“Find something in life you love doing so much that you would do for free, but you do it so well you get paid for it.” – Byron V. Garrett
The above quote is a glimpse of what comes to mind when describing Alan Forbes, the Senior Project Manager of the digital media company E.M.G. (Expression Media Group), and the Director of Operations and Co-Founder of F.I.R.S.T. Institute (Florida Institute of Recording, Sound and Technology). Let’s take a look inside the past, present — and future — of the Digital Filmmaking and Video and Recording Arts and Show Production institute and the ever-entrepreneurial mind behind it, Alan Forbes.
HOW DID YOU GET STARTED IN THE MUSIC INDUSTRY?
Music has always been a part of my life. When I was four years old, my parents picked up a piano at an auction, brought it home, and I began playing by ear at that young age. They were so wowed by my talent they decided I should take lessons. So I actually started in the industry playing piano and competing. When I entered into high school, I joined the marching band and I also toured every summer singing with the Sarasota Boys Choir. Once I got past that aspect, I developed into the entertainment side of the industry and that’s what led to me meeting Donney Smith.
ON MEETING BUSINESS PARTNER AND CO-FOUNDER OF F.I.R.S.T. INSTITUTE , DONNEY SMITH
I was talking to my friend about cutting a demo and he suggested the company that managed boy band Nu Ground, in which Donney was the producer. Still in Sarasota, Florida, I contacted them and set up a time to meet. They wouldn’t even let me just cut a demo, I actually had to audition. I sang a couple of songs for them and they were impressed and that led to me meeting Donney, who was my first producer, and eventually cutting a 3-track demo.
Jumping forward 10 years… Donney was always a natural-born educator. He loves teaching people that love to learn. I was a musician, but I never knew anything about production, recording, or studios. Me being the intuitive person that I am, he showed me how to sequence music and introduced me to the production side. I actually got signed to the same management company and we worked with some of the same artists. We had completely different styles, which was great, because we always brought a lot to the records we produced.
BEING IN THE MUSIC INDUSTRY, HOW DID YOU CROSSOVER INTO THE EDUCATION FIELD?
I’ve always been an entrepreneur and self-employed. Whenever I find something I have a passion for, I lock in on it and try to “blow it up!” I started a commercial studio called Pro Point Entertainment. I was a full time music producer and distributor. As we grew, I needed more people to come in and work at the studio. I couldn’t find anyone qualified to come in and meet the standard so I thought, “see a need/fill a need.” I wrote a small curriculum that I could teach the people I was hiring to run the A room and B room while I was away working on other projects. By word of mouth, people started coming in wanting to learn how to use gear and software.
Being that we were located on the side of a discount music store, a Nuendo and Steinberg representative came into the music store and heard that I was teaching people how to use their software. The rep thought that was awesome! He came over and offered me all the free software I wanted as long as I taught buyers how to use the industry software and that’s how I became a teacher. Things started growing from there; we started getting people that wanted to go to school and we were able to offer them solid credentials. I was only 24 years old when we looked into getting licensed by the state of Florida. It was really an intimidating experience standing amongst the Board of Education suits, but we got approved first time.
WHAT IS EXPRESSION MEDIA GROUP AND HOW DOES IT RELATE TO HELPING STUDENTS AT F.I.R.S.T.?
With the school and with being industry professionals we always have companies and individuals asking us to do projects for them from studio rentals and records to marketing and advertising. We don’t want to turn down any incoming business. Having so many talented students, Expression Media Group gives us the opportunity to service those clients and involve our students, which gives them experience working on some industry projects.
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE DESIGN CHANGES FOR F.I.R.S.T.INSTITUTE?
Heading towards our 10-year anniversary, we wanted to re-launch and re-brand F.I.R.S.T. School to F.I.R.S.T. Institute to reflect our new accreditation status and our great students, as well brand the expansion of our programs. We wanted to take everything we know from the past and create something everyone would be proud of! That entails new website, new logo, new colors, and new identity. It’s really exciting to have something that is so important to students and graduates!
WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD FOR F.I.R.S.T.?
Our philosophy has always been to offer excellence in education with affordable tuition. The reason I got into it is because I wanted to offer the alternative for people who truly have a passion in these industries to be able to get the education they need to get out there and not be crippled in debt. I also see us adding new programs such as web and graphic design.
We have so many students from many different areas that we are looking forward to building a F.I.R.S.T Institute campus. We want to build something from the ground up and create the most realistic experience for them, catering to exactly what they need. Its exhilarating to see the college grow from a 700 sq. ft. facility that graduated 15 students—that now graduates up to 250 qualified students!
The best part of what we do is to be able to give back to the next generation. We love what we do and our students keep us motivated. Moving forward, we do not want to be the biggest college out there, we simply want to have the highest quality education.
LAUNCH YOUR CAREER IN THE FILM AND VIDEO INDUSTRY OR AUDIO ENGINEERING INDUSTRY!
Enrolling at F.I.R.S.T. Institute is the first step toward your dream career. Learn hands on, in real studio settings, with small class sizes. You’ll get invaluable information from faculty at F.I.R.S.T. Institute who are working industry professionals and who have a passion for mentoring the next generation of filmmakers and audio engineers. Contact us today for more information on how you can launch a career in the industry of your choice and even take a video tour of the campus. Your career is just months away, and it starts at one of the best filmmaking and recording arts schools in Florida!