Music of the Heart

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Music of the Heart
Music of the heart.jpg
Theatrical film poster
Directed by Wes Craven
Produced by Susan Kaplan
Marianne Maddalena
Allan Miller
Walter Scheuer
Written by Pamela Gray
Music by Mason Daring
Cinematography Peter Deming
Edited by Gregg Featherman
Patrick Lussier
Distributed by Miramax Films
Release date
  • October 29, 1999 (1999-10-29)
Running time
123 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $27 million
Box office $14,936,407[1]

Music of the Heart is a 1999 American drama film directed by Wes Craven and written by Pamela Gray, based on the 1995 documentary Small Wonders.

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 and fought for music education funding in New York City public schools. The film also stars Aidan Quinn, Gloria Estefan, and Angela Bassett. It was director Wes Craven's only foray outside of the horror/thriller genre, aside from his contribution to the multifaceted and directorially diverse Paris, je t'aime. It was also his only film to receive Academy Award nominations.


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 City area of East Harlem. Despite a degree in music education, she has little experience in actual music teaching, but she's 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 O'Connor, 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 film's end credits declare that the Opus 118 program is still running successfully. They also report that the school's funding was restored during the making of the film.



Roberta Guaspari and the Opus 118 Harlem School of Music was featured in the 1995 documentary film Small Wonders, which was later nominated for an 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.[2] Streep learned to play Bach's Concerto for 2 Violins for the film.

Awards and honors[edit]

Streep received nominations for an Academy Award, a Golden Globe and a Screen Actors Guild Award for her lead performance.[3]

The film's 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.[3]

The film marked the screen debut of singer Gloria Estefan.[4]

Critical reception[edit]

The film received mixed reception, though many reviews tended to be slightly positive. Most critics applauded Meryl Streep's portrayal of Roberta Guaspari. The film had a 64% approval rating at Rotten Tomatoes.[5] CinemaScore reported that audiences gave the film a rare "A+" grade. 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."[6] 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 you've heard her real speaking voice; then you realize that Guaspari's speaking style is no less a particular achievement than Streep's other accents. This is not Streep's voice, but someone else's - with a certain flat quality, as if later education and refinement came after a somewhat unsophisticated childhood."[7] Steve Rosen said that "The key to Meryl Streep's fine performance is that she makes Guaspari unheroically ordinary. Ultimately that makes her even more extraordinary."[8]

Soundtrack album track listing[edit]

  1. "Music of My Heart" - Gloria Estefan and *NSYNC (4:32)
  2. "Baila" - Jennifer Lopez (3:54)
  3. "Turn the Page" - Aaliyah (4:16)
  4. "Groove with Me Tonight" (Pablo Flores English radio version) - Menudo (4:37)
  5. "Seventeen" - Tre O (3:48)
  6. "One Night with You" - C Note (5:04)
  7. "Do Something" (Organized Noize Mix) - Macy Gray (3:53)
  8. "Revancha de Amor" - Gizelle d'Cole (4:06)
  9. "Nothing Else" - Julio Iglesias, Jr. (4:23)
  10. "Love Will Find You" - Jaci Velasquez (4:34)
  11. "Music of My Heart" (Pablo Flores Remix) - Gloria Estefan and *NSYNC (4:23)
  12. "Concerto in D Minor for Two Violins" - Johann Sebastian Bach, played by Itzhak Perlman and Joshua Bell (3:56)

Box office[edit]

The film opened at #5 at the North American box office making $3.6 million in its opening weekend.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Music of the Heart (1999) - Box Office Mojo". Retrieved 18 August 2017. 
  2. ^ Churchill, Bonnie (October 16, 1999). "Streep Takes Violin Immersion Course For Role In `Music Of The Heart'". Chicago Tribune. 
  3. ^ a b Awards for "Music of the Heart" (1999) IMDb. Accessed January 28, 2007.
  4. ^ "Review: 'Music of the Heart' hits all the right notes" CNN, October 29, 1999. Accessed January 28, 2007.
  5. ^ "Music of the Heart". Retrieved 18 August 2017. 
  6. ^ "Ringel Gillespie, Eleanor, The Atlanta Journal-Constitutional, 1998, Music of the Heart Movie Review". Retrieved 18 August 2017. 
  7. ^ Ebert, Roger. "Music Of The Heart Movie Review (1999) - Roger Ebert". Retrieved 18 August 2017. 
  8. ^ "Rosen, Steve, 1998, Music of the Heart Movie Review". Retrieved 18 August 2017. 

External links[edit]