A group of Philly teens joined this Jon Anderson tour

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Here’s how 25 young musicians bonded with a 76-year-old singer whose greatest works date from before the birth of some of their parents.


Jon Anderson of Yes Fame performs with Gabby Gonzalez of Lansdale (left) and other Paul Green Rock Academy students at the Bearsville Theater in Woodstock, NY on Friday, July 30. (Photo credit: John W. Barry / Barryonthebeat.com)

At the beginning of September, when teens and teachers ask this ubiquitous start of the school year question: “So what is it?” you doing this summer, ”responses tend to include things like,“ Oh, we went to the beach ”or“ I found a job at Taco Bell ”or“ I literally watched everything on HBO Max. But if you’re Gabby Gonzalez from Lansdale or one of the 24 other Philadelphia-area teens, you can say you’ve toured and performed with supernatural singer Jon Anderson, founder of the legendary progressive rock band Yes.

Granted, most of your fellow students would probably look at you in bewilderment, their playlists being more likely to be filled with options like “Thot Shit” by Megan Thee Stallion and “Levitating” by Dua Lipa than, say, “Siberian. Khatru “or” Starship Trooper “or” Heart of the Sunrise “, all songs written and sung by Anderson, who is now 76, in the early 1970s. Hell, your classmates’ parents might not have been not even born when those Yes songs came out.

Jon Anderson’s tour kicked off in Woodstock, New York on Friday (read a review here) and continues through August 28, with local stops at the Colonial Theater in Phoenixville this Saturday (it’s sold out) and Ardmore Music Hall on the main line, which just went on sale.

Paul Green of the Paul Green Rock Academy addressing the crowd ahead of the start of Jon Anderson's tour in Woodstock

Paul Green Rock Academy founder Paul Green addressing the crowd in Woodstock ahead of Jon Anderson’s touring debut show (Photo: John W. Barry / Barryonthebeat.com)

The shows are the result of a creative partnership between Anderson and the Paul Green Rock Academy, a music school of the founder of the first School of Rock (yes, the same School of Rock that Green claimed to have inspired the producers of the Jack Black film. ), which after Green left turned into a huge franchise operation.

Green, a Germantown resident, has known Anderson for about 20 years, since meeting in Los Angeles in the early 2000s around the documentary’s release. Rock school, which delved into Green’s early operations and his exaggerated antics.

jon anderson with paul green in 2005, over 15 years before jon anderson's current tour

Jon Anderson with Paul Green in 2005 at an event in Los Angeles (Getty Images)

With School of Rock, Green educated the masses, accepting anyone who wanted to vent and pay the fees. But the Roxborough-based Paul Green Rock Academy is a much more elite operation, filled with students who must audition and be accepted into the program – students who can, with Green’s help, handle Yes’s uplifting music. .

“We were supposed to do this tour last summer,” Green told us from the tour bus on Saturday, the students yapping loudly in the background, as it should be. “And now with the Delta variant, we were just hoping the tour wouldn’t be canceled. On the Woodstock site, they were really tough, looking at everyone and with the vaxx cards and everything. It took two hours to get everyone into the club. But it ended up being such a great show.

Finn Suárez Vora from Havertown, a 16-year-old student from Haverford High School who plays guitar, bass and keyboards on some songs from the Anderson tour (Green spins the students during the show), was only ‘with the Paul Green Rock Academy for about eight months, joining during the pandemic.

rock academy student paul green performing on jon anderson tour

Finn Suárez Vora, student at Paul Green Rock Academy with Jon Anderson (photo courtesy of Finn Suárez Vora)

“I had to audition on Zoom and the classes were on Zoom for a long time,” Vora explains. “But it was great. And now this tour. You can’t really replicate it elsewhere. I play ‘Heart of the Sunrise’ with the person who originally do this music.”

Vora tells Philly Mag that he plans to pursue music professionally. Not so much for 17-year-old Gonzalez, who will soon be leaving for the Rochester Institute of Technology to study chemistry, with the goal of working in biotechnology.

“But I’ve been around music since I was a kid,” says Gonzalez, bassist and singer. “So I’m sure I’ll do a few more shows here and there. “

Vora and Gonzalez also appear in a promotional video, seen below, performing “Heart of the Sunrise” – virtually – with Anderson and other students at Paul Green Rock Academy. Vora plays bass and keyboards and Gonzalez also sings and plays bass.

Unlike most touring musicians, students are not paid for their work. On top of that, their families have to cover all travel costs. But according to Vora’s father, Joe Schwartz, it’s all worth it.

“It’s a unique musical summer camp where they learn and perform in front of the audience with a legend,” says Schwartz. “It’s an incredible learning experience. “

Contacted earlier this week, Anderson told Philly Mag he was impressed that the kids were able to follow Yes’s music and described them as “loving, friendly and adorable.”

“Honestly, they do me I fell like a teenager when I played with them, ”Anderson said. “But then one of them asks if they can take a selfie, and I say sure. And then I look at the selfie and I say, ‘Who is that old man ?! ‘”


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