During the pandemic, Monica Rubin didn’t stop believing in her two Long Island-based School of Rock locations — even though enrollments had plummeted 50%.
And because of her pivots, as well as patience, both are still standing.
"We’re only down 3% to 4% now," said Rubin, who entered the franchise world in 2014 with a School of Rock location in Rockville Centre, followed by a Huntington site two years later.
In March 2020, soon after shutting down in-person classes because of the pandemic, the schools — each organized as a separate firm and certified as a woman-owned company — turned to Zoom to provide private instruction and group performance classes. But four months later, with Long Island easing COVID restrictions and Rubin rearranging her sites’ interiors and installing Plexiglas dividers and shower curtains to separate students from one another, on-site sessions resumed.
"We rebuilt the schools and took out everything we didn’t need so each student has their own space," said Rubin.
Rubin also got more than a little help from the Paycheck Protection Program, whose aid enabled her to pay the salaries of her 32 full- and part-time employees as well as commercial rents.
In addition, she has rocked on with pre-COVID-19 plans to launch a Syosset location. Originally slated to start classes in May 2020, the spot opened in September, and has since attracted more than 50 students for its remote-only instruction. In September, the location, set for social distancing, will mark its official grand opening with on-premise sessions.
Rubin’s three-unit empire, which currently has about 400 students, charges about $250 to $400 per month, depending on whether students are enrolled in a weekly 45-minute private lesson or a weekly 45-minute private lesson with a weekly performance group, which ranges from one to three hours and is determined by the school. Groups play a different band’s music each season, as in the Beatles, Rolling Stones and Kiss.
Newsday spoke to Rubin about her franchises, including the ups and downs of operating a kid-centric business during the pandemic.
Why did you become a School of Rock franchisee?
Twelve years ago, our son, then 9 years old, started taking lessons at a corporate-owned School of Rock, and I fell in love with it. It doesn’t just teach music but confidence.
Do you teach any classes?
No, I work with our students to overcome stage fright and teach stage presence.
What was the lowest point during the shutdown?
We were notified of three different students who had attempted suicide. This is a kids' school, and if we had had in-person classes, we would have noticed a red flag that the students needed help.
Were there any high points?
We had some very beautiful moments. The sky was falling, but parents called me to see how my family, teachers and I were doing. We also put on indoor shows in September, January and March at KJ Farrell’s in Bellmore. It worked with us in creating socially distance shows, so that parents could see their kids perform. And last July, during a heat wave, we did two days of outdoor shows, thanks to Councilman Anthony D’Esposito, who allowed us to use the Baldwin Park parking lot. Parents were allowed one car with four people in it, and they sat on lawn chairs near their cars to stay socially distant.
Are you a musician?
No, I’m a photographer and, whenever I have availability, I specialize in concert photography. Music has always called me.
Do you play an instrument?
I have a piano, took lessons as a child but just tinker now. I had a piano teacher who said, "I’d pay you not to tell anyone that I'm your teacher."
A note to our community:
As a public service, this article is available for all. Newsday readers support our strong local journalism by subscribing. Please show you value this important work by becoming a subscriber now.SUBSCRIBE