Signal Path Podcast: School of Rock
Listen to the latest SIGNAL PATH podcast with ROB PRICE, the CEO of the wildly successful SCHOOL OF ROCK community of music schools with branches around the globe.
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Episode 063: School of Rock’s Rob Price
In this episode of Signal Path, Marc Young speaks with School of Rock CEO Rob Price. He joins the podcast from his RV 'Barry Vanilow' while on the road after SXSW. Price discusses the School of Rock's novel method of teaching kids how to play their instruments through group performance, how the music community has become vital in post pandemic times, and a new initiative to support young songwriters. This episode was recorded remotely with the Shure MV7 Podcast Microphone.
Marc Young: Rob, thanks so much for speaking with me today. I know you're a busy man as CEO of a wildly successful global franchise, and I know that you're on the road. You're actually recording this from an RV. Is that right? Where exactly are you right now?
Rob Price: I am I'd like to tell you it's called The ‘Rockmobile’, but it's actually called 'Barry Vanilow'. I'm in my mobile home, which takes me all around the country in order to get to our schools and partners. But I'm right now calling from the great state of Texas. I'm heading my way back after a very interesting SXSW in Austin.
Okay, great. You were down in Austin, and how did that go? Did you have special School of Rock events there?
We didn't have special School of Rock events as part of the formal program, although almost every year, our School of Rock performers, some of our students from the local Austin community perform as part of the music festival. So I did get to see at Valhalla some of our students absolutely crushing it. I was there more for my learning. I was there to see what's going on in the space evolution of entertainment and music and general economic trends. An interesting time to be down at SXSW, but I also did get the pleasure to see some of our alumni performing as professionals, which was absolutely amazing to experience.
Actually, let's just back up one second and maybe you can give our listeners an overview of what exactly School of Rock is and what exactly School of Rock's mission is.
Absolutely. I think everyone's familiar with the movie. Well, the truth is that School of Rock, the enterprise that I lead, has existed far longer than the movie. It started in 1998. Now we're operating 331 schools, 15 countries. We have 61,000 students, mostly kids, but not exclusively. And it's a music education enrichment program where students have a traditional private lesson once a week. But the real point of difference is each of our kids is part of a performance program where they're working on preparing for a real gig at a real venue in twelve or 14 weeks, and they're going to put up two- or three-hour show. And it's a transformational way to not just teach the proficiency and the technique of music but teach a love of music and a zeal for performing. So it's a very different kind of music education program than has ever existed before.
I think that's what really makes it so special is that intense focus on performing. And that the mission of it is actually to bring that spirit, I guess, of rock to kids, as opposed to just sitting there and learning scales or learning that obviously that's all important, and I know you guys do that as well. But as you say, it's that performance aspect of it which makes it so special.
Yeah, that's right. The way we think about it is there's a great analogy for sports. If you as a kid wanted to learn how to play soccer, you're not told, spend six months or a year or three years practicing independently in your room until such point as you can demonstrate the proficiency, dribbling, kicking, blocking, running. That's the analogy for music theory. We want to teach music theory through songs. And so we like to teach music like it's a language or it's a sport, not like it's a chore. And it has really dramatic effects on the way that our students think about music, not just the way they play music. So we have really extraordinary results by taking this approach.
So you're all about bringing the rock to the youth today, and we're definitely going to get deeper into the school in a moment. But before that, I was just wondering, as a man who lists two of his favorite music acts as Steely Dan and Green Day which is impressive like to think of those two bands in the same space. I wanted to ask maybe what's one of your own earliest music experiences was. There a moment that really left an impact on you. I'm just thinking in terms of how you were talking about how School of Rock leaves an impact on young kids learning how to play. Was there a moment that you think back whether it was just an event, a concert, or maybe you playing music yourself?
Yeah, I grew up playing classical piano, so I had a very conventional kind of musical upbringing. But I remember, much like, I suspect, a lot of your listeners, what really unlocked it for me was my first high school band. We pulled together a garage band. We would negotiate with our parents as to who had to endure the cacophony. And luckily, one of my bandmates, his father was a pastor, so we could use their church. It was of epic proportion. And I remember that feeling. I remember the feeling of being in the practice with those guys for the first time, and then the first time we had our gig. And it was nothing like I had experienced after having been taking music lessons and doing competitions and even being in school band and school orchestra and choir. But that idea of working with a group of six, seven other people and formulating this experience for our listeners, I still, even as I'm describing it, I'm feeling that for the first time. And I think that's what that's for me what left a real mark and really changed my trajectory.
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