Last year at this time Nick Santoro, Arts Supervisor for the South Orange/Maplewood School District found himself at the center of a worldwide controversy. Forced to enforce an unbelievably idiotic holiday concert policy where if an instrumental arrangement is for a song that has words with any potential religious meaning it cannot be performed… even if the words themselves are NOT performed. Poor Nick was lampooned around the world as the Grinch that stole Christmas, in editorials and television news reports, taking the blame for someone else’s policy.
This policy gave birth to my "New Rule" … " A Musical Note is NOT a Religious Symbol (being a drummer I would usually spell this Cymbal.)
In any event, the Boston Globe yesterday highlighted the issue in local terms making the case that we have now put our music teachers in a "no win" situation. No matter what they program for the holiday concert… someone is going to be pissed!
By Dorian Block, Globe Correspondent – December 18, 2005
As they choose music for concerts by student choruses, bands, and orchestras at this time of year, the teachers must deal with the perennial debate over how much Christmas is acceptable in public school where not everyone celebrates the holiday.
Traditionally, schools have had to be sensitive to Jewish students, but in recent years the issue has become more complex with the influx of Muslim and Hindu students from India, China, and other countries.
Now some schools call the December performance a holiday concert; others, a winter celebration. And some schools have moved December concerts to January to avoid the holiday dilemma.Local music teachers are criticized for including too much religion in their concerts or too little holiday cheer, or for excluding certain cultures entirely.
Nationwide, 35 percent of teachers in an online survey conducted recently by the National Association for Music Education reported conflicts with parents on this issue, 25 percent with students, and 19 percent with school administrators.