The Global Search for Education: The Montgomery Brothers Share Insights on First Chair

C. M. Rubin
3 min readDec 11, 2023

This month, audiences can screen First Chair on the Planet Classroom Network. This film is curated for the Planet Classroom Network by Planet Classroom.

First Chair, by Ethan and Luke Montgomery, is a short film following a passionate clarinet player’s journey as she fights to retain the coveted first chair position in her school’s competitive music program. This heartwarming story explores the sacrifices made in the pursuit of excellence, culminating in a poignant decision that captures the essence of balancing passion and ambition in a highly competitive environment.

The Global Search for Education is pleased to welcome Ethan and Luke Montgomery

Great to have you guys back. Tell us what inspired you to create First Chair, a film that delves into the world of competitive music and the sacrifices it entails?

It’s always hard to say exactly what inspired First Chair. Sometimes ideas strike us as interesting before we know why we thought of them. In this case, it must have to do with the fact that we’ve both been playing in a band since fourth grade, and there’s a unique environment in music that puts pressure on us to decide where we place our value. Both of us have been first chair before, and that’s something that caused us a lot of feelings of insecurity. But I think we also used the metaphor of music school to express some deeper ideas. In some ways, First Chair comes from our experience in elementary school. But that might take a few more therapy sessions to fully explain.

Can you share some insights into the creative process behind the story and character development, especially the protagonist’s dilemma of choosing between passion and ambition?

Many times, we have sat in a practice room with the intention of practicing our instrument, but we often get lost in something else that we enjoy more. You could just call it procrastination, but we think there’s something more interesting going on. Sometimes moments like these are what force us to realize that we are avoiding the things we most love in the name of success. We built First Chair around the concept of a test. The whole story serves as a test of Jin’s allegiance. The character of Nathan was designed to put fuel on the fire of Jin’s internal struggle. Ultimately, she has to choose whether to follow her joy or her pride.

First Chair addresses the theme of competition and sacrifice in the pursuit of excellence. What message or emotions do you hope the audience takes away from your film?

Jin is a character in pursuit of musical excellence, which is an objectively good thing, but the reason why she is pursuing excellence is perhaps not so pure. We hope First Chair can help our audience consider the deeper motives behind the various things we do in life. We have to be careful that we aren’t pursuing things out of a self-centered desire to feel valued.

If someone is struggling in one’s career and passion, which can be a conflict, what do you suggest?

I think we would both first suggest talking to someone more worthy of answering this question, but maybe it’s worth asking: “Is your lack of passion in your career caused by a deeper love of something else (like singing for Jin) or merely by boredom or procrastination? There’s no doubt in our minds that the world would be a better place if more people found joy in their vocation.

Thanks Guys!

C.M. Rubin with Ethan and Luke Montgomery

Don’t Miss First Chair, now streaming on the Planet Classroom Network. This film is curated by Planet Classroom.