarantee in-person students and the safety of their teachers. These measures are:

  • Maintaining limited numbers of people in the building


  • Availing disposable mask


  • Providing hand sanitizer in each school


  • Professional cleaning services to guarantee thorough cleaning of the schools


  • Parents are encouraged to wait for their kids inside their cars. However, they can follow student progress through Zoom. No visitors are allowed at the waiting area.


  • Availability of sanitizing spray for all the musical instruments and surfaces at the schools


  • A keyboard for Sadi’s piano set up inside the classroom that separates a student and their teacher to help maintain social distancing. Both the student and the teacher can play together when using different instruments.


  • Wearing masks and thorough cleaning of instruments in between vocal lessons. To lecture students specializing in voice, teachers are opting to teach from outside, especially when the weather is friendly.


  • To prevent congestion in classrooms students receive text messages when it is their turn to learn.

Marty’s Safety Tips Update

All students at the Columbia Arts Academy aged ten years and above must wear a face covering. Marty has purchased enough face shields for teachers and students to ensure they are comfortable during their lessons.

Marty reiterates that students and teachers do not have to wear a face-covering when they are in a closed room alone. Students who are nine years and below do not have to wear a face covering.

Have the Safety Measures been Effective?

According to Marty, a big percentage of students in the schools he coaches have gone back for in-person learning. He reiterates that this could be an indication that students and their parents are comfortable with the safety measures.

What Tools is Columbia Arts Academy Using, and how are they Executing the Lessons?

Marty’s team is using zoom for the online classes. However, he is quick to note that there are other options they can use likeFaceTime, Skype, and Hangouts for private classes. Group lessons at the schools will continue online for the safety of both students and teachers.

All the schools have rescheduled physical recital sessions to 2021. Marty is not happy that some music school owners, as well as some of his clients, have opted to go virtual forever. He believes that while the pandemic has exposed people to suffering, doing things right can help them sail through the challenges.

Measures that Marty Took at the Onset of the Pandemic to Protect Music Academy Success and his Schools?

In May, Marty did not hold a group meeting as has been customary. Instead, he called all the teachers on the phone. At some point, Marty organized welcome back gifts for the teachers, part of which was his phone number to facilitate one on one communication.

Marty admits that none of the calls he received during the difficult times were interesting. However, he is happy that the fear his teachers had got him to heighten safety measures in the schools.

Today, these strict measures are the reason why many of the teachers are back for the in-person training program. Marketing is a critical factor, and Marty believes it has helped them navigate through the COVID times. Seeing that marketing worked for him, he is coaching other business owners about the same. He ishappy that none of the people he and his team coaches closed during the pandemic.

How is Coaching Business Doing so Far?

Whether or not the businesses are recovering depends on various metrics. However, Martysays they had nine new enrollments in August, which to him was good progress. As much as COVID has had an impact on his businesses; he is doing everything he can to promote them.

When Marty Discovered WaveReview

With COVID disrupting life, Marty had to come up with a strategy to stay ahead of his competitors. He is currently using the WaveReview software, which he says has increased his reviews on Google. Reviews, he says, are critical for client conversion and getting clients to trust a brand.

Many clients prefer working with brands that have positive reviews on search engines. With WaveReview, Marty has found a reliable tool that helps him solve customer problems before they escalate. He says WaveReview sends customers straight to the brand where they can discuss matters arising and work towards finding a solution.

Marty explains that around 70% of the reviews they get are about their staff. He says because he cannot be in three schools at the same time, he and his team are living through the staff. In his parting shot, Marty says that every customer you get today is as important as the dollar you will make.

Advancing technology could convince you to abandon the old tools you have been using. However, Marty advises against it, saying you should maintain what you have been doing even as you adopt modern tools. In his words, what kept you going in the past is not old but classic.

Reach Marty on:

Columbia Arts Academy

Lexington School of Music

Irmo Music Academy

Music Academy Success

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