British Columbia

Former B.C. teacher who inspired School of Rock warns against VSB music program cuts

Hans Fenger's story served as the inspiration for the 2003 film School of Rock. He says when he started teaching music he had no idea how to do it or what the impacts would be on students. Now, he's speaking out against music cuts at the VSB.

'Music and art are those subjects that create citizenship in a school ... a sense of belonging'

On Tuesday, June 7, parents, students and others rallied outside VSB offices in Vancouver to oppose cuts to music education. (@Jonathan_Girard/Twitter)

Parents, students and musicians gathered outside the Vancouver School Board offices Tuesday with musical instruments in their hands to stage a "silent orchestra" in protest of proposed cuts to music programs.

For five of the past seven years, the Vancouver School Board has threatened to cut the band and strings program for the district, and Hans Fenger says that would be a mistake.

Fenger is a former music teacher from Langley, B.C., whose story served as the inspiration for the 2003 movie School of Rock.

"Music and art are activities which allow children to think in a more abstract way … a kind of thinking that allows children to be more open to new ideas, to be more retrainable," Fenger told On The Coast host Stephen Quinn.

Hans Fenger's work in Langley served as the inspiration for the 2003 movie School of Rock. (CBC)

"Music and art are those subjects that create citizenship in a school, gives kids a sense of belonging, gives kids a sense of working with other kids together, and it gives your school the kind of feeling that you want to be there."

Fenger didn't always have such lofty ideas about music education. He admits he took a teaching job because he had a young baby and no money, and being a long-haired hippie in a band in the '70s wasn't going to put food on the table.

He found that as a music teacher for young kids, he almost had carte blanche to teach as he saw fit — the only thing that mattered was if the kids were happy or not.

So, he taught them the music he knew: rock music by artists like The Beach Boys, Phil Spector and David Bowie.

"So I would come in and teach what I knew and find an academic way of justifying it," he said. "We did David Bowie's Space Oddity … so I could say, 'Oh, it's like an opera.'"

Fenger even recorded some of his kids' performances for two LP records in the '70s, which were rediscovered and released on CD early in the 21st Century.

With files from CBC Radio One's On The Coast

To hear the full story, click the audio labelled: Rocker-turned-teacher Hans Fenger warns against VSB music program cuts

now