Whiplash and Band Students

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Patrick Fletcher (J.K. Simmons) forces his student Andrew Nieman (Miles Teller) to repeat a drum riff for hours. Neiman’s mental health and self-efficacy are pushed to their limits under the cruel methods of his ensemble leader. (Photo from The New Yorker)

Ten years ago, Sony Pictures released Damien Chazelle’s Whiplash into theaters to both critical and commercial acclaim. Whiplash portrays a toxic band-culture which, although highly dramatized, works to represent the unhealthy mindsets linked with perfection and the “grind.”

The film follows Andrew Neiman, a first-year jazz student at the prolific (and fictional) Shaffer Conservatory, and his struggle to, in Norman’s words, become “one of the greats.”

Like Neiman, many of Leesville’s band students share a strong motivation to perfect their playing. A multitude of Symphonic Band students believe that it is a mandatory movie for band students to watch.

“I think Whiplash is a necessary movie for all symphonic band students due to Whiplash’s ability to depict what it is like to be music students,” said Ben Cooper, sophomore, 2nd Chair Tuba, Symphonic Band.

Symphonic band students have mixed feelings about Nieman’s fanatical dedication to music.

“Sometimes you’ll be practicing for 2 hours, and you just can’t get it’,” said Aidan Quinn, 2nd Chair Trombone; “But I can’t relate to the physical pain that Nieman goes through, only some of the frustration — I don’t particularly like the idea of ruining every other aspect of my life purely to increase my musical prospects.”

Band authority figures can also relate to Whiplash, but they relate more to the fiery ensemble leader, Fletcher, than the stressed student. 

“Maybe not the more [violent] aspect…I could never admit to that,” said Adrian McCall, Symphonic Band’s Drum Major; “However, I do sympathize with knowing what people’s problems are…and they very clearly do not.”

While the movie is definitely an over dramatization of the band experience, many Symphonic Band students have the drive to become the best they can be, and whether a student or leader, see themselves in the blockbuster band movie.

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