Sunday, January 30, 2005

Rock School

★ ★ ★ No one in the Sundance audience had the temerity to ask director Don Argott if he began this documentary of the real-life School of Rock before or after Jack Black’s eponymous comedy became a smash hit. In any event, it is fascinating to meet Paul Green, the school’s founder, up close and personal. Green is a 30-something adolescent that has never recovered from his dream to be a rock star. So he lives his life vicariously through the kids, teaching them, getting them gigs and trying to mold his place as the greatest developer of young rock ‘n roll talent in the world. (It’s a nice moniker, but probably doesn’t impress the chicks nearly as much as “Rock Star.”)

Please enter Rock School. Imagine if you will parents paying good money for an after-school program where their children learn the music, history and cultural significance of bands like Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin and Metallica. Watch Mom join in the fun by dressing up her nine-year-old boy like Ozzy Osbourne, with a fake cross tattoo on his forehead. (Being something of a traditional parent, she couldn’t quite be convinced to allow her child to wear the pentagram and other satanic symbols he requested, but it was a close call.)

No, this isn't the Student Council. But maybe it's a worthy effort, because some of these kids can make a Fender Strat riff like Jimmy Page. And if they fully apply themselves, maybe they can even be big-time rock stars some day, which I’m sure will make them model citizens and bring unbridled happiness to all.

Pardon the cynicism. I do love rock ‘n roll. And the fact is, Rock School is an entertaining film that flies by—which is a little unusual for a documentary. Clearly the kids like and respect Green, and in turn he genuinely cares for them. But as a parent, I can’t say that I’d wish the lifestyle on my kids. And I couldn’t help but have a sick feeling hearing Mr. Green launch into profanity-filled tirades, or hearing some of the kids return fire.

I’m sure that some good comes out of the experience. But if this is how you expand your kids' horizons, than maybe you need to find a new compass.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have two children in the Philadelphia School of Rock. What you have seen is Paul being Paul, good and bad. There is much more good but I don't think good sells movie tickets as quickly. What you don't see is that all of the teachers are serious professionals with alot of class. Paul still runs one or two shows a season and the All Star program, but by the time you are in one of Pauls shows or the All Stars you should be more than ready to handle it. Bottom line is that if your children aspire to play well, become Rock Stars or just see what that would be like... There is no better place for them... and it keeps getting better.

1:50 AM  
Blogger Bill said...

Thanks for the perspective. Very few documentaries are accurate reflections of their subjects, so I can easily buy into your comments. Thanks for the perspective.

(But I must say, the whole Satan thing did disturb me a little.)

1:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I saw Rock School at the True/False film fest in Columbia Missouri this weekend, and although I agree it was entertaining, and I realize documentaries have their limits, I was more disturbed by the apparent lack of emphasis on music, and Paul Green's lip-service to "humanity" but lack of respect for the students as human beings, not just performing robots, than by the tongue-in-cheek Black Sabbath performance.

Not even the "star" performers appearing at Zappanale in Germany appeared to derive any joy from the music and performed like the stressed-out, disrespected people they were treated like in the school.

Mocking Sheryl Crowe's music and elevating Frank Zappa's purely due to its difficulty and inaccessibility at the expense of the student's own musical tastes seems cruel. I wish Mr. Green well with what could be an admirable mission, but I remind him that music be the food of love. Play on, play on...

4:02 PM  
Blogger Bill said...

Yes, I sensed a little of that myself. But I am reminded that Green wants to have the best school in the world, and presumably these kids want to be the best. That level of commitment often takes the simple pleasure out of the craft--whether it's music, art or high school football.

I'd rather my kid learned in a garage band that played for hours out of both a desire to improve and the sheer delight of making music.

4:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

OK I saw the film at Sundance and was truly mesmerized. I think there is alot of very positive and healthy components to the Rock School enviroment.Clearly, these kids are truly learning all the pros and cons of pursuing music as a career. They are being taught by a truly demanding and capable teacher. I ask you this what is the difference between Paul Green and any other demanding coach? None. I have heard coaches scream expletives at young children. Maybe it motivates them to strive for perfection. I was very impressed with Rock School.

5:20 PM  

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