No More Teachers' Dirty Looks

Children pressured to learn classic rock songs; writer leaves town in protest

I can't imagine any parent watching Rock School, the 2005 documentary about Paul Green's eponymous Philadelphia institute, and thinking, "That's the man I want teaching my little dumpling!" Green is narcissistic, abusive, and unaware that music exists outside the narrow brackets of classic rock. He even declares himself the catalyst for the next great wave of rock saviors, you know, when he's not too busy screaming at a group of children trying to play a note-perfect Frank Zappa cover. I don't know if it was the delusions of grandeur or the toddler tantrums that did it, but by the time I left the movie theater, I pretty much hated the guy.

So when I heard that a Paul Green School of Rock Music is opening in St. Paul, I was conflicted. On the one hand, I love the idea of parents encouraging their kids to learn an instrument that might get them laid someday. On the other, Paul Green. The good news is that with a chain of 28 schools across the country, Green doesn't have time to torture the Twin Cities youth. I was further relieved by my chat with Jeff Worden, Summit Ave drummer and creative director of the St. Paul school, who doesn't seem like the kind of guy who'd chastise your tyke for failing to nail a 10-minute rendition of "Inca Roads."

City Pages: What kinds of classes will you be offering?

Jeff Worden: We'll be giving individual lessons in vocals, piano, bass guitar, guitar, and drums. The kids also learn to play songs of different rock groups. Once every three months we'll have a concert at a venue in the Twin Cities where they'll perform together. It's not just teaching them how to play their instruments but teaching them to play with other musicians, how to perform, how to have stage presence, and also teaching them how to entertain a crowd.

CP: That's a lot.

Worden: One of the things I've noticed from sitting in on classes—it's so rewarding for the kids, rather than just having a piano lesson. They get so much out of being able to put together a rock concert with these friends they're learning with. Being able to feel like part of a group and putting on a big rock show really rewards them for their hard work in the individual lessons.

CP: Do the kids just learn how to play covers?

Worden: Not necessarily. It's a lot of music theory and chord progressions and basically teaching them to play their own individual instrument. It's kind of a mix, depending on where the student is at and how quickly they learn their music for the show.

CP: In the movie, I was turned off by the fact that there was so much emphasis on copying other people's music. I know it's difficult to learn these songs, but there wasn't much room for creativity. It was all based on technical proficiency. Plus, Paul Green only had them playing classic rock.

Worden: Right. I can definitely see your point. We'll be doing different kinds of concerts. They range anywhere from Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, the Who, the Beatles. But we'll also have a metal-themed show, a punk-themed show, an AC/DC show, a Metallica show. We'll try to get them to learn many different types of rock music.

CP: I also hope the general teaching method doesn't involve quite as much yelling and swearing at the kids.

Worden: When I was asked to be the music director, the owner of this franchise asked me to watch the documentary and take some time to think about it. I came back and said I'd be very interested in doing it, but there's no way I can be the general manager of the school if we're going to be exactly like Paul Green in this movie. It just won't fly in Minnesota. People are too nice and I don't believe in yelling and swearing at kids like that. One of Paul Green's philosophies that I do agree with is it's important to not build up every kid and make them feel like what they're doing is perfect. It's important to teach them the areas they need to improve in and push them to be great.

Students are now being accepted to the Paul Green School of Rock Music, which opens Friday, September 1 at 417 Broadway, St. Paul; 651.492.6436

 

KEEP YOUR PANTS ON

Decembers Architects' gig this week at the Hexagon Bar is more than just a CD-release show for ,Apiary Ennui & Curiosas. The Brew Shakes (Say & Stay Said), it's a celebration of freedom. Freedom from conventional punctuation in album titles, yes, but also freedom in a more traditional sense. Drummer Nate Kinsella was recently released from an Oklahoma jail where he served three months for indecent exposure.

Last summer Kinsella was playing with his other band, Make Believe, at a Bartlesville Christian rock club, when he decided to get naked. As if that idea weren't obviously bad enough, he then wrung the sweat out of his shorts over the audience members' heads. (If anyone is eating while reading this, I am so sorry.) A benefit show is being set up this fall to help pay Kinsella's legal costs, and you can bet cousin/Make Believe bandmate Tim Kinsella will be on hand, perhaps with his Chicago band, Joan of Arc. On a side note, a tighty-whitied Sean Tillman was arrested in Oklahoma City for public lewdness following a Har Mar Superstar set in 2002. (Insert your own joke about "the Bible belt" here.)

Decembers Architects play their CD-release show with Birthmark, Les Ourses, Fiery Fire, and Everybell & Whistle on Sunday, August 13 at the Hexagon Bar; 612.722.3454

 

THAT WAS POP: THE EBAY COLLECTOR'S EDITION

It's strange to think now that I ended up in Minneapolis thanks to general laziness. I was 17 and visiting the Twin Cities for my great-great-grandmother's 100th birthday, when my mom suggested that we check out the U of M campus. We took a tour, and I said, "Yeah, okay." The decision had little to do with the actual school; Minneapolis had lots of concerts and was just the right distance from my hometown. It was the only campus tour I bothered to take (and I only bothered because it was convenient).

I had no idea what a good hand I'd been dealt, and I didn't expect such great bits of music history to fall into my lap: the last night at the Foxfire, the first night at the Triple Rock, the Pixies reunion. Dear God, what if I'd moved to Milwaukee? Shudder to think. Minneapolis has been very good to me over the years and I have a lot of people to thank for that.

But as a young Midwestern music critic, I've decided it's time to make my pilgrimage to New York. It's kind of like the Amish tradition of rumspringa, although I probably won't start dealing meth while I'm gone. I think I'll come back someday, and in the meantime, I'm bringing ThisIsPop.net back to life. Now that I said that I guess I have to do it, huh?

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