The idea of Real School can be traced back to a sunny summer day in 2006, when two old friends met up at the Portsmouth waterfront for a long overdue lunch. One had stayed in the music industry, while the other now worked for an education nonprofit. The friends reminisced about their early days playing the Boston music scene, and how music represented such an important part of their lives. They ultimately reflected on how music, and music education, seemed to be in trouble.
School music programs were being decimated, as budgets were reprioritized to focus on high-stakes tests. The live music scene was in collapse, with fewer and fewer opportunities to see real musicians playing real music. Video games like Guitar Hero and Rock Band provided instant gratification, but no real musical training.
Thinking back on their own lives, and how music had profoundly shaped them into the people they'd become, the friends reflected on how tragic it was that so many kids were going to miss out on on the experience of learning to play and create music, and then share that music with others.
“You know, we could do something about this!” one friend exclaimed. This led to a spirited discussion that yielded what would ultimately become the two key value pillars on which Real School was founded.
The friend who worked in the music industry felt passionately about creating a sense of community and belonging, where musicians could meet one other, form their own bands, collaborate to write and record music, and have an safe, nurturing environment that inspired creativity. "I don't know of any musician who aspires to play alone."
The other friend who worked in education was focused on outcomes, and how there was currently no way to measure, track and report student progress in any objective way. “Parents have no idea how their kids are doing... or how well their teacher is actually teaching. It’s like the wild west… everyone’s just winging it.”
And so, on that summer day in 2006 began the journey to revolutionize music education.
For the two years that followed, and with the help of a top-notch team of educators and entrepreneurs, a founding team was assembled to conduct extensive research on the state of music education in our country, and to tap into converging science about how we now know people learn. The team also sought to understand market dynamics and the competitive landscape, so as to create an offering unlike anything else that was available. Their goal was build a one-of-a-kind music school experience, the DNA of which was rooted in community and belonging, and educational credibility and accountability.
In 2008, the dream became a reality when Real School opened its flagship location in Burlington MA. The fact that the school thrived during the worst economy of the past 70 years was heartening. But the buzz the school created, and the speed with which the school grew stood as proof that the vision of Real School was on right target.
Today, Real School continues to expand, with locations in Burlington and Andover MA, as well as satellite locations in Dedham and Norwood MA and an affiliate partner in Charlotte NC. So far as we can tell, Real School is the fastest growing music school in the history of the United States. Our Burlington flagship will deliver over 70,000 thirty-minute lessons during 2015, with Andover (opened in 2013) not far behind.
The company has also worked tirelessly behind the scenes to design and deploy its own unique, highly-effective curriculum framework which will populate a web-based Learning Management System that can be licensed to music schools across the globe. We expect this tool to launch in 2016.
Over 100 music educators call Real School home, making us one of the largest employers and supporters of musicians in the region. Each year Real School provides these highly skilled (but traditionally underpaid) professional educators with millions in personal earnings, and roughly 5% of the company is owned virtually by its key employees.
As for our students – and there are thousands – Real School has become their musical home away from home. Students of all ages join bands, write and record original music, play live shows, and belong to a living, breathing music education and performing arts community.
Our students, parents, siblings, and spouses; our faculty and staff, and their families; our leadership team and ownership group . . . all of us: We are Real School!