I’ll be the first to admit that fictional depictions of music teachers are well, fictional, and therefore, not entirely realistic about the daily classroom challenges. Sweeping instrumental music does not play every time you rearrange the risers. Students are not always so buoyed with inspiration that they become capable of ending all oppression and inequality in their surrounding metro area. Bursting into song, sadly does not solve every problem. But, in our estimation, it solves a lot of them. Let’s take a survey of fictional musical teachers and see how they measure up.
#6. The Sound of Music’s Maria Rainer isn’t technically a music teacher, but her first action in taking care of the von Trapp children is to lead them in song. Like most music teachers, Maria goes above and beyond the call of duty. If we get right down to it, there’s some weird stuff happening in The Sound of Music. Kids are wearing drapes, adults are singing that only the poor can truly experience romance, not to mention all of that hiding from Nazis. Apparently, singing can save you from the Nazis, which is great to know, but perhaps more helpful is the lesson that music is a stunning communication tool that can and should bring families closer together.
#5 The title of Meryl Streep’s Music of the Heart kind of says it all, but if you haven’t seen this film, I’ll fill you in. Inspired by the true story of the Opus 118 Harlem School of Music, Music of the Heart presents Meryl Streep as a violinist who has fallen on hard times, when a friend recommends her to a music school in Harlem. You know the story from here. The kids initial dislike her, but ultimately come around, and when budget cuts strike, the musicians rally to Streep’s side to save the program in a rousing final performance scene. Maybe cliche, but also, seriously moving. Grab some tissues. Grab some popcorn. Plus, Gloria Estefan rocking the soundtrack, ya’ll.
#4 What can I say about Glee’s Will Schuester and his perfectly coiffed hair and his sweater vests and his awful Spanish skills that hasn’t already been said? I love what Glee has done for music classes everywhere, but I’d love to see an episode where he teaches scales or theory or even warm-up techniques. Seriously, kids need to know that we can’t just burst into Journey songs whenever the going gets tough.
#3 Mr. Holland’s Opus is one of those movies that my mother made me watch over and over again as a child while she cried on the other end of our floral couch. (There is a really disconcerting amount of crying at these music movies, guys. Maybe throw in a kitten or two). And while I didn’t necessarily appreciate it at the time, this story of Portland music instructor Mr. Holland’s struggles as a marginalized member of the faculty and as a music teacher with a deaf son, make for a truly inspirational movie.
#2 School of Rock presents Jack Black as a man who gets kicked out his band and then starts substitute teaching at a local prep school. He then enters his kids in a Battle of the Bands in an attempt to pay off his rent. Despite this morally compromising situation, this film is still weridly inspiring. Also, these kids are crazy talented.
#1 Sister Act makes us ask this simple question: Is there any story more inspiring than Whoopie Goldberg as Reno lounge singer in protective custody pretending to be a nun in charge of the choir? No. The answer is no, people. I could say more, but instead I’ll leave you with Whoopie. Watch the movie. Watch the sequel.
Did I forget any great music teachers? Comment below and let me know what fictional teachers have inspired your own classroom.