The Paul Green School of Rock Music opened its doors in 1996 to music-loving, rock star wannabe kids ranging in ages from elementary to high school. This is no ordinary music school, though. It incorporates the teachings of Frank Zappa with hands-on learning.
Each student enrolled in the after school program learns the instrument of their choice. They get one lesson per week – usually about three hours long – to master their instruments.
The children in the school then get to showcase their talents in different concerts. They pick the genre of music they want to play, such as punk or metal, and Green picks the songs and places the kids for each show. If there were ever an institution that could produce the next batch of purely talented music-driven rock stars, it would be this school.
“This school teaches how important and great it is to be in your own show; how you have to sell tickets and be ready for anything,” said Jessica Feld, a 15-year-old guitar player. “It’s a really good learning experience if you want to start your own band.”
With a line around the block to get into a show and the MTV camera crew setting up their equipment you would think you were getting in line to see a band like The Rolling Stones. And you were – only these Stones haven’t even learned to drive yet. On March 27, The Paul Green School of Rock Music took over the Trocadero. Standing in line in behind parents with their ‘tween-age daughter and in front of an eight-year-old with a green mohawk, you knew this show was going rock. Hard.
Paul Green took to the stage in an “I Yell Because I Care” T-shirt, introducing the evening’s events. Just past 7:30 p.m. the first group of kids hit the stage to an audience of screaming family and friends. Each group played one song ranging from The Doors to the Rolling Stones to Radiohead. A total of 12 songs were performed and each was played with the professional talent, passion and style of a big name band blended perfectly with the awkwardness of teenage life.
When the second band took the stage, they were missing a guitarist. Green simply yelled, “Who wants to play guitar on this song?” and the hands flew into the air. Green picked a student out of the crowd to fill in and the song was played effortlessly. Other than the occasional amp adjustment performed by Green and the occasional pair of braces, these kids looked and acted like professional rock stars.
When minor adjustments were needed, Green would simply walk onstage and fix an amp or signal the drummer to soften his or her drumming. It was like watching a band that had been together for years, instead of an after school program. Each kid brought their own musical style to the show, ripping off their shirts, slapping hands, hanging the mic into the crowd, instigating mosh pits, crowd surfing and even asking the crowd, “Are you ready to rock!?”
The School of Rock is a pure example of how music bridges generational gaps. Most of the songs played came from an era the kids now learn about in history class. Looking out into the crowd there was an impressive mix of young kids and parents. And each generation enjoyed the show as much as the next.
You could always pick out the parents of the children on stage as they waved their hands frantically, formed their fingers into “rock on,” and snapped more pictures than the paparazzi.
This show was just a preview for future School of Rock shows. Upcoming shows include Radiohead, The Doors, The Rolling Stones, Southern Friend Rock, and a punk rock performance. They will be playing at The North Star Bar and Indre Studios in Philadelphia and CBGB’s in New York City this spring.
Andrea Reich can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org