ALBANY, Ore. -- Customers who signed up for a music school in Albany complain they never got the lessons they paid for. Many of them are out hundreds of dollars and said the owner hasn’t responded to their phone calls or messages.
“Just absolutely no response,” said Michael Winder of Albany. He paid $300 for guitar lessons at the Musicafe Rock School. He still hasn’t gotten a single lesson and the company closed its downtown Albany storefront.
“I tried a couple different phone numbers, couple different Facebook pages, texts, voicemails and emails," explained Winder.
A KGW investigation found the Musicafe Rock School has been plagued by financial problems. Former employees complained of unpaid wages and creditors have been after the owner Lisa Landucci for years.
Reached by phone, Landucci defended her business practices. The 51 year old said she has been in contact with her customers and paid her employees.
“If anyone wants to schedule their lessons, contact me,” said Landucci.
Many customers and former workers disagree.
“I've tried to communicate with her multiple times and I have not gotten any responses from her," said Jen Jacoban of Albany. She paid $550 for her teenage daughter to participate in the Musicafe Rock School last November. Her daughter still hasn’t had a single lesson.
“I'm sad that somebody would do that to our community and take advantage of the families who want to help their children get music lessons,” said Jacoban.
Brian Sikora paid for music lessons for his son.
“The shop went out of business and we still have $200 paid out with no lessons to show for it,” said Sikora.
Stephanie Taylor was disappointed after paying hundreds of dollars for her daughter to take guitar lessons.
“I was not happy at all. I paid a lot of money,” said Taylor.
On its Facebook page, the Musicafe Rock School describes itself as “a staple in music education, and performance since '02 in the Willamette Valley.”
Records with the Oregon Secretary of State indicate the program has used several names since November 2002 including Landucci-Arellano’s Musicafe and Musicafe Rock School. The last filing with the state corporation division was an administrative dissolution of the Musicafe Rock School in January 2013.
In November 2009, the Corvallis School District filed a claim against Landucci and Musicafe Rock School. A judge awarded the district $2,693 because Landucci failed to pay for “use of the Corvallis School District CHS Theater.”
In June 2013, former employee James Roberts filed suit in small claims court against Landucci and Musicafe Rock School. In court papers, Roberts claimed Landucci owed him $862 because of “work performed by me as a guitar, bass, and band instructor at the music café Rock School. All lessons were invoiced and submitted to Lisa Landucci but have not been paid.” A judge awarded payment to the former worker.
In 2014, Landucci was charged with theft in the first degree in Benton County for allegedly stealing appliances and fixtures. Landucci pleaded not guilty. Court records show the case was dismissed because of a “lack of available resources coupled with the possibility of a civil remedy.”
“I really had no idea when I was there that this was going on,” said music instructor Matt Mills. “It really just kind of breaks my heart.”
Mills tells KGW said he is owed nearly $1,000 in back wages from Musiccafe Rock School. He worked at the school part-time during the summer of 2017.
“It’s definitely helpful to get paid for the time you put in somewhere,” said Millls.
Landucci said she has paid Mills. She provided screenshots of two electronic payments totaling $406. Landucci admits, she still owes him a third payment for back wages.
Former employee Isaac Andrew said he is also owed money. Andrew worked several summers at Musiccafe Rock School providing private lessons and small group instruction. He has unpaid invoices totaling roughly $300.
“After a while, I wasn't getting anything so I kind of gave up on it," said Andrew, who suggested this boils down to poor bookkeeping and business operations.
“Lisa is a really nice person. She’s kind of a free spirit, definitely on the artistic side, music side of the spectrum versus the super-organized business side,” said Andrew.