In honor of Mental Health Awareness Month this May, how about a healthy dose of Ozzy’s “Crazy Train,” Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” and Queen’s “Under Pressure” on repeat?
That’s how I view one company’s loud and relentless spirit to bring together just the right crowd with a gift for music while advocating for mental health among adolescents. Its leader wears all black, has a mad respect for melting faces, and considers rock music and live jam sessions the perfect refrain for building an inclusive community with more than 61,000 students around the world. His name is Rob Price, and he’s the CEO of School of Rock.
To the average outsider, Rob is a big-time executive. He has an Ivy League education (Cornell and Harvard) and an impressive resume that has culminated in overseeing a franchise network with 500+ schools open and in development around the world. To me, he also tops the charts for leading and supporting a business model that is nothing short of a powerful refuge to a demographic that has never needed it more.
Others agree. The organization’s success recently earned School of Rock the 2023 Best Children’s and Education Franchise and the overall Grand Champion in the Global Franchise Awards.
The Healing Power of Music
Hundreds of franchisees can tell you that owning and operating a School of Rock location is the coolest gig in town. Small businesses don’t usually feel this loud and powerful. But this one comes with extra high notes. Top among them is establishing a place where getting kids together to play music, make friends and gig in public is downright life-saving.
Take Adam Fiore, for example. He shared a post on LinkedIn about his teenage son’s battle with depression. Two months later he was releasing a new single with his band on Spotify. It’s insanely good and even got airtime on iHeartRadio in Pittsburgh. (Listen to it HERE.) Fiore praised School of Rock for providing a place of acceptance and fun. In a local newspaper story, he said, “I think the most important thing out of all of this is that Luca has found his tribe. He found a group of kids where he could be himself.”
Alexis (Lex) Josephs shared how her son got on the bus one day only to have a bloody nose by the time he got to school. That didn’t stop him from performing with his School of Rock band though. “Sunday, he took the stage. A place where he said that no one can touch him. A place where he feels safe. A place where everyone listens to him,” she said.
In a recent interview, Rob explained, “We’re the antidote for shyness. We are the antidote for loneliness, for bullying, or feeling lost.” Simply put, School of Rock isn’t about learning scales and putting on recitals. It’s about doing life, creating community, playing shows, and blowing minds with talent and, best of all, total acceptance. Foster that kind of belonging and it’s no surprise that the franchise network is growing around the world.
This Rolling Stone story in honor of the 10th anniversary of School of Rock Brasil is a great example. It includes a School of Rock documentary that follows more than 300 students from various countries on an international tour to perform on stages across Europe and at the famous Rock in Rio festival.
Experiences like that are the epitome of how School of Rock helps young musicians shine together even when other things can look dark and lonely.
You Thought the Pandemic Was Hard?
As the world shut down during Covid, I feared how it would impact locations and their loyal students. But School of Rock sprang into action, reminding me that it has existed from the start by beating to a different drum. Within nine days, the global network that had always operated in-person debuted an online version of music instruction so the band could play on. Students immediately began taking lessons in a one-on-one setting with their instructors and collectively jamming with other students online for that all-important live performance vibe. The company even secured famous musicians who were banned from touring to host live chats with students.
The support from the franchisor to reconfigure operations not only saved franchisees from closing their businesses, but also kept tens of thousands of students connected in ways that will never be forgotten. According to Chief Development Officer Tony Padulo C.F.E., not a single school closed because of Covid challenges. The way Rob tells it, however, that was nothing new.
In a recent interview on the “Signal Path Podcast” from Shure Incorporated, he said, “The reason we survived Covid is [that] it wasn’t our first pandemic. Our first pandemic was anxiety, depression, suicidal ideation amongst the demographic that we serve. So we were always working on therapies, if you will, to make life more precious and beautiful and special for our students.” (Listen to the full podcast HERE.)
Today, life is back with a vengeance to play in person and gig with the best.
From Critical Injury to College Congrats
One such special story involves Lex Kolody, a School of Rock student for the past seven years from Denver. After losing two of his fingers in a tragic accident, it was questionable if he would ever play guitar again. But his love and desire to continue performing with the support of his School of Rock instructor and community were an immediate path to recovery. He not only learned how to keep shredding it on stage, but he also gained acceptance to the prestigious Berklee College of Music and recently moved to Boston to begin his studies.
I share all of this to underscore that mental health is important and, despite life’s toughest hurdles, happy endings do exist. It’s thanks to each and every School of Rock location that local communities are experiencing that up close. While growing up is hard, here’s the soundtrack that makes life totally worth living. Let’s turn up that volume as loud as we can.
Read the original article by Monica Feid on LinkedIn.