Bleeding Gums by Jim Boston | Script Revolution

Bleeding Gums

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128pp

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A math teacher at an all-girls' high school in present-day Omaha, NE seeks to fill a void in her school's activities by forming its first jazz band.
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BARBARA MIKOLAJCZYK is an algebra teacher at Duchesne Academy, an all-girls' Catholic high school in Omaha, Nebraska.

And this flamboyant, passionate Texas native has spent the last six years trying to bring this proud, accomplished school its first jazz band.

But a couple of major potholes have kept the sound of jazz from reaching the halls of Duchesne: First, a school tradition in which students must ask a teacher first before a new activity can get off the ground there...not the other way around.

And second, there's MARY ANN KIEFER, the witty, by-the-book head of school, who seemingly likes to say "no."

Still, at the school's most recent commencement ceremony, Barbara keeps the dream alive by asking 16-year-old Duchesne student BELLA CLAUSSEN, a dedicated and talented pianist-organist: "How do you feel about playin' jazz?"

While Bella takes Barbara's advice and thinks about the invitation during the ensuing summer and Mary Ann questions whether or not the academy can afford a jazz band, Barbara and her laid-back, fun-loving husband GREG, a tire-store manager and fellow native Texan, team up to show it can be done...he with his behind-the-scenes support and she with her mad money account, an outgrowth of her old 401(k) fund from the couple's days as employees at Enron Corporation.

After Barbara presents copies of an online petition to THE REST OF THE FACULTY, a still-reluctant Mary Ann greenlights the formation of Duchesne's jazz unit.

On the first day of a new school year, only four other students join up with Bella to take up Barbara's jazz challenge: AALIYAH CLAYTON, a spirited pianist-organist; MELODY ROSE CHEN, a philosophical bassist who loves to talk courage; LIZZY KURTZMANN, an analytical trumpeter; and jovial JESSICA ANNE FIATOA, a bowling whiz who excels on tenor sax.

Nonetheless, to Mary Ann, that's still not a jazz band: "You've got Maroon 5!"

The school chief's attempt to clear out the music room backfires when eleven more musicians stampede through the door...including friendly JANIE CHONG, a star volleyball player who takes up the trumpet; Bella's twin sisters HANNAH and OLIVIA CLAUSSEN, a questioning drummer and a compliant trumpeter, respectively; cheery organist-pianist LAURA WONG and fellow robotics enthusiast LAKEISHA TURNER, a serious-minded guitarist who eventually doubles on soprano sax; and confident LIBBY FRENCH, a basketball-playing guitarist-violinist-banjoist-bassist.

As the members of Duchesne's newest musical organization get to know each other and Barbara enters it in the upcoming Nebraska State Jazz Festival, the band gains two significant faculty allies: The school's spontaneous principal, former Duchesne student SANDRA POLTL; and outgoing-nurturing-sexy MARILYN MONROE MCCUTCHEON, its only full-time music instructor.

Because of Marilyn's efforts, the Duchesne jazz band lands a spot in the academy's Christmas music program, where it brings down the chapel with a rousing "Rockin' around the Christmas Tree..." but not before Hannah gets cold feet, leaves the chapel, and forces her bandmates to chase after her.

At the next rehearsal, only Aaliyah, Bella, Jessica Anne, Lizzy, and Melody Rose show up...and that leaves the five young stalwarts to persuade their eleven colleagues to come back.

Duchesne's jazz band returns to full size...and comes back stronger, with quiet alto sax player NINA SANDOVAL and Marine-tough, soccer-playing BRIDGET HANRAHAN, the band's baritone saxophonist, becoming soloists.

And the gigs multiply for Barbara's jazz-playing teens...from a steakhouse engagement that almost doesn't happen to a performance at an assembly at an inner-city Catholic grade school to a wild, unannounced appearance at a downtown hotel, the site of Duchesne's famous "Conge" celebration. What's more, the band's YouTube videos prove popular.

The unannounced appearance gets Mary Ann's dander up. So does the fact that the school's algebra test scores have dipped two percent from the previous year.

So Mary Ann issues Barbara an ultimatum: If the Duchesne Academy Jazz Band doesn't receive a superior rating at the state jazz outing, and if nobody in the band wins an Outstanding Soloist Award, "I'm shutting your band down. And you'll be out of a job."

With an ultimatum from the top, band trombonists ELLE REAGAN, EVELYN SKRADIS, and SAMANTHA BIRDWELL smarting from noted clinician SONNY MCDONALD'S less-than-cordial greeting at the local Great Plains Jazz Festival, and Barbara fighting the perception that Duchesne's jazz outfit is the result of an alleged midlife crisis, the band and the school's two music teachers lick their wounds during spring break...in Seattle.

In the Emerald City, the Omahans bond with calm, competitive MACKENZIE O'MALLEY, the director of THE GIRLS ELLINGTON PROJECT, a jazz band made of female high school students from the Rainy City area. A session where Barbara and Mackenzie conduct each other's bands leads to a heart-to-heart talk where Mackenzie tells Barbara: "Just put [Mary Ann] out of your mind. Just focus on those sixteen girls."

It works.

The Duchesne jazz band charges into Kearney, Nebraska, the site of the Nebraska State Jazz Festival. Now nicknamed the Bleeding Gums, Barbara's band puts over a powerhouse performance that not only humbles and impresses Sonny and HIS FELLOW FESTIVAL JUDGES...it nets Aaliyah and Libby the Outstanding Rhythm Solo award, the school's whole rhythm crew the top award in that category, and...the entire band the only superior rating in its class.

The Gums winning the Sweepstakes Trophy as the best overall band at the festival puts the icing on the cake for Duchesne...and leads a happy-to-be-humbled Mary Ann to confess "heads of school can be wrong, too."

Submitted: May 25, 2020
Last Updated: August 2, 2020

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The Writer: Jim Boston

I first got interested in screenwriting as a college student in 1979 (Iowa State University); an additional impetus was the paperback version of the "American Graffiti" screenplay. From 1980 to 1994, I pursued screenwriting with a vengeance...only to give up as other things happened in my life. Since 2016, I've been back chasing the dream...and it's only because I inherited a Power Mac from one of the codirectors (Nick Holle) of a documentary I was in: "The Entertainers," about the World Championship Old-Time Piano Playing Contest and Festival. (Nick received the computer from the husband-and-wife couple who helped produce the film, Brent and Jackie Watkins.) The Power Mac has a copy of... Go to bio

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