School of Rock

For Those About To Rock

Will the real Dewey Finn please stand up? Though it has been denied, Paul Green feels there are just too many similarities between his Paul Green School of Rock and the movie of the same title (minus the Paul Green part) for anyone to say that the movie wasn't based on his school.

For one thing, Green owned the domain name prior to the movie's release. Coincidence number two is the fact that a film crew from VH-1 also shot a pitch pilot at his school prior to the release of the movie. Years later, VH-1 affiliates made the movie, Green said.

Similarities aside, Green's school has been a place for 15- to 17-year-olds to learn about the classic rock of Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Black Sabbath and Frank Zappa.

Students learn the technical aspects of music and - through the process of playing live shows and being around veteran musicians - also learn aspects important to a music career like setting up merchandise tables, Green said. A key lesson is that hard work and promotion are needed to make it in the music business.

But, "If you fish with enough lines in the water, you are bound to get something," Green said.

Students do not only learn from the school's instructors. Being a member of the school gives students the chance to meet successful, polished musicians. Since Zappa's former band members tend to be accessible, students from the school have been able to meet and learn firsthand from them. Learning Zappa's music has its advantages as the chance to see a 15-year-old play Zappa's music produces a large turnout of his fans, Green said.

Based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Green's original School of Rock now has 200 students. Those who move on are very well-seasoned and many will play a number of live concerts before graduating, Green said.

As he was being interviewed last month, Green was in the studio with his students, who were spending the weekend recording a soundtrack for a documentary about the school. The film is expected to release by Newmarket Films this year, after it is premiered at the Sundance Film Festival. Green was impressed at their abilities to lay down about 15 to 17 songs a day.

Though the music learned at School of Rock is different from what the normal kid listens to today, Green's students tend to quickly become fans of the classic rock they learn. For Green, teaching younger people about artists of the past is crucial. The rich history of music, which should be pushed to them, goes even beyond blues greats like Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf, he said.

"If you are playing in a rock band now, you can't ignore the fact that Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath existed," he said.

Whenever he hears a modern band trying to play complicated music, he knows that they can't ignore the fact that Zappa was originally doing it. He said he would rather see a band fail at playing the music of Queen than succeed at playing that of untalented bands like 311 or Creed.

But, as the music being played on today's radio does not compare to what was heard 30 years ago and beyond, can another band of Led Zeppelin's caliber be produced?

"Absolutely," Green said. "We have had a couple come about in the past 10 to 15 years."

Radiohead has been the Queen for the next generation and Guns N' Roses was on its way as well, he said.

Green's main goal for his students is to just play great music. He would also like them to keep the real lessons they learned in mind as they move on.

Students at the school have already played B. B. King's, in New York a number of times. Last month, the School of Rock All-Stars played a two-hour, two-set performance to launch the expansion of a School of Rock in New York. The concert showed the "end result of what the school can do for kids," which is playing great places in front of large crowds, Green said.

"We actually sold B.B. King's out, which is pretty amazing," he said.

The opening will be followed by an east coast expansion of the Paul Green School of Rock. Schools are expected to open in Baltimore, Maryland and Washington, DC in March. A West Coast expansion is also expected early this year, with a chain of openings in San Francisco and Los Angeles, California, along with and Portland, Oregon.

The Philadelphia school has already created a buzz that today's bands would be envious of. James Iha, formerly of the Smashing Pumpkins, gave Spin Magazine's readers a rather detailed glimpse into the school months ago. It has recently been a subject of MTV's Total Request Live show and it will be a segment on the CBS Evening News. It has also been featured in The New York Times, Tracks, Mojo and Reuters and it was recently voted the "Best Talent" in Philadelphia Magazine's "Best of 2004 issue."

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Josh Davidson

Josh Davidson has written music feature articles for Jersey Style and served as the Jersey Shore rock columnist for Steppin' Out Magazine. Other music writing credits include Aquarian Weekly, Jersey Beat, Backstreets and He has written free-lance for the Asbury Park Press' Community Sports section and has written featured articles for its news section, as well as covering campus news and sports weekly for the Signal, the College of New Jersey's (formerly Trenton State College) student newspaper. He has worked as a staff writer for The Independent, and his work for Greater Media Newspapers has also been published in the News Transcript. He is a former beat reporter for the Ocean County Observer who presently is a news writer for Symbolic Systems Inc. supporting the US Army's Knowledge Center. His music writing covers a vast range of topics, from the current cover band craze, highs and lows of the original scene, to the early days of the Jersey Shore rock scene in Asbury Park. He is also a musician, having written hundreds of songs as a singer/songwriter, and playing them out as a solo/acoustic artist. He has also played with cover bands, including It Doesn't Matter, and several original bands, including as the guitarist for the solo project of singer/songwriter Dave Eric. He continues to work on solo material and is presently the guitar player for Jersey Breeze.