Holland’s Opus (1995), and School of Rock (2003) capture the influence of
music teachers on students; although these films represent a range of
plot, style, and national origin, the magic of music as a humanizing force
for students links them.
In Hollywood films, viewers see similar narratives of music
education time and time again. The story generally depicts struggling
students are brought together and transformed through the power of
music and under the tutelage of an encouraging teacher. The previously
mentioned episode of New Girl, however, does not reach a level of
transformation for the students. Jess’s enthusiasm with no training or
talent as a musician reveals her to be an ill fit as a teacher. She brings a
quartet of students into her home to learn how to play handbells,
students who have chosen to learn music instead of spending time in
detention. In their first interaction together, it is evident that Jess is not
a musician. Her roommate Winston (Lamorne Morris) has picked up
handbells naturally, and Jess convinces him to step in the group
“ensembell” as a role model for her children. She explains to him that
there is no winning, “You just have to care, and try hard.” This is the
show’s attempt to undermine the Hollywood presentation of teachers
who succeed in transforming their students with mere encouragement
along their collective journey. Jess is determined that no one give up on
these kids, even if they sound like “A guy made of bells falling down a
staircase that’s also covered in bells.” Winston buys into the idea of
helping kids and, ultimately, they end the episode with a mediocre (or
perhaps embarrassing) bell performance in a public park. The kids are
not changed they are no less disrespectful, rebellious, or sassy. Jess is
right that there is no winning or losing, but the sequence of events raises
the question whether it is a lie that singular passion and hard work are
enough to change lives?
I say yes despite the fact that this episode mocks the story
Hollywood tells of a caring and passionate teacher who able to
transform lives through music. I believe that Hollywood’s story of
passion and hard work from a loving teacher can use music to transform
students, and those special teachers in Hollywood movies use three
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