School of Rock is as much about being an adult as being a child

April 24, 2017

The Indian philosopher Jiddu Krishnamurti said: “There is no end to education. It is not that you read a book, pass an examination, and finish with education. The whole of life, from the moment you are born to the moment you die, is a process of learning.”

I was thinking of this in connection with School of Rock the Musical, which Bruno Wang Productions is honoured to be involved with. The plot sees a frustrated musician Dewey Finn team up with a group of talented school children to create a band which is the epitome of energetic, exciting, rebellious youth.

Dewey – played memorably in the film of the same name by Jack Black – is still in mourning for his lost adolescence. Unwilling to grow up himself – and put away childish things – he sees no merit in anyone else wanting to.

When he becomes a teacher, Dewey believes he is liberating his pupils from their stuffy prep school existence, from fathers who think playing anything but classical music is a waste of time, and from mothers focused on grades and not happiness.

At first he is successful – distracting the pupils from their maths studies to teach them about rock. Yet, he comes to realise that his passion is misdirected; he is stealing their time merely to bolster his own insecurities.

Dewey was never able to make peace with his internal rebellious child; instead, he has allowed himself to be governed by it. But the children are far less complicated – as children always are, they see the skills learnt in creating the band as worthy in themselves. They have mastered loyalty and resilience, courage and creativity.

What I love about the show is that it demonstrates that life isn’t only about rules or freedom; it’s not only about being a child, but also about being an adult. It’s the push and pull, the tension and contrast, responsibility and freedom that propel us forward to grow and expand. The School of Rock is a window on the school of life.

Bruno Wang, founder of Bruno Wang Productions