After being abandoned by her husband, depressed music teacher Roberta (Meryl Streep) lands a job teaching violin to underprivileged children in Harlem, New York. Despite initial friction from school principal Janet Williams (Angela Bassett) and the students, the program succeeds and attracts public recognition. After 10 years, however, the program is suddenly shut down following budget cuts and Roberta, together with Williams and her former pupils, works to hold a fund-raising concert.
Music of the Heart is a 1999 drama film, directed by Wes Craven and written by Pamela Gray. It was produced by Craven-Maddalena Films and Miramax Films, and distributed by Buena Vista Distribution. The film is a dramatization of the true story of Roberta Guaspari, portrayed by Meryl Streep, who co-founded the Opus 118 Harlem School of Music. The film also stars Aidan Quinn, Gloria Estefan, and Angela Bassett. It is director Wes Cravens only foray outside of the horror/thriller genre to date, aside from his contribution to the multifaceted and directorially diverse Paris, je taime. It was also his only film to receive Academy Award nominations.
Story of a schoolteacher's struggle to teach violin to inner-city Harlem kids.
The film opens with violinist Roberta Guaspari having been deserted by her US Navy husband and feeling devastated, almost suicidal. Encouraged by her mother, she attempts to rebuild her life and a friend from student days recommends her to the head teacher of a school in the tough New York area of East Harlem. Despite a degree in music education, she has little experience in actual music teaching, but shes taken on as a substitute violin teacher. With a combination of toughness and determination, she inspires a group of kids, and their initially skeptical parents. The program slowly develops and attracts publicity.
Ten years later, the string program is still running successfully at three schools, but suddenly the school budget is cut and Roberta is out of a job. Determined to fight the cuts, she enlists the support of former pupils, parents and teachers and plans a grand fund-raising concert, Fiddlefest, to raise money so that the program can continue. But with a few weeks to go and all participants furiously rehearsing, they lose the venue. Fortunately, the husband of a publicist friend is a violinist in the Guarneri Quartet, and he enlists the support of other well-known musicians, including Isaac Stern and Itzhak Perlman. They arrange for the concert to be mounted at Carnegie Hall.
Other famous musicians, including Mark OConnor, Michael Tree, Charles Veal Jr., Arnold Steinhardt, Karen Briggs, Sandra Park, Diane Monroe, and Joshua Bell, join in the performance, which is a resounding success.
The films end credits declare that the Opus 118 program is still running successfully. They also report that the schools funding was restored during the making of the film.Meryl Streep as Roberta Guaspari
Angela Bassett as Janet Williams, school principal
Gloria Estefan as Isabel Vasquez, a teacher
Cloris Leachman as Assunta Vitali Guaspari, Robertas mother
Jane Leeves as Dorothea von Haeften, a wealthy socialite
Jean-Luke Figueroa as Ramone Olivas, a student
Olga Merediz as Ms. Olivas, Ramones mother
Charlie Hofheimer as Nicholas Tzavaras, Robertas son
Kieran Culkin as Alexi Tzavaras, Robertas son
Aidan Quinn as Brian Turner, Robertas love interest
Roberta Guaspari and the Opus 118 Harlem School of Music was featured in the 1995 documentary film Small Wonders, which was later nominated Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature. After seeing Small Wonders, Wes Craven, known for his work on horror films, was inspired to make a full-length film about Guaspari. Madonna was originally signed to play the role of Guaspari, but left the project before filming began, citing "creative differences" with Craven. When she left, Madonna had already studied for many months to play the violin. Streep learned to play Bachs Concerto for 2 Violins for the film.
Streep received nominations for an Academy Award, a Golden Globe and a Screen Actors Guild Award for her lead performance.
The films theme song, "Music of My Heart", scored songwriter Diane Warren a nomination for an Academy Award for Best Original Song, and a Grammy Award nomination for Best Song Written for a Motion Picture, Television or Other Visual Media.
The film marked the screen debut of singer Gloria Estefan.
The film received mixed reception, though many reviews tended to be slightly positive. Most critics applauded Meryl Streeps portrayal of Roberta Guaspari. The film had a 62% approval rating at Rotten Tomatoes. Critic Eleanor Ringel Gillespie of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution concluded that "There are more challenging movies around. More original ones, too. But "Music of the Heart" gets the job done, efficiently and entertainingly." Roger Ebert gave the film three stars out of four and wrote that "Meryl Streep is known for her mastery of accents; she may be the most versatile speaker in the movies. Here you might think she has no accent, unless youve heard her real speaking voice; then you realize that Guasparis speaking style is no less a particular achievement than Streeps other accents. This is not Streeps voice, but someone elses - with a certain flat quality, as if later education and refinement came after a somewhat unsophisticated childhood." Steve Rosen said that "The key to Meryl Streeps fine performance is that she makes Guaspari unheroically ordinary. Ultimately that makes her even more extraordinary."
Music of My Heart (4:32)
- "Music of My Heart" - Gloria Estefan and *NSYNC (4:32)
- "Baila" - Jennifer Lopez (3:54)
- "Turn the Page" - Aaliyah (4:16)
- "Groove with Me Tonight" (Pablo Flores English radio version) - Menudo (4:37)
- "Seventeen" - Tre O (3:48)
- "One Night with You" - C Note (5:04)
- "Do Something" (Organized Noize Mix) - Macy Gray (3:53)
- "Revancha de Amor" - Gizelle dCole (4:06)
- "Nothing Else" - Julio Iglesias, Jr. (4:23)
- "Love Will Find You" - Jaci Velasquez (4:34)
- "Music of My Heart" (Pablo Flores Remix) - Gloria Estefan and *NSYNC (4:23)
- "Concerto in D Minor for Two Violins" - Itzhak Perlman and Joshua Bell (3:56)
Turn the Page (4:16)
Groove With Me Tonight (4:36)
One Night With You (5:04)
Do Something (Organized Noize mix) (3:53)
Revancha De Amor (4:07)
Nothing Else (4:23)
Love Will Find You (4:35)
Music of My Heart (Lawrence Dermer remix) (4:21)
Concerto in D Minor for Two Violins (Joshua Bell - Karen Briggs - Jonathan Feldman - Diane Monroe - Mark OConnor - Sandra Park - Itzhak Perlman - Arnold Steinhardt - Isaac Stern - Michael Tree - Charles Veal - Jr) (3:57)
The film opened at #5 at the North American box office making $3.6 million in its opening weekend.