IN MEMORIAM: The Magical Chorus & Dave ScholerGuest Blogger Dick Staub
Originally posted on 3/9/2005. David Scholer, one of my dearest mentor who died last Friday after a long battle with cancer. Here is a piece in which I expressed my appreciation for this man who changed my life. What to make of a filmmaker who "is bored with and doesn't like blockbuster films" and "doesn't want to market to please the entire planet"…a guy who "wants a third voice, to make quality films about challenging subjects and still reach people" How about Oscar buzz and overnight success?Such is the experience of Christophe Barratie of France who wrote and directed one of this year's most endearing and best films. Set in 1949 France "The Chorus" is the story of Clement Mathieu, a quiet, music loving teacher, and his influence on the, incorrigible delinquents he "educates" at Fond de l'Etang, a French boarding school. The name literally means "hard bottom." Improbably Mathieu forges these hard scrabbled ne'er do wells into an above average, expressive boy's choir.One of the boys has an extraordinary voice and with the teacher's help pursues a musical career, rising to the post of world-class conductor of a great symphony. As this gifted student ascends to fame, the teacher disappears into anonymity, continuing to teach music faithfully and without acclaim. The wonderfully redemptive story is well told and the soundtrack is now a bestseller and deserves to be so. Critics note that the story has been told before and some complain of it's conventionality, but audiences connect with the universal themes and delight in this one's sweetness and simplicity.The story connects because any of us who accomplish anything in life can point to teacher(s) and mentors who arrived on the scene at a critically important moment and altered our life's course.In my case I happened to speak to one of them a few hours before seeing the film. Dr. David Scholer taught NT at Gordon-Conwell Seminary when I was there, then became Dean at Northern Baptist Seminary. He later taught at North Park Seminary and is now at Fuller Seminary. Dr. Scholer possesses a keen intellect, which he thoroughly applies in his research and teaching, but most notably combines it with a warmth and personal concern for each individual student. Back in my day, his classroom was disciplined, his expectations high, a good grade hard to come by, but it was in his class that I gained an elevated sense of my academic and spiritual potential. That is a gift a teacher can give and the best always do. Though he is now in a prolonged battle with cancer, part of our conversation focused on a particular student he believes is not living up to his potential. He is still working at helping the student.Each year he and his wife Jeanette hosted a Christmas party, an open house complete with dozens of platters of homemade desserts. It was a "can't" miss' event, more because of the Scholers than the cookies. Yesterday he said (and warned it was at the risk of sounding self-serving) "what I love most about teaching is that I, a sixty-six year old, can walk into a room of twenty-six year-olds and know that they love me." Our faith is not about the transmission of ideas, though they are important, it is about truth embodied, lived-out. Students love authentic followers of Jesus because such a person loves students. Such is the essence of the educational transaction as modeled by Jesus, who taught us that love involves laying down our life for our friends. This is the calling displayed by Clement Mathieu in "The Chorus" and by David Scholer in real life.If you're looking for an enriching experience at the movies, see "The Chorus." If you're looking for a richer personal and spiritual journey, find your David Scholer.