In 1990, a much loved high school band teacher, Mr. Potter played by Tom Hanks is in a serious auto accident and falls into a coma for thirty years. When he awakes, he hasn’t changed a bit or aged so he decides he wants to go back to teaching band, but he finds the world has changed. There is no more support system in place to nurture music programs, no more District Music Supervisors to solve problems and organize city-wide events, and no team teaching only one band director per program, music programs are not controlled by music teachers anymore they are now controlled by admins with no musical experience and many don’t see the value of band in public schools, timetables are not set to accommodate band classes, band teachers are expected to teach other courses as well as band that are not their expertise; there are no bands playing in parks, no community bands where young people, if they are good enough, can travel and see the world, no clubs downtown bringing in touring live performers, almost no professional music scene or live music anywhere, no variety shows or music shows on television, no Ed Sullivan and no Johnny Carson and the Tonight Show Band. Thirty years ago, if a young person wanted to go into a career in music, there were endless possibilities; now, there are none. So what do young people do? They stare into their i-phones!
Potter decides to see if he can do something about it. He calls up several of his old buddies who are all retired now but were all much-loved career music teachers like himself. His idea is to form a jazz band and tour B.C. and try to instill a love of live music once again. He is met with little enthusiasm as they are all grumpy old men now who only want to complain about how bad things have gotten, except for one. Mr. Rebagliati, a drummer played by Robert de Niro sees something in Potter’s idea and motivates everyone back into action. His drive, determination, high energy and steady drumbeat are so contagious that they name the band in his honour, Mr. Rebagliati’s Revenge.
They find an old hippie bus with yellow and red paisley flowers all over it and set off on a bus tour of B.C. in the best spirit of Ken Kesey and his Merry Pranksters to try to reinstall a love for live music in high schools and parks. Along the way, on the bus, each of them tells Potter how they managed to survive after the government cuts of ’92 and the highlights and the low points of their music programs from then to the present, 2022.
It ends back in Vancouver with a final concert at Magee High School which also becomes a protest in support of bands in public schools in the best spirit of the sixties student protest movements. Past students come to pay their respects and tell everyone what being in the band meant to them in their formative years. It ends with several high-profile former students joining everyone on stage, including Ben Heppner and Diana Krall.
I’m looking forward to getting back to working on both of these and saluting the lives and work of B.C.s wonderful music educators past and present.
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