F.I.R.S.T. Institute 2019 Reviews

We must say, 2019 has been an exciting year so far for students and instructors here at F.I.R.S.T. Institute. As a family, we’ve all grown while tackling some very creative projects both on-campus and off-campus. Our hands-on approach to teaching drives the passions of our students and they truly appreciate us for it.

Check out what some of our graduates, instructors and one current student have to say about life at Orlando’s F.I.R.S.T. Institute.

Student Reviews

Christen McCoy – Valedictorian – Recording Arts & Show Production

Christen McCoy is the Valedictorian of the F.I.R.S.T. Institute Spring 2019 graduating class. She gives the Orlando recording and production school full credit for helping her build an incredible network of people within the industry. The alumnus had the chance to work with some true industry gurus, such as Program Director John LaRosa of TSM Studios and award-winning record producer Rodney Jenkins.

She refers to the amazing instructors as “inspiring,” referencing to Dave in particular. Christen says Dave pushes the students to be the best they can be by never giving them the answers. Instead, he makes them work for it while guiding them in the right directions.

When she first arrived at the Orlando recording school, Christen says she didn’t believe in herself. But being around like-minded people made her even more passionate about producing music. Now, there are no limits.

Dakota Hurley – Graduate – Recording Arts & Show Production

Dakota Hurley talks about the “light bulb” moments he experienced at F.I.R.S.T. He learned how to do things the “right way.” From the moment he walked in for his tour, he was in awe, thanks to the chill atmosphere and all the equipment. The school really looks like a recording studio, which excited him.

He says instructors and the hands-on projects students took part in challenged him to think past just being a musician, artist, and record producer. Dakota was driven to the realization that audio actually drives film too, not just music. Once he realized the connection between film and audio, he became fascinated with this field of the industry and has never watched movies the same since.

Anthony Turi – Graduate – Recording Arts & Show Production

Anthony Turi says the class setting was his favorite part about being a student at F.I.R.S.T. Institute. It came with intimacy, thanks to the instructor to student ratio, which is about 1:8. This allowed him to get a lot of hands-on experience and personal assistance when needed. Together, the students created a film trailer, which not only taught him new movie production skills but the students also learned how to collaborate on a film project.

The alumnus calls the staff “phenomenal,” noting that John took him under his wing independently outside the studio. Anthony credits this with helping him get hired at TSM Studios, where he worked on a project for John Mayer and the Grateful Dead. Another instructor, Chris Jay, was instrumental in him working on the Baby Mime project, a lullaby album for children in Africa.

Joseph Wing – Graduate – Recording Arts & Show Production

Joseph Wing AKA JT Wing needed to complete an internship to graduate from F.I.R.S.T. He was lucky to land one at Orlando’s KDS Music Studios. There, he learned how to set up the equipment for recording sessions while soaking in information about various techniques from engineers.

Small class sizes and hands-on learning are what he loved most about the music production school. The graduate says the hands-on work began immediately, with them learning new software by day two.

F.I.R.S.T. instructors helped the students mature, so they’re now prepared for the real world in this industry. Joseph says that you learn so many fundamentals and gain so many skills at the recording and production school, that once you graduate, you have a multitude of different career paths to choose from.

Miranda Garrett – Student – Digital Filmmaking and Video Production

Miranda Garrett came to F.I.R.S.T. Institute to follow her passion for film. The small class sizes are one of her favorite things about the Orlando film and video school. This allows you to really get hands-on assistance from your instructor, as well as a more personalized approach to learning. For one hands-on project, she had the opportunity to act as a director on a commercial the class did for a client.

Her list of internships gave her chances to work on other big projects, such as the Orlando Film Festival, Florida Film Festival, Orlando Strong Man Competition, and the Live Oak International Horse Show. Miranda is proud to say she has already landed a job with Princess Cruise Lines in Los Angeles, California, thanks to her networking at F.I.R.S.T. And she hasn’t even graduated yet.

Janayia Welton – Graduate – Graphic Design & Web Development

Janayia Welton came to F.I.R.S.T. with a deep appreciation for the creativity process in relation to graphic design. The small class sizes are what drew her to the graphics and web school. She also loves that all the instructors still work within the industry.

The graduate credits the teaching atmosphere as her favorite part about attending F.I.R.S.T. because all the teachers are “hands-on.” She found the program and especially the web development project challenging. Through her educational network, Janayia landed a job at Hit Promotional Products. She’s also tackling freelance work, putting together branding packages for clients using the skills she learned at F.I.R.S.T.

Jonathan Carrillo – Valedictorian – Graphic Design & Web Development

Jonathan Carrillo is F.I.R.S.T. Institute’s July 2019 Valedictorian. With graphic design skills already under his belt, he came to the Orlando graphics and web school to continue his creative passion.

The teachers were definitely his favorite part of being a F.I.R.S.T. Institute student. He credits Tshela, Brandon, Arielle and other teachers with giving him the tools he needed to push his creativity “above and beyond.” It’s because of them that he’s where he is today. And his career is soaring!

According to Jonathan, he learned to prototype and build apps, and truly enjoyed the mock interviews at F.I.R.S.T. Thanks to this education, he landed a job halfway through the graphic design program in the medical and cosmetic space. The Valedictorian also works on web assets for social media clients, where he continues to perfect the skills he picked up attending F.I.R.S.T. Institute.

Faculty Reviews

Brandon Hadnot-Walker – Instructor – Graphic Design & Web Development

Instructor Brandon Hadnot-Walker says becoming an instructor at F.I.R.S.T. was a special opportunity for him to “give back” in a way that he’s always wanted to deep inside. He enjoys having the ability to cultivate his students’ skills in the classroom. The teacher says it’s very rewarding to witness the “light bulb” pop up over the students’ heads during those aha moments.

According to Brandon, his favorite part about the Graphic Design & Web Development program is the hands-on approach. The students enjoy just getting straight to the lesson plan right from the beginning. They get to jump right into learning how to use the programs and equipment. To him, this is by far the best approach to teaching.

Jamile Johnson – Instructor – Digital Filmmaking & Video Production

Instructor Jamile Johnson has always wanted to be a teacher. So, when he was hired as an instructor at F.I.R.S.T. Institute, he jumped in with both feet. Coming in with 10 years of industry experience, he’s excited about having the freedom to provide a personalized learning experience to each student. This ensures that everyone gets the message in his/her own way.

The instructor calls the film and video school’s environment “magical.” Jamile says it’s a creative’s dream to be surrounded by like-minded individuals who share the same passions. This brings fun to the game, allowing teachers and students to “nerd out” around people who actually get them. To him, F.I.R.S.T. is more like a family. And he’s proud to be a small part of it.

Tim Owens – Instructor – Digital Filmmaking & Video Production

Instructor Tim Owens came to F.I.R.S.T. with a background in project management. Using these skills, he instructs his students, then he gives them the freedom to create their own masterpieces. He loves the hands-on class atmosphere and small class sizes, which allow for a personalized approach to teaching. The students are always excited about having access to industry-standard equipment and diving right into using it all heads first.

The F.I.R.S.T. instructor says it feels more like a family than a school. Tim calls the Digital Filmmaking & Video Production program hands-on, rewarding and intimate. Students get everything they need to jump-start their new careers, from editing software to camera techniques, from internships and networking opportunities to career development resources and industry-standard equipment.

Michael Cochran – Instructor – Recording Arts & Show Production

Instructor Michael Cochran holds a degree in music composition and advanced his studies in Italy at the Music Conservatory of Rome. He was moved to become a teacher because he wanted to inspire others the way his mentors had inspired him over the years.

The instructor likes how the Recording Arts & Show Production students get to dive right in, learning DAWs, including Pro Tools and Logic, from the start. From there, they hop right into learning how to record in a studio, then advanced mixing and mastering, and finally, live sound, all using industry-standard equipment.

His fellow instructors are Michael’s favorite thing about F.I.R.S.T. Institute. He calls the entire team a great, diverse group of people. Every single teacher currently works outside the school, within their industries. That makes the school very interesting and extremely dynamic.

For any student that wants a hands-on learning experience and a lot of one-on-one time with fantastic instructors, Michael recommends F.I.R.S.T. Institute. Much like other instructors at F.I.R.S.T., he continuously mentors students outside of the school. He loves getting hit up almost daily by past graduates who update him on their careers and lives and ask for advice… because they are family now.