School of Rock Connects Students With Real-Life Guitar Heroes
Mark Schulman, the drummer for Pink, is one of the rockstars who's appeared in the School of Rock Artist Sessions since COVID-19 canceled the franchise's in-person lessons.
Phil X, who plays for Bon Jovi, was shredding his guitar, demonstrating licks and talking creativity last week in an unusual setting—from his living room in a live Zoom session with School of Rock students.
The new partnership that connects the franchise's music performance students and their real-life guitar heroes has to be the coolest virtual offering born from the pandemic.
CEO Rob Price calls the arrangement, called School of Rock Artist Sessions, "the harvest of a very thoughtful planting. Over the last few years we've thought of School of Rock as a creative community, and that extends outside of the four walls."
Many of the brand's franchisees and instructors are performing artists and current or former band members themselves, and know rockstars in their community. "Especially with the performing artists in our community, like Phil and Jay Weinberg and others, they're clamoring to create and to share," Price said. "They want to connect with fans, and we've got a community who's desperate to find outlets in our students and our teachers and our franchisees."
Jay Weinberg, the drummer for Slipknot, kicked off the virtual sessions in late March. "We knew we had something going on. We had about 1,600 people sign up, and the chat exploded so we had to turn the chat off. It was more than the attendance that clued us in that this was a big idea; it was the depth of the conversation," Price said.
Phil X, also known as Theofilos Xenidis, used his live session to answer multiple questions from students, including how to become a YouTube star. "There are too many people out there just sitting on a chair in their pajamas and playing the solo to 'Stairway to Heaven' note for note. I just have to go out on a limb here and say I don't give a crap about that," he said. "Music is so passionate and everybody's playing like robots lately, so don't do that. Put a little personality in your videos."
Artists are not compensated to appear, nor are franchisees charged for the additional content. School of Rock students do not pay additional fees for the sessions. School of Rock's premier program, which includes a 45-minute private lesson plus several hours a week of group performance, costs between $300 and $400 a month.
School of Rock is in the second year of a partnership with the Society for Prevention of Teenage Suicide, whose logo is prominently displayed when a School of Rock Remote artist session begins.
Future artists lined up to provide live online tutorials and Q&As include Alice Cooper, Guns N' Roses, Beyonce and Stevie Wonder.
"In some ways when these artists are in their living rooms, they're very real," Price said. "You hear not only about the flash and the sizzle, you hear a lot about the substance of their career."
He said business is down for the franchise, but not as much as feared. "We've taken a punch like everyone— everyone except Zoom—but it definitely is not a knockout punch."