A ‘rock school’ in need of a broader teaching plan

Documentary captures one man’s obsession in teaching rock to youngsters

by Keri Carlson

Paul Green thinks his after-school music lessons will save rock ‘n’ roll. This means, of course, that he believes rock needs saving – quite a common stance for ’60s and ’70s-era adolescents.

In 2007, Green wishfully predicts in the documentary “Rock School,” his pupils will grace the cover of Rolling Stone and a whole movement of great bands will be traced back to him and his school of rock.

Sound familiar?

Supposedly, Green started the school before the mainstream film “School of Rock.” But the similarities between Green and Jack Black’s character are eerie. Green is a maniac who screams, “Do you love Satan?” at 14-year-olds and is nostalgic for the arena, rock-star days of Led Zeppelin.

In “School of Rock,” this scenario of a failed musician realizing his dreams through young blood was funny. But taken out of fantasy and moved into reality, it’s more sad than laughable.

The students in the school, aged nine through 17, are taught Green’s version of rock – which is limited to one decade: the 1970s and cock-rock.

But isn’t the true spirit of rock to reject your elders? The fact that the students seem only concerned with classic-rock bands goes against the very rebellion inherent to rock.

Green teaches his students to play note-for-note covers of bands he likes; beginners play Black Sabbath, and the more advanced students play Frank Zappa. When the kids play the wrong notes or forget the bridge, Green curses, slams doors and harangues his students for not practicing hard enough.

Director Don Argott focuses much of the film on Green’s outbursts, which will appall some and amuse others. Some of these tirades rattle the nerves of the students, but generally, the students seem unaffected and accustomed to Green’s red face.

The movie has its moments. A highlight is the 9-year-old twins who wear black eyeliner and sing Ozzy. But the film’s real gem is a depressed, but extremely self-aware, teen who gives rock school credit for saving his life. He can also spot the contradictions of Green’s teaching.

Green might be right, and his students might someday be on the cover of Rolling Stone Ö but it will probably have to be an issue on cover bands.