Back in his high school days as an aspiring drummer in Prince­ton, Damien Chazelle recalls being “very terrified” of performing in the highly competitive jazz band, known as the Studio Band. Now, as a 29-year-old screenwriter and director, Chazelle has “poured” that experience into a Sundance Film Festival award winner, “Whiplash,” now playing at the Garden Theater.

While the over-the-top maniacal and abusive bandleader in the movie would not be tolerated for a day in any public high school, the movie — set at a college conservatory in New York — does make some telling Princeton references. The “studio” band has a “core,” which takes the stage, and “non-core” players who are back-ups. The lower level band is the “Nassau Band.”

The real-life Studio Band, winner of many state and national competitions, will host a screening of the movie Wednesday, December 17, at 6 p.m. at the Garden Theater on Nassau Street, followed by a reception in the lobby of the high school’s performing arts center beginning at 8:15 and including a performance of songs from the movie by the Studio Band and a live video Q&A with Chazelle, moderated by film reviewer Kam Williams.

Cost of the movie and reception is $30 for adults, $15 for children. Proceeds benefit Princeton High School music program. For more information visit or

For parents concerned about the competitive pressure cookers that students can encounter, some reassurance is provided by Chazelle’s parents. His father, Bernard Chazelle, a computer science professor at Princeton University, calls the movie “a creative liberty.” His mother, Celia, a history professor at College of New Jersey, describes the plot as an “internalization of fear” that her son felt as a high school band member, expressed in “an imaginary nightmare scenario.”

The student’s nightmare could turn into a cinematographer’s dream — “Whiplash” is generating Oscar buzz in the film industry.

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