School of Rock has made music education hip and boosted confidence and skills of kids all over America and beyond. CEO Rob Price explains how he came to be helming his own dream business
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What did you do before becoming CEO of School of Rock?
RP: Prior to School of Rock, I served as President of Edible Arrangements and Chief Marketing Officer at CVS Health. I also held executive roles at Wawa Food Markets and H-E-B Grocery. I also have an MBA from Harvard Business School and BS in Applied Economics from Cornell University. For a couple of years, I was a visiting professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School where I taught MBA students retail strategy. I have also enjoyed learning about the intersection of business, government and society as a Henry Crown Fellow and Richard Braddock Scholar at the Aspen Institute.
What made you make the leap to the world of rock?
RP: Ever since I heard Foreigner’s “Waiting for a Girl Like You” as a kid, I knew I wanted to make the leap from classical piano training to popular music. I begged my parents for a synthesizer and saved for a couple of years to earn it. I joined bands, wrote music, played out whenever possible.
As well as your business experience, did you bring a passion for rock ‘n roll?
RP: I have a passion for all music, but rock is special. It is made for ensembles and facilitates performance-based learning. The digestible song lengths and accessible song forms, make learning music more attainable. Rock’s universal appeal binds people together.
How involved do you get with the music side?
RP: I have a remarkably strong team on the music side, so I usually just sit in the room and marvel. Where I have gotten active is in leading a major reinvention of our curriculum, including proprietary content, tools, technology and pedagogy. My role as CEO was to drive this innovation, but my teams were well equipped to build the music theory and technique infrastructure without my meddling.
Why did you feel it necessary to learn guitar yourself?
RP: Doesn’t everyone want to play guitar? I am a solid keyboard player, and an enthusiastic vocalist. I have had extensive training in both. I tried many times to teach myself guitar, with poor outcomes. Upon joining School of Rock, I had a great excuse to give it a try.
What makes this an important franchise to have in the community?
RP: First and foremost, I believe we bring communities a better mousetrap for music education. We observe that traditional music teaching has very low retention. Schools are dropping music programs at an alarming rate. When a School of Rock opens in a community, there is a reliable place and time-tested method to create musicians. Just as importantly, since we teach music through performance, our kids learn as much from their bandmates as they do from their instructors. Of course they learn technique, timing and tempo. But something magical happens when a bunch of kids are working on a Beatles show for 10 weeks. They learn to collaborate, negotiation, resolve conflict, and many other “executive” skills. We make musicians, but we also help kids develop profoundly valuable life skills.
What’s its appeal for students?
RP: With our method, students have the positive reinforcement of learning to play real songs very soon. We sneak the theory in. They also have the thrill of delivering their seasonal performance as a gig, not a recital. We secure real venues, with real gear and students have an amazing reward for their effort. Our students can travel the globe for School of Rock exclusive performance opportunities, including venues like Lollapalooza, Bonnaroo, Rock in Rio and many others.
And for franchisees?
RP: Franchisees have the opportunity to blend their commercial interests and their passions. A few of our owners are or were professional musicians. All of them are passionate about music. Add in the chance to change lives, which happens everyday, and you have a formula for gratification far beyond most franchises. Our concept is medium investment, with little technology and no supply chain challenges. For many, this is very appealing.
What are you looking for in master franchisees?
RP: We seek experienced, and capitalized business people. Existing franchisees or operators of multi-unit retail, foodservice, services and hospitality systems would be best equipped, but we also value executive experience in other complex businesses. Having strong operations talent, and a network in the local music and entertainment sectors is very important. We will look for a master to operate at least 1-2 units themselves, as we do corporately. We think this aligns interests with the sub-franchisees.
How important is thorough support of franchisees?
RP: We have completely rewired how we support our franchisees. Our training has been redesigned. All manuals have been updated and strengthened. We have a team dedicated to new schools, to make those pre-opening months, joyful and productive, not terrifying. We have relaunched our intranet, turbocharging the assets available for franchisees and their teams. We have an always-on channel of communication with our whole community leveraging Facebook’s Workplace tool. Of course, every owner has my cell phone number and can call or text me at any time.
What success stories can you tell about School of Rock?
RP: How many pages do I get? There are the success stories, like former school of rock kids getting discovered and signed. Watch out for Doll Skin, Hippo Campus and the Regrettes. We have gear partnerships with Hal Leonard, Fender, Zildjian, Roland and many others. We work closely with Berklee College of Music to provide special opportunities with our professionally-directed students. What I am more motivated by are the thousands of stories of personal transformation that I hear. I have visited nearly 200 of our schools. Each visit, I hear stirring accounts of triumph which our team helped make happen. Stories of kids who found a home in our community after being bullied relentlessly, of students who struggled with eye contact, or confidence, who now can play to an arena. Stories of young people who were so stricken with anxiety and depression that their lives were at risk. These are the successes that matter.
At a glance
Number of franchised outlets: 220
Location of units: 9 countries, including USA, Brazil, Canada, Australia, Panama, the Philippines, and Mexico
Investment range: $192,150-$422,100
Minimum required capital: $192,150
Contact: Chief development officer, Tony Padulo – firstname.lastname@example.org - 877-566-6184
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