I have hesitated to watch this movie because the story is very similar to my own experience as a music major back in college.
But unlike the jazz drummer in Whiplash, I was studying to become a symphonic percussionist.
Needless to say, one of the university bands I performed in, Wind Ensemble I, was the top band and the authoritarian band director was an abusive and sadistic person, who constantly ridiculed and humiliated me routinely at band rehearsals.
I didn’t have any problems with the other university orchestra and percussion ensemble. None whatsoever. Just the one Wind Ensemble.
It got to the point where I was seriously afraid to attend the rehearsals, and he set me aside one day before a performance, saying “you will never amount to anything in music”.
At age 19, that just pretty much broke my heart and passion for playing music.
I dropped out and quit the Music program. Whereas, the jazz drummer in Whiplash (a role played to perfection by Miles Teller) was kicked out of the Music program.
I actually enjoyed Whiplash very much. Although, it struck a chord and was very hard to watch. I felt for the drummer because I relived my own terrible experiences in college.
I ended up watching Whiplash twice, renting it online for streaming.
The system of abusing and emotionally torturing budding music majors doesn’t work. I think more positive reinforcement and inspiring musicians in a positive way is more successful.
I confess, after my own experience, I was devastated and suicidal. I never thought very highly of myself as a musician (which might be a good thing) and I quit being a musician twice in my lifetime. Only to be encouraged by some good friends to continue on and keep playing.
Like the drummer in the movie, I also spent long, long hours studying the music, listening to the recordings and doing everything I could to prepare for the musical performance. I just wasn’t prepared for being emotionally abused and tortured!
In the end, music performance should be a wonderful experience, and striving for musical perfection should be a more positive experience.
Trust me, since those horrible college days, I’ve had many positive musical experiences, and have had my handful of shining moments that will carry on into my later years as great memories.
Music is about artistic expression, but it’s also about love for the music as well.