I’m a big fan of the Paul Green School of Rock. Paul Green has received a lot of publicity via School of Rock and the somewhat more accurate documentary, Rock School. But no one has really talked about the serious pedagogy underlying the “manifesto” that Green prints on every program and flyer he sends out. The premise is simple: present kids with a tough challenge that they’ll want to achieve. In the SOR example, it’s to learn to play (mostly by ear) instruments in order to reproduce well-known rock music. The students rehearse, both in private lessons and in group practice sessions. Then they put on a show. All the “bands” are fluid, so kids have to learn to play with a lot of other musicians of varying age and ability – no matter what they’re assigned. The music ranges from simple (Kiss, Ramones) to complex (Queen, Led Zeppelin).
I can personally attest for all that it’s done for my kid. She states frequently that she’d rather be at rock school than “regular school” (gulp). But who could blame her? When you’re 13, learning to sing Sweet Emotion and play bass on Welcome to the Jungle can really seem much more relevant than learning algebra.
But when I think of all the serious learning that goes on, I encourage her rockin’ more than discourage it. With meaningful goals (learn the music) attached to an authentic outcome (perform in a show), kids are engaged, solve problems, tackle challenges – all that we want for them in a learning situation. Now how to apply that to “regular” school … ?