Chris Catalano has established himself as a leading advisor in the music industry, serving as CEO of School of Rock since July 2010 and Chairman of the Board since June 2009. His passion and commitment to inspire musicians around the nation has helped to establish the franchise as the most prolific educator of young aspiring musicians and the national leader in performance-based music education. School of Rock is an ingenious concept that gets kids and adults rocking out and performing with their peers. With more than 100 locations in seven countries, the franchise proves that Rock & Roll is alive and kickin’.
Additionally, Catalano has recently been elected to join the Board of Governors for the Chicago Chapter of The Recording Academy. In Catalano’s new role, he will support and work with the Chicago music community to help raise awareness about the importance of music education in the development of the next generation of artists and leaders.
MO: Can you share the story behind the School of Rock?
Chris: School of Rock started as a single school in Philadelphia in 1998. The idea was to create an afterschool program that would teach kids about music — and more importantly — how to play it. The school did well from the start, and demand picked up even more after the 2003 Jack Black movie with the same name was released. In 2005, founder Paul Green began franchising the business. Four years later, he partnered with a leading private equity firm, Sterling Partners, to accelerate the franchise’s growth.
Our purpose is to ‘Inspire kids to rock on stage and in life,” and the unique School of Rock program is truly inspirational to both our students and their parents. They love our program and recommend it to their friends because we focus on the diversity of our music and the fact that our students will continue to drive our success.
MO: Can you expand on the concept behind having a performance-based approach to music lessons and what that means for your students?
Chris: Through our performance-based approach to teaching music, our students are more inspired to learn, more motivated to excel and more confident in everything they do. Our series of programs are specifically designed to take each student through their unique musical journey, always giving them something to aspire to. Whether they are a complete novice or a seasoned musician, there will always be something new and challenging for them to reach for. Our students learn to be great musicians while they establish a work ethic, learn teamwork, and gain confidence that they can take with them throughout their lives.
School of Rock offers “performance-based approach to music lessons” as the antidote to the traditional broken way of teaching that makes people hate music lessons even when they love playing. Music programs are designed to create a supportive environment where music students of all skill levels are comfortable yet challenged at every turn. In addition to individual private music instruction on guitar, bass, vocals, keyboards and/or drums, our students also learn how to jam with their peers in weekly practice sessions. The team dynamic creates a supportive and motivating environment where kids feel inspired to excel and to help their team to “victory” at the big show. Although every student has their own inspiration, the diversity in the music the students learn helps them hone their skills and develop into their own artist.
MO: How important has social media been to your marketing strategy?
Chris: Social media is an important part of our marketing strategy. We use various platforms to share relevant music information, communicate and celebrate the world of music and art. Social media allows us to build awareness and connect School of Rock to the world at large and also gives our students, parents and staff an opportunity to share their incredible School of Rock experiences.
MO: What are some of the advantages of buying into the School of Rock franchise model? Do potential candidates need a background in music?
Chris: Channeling the energy of Rock & Roll, the School of Rock music program is available to entrepreneurs who are looking for a way to grow a viable business while providing today’s youth with music education, guidance, inspiration and a creative outlet. For franchise owners and investors, the global growth opportunities are extremely attractive. School of Rock franchisees are able to turn their passion for music into a successful business with a purpose – to inspire kids to rock on stage and in life. Although potential candidates are not required to have a background in music, many School of Rock franchise owners grew up listening to music and have a particular affinity toward classic rock. As lives develop, many people find the need to transition into a career closer to their heart, values, interests and business experience. Many current franchise owners have families of their own, actively participate in the business and enjoy networking within their communities. The desire to mentor students, combined with a passion for rock music, ability to liaison with parents, coupled with prior business experience makes for a successful franchisee.
Additionally, there are not many current franchise offerings that provide as much access to territory as School of Rock. We have are markets where a multi-unit owner can be the only franchisee in the market and thus secure all cooperative relationships with venues, instrument retailers and local Chambers of Commerce. Furthermore, a single owner can provide a level of continuity across multiple sites.
MO: Can you expand on how your franchisees are trained and prepared to provide students with an unparalleled performance based rock music program?
Chris: School of Rock provides franchisees with ongoing training and support to provide students with an unparalleled performance-based rock music program. At School of Rock, our strategic pyramid is anchored with our corporate purpose “to inspire the world to rock on stage and in life”. That is our guiding light and we don’t do anything that is inconsistent or could contradict that purpose.
Our goal is to help new franchise owners open, staff, and operate their School of Rock quickly and confidently so they can start doing live shows their area to promote their school. They will learn how to use the company’s motivational tiers to get kids to learn an instrument, overcome stage fright and play great classic rock music via hands-on sessions and a comprehensive curriculum manual.
We provide franchise owners with on-site supervision and assistance, including an initial training program to teach them how to operate the franchise and how to become a successful music director. We also provide a list of equipment needed to open the school and access to any discount packages we may negotiate with suppliers. Finally, we provide advice, assistance, on-site training, and written materials about operations, services, teaching methods, music venue selection, music venue business issues, scheduling methods, sales methods, products and marketing techniques.
MO: How do you plan to keep the momentum going?
Chris: After 15 years and breaking the 100-school milestone, School of Rock is creating the world’s next generation of rockers, both in North America and overseas. The performance-based music franchise has been expanding outside of the U.S. and opening its doors internationally throughout Mexico, Canada, Brazil, Chile, the Philippines, and Australia. As School of Rock expands internationally, the franchise will also continue to grow throughout North America, particularly throughout San Francisco, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Seattle, Portland, Toronto, Vancouver and other areas. We have more locations and more students than any other time in the history of our company and each day brings a new milestone. Our success and international development plans are proof that rock music is still very much alive and well, and we are extremely excited to see what lies ahead for both School of Rock and the music industry as a whole. Our sustained growth helps ensure that we can continue to expand the inspirational opportunities for our students while at the same time creating employment opportunities for musicians in the neighborhoods that we serve.
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