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Explore Your Inner Musician

Jeff Dulemba Brings School of Rock to Media With an Altruistic Purpose

Article by Cheyenne Forbes

Photography by Evan Mader and Karin Davidson

Originally published in Media City Lifestyle

The School of Rock - where musicians of all ages and skill levels grow to become not only better musicians, but better versions of themselves. Through programs and music lessons, the school is dedicated to School of Rock proprietary teaching education program to support students on their journey to becoming musicians—whatever that may look like to them.

While music is a big part of it all, the School of Rock is more than about making musicians. Jeff Dulemba, owner and manager at School of Rock, states, “We're not here to make musicians. That will happen naturally through the programming. We are here to build community.”

Jeff wasn’t aware of that until after he enrolled his son, Ben, into the school and witnessed School of Rock's tight-knit community in Downingtown. 13 year-old Ben has autism. He was bullied during school and summer camp for being himself.

“He gets bullied everywhere he goes because he makes his own clothes and he's always been an individualist,” says Jeff. He and Ben tried robotics, sports, jiu jitsu—nothing stuck. In fact, Ben was even resistant to School of Rock at first. 

When Ben first arrived at the school, he was asked, “Who made those fingerless gloves?” “Who made that hat?” Although he senses it could be another setup for bullying, Ben answers truthfully that he made them himself.

“They're like, ‘Dude, that's the most rocking thing I've ever saw.’ [Ben] said, ‘Bye Dad,’ and I didn't see him since,” says Jeff with a smile. 

In just three months, Ben was on stage playing guitar. Nevermind that he couldn’t even hold one—yet. Jeff could see the confidence emanating from his son.

“It gave him a platform to be exactly who he wanted to be without having to impress anyone or think about anyone,” Jeff says, feeling moved by sheer gratitude. “They accepted him for who he was.They gave him a stage to be who he could be and brought out his best self.”

From there, Jeff began thinking about the ways in which he could give back to his own community. He’s always loved children and music—why not combine the two?

“My vision was always [to] build a School of Rock, impact the youth, and then turn the youth into volunteers and community citizens,” Jeff explains. “Let's go plant grandma's flowers every spring. Let's go to the nursing homes and bring music to enjoy. Let's go set up programs where we can take grandma shopping for groceries.”

On the hunt for the right community to build in, Jeff and his family felt right at home in Media. After breakfast at the Bittersweet Cafe, they followed the sound of music and found the Jasper Street Jam. Jeff recalled how welcoming the community was, and how quickly his children made friends with the other kids.

“Everyone had purple hair and rainbow socks and there was diversity everywhere,” he says with a smile. Media is diverse, and that, for Jeff, was the embodiment of School of Rock.

Being an entrepreneur for the past 10 years, Jeff had been looking for the perfect franchise to get into. With the help and support of his family, Jeff was able to run another business while simultaneously running a home with his wife, Monica.

Jeff met with his family, got their finances in order, and started to find a location. "I wasn't doing this alone."  Jeff reflected, "I told my wife and kids if they weren't 100% on board with building this family business together, I wasn't interested."

There were many challenges and delays throughtout the four-month construction. " We were targeting May 15th to open, but weren't able until August 29th.The process almost broke me,” says Jeff, “and I'm not easily broken, but these delays… almost broke me so many times.”  Jeff says he would retreat into a closet so his family wouldn't see how difficult it was for him, second guessing himself.  Ben and Rachel (Jeff’s older daughter) always found him and encouraged him.

When they were drumming up interest in the school, Ben and Rachel would wake up at 5am, ready to attend community day events until it was time to go to bed at 11 at night, completely exhausted. Then, they would be up at 5am, ready to do it all again.

“I never understood what unconditional love meant until I went through this venture. But they lifted me every time I needed it,” says Jeff. “You would have all these doubters and all these people around me who loved me that wouldn't validate me. But when the rubber hit the road, my kids were always there. My wife was always there. We built this business together.

Jeff just retumed from Nashville where he was awarded the second fastest growing School of Rock in their entire program (350 schools in 17 countries with a total enrollment of 67,000 students.)

"Our family's success is simple, explains Jeff, "We aren't selling music lessons, that's not our business. It's safety, community and shows. We don't teach music to put on shows, we put on shows to teach music."

  • Owner Jeff Dulemba with Paige, a student