Backed by some of Richmond’s business elite, a local music and dance school is going for a bigger sound near Innsbrook.
Passion Academy this month added an extra 2,500 square feet next door to its home at 3921 Deep Rock Road, doubling the size of its space.
Passion Academy provides music and dance instruction for children and young adults. It offers 40-minute private music lessons for $40 for vocals, guitar, percussion, keyboard and piano. It’s adding violin and viola in September, and the new space is being used for a dance studio, music lesson rooms, and a band rehearsal room.
Derek Smith, president of Passion Academy, said the expansion was needed to accommodate the school’s growing number of students.
“We had an increasing amount of student population for both the music and dance side,” Smith said.
In addition to the private lessons, Passion Academy offers band performance programs, in which students of similar skill and age are matched up to form three- and four-set bands. It also has a six-month artist development program that covers writing, recording, and music software for more serious students.
“We’ve had a tremendous number of people come through that program in preparation for ‘The Voice’ or ‘American Idol,’” Smith said.
Smith and friend Daniel Johannesson launched the company in 2014. They own equal shares of the business, and an investment group called CrestVest owns 10 percent.
“It’s comprised of some pretty heavy hitters in Richmond,” Smith said of CrestVest.
The group consists of Randy Reynolds Jr., a principal at Reynolds Development; Derek Cha, the founder of Sweet Frog and Zzaam; Michael Congdon, a Grammy-award-winning producer; Craig Suro, a Richmond investor; and Litt Thompson, a Northern Virginia developer.
To start the business, Smith put up $38,000 of his own money, and Johannesson contributed expensive sound and recording equipment. CrestVest bought its stake for $23,000.
Passion Academy isn’t the only music school in Richmond that’s in growth mode. A new School of Rock franchise opened this year in Midlothian, joining a location in Short Pump.
Smith said he and Johannesson, who both studied music and have played professionally, started their company because they saw an opening in the market.
“The arts as an education has really lost its luster in Richmond,” Smith said.
He said within nine months of opening last year, the company had over 100 students; today, it has more than 200.
Now, the plan is to add more than 25 locations along the East Coast in the next five years, with the next stop being close to home base.
“Our vision is to have multiple locations in Richmond,” Smith said. “In the next six months, we’re looking to open a location in North Chesterfield.”