Making the Grades
What is a popular after school activity Harlem children want to participate in? Basketball? Video games? Watching movies? While they may all be possibilities, 'Music of the Heart' proclaims that violin lessons are a desirable choice, thanks to a program started by Roberta Guaspari.
This true story shows how Guaspari (played by Meryl Streep), a single mother turned music teacher, manages to convince inner-city children and their parents that playing a violin is an educational priority. Within ten years the program is in such demand a lottery system has to be used to reduce the number of applicants to fill the fifty available places. Despite this incredible success, the school board decides to cut funding for her class, leaving Roberta with two choices - give up or find financial support privately.
But Guaspari is a fighter. We have already watched her cope with a move to the big city after her husband left her for someone else. Managing to create a job for herself, even though her only skill was teaching violin, she's withstood other teachers and administrators rebuffing her course. Guaspari turns to some powerful people, including prestigious violinists, who want to see her program survive. With their help and some media attention, she organizes a grand concert called Fiddlefest.
With so much exciting 'teacher against the system' material, this ought to be a heartwarming movie about the importance of music education in our public schools, and working hard to reach our goals. However the writers choose to dwell on Guaspari's personal life, so we get to visit her bedroom and witness a mildly sensuous scene when she pursues a sexual relationship with an old friend while she is still married.
Although there is no doubt that Guaspari loves music, she is portrayed as anything but a "fun" teacher in the classroom. Her almost heartless temperament ("If you play like that, you'll make your parents sick!"), leaves me amazed that these children would rather be fiddling after school than shooting hoops. The real truth is her popular program is still changing lives today.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Music Of The Heart.
How does Guaspari’s attitude toward what she’s teaching help her to gain the appreciation and respect of her students? Can our attitudes help us to excel in difficult tasks?