Music Teachers in the Spotlight

December 9th, 2010 by Patricia Woodard

Men of Note, contestants on this week’s The Sing Off (a terrific network TV show featuring a cappella singing groups competing against each other) appeared in a rehearsal clip with their teacher, Christine Bass (Cherry Hill High School West in New Jersey). Listen to them and meet their teacher at On the Dec. 5th CBS Sunday Morning “Glee” star Matthew Morrison, who portrays music teacher Will Schuester, talked about his real life inspiration: choir director Ralph Opacic, of the Orange County High School of the arts. These two broadcasts got me thinking about films where music teachers make a difference. So, since this is a time of year for lists, I’ve made one of “music teacher movies.” This is not meant to be definitive, and other lists may be found by googling. Some are “message movies,” while others are pure entertainment, but music and teaching are always featured in starring roles, and the performance sequences are worth waiting for.

The order is alphabetical and has nothing to do with any ranking or preference.

Mr. Holland’s Opus (1995, PG, Richard Dreyfuss, William H . Macy, Terrance Howard) –  Composer Glenn Holland (Richard Dreyfuss) takes a high school teaching job in order to pay the bills and finds himself torn between the demands of his work and the needs of his family. Eventually Holland must also face the cancellation of his music program.  His friends and students unite to show just what his dedication has meant to them. To find out more, take a look at the Internet Movie Database at

Music of the Heart (1999, PG, Meryl Streep) –Wes Craven directed Meryl Streep, Aidan Quinn, Angela Bassett and Gloria Estefan in this very touching film about an East Harlem violin teacher. Based on the true story of Roberta Guaspari, it’s another awesome account of students mastering an instrument and transcending their surroundings through music. More information at

The Music Teacher / Le maître de musique (original title) (1988, José van Dam)Famed Belgian bass-baritone José van Dam portrays a retired opera singer turned vocal teacher (Joachim Dallayrac). The maître’s students  are invited to sing in a competition organized by their teacher’s former rival, who seeks to avenge a long-ago loss to Dallayrac. More on the Internet Movie Database at

The School of Rock (2003, PG-13, Jack Black) – Enjoy watching Dewey Finn (Jack Black) inspire fifth- grade prep schoolers to play their hearts out. This is another story of a professional musician finding a new métier in teaching. It’s also another story of musical competition. Black’s performance, described by the New York Times as “roaring” and “star-making” earned an MTV Movie Award for Best Comedic Performance. To learn more:

Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit (1993, PG, Whoopi Goldberg, Maggie Smith)
Whoopi Goldberg reprises her role as Sister Mary Clarence, who, instead of rescuing a group of singing nuns, is invited to teach music in a parochial school designated for closure. Although the film features some predictable stereotypes (a mother who wants to prevent her talented daughter from singing, and villains determined to close the school), the importance of inspiring teaching still trumps these weaknesses in the script. And the performance sequences are very entertaining. More at — including reviews written by leading critics at the time.

If you have seen other films like this, let us know.

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2 Responses to “Music Teachers in the Spotlight”

  1. Mister Squirrel Says:

    Nice movie recommendations! Knew some of them, gotta watch the others, as I’m a music teacher myself hehe…

  2. Patricia Says:


    Glad you found the list. I started out planning to be a music teacher, became a singer, then became a librarian. But I’ve never stopped loving music teachers and being humbly and incredibly grateful to so many who taught me so much along the way. Thanks for commenting!

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