Updated: Jul 8, 2019
Often in a music-themed film, we see the protagonist struggling to find a voice or hone his/her skills. To help things along, the script introduces a mentor, a guide, a music teacher. Here we count down five such music teachers in movies.
1. Jack Black as Dewey Finn (School of Rock)
We kick off with a pseudo-music teacher. Kicked out of his band, struggling guitarist Dewey poses as a substitute teacher at a strict, authoritarian prep school. While Dewey is supposed to teach literature, history and other subjects, he keeps blabbering on about his knowledge of rock n’ roll to his class. In the beginning, you might feel he’s selfish but then the fifth graders try to find a new voice through the very music Jack Black idolises. In doing this, he transforms Horace Green prep school into a School of Rock.
This is one of Jack Black’s most critically acclaimed performances and rightly so. Black himself is a goofy musician for a goofy rock duo called Tenacious D. He easily fits in the role of Dewey Finn who you can see maturing from purposeless musician to inspiring music teacher.
2. Lazaro Ramos as Laerte (The Violin Teacher)
Now we shift from rock to classical music in a Brazilian film from 2015. Laerte is a talented violinist who wants to get into an elite orchestra. But when he fails to get admitted here, he’s forced to give music classes in a local school to make ends meet. His path is full of difficulties, but the transforming power of music and the friendship between the professor and his students opens doors to a new world.
Ramos is humble and professional in his act as the violin teacher. The goodness is personified with the ‘Good Will Hunting’ style conversations he has with his students.
3. Gerard Butler as The Phantom (The Phantom of the Opera)
Yes, this is quite the unconventional pick but after all, the Phantom, did give some pretty neat vocal lessons to heroine Christine. The Phantom is a mysterious figure with a scarred face covered by a white mask. He’s condemned by the society for his deformities and he lives in the basement of a theatre. Because of this residence, he quickly picks up stage singing and is quite the artist in secret.
He then fancies theatre actress Christine Daae, and gives her singing tips in private sessions. While Christine’s career rises, she doesn’t love him back. And so, ensues a toxic story of hatred, madness and opera, lots and lots of opera. The problem with The Phantom’s music teaching method is how he expects his student to owe him for the lessons he has given. It’s this lack of selflessness that brings about his downfall.
4. Aamir Khan as Shakti Kumar (Secret Superstar)
Aamir’s Shakti Kumar is a parody of the Bollywood music industry. Kumar sports a tacky hairstyle and wears flashy clothes. He plays loud dhol sounds in the studio and tries to the insert the word ‘sexy’ in whichever lyric he can. So how does this music producer serve as a teacher for this Hindi film’s protagonist, a shy guitarist that performs in a burqa?
Shakti Kumar is a deeper character than meets the eye. Once a talented musician, he’s forced to give in to the gimmicks that typify Hindi film music to stay relevant. When he sees a spark in young singer Insia, he plans to give her recording opportunities and a taste of showbiz. At the same time, he tells her to follow her own voice. He wants Insia to walk the road that he could never set his feet on. Aamir Khan’s flamboyant presence in the role earned him several supporting actor nominations.
5. JK Simmons as Terence Fletcher (Whiplash)
When there's a discussion around music teachers in films, Whiplash has to find a mention. JK Simmons won an Oscar for his role of Terence Fletcher. The strict, profane jazz teacher in Damien Chazelle’s music classic, is the very epitome of tough love. He can make you cry, slap you hard and make you practice till your fingers bleed. Some might think he’s a sadist but his intention is to push his students to the limits, in his relentless pursuit of turning them into accomplished musicians instead of regular music school graduates.
Shaurya Singh Thapa