Nothing says rock 'n' roll less than a lawsuit. Paul Green knows that, which makes him Rock Teacher of the Year in our book. >
Nonetheless, Green -- a 32-year-old rock god to several dozen prepubescent rockers-in-training -- has a legitimate beef with a certain Hollywood film studio that's raked in more than $80 million with a supposed tale of fiction.
Back in 2002, Green says some VH1 execs -- having read a Spin magazine story on Green's School of Rock Music in Philadelphia -- called him up and pitched a reality show for the Viacom-owned network. Green obliged; the cameras rolled.
But then VH1 backed out, for reasons unknown to Green.
So imagine Green's surprise when Paramount Pictures, also owned by Viacom, released School of Rock a year later -- seven years after Green opened shop in 1996 -- and cast the buffoonish, combustible Jack Black in the leading role. "Here's the screwed-up thing," Green says. "I thought that, if there ever was a movie about the School of Rock Music, that Jack Black would play me."
The road to redemption could have led straight to court, but Green knew better.
"The good karma of not suing," Green says, "outweighed the possible gain from a lawsuit."
Now, Green is teaching his band of bad-ass boys and girls -- ages 12 to 17 -- a lesson on what it really means to rock 'til they drop, leading them on a 16-day, 17-show tour up and down the West Coast and Southwest. In rounding up 27 of "the best and brightest from our three Philadelphia branches" -- including four drummers, four bassists, four keyboardists, 14 guitarists and a lone sax player -- Green promises a spectacle akin to the legendary rock shows of Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Queen and Yes.
"The reason I booked the tour was because I'm their biggest fan," says Green, a University of Pennsylvania grad with a degree in philosophy. "The novelty of kids playing rock would have worn off a long time ago. What's neat is how good these kids really are."
On Tuesday, August 10, the School of Rock's show at the Paper Heart pays homage to the monsters of classic rock, with a 20-song set that includes Pink Floyd's "Dogs" and the Rolling Stones' "Can't You Hear Me Knockin'?" Stud guitarist CJ Tywoniak plays a spot-on Eddie Van Halen, so expect an "Eruption" as well.
Each kid plays about three or four songs each, providing the audience with "a wide variety of musical virtuosity." The program also pushes the kids into a healthy competition of one-upmanship, something Green isn't shy to emphasize on tour.
"We do a lot of interviews, both in print and on TV," he says. "The kids who stick out their tongue and do the devil sign get into the photos; the kids who say stuff get quoted."
Philadelphia and New Jersey, where Green maintains two satellite Schools of Rock, are just the beginning. In January, Green opens schools in San Francisco, New York and, possibly, Phoenix.
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