Silver Chips Online

We don't need no education

Blazers rock n' roll at the Paul Green School of Rock

By Sophia Deng, Online Managing Editor
June 20, 2009
Remember when Jack Black taught a class of students how to rock out to Led Zeppelin in the 2003 Paramount Pictures film "School of Rock?" Black's rock school may have been fabricated, but a real school of rock was the inspiration for the movie's storyline - the Paul Green School of Rock.

Junior Meredith Meer sings at a show for the Paul Green School of Rock. <i>Picture courtesy of Meredith Meer.</i>
Junior Meredith Meer sings at a show for the Paul Green School of Rock. Picture courtesy of Meredith Meer.
In 1998, the Paul Green School of Rock opened in Philadelphia, Pa. and was the first performance-based interactive music school in the U.S. Since then, the school has expanded to 55 branches, drawing in students ages 8-16 from 27 states. In February 2006, the first branch of the Paul Green School of Rock in the greater Washington, D.C. area opened, according to the School of Rock website. Currently, there are two school branches in Baltimore and Silver Spring where Blazers go to get lost in rock and roll.

Musical education

Although called a "school," the Paul Green School of Rock Music prides itself on being different from the burden and snooze associated with school. "We apply the philosophy of taking kids out of the classroom and putting them on stage," Randy Alexander, spokesman for the rock school, says.

In the "classroom," students receive 45-minute private lessons on an instrument of choice, including guitar, bass and keyboard, as well as vocal lessons, according to Alexander. Students also have a three-hour rehearsal one day per week to prepare them for different shows. The shows are always themed - paying tribute to bands and artists like Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd, or focusing on an overarching aspect of rock music, like "guitar gods" or "arena rock."

Junior Elliot Meyerson, who enrolled in the school's program last year, particularly enjoys the one-on-one individual lessons, where he has learned music theory for the bass guitar. "The teachers are really qualified," Meyerson says. "There's a diverse teaching staff, and they aren't who you expect them to be. They're real musicians who play themselves."

Hard at work

In addition to the private lessons, many students spend three to four months working with approximately 12 students during the three-hour band rehearsals in preparation for their performances. After months of intense practice, the students perform live at various venues, such as the Santa Fe Café in College Park. During these shows, the students play 20-25 song sets, which adds up to two hours of playing time. "It's a serious part of life," Meyerson says.

Rock school students perform at various venues, including the B.B. King Blues Club in New York. <i>Picture courtesy of Meredith Meer.</i>
Rock school students perform at various venues, including the B.B. King Blues Club in New York. Picture courtesy of Meredith Meer.

Junior Meredith Meer, who joined the school in her sophomore year, finds performances an even more "serious part of life" than Meyerson does. This year, Meer was selected as a vocalist for the East Coast All-Star School of Rock. Instead of Meyerson's weekly three-hour rehearsals, she has had to meet in Philadelphia every Saturday for practice. "It's a really big commitment," she reflects. "There were times when it was really stressful, especially with being a Blair student and having a lot of other interests."

Despite the hard work, both Meyerson and Meer believe that the effort put forth was worth the end product. Meyerson particularly enjoyed himself at a "Best of Show" concert held in Virginia, where the Silver Spring/D.C. school of rock competed with the Vienna and Ashburn branches. "It was like 'Battle of the Bands'," Meyerson says. "We didn't win, but it was a good playing experience and I met a lot of cool people."

Meer has similarly found incredible rewards at the end of her uphill struggles. Although she has had to miss many days of school, she has also received once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to sing on multiple tours. "During the spring tour, I got to sing with the flutist from the Frank Zappa Band, Napoleon Murphy Brock," she recounts.

Enriching experience

Through the school of rock, Meer has become more confident in her musical abilities. Although she now performs with boldness, Meer, who initially joined the school to learn keyboard, was anxious about singing. "I was really shy about singing," she admits. "But when I sang a couple of songs during a local D.C. concert and later got voice lessons, my confidence level rose."

Now at ease playing onstage and in front of large crowds, junior guitarist Jeremy Lebow also admits to initially being nervous about performing. "The first day when I had to audition in front of some of the managing guys was kind of scary," he confesses. But after playing at numerous shows, Lebow has learned to overcome his initial stage fright. "I've gotten used to playing onstage and performing in front of an audience." Like Lebow and Meer, Meyerson has learned skills that he hopes he will carry in future shows. "We play songs that I would never have learned otherwise," he says.

Meer sings with band members she has met on tour. <i>Picture courtesy of Meredith Meer.</i>
Meer sings with band members she has met on tour. Picture courtesy of Meredith Meer.

While performing or practicing at the school of rock, all three students have bonded with people who have changed their lives. Meyerson has met students, who are now his friends, from around the Metropolitan area during his performances. Meer met one of the most important people in her life, her current boyfriend and guitarist in the rock school, through music. "The school is a really safe haven for kids all interested in rock music," Meer says. Alexander also cites the school's "positive sense of community."

Beyond the classroom

Over the summer, Lebow plans to perform at more venues over the summer. "I'm going to be missing band rehearsals over the summer, but I'll still learn to play songs for the Woodstock show on the Mall in D.C. in August," he says. However, both Lebow and Meyerson do not plan to continue with the Paul Green School of Rock Music next year because of management and organizational changes at the Silver Spring branch.

Jeremy Lebow (left) and Elliot Meyerson (right) play together at a show. <i>Picture courtesy of Elliot Meyerson.</i>
Jeremy Lebow (left) and Elliot Meyerson (right) play together at a show. Picture courtesy of Elliot Meyerson.
Still, Lebow and Meyerson are carrying on with their musical interests. Meyerson is currently in the Honors Jazz band, and Lebow has signed up to take the course next year. They also plan to start a band with junior Devin Peck and senior Greg Friedman.

Meer on the other hand, wishes to continue at the school until she reaches its age limit. Like Lebow and Meyerson, she is also involved in a band, The Mooshoe Band. Currently, Meer is focusing on her new project - recording a CD with a Maryland-based record company.

Meyerson knows that the techniques and skills learned from rock school will help him in the future, whether it is in Jazz Band or his own band. "The school of rock gives opportunity to do shows and work with people. It's a good experience," he says. Agreeing with Meyerson, Alexander notes that the skills students learn go even further. "We want kids to know they have more talent than people give them credit for," he says. "We want kids to realize they can do anything."