Paul Green believes that kids can do the darndest things — like play rock ’n’ roll. Like pros.
Since 1998, Green has operated Paul Green’s School of Rock, which began giving “the gift of rock” to students in Phila delphia and has swelled to more than 20 locations around the country, with an enrollment of more than 2,000. (The closest to Detroit is in Chicago, while a branch is opening soon in Cleveland.) It’s been celebrated twice in fi lm, via the 2003 comedy “School of Rock” — in which Jack Black emulated Green’s exuberant, in-your-face teaching style — and in the 2004 documentary “Rock School.”
“I still do it for exactly the same reason,” Green, 34, explains. “I want to help kids find their creative voice through their technical chops. I yearn for the days when the best music was also the most popular.
“When the Dave Matthews Band is getting $1 million for a gig, something is terribly wrong with the world.”
The cream of Green’s student crop is the School of Rock All-Stars, a consortium that takes on a more challenging repertoire and goes on occasional tours — including one that will bring the troupe to the Royal Oak Music Theatre for a free show tonight. The group has worked with “guest professors” such as Alice Cooper, Peter Frampton, Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder and Yes’ Jon Anderson, and it’s performed at Lollapalooza, the National Association of Music Merchandisers’ Convention, the Los Angeles Film Festival and Zappanale, the Frank Zappa tribute festival in Germany.
“Those kids are good,” Cooper says. “They play with real feeling, with some swing. It’s not just like a band class, a bunch of kids reading music.”
Green says the All-Stars are “the kids who really put the hard work in, the courageous kids who want to get up there and go for it.” He feels that “theoretically, most of (the students) have that potential” to be All-Stars, but adds that “the most universal human characteristic is fear, laziness. The kids that get over that are the ones that go far.”
Green is already starting to have some success stories with his charges. Adrian Belew, an alumnus of King Crimson, Talking Heads, Zappa and David Bowie as well as a solo artist, is using the brother-sister rhythm section of Eric and Julie Slick in his touring band. Guitarist C.J. Tywoniak and Zak Page have received national attention.
“We are on the cusp and ... starting to get more actively involved in artist development,” Green says. “Over the next six months, you’re going to see (recording) bands coming out of here.”
The All-Stars have been practicing every weekend since September for their holiday tour, building a repertoire that includes music by the Beatles, Frank Zappa, Led Zeppelin, Queen, Rod Stewart, the Faces, Slayer and even Charles Mingus. The students, Green says, are troupers; but he makes the adult chaperones sign a waiver promising “they will not be a pain in my a--.”
“Twenty-four kids I can handle,” he explains. “The seven parents we drag along drive me crazy.”
Green also is excited to finally be bringing the All-Stars to the Detroit area, which he says could be the precursor to opening a Detroit branch of the School of Rock.
“For some reason we’ve passed by Detroit, which bothered me,” Green says. “Hopefully this will build up some excitement. Then we can open a summer camp next summer and maybe start to build the clientele for a school in the not too distant future. There should be a School of Rock in Detroit Rock City, right?”
The Paul Green School of Rock All-Stars perform at 8 p.m. Friday (December 29th) at the Royal Oak Music Theatre, 318 W. Fourth St., Royal Oak. Admission is free. Call (248) 399-2980 or visit www.royaloak musictheatre.com.
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