The Paul Green Rock Academy is about to become Rock Academy, at least in Woodstock and the rest of the Hudson Valley. PGRA will live on, but as a 50-student tops “graduate school” in Philadelphia, where Green and his family moved earlier this year so he could attend law school at that city’s Temple University.
“The idea always was that Woodstock would be the flagship for Upstate,” said spokesperson and partner Abbe Aronson of Rock Academy’s plans moving forward. “We’ll still be affiliated with Paul and what he’s doing in Philly, but separate. We were all 100 percent committed to this.”
She added that Paul Green Rock Academy had started out as a partnership between he and his wife Lisa, Jason Bowman and Acacia Ludwig, and Aronson as a fifth partner.
Green, speaking from Philadelphia (where Aronson had just visited), said that “What started out as a two family business is now a one family business.”
Aronson, speaking on behalf of Bowman and Ludwig, went on to note that she and her remaining partners all felt committed to keeping Rock Academy running locally.
“We will stay focused on doing things in the community itself. We want to remind everyone that we’re not just ‘still here’ but pushing forward,” she said. “There just wasn’t enough income to sustain all four of the principals, especially with Paul and Lisa having majority, and Jason and Acacia are committed; we’re all feeling very optimistic, very excited.”
Aronson explained that current activities tied to the changes in name and organization include a logo and website redesign by Ludwig, new class lineups including guest instructors getting rounded up by Bowman, and a December 2 performance on the Village Green to take place in conjunction with the Woodstock Chamber of Commerce and Art’s annual Open House event. There’s also an impending announcement on a new location for a second Hudson Valley Rock Academy location, in “an established academic setting” that Green later noted as being in Poughkeepsie, to which students at the recently opened Orange County Rock Academy will be asked to transfer.
“We’re quietly talking to investors, while also making sure that for kids and parents currently enrolled, there will be no real change,” Aronson said. “And while we’ve always done as much as possible in terms of providing scholarships, with it very important to us that we never turn anyone away, we’re planning to focus on our bottom line more.”
Along that latter line, Aronson said that she, Bowman and Ludwig are planning a Spring fundraiser in tandem with a local food pantry and other community-oriented events in Woodstock.
Green, meanwhile, noted how he started Paul Green Rock Academy after moving to the Woodstock area five years ago to start a rock college, Woodstock Music Lab, with locally-based rock impresario Michael Lang.
“When that took longer than expected I figured I had to do something to support my family,” the founder of the first School of Rock in Philadelphia said, without going into the long history that resulted in his original idea getting turned into a documentary, a feature film, and a franchised business he’s no longer involved in. “As my funds dwindled I said, ‘Let’s open rock academy!’”
The Woodstock Music Laboratory bought the 50,000 square foot Zena Elementary School in 2015 and hosted an open house there in winter, 2016, where Green, Lang and partners David Jarrett, a hospitality developer, and Bill Reichblum, former dean of Bennington College in Vermont, discussed their plans for a two year college featuring a faculty of Hudson Valley-based musicians and special guests, taking the School of Rock concept to a new academic level. Green said this week that he will continue working as a partner with the WML project, and noted that a major announcement regarding the addition of a new, big-name rock musician as an investor was “imminent,” and likely to draw further funding since “private equity groups like him.” Calls and emails to Lang were not returned as of press time.
We asked Green how it felt leaving another of his creations, this time in Woodstock. He spoke about how the only constant is change and how his only fault has been to sometimes wait too long to make needed changes.
“It made more sense to give up all my ownership in Rock Academy and move on, now that I’m in law school in Philadelphia,” he said. “All our investors got a nice chunk of my shares. I was able to recognize that things don’t always go just as planned.”
We brought up a Philly magazine story about his return to the city, and opening of a slimmed down version of his original School of Rock idea. Was it hard to be maintaining a persona the piece described as “legendarily volatile and vulgar musician” into one’s middle aged years?
“It’s a set of experiences and skills I cherish. It’s something that I love,” he said of playing and teaching rock music. “Even if I graduate law school I’d still spend six hours a week teaching rock music. It’s just better when it’s my personal hobby and not my career.”
He added that the new Paul Green Rock Academy in Philadelphia will work with a maximum of 50 older students, in a rehearsal format geared to several key performances. And he’ll continue running an adult version of Woodstock’s rock academy, with performances this Friday and Saturday, November 17 and 18 at New World Home Cooking in Saugerties, through the coming Spring.
“Doing business in an under-populated area like Ulster County is not easy. It didn’t work,” Green said. “Now, in law school, I have to be careful not to talk too much about my experiences and learn to listen like a student again.”
“Who knows, maybe I’ll move back as Woodstock Music Lab’s counsel,” he then added with a laugh.