Although working as a music teacher is certainly rewarding, it's a career that scarcely receives the recognition it deserves. Occasionally, a considerate director realizes the importance that music teachers have in the lives of young students and creates a film that explores their stories. The few movies featuring music teachers that exist have made huge impacts on our perception of music in education, leading to foundations and programs dedicated to preserving music's role in academics. The teachers in these films come from different backgrounds and perspectives, but all their approaches combine hard work and passion to drive their students. Here are six game-changing movies featuring music teachers:
1. Mr. Holland's Opus
Glenn Holland, played by Richard Dreyfuss, is a professional musician that takes to the chalkboard in order to earn some extra money and spend more time with his wife. The obstacles Holland faces throughout the movie resonated with many challenges that many music teachers encounter: he struggles to find adequate ways to engage his students with classical music, worries about budget cuts, and searches for a balance between his home life and his active role as band director at the school. The film had such an impact on its crew that the film's composer, Michael Karmen founded the Mr. Holland's Opus Foundation a year later as a commitment to the future of music education.
Music of the Heart
Based off the life story of Roberta Guaspari, a music teacher in Harlem, Music of the Heart tells the compelling story of a substitute violin teacher that develops a music education program in her underfunded school district. The film was a huge success and Meryl Streep received huge acclaim for her performance as Guaspari, even receiving Oscar and Golden Globe nominations for her work. More importantly, the film had given widespread notoriety to the real Guaspari, who's Opus 118 program still exists today.
School of Rock
School of Rock blessed us with the most eccentric teacher on this list, Dewey Finn. Although Finn only enters the education world to pay off his rent debt to his roommate Ned, he quickly develops a deep bond teaching his students how to play and--more importantly--how to rock. The songs they create as a class were both catchy and well-written, a feat that only a great music teacher would have the capability to orchestrate (even if they'd rather couch surf on their best friend's couch than teach students).
Sound of Music
The movie that birthed a music teacher icon. Let's be real, when you stepped into your first classroom you totally dreamed of rocking Julie Andrews' swag and leading your students to find joy in playing music (as if it were so simple). Maria Rainer, a nun postulate, heads off to work as a governess to widower Georg von Trapp's seven children and ultimately transforms her role as governess into a music teacher role. Her enthusiasm for the arts was inspiring and infectious, making the Von Trapp's concert performance seem like her true calling.
Sister Mary Clarence
Another story of both an unlikely music teacher AND a member of the fold, Sister Act tells the story of Deloris Van Cartier, a lounge singer in witness protection that takes refuge in a San Francisco convent. After getting acquainted with the convent, Deloris (now named Sister Mary) takes over as a choir director and infuses the traditional choir with livelier gospel and rock influences. Like Dewey Finn, Sister Mary challenged the traditional ideas of music education to make studying music lively and interesting to her younger students. Sister Act had a lasting impact on young choir singers, and almost 15 years later a musical adaptation of the film was created by Peter Scheider.