do not all have answers to life’s questions. After Maria’s honeymoon
Liesl is frustrated about the things she does not know, the lessons she
has not yet learned. Maria, who is understanding about Liesl’s
impatience to grow up throughout the entire film, remains steady. She
reassures Liesl that learning comes with time and experience, no one
comes into this world knowing everything (Currin 207). These messages
of valuing the journey are expressed both through music and words in
Hollywood films and also in my own life through teachers like my great-
aunt Lib.
Such transformative moments are not limited to iconic
musicals, however. Last week, I sat down to watch an episode of the
television sitcom New Girl (2011- ). The main character Jess Day (Zooey
Deschanel), a teacher in Los Angeles, brings troubled students into her
loft to teach them handbells. Jess is not a music teacher specifically, but
her role in this episode casts her as one. At first glance, Jess is a far cry
from my great-aunt Lib, perhaps one of the most contrasting characters
I have seen on TV. First of all, Jess is young. Lib was always the oldest
person I knew. Second, Jess is quirky and unconventional; she breaks
out in spontaneous song and is an endearing klutz (much like Maria
from The Sound of Music), who is notorious for saying the wrong thing at
the wrong time. My great-aunt Lib was the picture of class and elegance;
her beauty was timeless, and she moved gracefully. Lib was always
impeccably dressed. It is Jess’s heart, however, that connects her to
Fraulein Maria and to my great-aunt Lib as an encouraging, and possibly
transformative, teacher. Jess’s love for children, along with her constant
encouragement and positivity, reminds me of my great-aunt; Jess’s
positivity and patience empowers students and encourages them in her
classroom every day, just like Aunt Lib did.
This humanizing magic of music teachers has become so well
established that it is, in fact, mocked in the New Girl episode I watched,
which is appropriately called “Bells.” Throughout the episode, Jess
appears as an entertaining music teacher and challenges (and even
mocks) the typical Hollywood narrative of the heroic teacher changing
the lives of students through music education. Narratives like this one
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