40 something would-be jazz musician Joe Gardner teaches talentless middle-schoolers and gets offered a full time job. He visits his mother’s tailor shop, where she orders him to take the job. He agrees, but then an old student calls him and offers a chance to audition for one of his favorite musicians, Dorothea Williams. He passes the audition, and he’s excitedly telling a friend about it on the phone while walking home when he falls into a manhole and seemingly dies. He finds himself in “The Great Beyond.”
Why Joe might be hard to identify with: He’s a bit of a loser, still having his mother wash his underwear (with holes in it.) He insults his kids’ playing to the principal.
- Externalized emotions: He looks at his wall of great jazz musicians and wants to be one.
- Signature wardrobe: turtleneck and hat.
- His students are terrible and check their phones in class.
- Ironically, good news is the last thing he wants to hear: “I wanted to deliver the good news personally: No more part time for you. You’re now our full time band teacher! Permanently!” He winces to hear this.
- His mother doesn’t want to hear about his dreams: “After all these years, my prayers have been answered: A full time job.” “Yeah, mom, but” “You’re going to tell them yes, right?” “Don’t worry, mom, I got a plan.” “You always got a plan. Maybe you need to have a back-up plan too…We didn’t struggle giving you an education so you could be a middle-aged man washing your underwear in my shop. With this job, you’ll be able to put that dead-end ‘gigging’ behind you…And just think, playing music will finally be your real career.” It’s painful to hear.
- Dorothea Williams gives him a withering look. “So, we’re down to middle school band teachers now?”
- He seemingly dies on the day all his dreams were coming true (after telling his student, “I would die a happy man if I could perform with Dorothea Williams.”)
- Despite the fact that his students aren’t very good yet, we can tell from his lecture and the way he plays for them that he’s a good teacher. And one student is good: “Connie got a little lost in it. That’s a good thing.”
- He’s good enough to pass the audition. He gets in the zone.