Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Proud mother moment - Eric Slick rules!

The Rock School All-Stars at CBGB's following the NYC premiere of the movie
(and of course that's my son, Eric, in the black suit and sunglasses)

Pump up the volume: A crass course in rock
Sunday, June 19, 2005
Staff Writer

Before Paul Green even enters the room, you can hear him screaming from the floor above. Loudly. As loudly as any rock fan in any rock arena attending any rock concert ever screamed.

On the walls of Paul Green's School of Rock Music in Philadelphia there are lots of photos of him screaming. There are posters and reminders and mementos as well. But mostly there are photos of Green screaming.

The first time Green saw Don Argott's modest documentary "Rock School," he hated it because he thought he came off looking like a jerk. "Jerk" is not the word Green uses. He uses an expletive, just as he does in the film that illustrates his unorthodox method for teaching children ages 9 to 17 how to become rock stars.

"I tell my students, `Rock 'n' roll is sex, drugs and booze, and then there's the down side,' " Green jokes, a wicked smile spreading across his face.

He is 32, his conversation a mixture of arrogance and brutal honesty. He gives the impression he doesn't like being sized up, that despite his bravura, he really does give a damn. And that he is ambitious.

He'a whirling dervish in a three-story Philadelphia building only months from being razed to make room for the city's new convention center. There's already been one movie inspired by him - the well-received Jack Black feature "School of Rock," a movie Green denounces in a hail of obscenities.

"We're a formal music school," Green insists. "We have 180 kids, 40 percent of them female. Some of our teachers are former students."

As Green explains in "Rock School," he doesn't coddle students. Instead he tells them off, urges them to leave if they don't like the pressure and is honest enough to admit that he worries some might learn to be better guitarists than he is.

"Talent is a funny word," Green says. "Let 'em have fun."

The curriculum includes Led Zeppelin, Frank Zappa and you name it - complete with encouragement to shake a long head of hair, if that's what it takes. Student shows take the place of written exams.

Forty-five minute private lessons on a student's instrument of choice and three-hour weekly rehearsals help the aspiring musicians prepare for the performances, which take place at places such as Philadelphia's Trocadero rock club.

Is CJ Tywoniak, the 15-year-old sitting next to Green on a worn couch, a better guitarist than he is?

"No," Green answers, quickly, as CJ nods in silent agreement.

Is CJ, so prominently featured in "Rock School" and so obviously talented, Green's best student?

"No," Green replies, just as quickly and, once again, the quiet, long-haired teen nods modestly in agreement.

That title falls to Eric Slick, a drummer, who later saunters into Green's aerie on Race Street near 13th Street. He makes a series of cell-phone calls as Green is promoting the movie on his school.

-- -- --

When CJ told his mom, Monique Lampson, that he wanted to attend Green's rock school, an hour's drive from their Downingtown, Pa., home three years ago, "we did not just drop him off here," she explains.

"I went with him. It took a solid year before I felt comfortable with it," says Lampson. "He clearly found his talent - and he's not about drugs, but he is interested in the girls."

What sold Lampson on Green's school was how her son reacted after he met Green.

"My son said something really poignant," Lampson recalls. "He said, `It scares me to death to do this and that's why I have to do this.' "

Anyone can enroll in the school. Students don't have to know how to play an instrument or read music, but they have to be willing to learn, because if there's one thing Green can't stand it's "waste of potential."

As Green asserts in "Rock School," "I can teach anything."

Green is vague about how much it costs to attend one of his schools, which are scattered around the country, but mentions there are scholarships.

With area schools already in operation in Cherry Hill and Huntingdon Valley, Pa., Green says he's thinking of opening another in Trenton or Princeton.

Green was studying philosophy at the University of Pennsylvania and planning a career in law when his love of music intruded. He opened his Philadelphia school in 1998 and suggests that his recent move to New York, where he has another branch, is proof of how good business is.

"I spend two days a week here and two days there," he explains as he sits in a worn pair of shorts and a black T-shirt. Formality isn't something Green seems to practice and he's as antsy as a child.

Capturing Green and his school on film couldn't have been easy for Argott, considering the restlessness of the teacher's nature and the narrow corridors of the facility.

"It's as fair a representation of his character as you can do in 90 minutes," director Argott says of "Rock School," which is opening slowly across the country.

A self-proclaimed "workaholic" who sometimes works from 4 a.m. to 8 p.m., Green has a simple answer for anyone who asks what it is about rock music that lures men in particular.

"Why does the male peacock have bigger feathers?" he asks.

As stated, the photo at the top of this post is from an article which appeared about the kids performing at CBGBs following the NYC Rock School premiere and it appeared in the June 6, 2005 edition of Variety. I've been trying to access it by applying for a temporary free subscription, etc. but it's not working. If anyone has it, please send it to me because it looks like it might be a good review of the kids' performance.