Meet Stacey Marmolejo “Rock Mamma” at the Paul Green School of Rock Music in St. Paul, Minnesota, USA and Eden Prairie, Minnesota, USA
During the day I am VP Digital Media for Affinity Media Group which is a media company that specializes in motorized recreation.
At night I am the owner of two franchises of the Paul Green School of Rock Music.
I’m a single mother with a passion for children. Left to raise my son, Nate on my own (when he was 3 months old), I knew I wanted the best for him and all that life had to offer. From an early age he always had a “nack” for music…and playing different instruments. At the age of 7 he informed me that he wanted to start playing the piano. In 5th grade he added wind instruments to his repertoire. At the age of 13 he purchased an electric guitar and an amp and quickly taught himself how to play. Then he taught himself bass and drums.
Not only did he thoroughly love playing instruments – he also wanted to be part of a band and perform. Part of what drew him to playing music was that he was good at it. We all love to do what we’re good at. He tried all the sports and didn’t succeed. He was the kid at school that was on the fringe. He didn’t quite fit in with any particular group. Not even the band kids because being in the marching band is not the same as being in a rock band.
He was my inspiration for purchasing the franchise rights and bringing this unique music education program to the Twin Cities. When I went looking for music lessons in the Twin Cities I couldn’t find the right thing for him. He had had guitar lessons but he wanted to perform. And he didn’t want to do it in the church basement – which is where his piano recitals had been when he was 7 years old. I checked into some programs on the East Coast and West Coast and liked what I saw at the School of Rock Music. Unfortunately it seems to take companies on the coasts a while to add locations in the Midwest. I figured if I waited for them to come to the Twin Cities my son would be grown and gone by then. So I mortgaged the house and bought the franchise rights for Minnesota, found amazingly talented musicians who wanted to teach and mentor kids and opened up my first school in St. Paul in September 2006 and then Eden Prairie in March 2008.
What do you enjoy most about your profession and why did you choose it in the first place?
I knew if my son felt this way that there were hundreds, if not thousands of other kids who felt that way too. I read that suicide was the number 1 killer of teens in America today. I have no statistics to support it but I believe that this is because, as a society we place a huge emphasis on athletics in the school system and if a kid isn’t athletically inclined the soon get sorted out of the “cool” category. Many kids find other places to fit in, perhaps a church or martial arts or dance. But there’s that group of kids that want to be rock stars. These kids tend to play music in their bedroom by themselves so they aren’t learning some of the skills that they’ll need in life; like teamwork and presentation skills and accountability. I believed that if I could create a supportive, fun environment for these kids to learn to be in a band – and learn to play music – that I could have a positive influence on many young lives.
That’s the part I love the most. Seeing the shy child with low self esteem belt out songs and own the stage in front of 500 people, all within 6 months.
Or the child who is home schooled because she can’t make friends start attending a school again because she learned how to make friends at School of Rock and gained her self confidence through her music.
And the child whose father passed away and finds solace at the School of Rock Music because one of the teachers took her aside and told her about his own father passing away when he was her age and how he’d be there to help her get through it.
I could go on and on with individual stories, but you get the point.
Tell us about the organizations your company supports and why?
Even though we are a “for profit” company we never turn a child away because of financial reasons. When I first opened the school I ate the expenses related to teaching the kids who couldn’t afford to pay. Now we host three concerts and silent auctions each year through which we raise money for the scholarship fund. Approximately 15% of our students are on some level of scholarship.
We also donate to fundraisers at any academic school that requests from us. Sometimes it’s clothing (tshirts, hoodies, etc.) and sometimes it’s a certificate for lessons.
We’re also a contributor to Make A Wish. When a child’s wish is to perform in a rock concert, we fulfill that wish.
Our “show band” frequently plays for non-profit fundraisers such as Breast Cancer Awareness and Children’s Hospital Fundraiser.
What is the biggest risk you ever took professionally and/or the biggest obstacle you have overcome?
The biggest risk was definitely mortgaging the house to open the School of Rock Music because I am not a musician and I don’t know much about music. So I had to rely on my skills of hiring great people and then staying close to the feedback of students and parents to make sure that the people I hired were delivering on the mission I intended. This wasn’t about making money. It was about helping kids. To this day I have not taken one cent out of the School of Rock Music. In retrospect I’m not sure why I didn’t set it up as a non-profit organization.
As you can imagine, working a full time job and then spending nights and weekends at the School took up all the time I had. It wasn’t unusual in the first 18 months to go 4 or 5 weeks without a day off.
I now have a fabulous staff. They are as passionate as I am about the kids and the role we play in the kids’ lives.
From where do you draw inspiration? Who have been your role models, mentors, etc?
When I was growing up my mother was my Brownie leader and my father was my brother’s baseball coach. They were exceptionally involved in our lives and the lives of our friends. I grew up thinking that’s what parenting was about. As a parent I was trying to do the same thing for my son – support and encourage him in what he loved. So my parents were my role models.
My inspiration comes from the kids.
How is the current economic situation affecting your company/organization?
We aren’t growing like we would like. More students are needing scholarship funding than before. Since our goal isn’t to make money today, I am happy that we can maintain break-even or a little better until the economy turns around.
What one thing would you like to learn this year?
To take care of myself. I need to exercise and I need to relax! My day starts at 7:00am and I generally quit working at 11:00pm. On Saturdays I start work at noon and end around 11:00pm.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
I would like to open 2 more schools in the next 5 years and I would like to be able to take a small salary out of each of them so that I can quit my day job and devote myself full time to the kids.
What do you do for fun/relaxation/entertainment?
Go to the School of Rock Music concerts! My son lives in L.A. now; trying to make it as a professional musician. I enjoy going out to LA to spend time with him. And, we go to music concerts together!
I have an Olde English Bulldog. Her name is Jes. I enjoy taking her to the dog park. She and I also play soccer in our backyard. She’s a great goalie!
Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers?
It’s trite. Many people before me have said it. So I’m really just reiterating this; do what you love and it doesn’t feel like work. Life’s too short to do things you don’t enjoy.
Which, if any social networking sites do you belong to?