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One of my all-time favorite movies is “Mr. Holland’s Opus.” It’s the story of a musician who really just wants to be a composer. Rather grudgingly, he takes a job teaching music at the local high school, supposing it will give him time to write music while providing an income for he and his wife.

One of his students is a very serious red-headed girl who plays the clarinet terribly, even though she practices constantly. As Mr. Holland works with her to try to help, he learns that she is the youngest in a family where everyone excels – except her. Because she has tried so hard and failed, she considers herself a failure, too.

One day she comes into the music classroom and tells Mr. Holland that she’s going to give it up and if he knows anyone who wants her clarinet, he can give it to them.

As she walks away, Holland asks her, “Is it any fun?” With a shrug, she answers, “I wanted it to be.”

“You know what we’ve been doing wrong, Miss Lang? We’ve been playing the notes on the page.”

Confused, the girl asks, “Well what else is there is to play?”

“There’s a lot more to music than notes on a page. Playing music is supposed to be fun. It’s about heart. It’s about feelings and moving people and something beautiful and being alive and it’s not about notes on a page. I could teach you notes on a page. I can’t teach you that other stuff.”

He takes away her music and tells her to try it. She tries a time or two, each time coming to a point where her clarinet squawks and squeaks, and she starts to kick herself for her failure.

“What do you like best about yourself?” he asks.

With a shy smile she says, “My hair – my dad says it reminds him of a sunset.”

“Play the sunset.”

And she closes her eyes, and she begins to play – really play, not just the notes, but the music. She is so amazed when she does the hard part perfectly that her eyes pop open and she stops. Mr. Holland shares her amazement and says, “Don’t stop!”

And so, on she plays: eyes closed, head beginning to sway with the rhythm of it. And we know that this time, it’s fun.

Mr Holland put her focus on...

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