In a one-on-one interview with Donney Smith, founder and owner of F.I.R.S.T Institute (FloridaInstitute of Recording, Sound and Technology) we discuss the importance of affordable education, the unique team and staff, and the history and future of F.I.R.S.T. Institute.
I started really getting serious about it and decided to attend a technical school in 1997. While attending, I caught my first break in the music industry, which was an offer to produce a local boy band “Nu Ground” that were supposed to rival the Backstreet Boys. I ended up producing their entire album (one of the members was Andrew Seeley who has worked on High School Musical, One Tree Hill, The Closer and countless Disney projects), we went on a national tour together and they went on to sell over 100,000 units.
I expanded my teaching skills from a MIDI instructor to teaching everything they had to offer at the school. I began giving private lessons and workshops on the side and Alan started his own recording studio called Pro Point Studios. One day in my apartment he had this crazy idea that with his location and my teaching ability he says, “Why don’t we see if we can start up a school?” I was skeptical of it at first but Alan is very adamant when it comes to business so I said, “Alright, I’m down, let’s do it!” We did the application process, we were approved, and we opened the school in 2004. We started at Alan’s Pro Point Studios on the side of Discount Music Center, which was probably only 800 square ft. and we converted it into the Florida Institute of Recording, Sound and Technology. Our school now is over 6,000 square ft.!
Honestly, when I went to a traditional college I wasn’t really good at it because I was timid in big class environments. When I went to a college with small classes I excelled because the classes were small. I realized there was probably a lot of people out there just like me that could excel in programs with one-on-one education. In a classroom of 6 - 8 students, you’re forced to pay attention in class, you’re more comfortable asking questions and, those collective group of individuals are going to become "one" by the time they finish the program. We started as audio because of our mutual backgrounds and ventured into video because we felt the two industries crossed paths. When we were introduced to the video production side we thought "Wow, this might be of interest to our students!" and we put together the video program.
What is the success rate of graduates?
What can you tell us about the faculty here at F.I.R.S.T Institute?
What are some of the details of the 2 programs?
You’re still active in the music industry and own a recording school, how do you balance the two?
What’s in the future for F.I.R.S.T. Institute?
In the year 2013 we are rebranding the name F.I.R.S.T Institute; rebuilding and launching new website; new colors; and new logo. Growth and expansion are always in our plans. We want to add more programs in the future. Possibly just programs for live sound and web/graphic design. We are just beginning and we’re nowhere near done. Alan and myself, we eat, sleep and breathe F.I.R.S.T. Institute No matter how big we get we will continue to make college affordable for students and continue to make F.I.R.S.T Institute an institution of excellence.