School of Rock makes music at shopping centers

Publish Date: April 27, 2017

Rock fans of a certain age may recall the vocational counsel The Byrds lyrically proffered those who “want to be a rock ’n’ roll star”: Simply “get an electric guitar,” they exhorted, “and learn how to play.” Decades later, the School of Rock is here, offering any rocker wannabe from age 4 to 40 (or older) the chance to realize (or to resurrect) a rock dream. This privately held, Los Angeles–based franchise operation is bringing roughly two decades of instructional experience to bear across nearly 200 locations internationally. Some 40 percent of the chain’s franchisers own more than one outpost.

School of Rock operates in several countries, including Australia, Chile, Mexico and Panama, but the company says it will concentrate for now on U.S. and Canadian growth, with global expansion to continue as the opportunities present themselves. “We’re actively growing across the U.S. and Canada,” said Elliot Baldini, senior vice president of marketing. “We tend to have a cluster of schools in major population nodes.”

Typically, School of Rock offers after-school musical instruction, plus school-holiday and summer camp programs and onstage performances. “This is real, make-your-dream-come-true stuff,” Baldini said. “With about 3,000 shows a year across the world, everyone gets a chance to perform on a stage at professional venues in front of real audiences.”

The best of the best get to audition for “all-star” bands that perform at huge festivals such as Milwaukee Summerfest and Chicago’s Lollapalooza, where they can even play alongside some of their musical idols. Among the special guests who have appeared with graduates are drummer Danny Carey, members of Pearl Jam, guitarist Joey Santiago and Rage Against the Machine drummer Brad Wilk.

Franchisee Beatriz Escobar has presided over eight performances through her school in Fayetteville, Ark., in the 16 months since she opened her franchise. She has about 130 students currently enrolled. “The performance-based program is today’s gateway to education, confidence, fun and friendship,” Escobar said. Her 3,000-square-foot space — in a small strip center with a Sherwin-Williams paint store, a nail salon and a dance school that helps draw youngsters — required a build-out to create the six lesson rooms and three rehearsal halls. Escobar is now considering a second franchise. Her main requirement is high visibility on busy cross streets because, as she says, the school site itself is a powerful advertisement. Naturally, she is looking for the best rent possible, to help keep her costs to a minimum, and she would prefer to find a site that has already been broken down into rooms.

Space requirements vary from franchise to franchise, Baldini says, but they average about 2,000 square feet.

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