Mic1park Memoirs, Chapter VIII: Amy Renzulli
(MIC1PARK) - You can be anything you want. You can do anything you want.
You can fall in love, have your heart broken, and then fall in love again.
You can create art. You can teach art. You can work a corporate career, then switch to a different path in the prime of your life.
You can wait until your 40's to start singing for the very first time in any organized manner, and you can even move hours away from your hometown.
You can lead, you can fail, and then get back up and succeed.
You can be anything you want, and you can do anything you want.
Amy Renzulli is living proof of all of that.
THE STREETS OF PHILADELPHIA
Amy is a human being that has allowed herself to be just that - a human being; to live a full life, welcoming all of the feelings, emotions, and any opportunities that have come her way.
That really is, as simple and cliche as it may sound, the best way I can describe somebody like her.
It speaks to so much - her upbringing, her empathy, her curiosity to seek more, the wonderful people that she's surrounded herself with. You certainly don't get to where Amy is today just by chance.
You have to go out and do.
You have to go out and seek all of the flames that have always been burning inside of you. And, rather than douse them with negativity, you must pour gasoline on the fire and run after all it is that you've ever wanted.
Besides, how else would you expect a Bruce Springsteen (among many others)-inspired woman to live her life?
Subtly? Certainly not.
They're made a certain way out in the streets of Philadelphia.
HEAR THE FULL PODCAST CONVERSATION WITH AMY RENZULLI:
Born and raised in Wilmington, Delaware (shout out President Joe Biden!), Amy's eyes were opened very early to the theme(s) of empathy and understanding.
She was a part of busing and desegregation in the public school system of Wilmington, just outside of Philadelphia, and that was one of the first parts of her life she credits to helping shape her desire to help and make life better for others.
A lot of what Amy experienced during those formative years of her life is exactly what led her to doing something like leading the charge for not one, but two School of Rock locations here in Chicago.
That, and the fact that after life brought Amy to the Midwest, she was hit with turmoil that would also help to guide the way she would make important decisions for the remainder of her life.
NOBODY BETTER FOR THE JOB
Amy was (and still is) always creating.
No, seriously. During some of our interview, she was painting while we were talking. It was remarkable (in all good ways, of course).
When the opportunity presented itself to start the School of Rock location in Oak Park on Chicago's West Side now some time ago, there couldn't of been anybody more geared up for the challenge.
In an extremely diverse community of different skin colors, income levels, education, and more, Amy has mastered the role of leader and being able to bring everything together.
During our very first conversation, I was immediately drawn to a few things Amy had to say, and I knew for a fact she was somebody that just gets it.
She is everything that Mic1park Multimedia strives to represent.
WHY SCHOOL OF ROCK
In response to, in her own words, the 'why' behind School of Rock, she said that she simply wants to bring "a place of acceptance and belonging" and to provide an outlet to "anybody who needs one."
In addition, Amy prides herself on a few other things with her School of Rock locations that simply can not go without mentioning.
Representation is so very important, especially after the tumultuous four years we're coming off. She does her best to make sure that when somebody walks into the doors at 219 Lake St., they see somebody like themselves; they feel that presence.
That they know they are not alone.
And, given financial fluctuation in the area, COVID restrictions putting a damper on every family's bottom line, and, you know, the other aspects of every day life, Amy vows to find a place for somebody who truly wants to be there whether they can afford it or not.
That is humanity. That is understanding.
And that is why we need to do everything we can to support small businesses like Amy's.
It's not about money. It's not about bringing people in the door to count the profit at the end of the day. It's not about beating and crushing the competition.
Now, the Oak Park location is so impressive (the other will get there too; it's just a young baby right now, though) that they do crush their competition. But, even as I highlight all of the different impressive statistics and awards on the School of Rock website, she wasn't focused on any of that.
Those numbers didn't translate into how much money she's made.
Those numbers translate into how many lives she, and the countless teachers, parents, volunteers, and employees at School of Rock have changed over the years.
Now, Amy's humble.
She'll answer the questions when you ask her, if you can track her down. Again, I mention this as a compliment, not a slight. It was difficult to meet with Amy because she has so much going on.
Not only does she wear 5,426 hats for School of Rock, but she's a wife, a mother, sister to two decorated siblings, daughter, and friend.
And, while balancing all of that, she's set to have nearly 200 people - 150 kids, and another 35-45 adults - ready for upcoming Spring 2021 programs.
Programs that consist of band coaching, performance classes, study halls, and more.
Everybody comes from all different backgrounds, and for all different reasons.
Something else that Amy was very proud of, as you can hear in our conversation, is the school's growth not only for clients, but employees as well. Keeping people with a paycheck in their pocket has been immensely important to her as we continue to deal with the fallout of COVID.
To make sure everybody - clients and employees - are all getting the very best attention they deserve and maximizing their potential, Amy's School of Rock locations have adopted a formula for hiring teachers. As long as two of the following three are met, she says, they are always willing to work with an individual to get to the third together:
- Education in music
- Active gigging musician
- Taught music before
By following School of Rock Oak Park on Instagram, you can see first hand for yourself some of the things going down.
For me, as I wrap up my time with Amy - there are two main pieces I'll hit on.
One, what is so encouraging to me - and I mentioned this in the podcast - is the cross-generational similarities with somebody not necessarily in my own circle. Amy's not family, Amy hasn't been a close friend for long (though I'm certain she will be from here), and Amy's not even somebody I see in my day-to-day life.
We always hear the dialogue from those in our circle.
With the way the last year - years, really - have been, I've admittedly been discouraged. I've seen teachers arrested for some of the most heinous things you could imagine, we see our politicians clawing at one another daily...
It brings me so much hope to know that people like Amy still exist.
If I was in Amy's position, I would be doing things exactly like she is. I don't say that because I'm in a position to judge. I say that as a tip of the cap.
All I've ever wanted to do is the right things.
All I've ever wanted to do is create, to help people achieve their dreams, to help those less fortunate, and have some fun along the way.
Again, that's just a human being a human; experiencing all that there is this beautiful life has to offer.
And Amy Renzulli is living proof of that.