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Volume 70, Issue 147, Thursday, June 16, 2005

Life & Arts

'Rock School' chronicles life of a class act

By Melissa Barrera
The Daily Cougar

It seems that nowadays, because of the rigorous acceptance requirements at private schools and Ivy League colleges, kids are bombarded with extracurricular activities. Some kids have sports, some volunteer and some get to spend every afternoon rocking out.

The documentary Rock School follows a group of precocious young musicians and their fanatical instructor as they prepare for a series of musical concerts stretching as far and wide as Germany.

Paul Green (center), the overzealous founder of The Paul Green School of Rock Music, has his life and the life of his students chronicled in the documentary Rock School. The film follows Green and his pupils through lessons and performances that included a trip to Germany for the German Zappanale Festival.
Photo courtesy of Newmarket Films

The Philadelphia-based Paul Green School of Rock is an after-school program for children ages 9 through 17 to learn the art of rock 'n' roll. But you won't find these kids practicing pages of scales or classical bridges. Instead, the budding Rolling Stones wannabes practice the difference between demonic and angelic guitar chords, keyboard solos and how to thrash about a stage with presence.

First-time documentary filmmaker Don Argott balances the tell-all shots of the students at school with an enraged Green with candid interviews of all parties involved. And while the ranting of Green provides relentless shock-value comedy, it is in the interviews that the heart of the rock school unravels.

Argot captures everything the school offers up -- from the flamboyant Green being overtly fake and showy for the cameras, to rock moms (the soccer moms of the musical world, living vicariously through their kids) pushing decidedly untalented children into a life they never could attain. But when no one seems to notice the film rolling, we catch moments between teacher and student as basic and touching as a parent teaching a child to ride a bike. 

When C.J., a 12-year-old guitar god in the making, is faced with a depleting illness that may keep him from performing in a tribute concert, we see the blunt and often negative Green turn compassionate and concerned for the child as he is in scenes with his own offspring.

Some of the most poignant moments in the film come from the interviews with a sagely teen named Will O'Connor. Although not as musically gifted as some of the other students, Will uses the school as a stabilizer in battling bouts of depression. When he diagnoses Green with Peter Pan Syndrome and declares him unable to succeed as an adult in the real world, the film escapes its light tone and audiences come to realize that not all of the rock students fall for Green's reverse psychology.

Aside from the awe of O'Connor's revelations, filmgoers get to see incredibly skilled (and sometimes horrible) youngsters jam out in front of worldwide fans at the German Zappanale Festival.

The film is absolutely full-bodied and fun. It garners an R-rating for Green's incessant curses of encouragement at the children, but without it, the movie simply wouldn't have been true to the story of what the school is all about -- unbridled passion for rock 'n' roll.

Rock School

Rated: R for language

Starring: Paul Green

Newmarket Films

Verdict: For the kids about to rock, we salute you.

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