How Do You Write Your “Opus”? By Doing What You Love to Do

By Robert E. Quinn 

Recently, I rewatched the movie Mr. Holland’s Opus. When I reached the last scene, I started to cry.

Mr. Holland aspires to write a great symphony. Because he needs money, he takes a job as a teacher, devoting his passion for music to the composing he does in his spare time—and in obscurity.

As a teacher, he is initially ineffective. As the film unfolds, he learns to relate to his students, and then to invest in them. At the end of the movie, many of his former students hold an event to celebrate his life. Aware their beloved teacher feels like a failed composer instead of the phenomenal educator they know him to be, one student makes a moving tribute in a single sentence: “We are your symphony, the music of your life.”  

Mr. Holland evolved into a great teacher as he learned to let his passion for the creation of music spill over into the creation of learning. He came to love the creation of the capacity to create. As he turned the joy of music into the joy of learning, he was letting his passion flow into his students. Yet the normal and natural desire for fame and fortune kept him from fully understanding the magnificence of the symphony he was actually writing.

I cried because Mr. Holland’s struggle is my struggle, it is the universal struggle, it is a wonderful struggle in which we learn that we are at our best when what we do we do because we love it.