Today we are talking to Brent Lyons, the Manager and Guitar Teacher at The Guitar Dojo in Melbourne, Australia. Read our interview to learn about their modern approach to teaching guitar and how they are aiming to grow by focusing on old fashioned customer service.
Hi Brent! I like the concept of a “guitar dojo” – how did you come up with the business name?
Thanks Jan. The original thought came from my appreciation of the strong community that can develop within a martial arts dojo and other areas such as dance schools and fitness studios. In those pursuits – and in team sports for that matter – it is accepted that students develop best and have more fun in a community environment. But when it comes to music lessons (and guitar lessons in particular) for some reason it is considered the norm for a student to learn in a tiny room out the back of a music store or similar, just the student and teacher.
Our goal has been to merge the best elements of private instruction and small group classes to create our program.
Are there any other dojo concepts that you utilize in the business?
Well yes – once we had the dojo concept the next logical step was to incorporate the “karate belt system” into the kids program so that they have some fun and gradual goals to aim for over time. And that works really well.
That’s very cool! Is this just something for the kids or can it be used for the adults?
The community side of things is something that we will look to build on at all levels (even for our adult students), but our current theory is that the “cool factor” of the belt system might wear out its welcome around the mid-teens haha.
You are a small family business and handle all the teaching yourself. More often you see a lone teacher teaching from home or a large music school franchise. How do you see yourselves fitting into the middle of those extremes?
This is the first time we have tried to fill that niche ourselves. In the past I have been teaching guitar privately from home on a part time basis. What we have now is a family business running out of a commercial space with great facilities which is a great thing to have.
One thing I have noted in the past, having managed businesses myself and been a professional investor in small companies, is that businesses that move beyond the “small family business” and try to grow too quickly can very soon find themselves with growing pains. They find it impossible to keep the same level of customer service and loyalty that they once enjoyed.
Our aim is to be big enough to make a difference in the local area but small enough to provide a level of personal service that larger businesses with a roster of teachers (often coming and going) cannot match.
What first gave you the motivation to devote yourself to creating The Guitar Dojo?
In my past pursuits I have been quite successful but also had one very painful experience where some trust was misplaced. I won’t bore you with the detail but coming out of that there came a point where I said to myself that whatever comes next it must be something that I love to do and am passionate about. From that point on there was no question – music, and the guitar in particular, has been the one constant interest in my life since I was barely school age.
I have spent the last year or so researching best practices around the world and thinking back to when I was taking lessons – what would I have liked to have been available to me and what were the pain points for myself and other students in a traditional private music lesson? Our program has been developed through that lens.
Outside of community building and customer service are there any other ways that you are trying to set yourself apart from the competition?
One thing that we didn’t have available when I was a kid is all the amazing technology of today. We have scoured the world for what we think is the best “tech” for music schools and implemented them in our program. For members of The Guitar Dojo we cover the cost of subscriptions to these learning tools.
We also use some of that that tech to provide online support out of hours/between lessons and that’s a level of service that you couldn’t reasonably expect from a teacher employed in a school, larger music school or music store.
I do realize that there is an element of irony to all this technology. One of the key motivators for parents to get their children into lessons – aside from the proven academic and social benefits – is to get some faces out of screens and human interaction happening and here we are preaching the benefits of more technology haha. In the end though we feel that we strike the right balance and there is far more playing and interacting in lessons that there is activity in our Music Lab.
Thanks for that Brent! If anyone is interested in contacting you about The Guitar Dojo how should they go about that?
Thanks for your interest Jan! The best way to reach us is via email at firstname.lastname@example.org and we can then schedule a time to chat that is mutually convenient!