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Alternative to the Star Spangled Banner

Hi, everyone. I teach in a school district where fourth graders are required to recite "The Star Spangled Banner" from memory (first verse only). Students also have to learn the history of the song and take a test on it. Although initially, I was uncomfortable with what felt like a unit that turns my classroom into a mindless propaganda machine, I've come to see some musical value for my students in learning "The Star Spangled Banner." Through this unit, students have a great opportunity to memorize a song with challenging lyrics, learn its historical context, and become critics of the music. If the song chosen happens to be patriotic in nature, that's not necessarily a bad thing. However, it does cause one problem.
 
Every year, I have one or two fourth graders who happen to be Jehovah's Witnesses. They have always objected to their child singing or otherwise reciting "The Star Spangled Banner." They have expressed no problem with the study of its history, but singing or recitation is something that they feel bound by God and their conscience not to do.
 
I feel at a loss because my goal as a music teacher in this unit is to expose a student to a song with a challenging text and have them work hard to memorize it and recite it. Having a student do anything else besides that task will not help them grow as musicians, and this is a basic skill that singers use all the time. It's worthy of a fourth grader's time. I'm hoping the ChoralNet community can help me think of a song that meets the following requirements:
 
1. Is about 8 lines long
2. Has challenging, somewhat archaic lyrics, but is still in English
3. Does not talk about God or patriotism
4. Is textually appropriate for a 9 year old to sing about.
5. Is not too mellismatic.
 
If any of you have any ideas for songs that might fit the bill, I would love to hear them.
Replies (39): Threaded | Chronological
on February 26, 2016 10:16pm
Hi, Seth-
I have not had to address this specific situation. Nevertheless, I agree with you, as a simple matter of religious tolerance and accommodation which should not undermine the district's requirements that every student should be able to recite a significant musically-related poetic text (patriotic or otherwise), that students whose religious beliefs constrain them from reciting this particular text should be offered an alternative text to recite.

It's evident you know that the behavioral outcomes of memorization would be the same for an alternative text as for "The Star-Spangled Banner," and should easily accommodate an individual's religious objections. I would only insist that the text were of similarly significant historic importance to them and that the student be capable of expressing that significance in the required terms.

I also think that the students and parents should be asked to propose a text which you could then seek to be approved by the district as an alternate to satisfy the stated general educational principles for learning. That could create a win-win situation! The Witness community may be the best resource you have at hand for identifying any appropriate text, so why not consult them? Otherwise, I don't have a suggestion to offer about a particular song.

Just thinking out loud....
-Cecil Rigby
-Clemson, SC
Applauded by an audience of 2
on February 27, 2016 7:21pm
Your suggestion seems logical. Thank you. I would still love to hear if anyone has ideas for song selections, though. It would be nice to have a few ideas of my own to present.
on February 26, 2016 10:31pm
Seth Boyd seeks alternatives to The Star-Spangled Banner" for a student who is a Jehovah's Witness.
Before proposing an alternative, consider meeting with the student's parents (and the student) to discuss this. Some years ago I had an excellent and very bright principal oboist in a university orchestra who felt unable to play in a performance of the Vaughan Williams "Hodie" in a December concert because she was a Jehovah's Witness. I met with her and her parents, and suggested that playing something is not in itself advocacy; by playing in public one isn't necessarily subscribing to the sentiments that a work seems to hold (never mind that "Hodie" is full of ambivalence...). A musician is similar to an actor; an actor playing Iago isn't himself advocating evil, and singers performing Siegmund or Sieglinde aren't themselves advocating incest. After quite a bit of thought and intra-family discussion, she did play, without reservation.
Best regards,
Jerome Hoberman
Music Director/Conductor, The Hong Kong Bach Choir & Orchestra
Applauded by an audience of 2
on February 27, 2016 7:18pm
Jerome,
     Your approach is the one I believe in most strongly. Unfortunately, perhaps because I am working with such young singers, this approach has not worked. Interestingly enough, when I have tried it, the conversation works like this:
I talk to the family, and usually the mom meets with me. We have a conversation, I bring up the points you raise, and she agrees my reasoning makes sense. All is fine. Then, she goes back to talk to the dad. At that point, I get a contact from the father very politely saying that there is no way their child will be reciting "The Star Spangled Banner."
 
I have learned that, in some cases, Jehovah's witnesses will refuse blood transfusions to save their own lives, or the lives of their family members. Asking a family willing to do that to allow their 9 year old to do the kind of soul searching and questioning that reciting "The Star Spangled Banner" presents is highly unlikely. Thank you for the suggestion, though. I have dreams about this approach working. Perhaps when one of these students enters high school or moves out and goes to university, they will be able to have this conversation with their music  teacher. I am not able to have a conversation with a 9 year old when I'm at odds with their parents about it, though. It's a challenge. :-/
on February 27, 2016 7:17am
I was interested in seeing the reactions to this, as it raises an important series of questions.
 
First of all, Jerome's approach is certainly one that would, if adopted by not only teacher but parents and student, obviate much of the difficulty involved.  Sometimes the religious advocate cannot see beyond the limits of his/her advocacy, and needs to be shown that tolerance, true tolerance, is indeed a two-way street.  Those of a religious bent (and I admit freely to my own, I hope, strong religious beliefs) have to be reminded, albeit gently, that there are others who view matters differently, and that the true strength of our nation is in the admission of the need and the value of tolerance.  (I say "true tolerance" because far too often "tolerance" is code for "indifference.")
 
Secondly, Cecil's approach is worthwhile taking if Jerome's doesn't work.  Rather than making a consitutional issue of it (!), better to ask the parents to propose a text that is unobjectionable to them, but with the caveat that it has to have as significant a value - a judgment call, admittedly - as "The Star-Spangled Banner's" text is.  Tolerance, in this case, does not mean "dumbing down."  The intellectual exercise being proposed for a fourth-grader must be equivalent if there is disagreement or disapproval of the originally proposed text.  If these good people truly value the education being offered, they will step up to the plate - perhaps needing help in finding such a text, but nonetheless agreeing to the intellectual and educative value.
 
Finally, and as someone who spends some of his time actually discussing the larger issues that this raises, albeit not directly, as a first-person historic interpreter (Albert Gallatin), I truly believe it is the artistic community - the broader one, encompassing the plastic as well as the performing arts - that must address these sorts of issues.  In contexts such as political science or history classes, there is such a degree of management that is involved in any discussion of any controversial matter that the temptation is to bowdlerize matters, or just as bad, simply sidestep them.  As Jerome rightly points out, many times the performing artist is called on to interpret a text or to dance or sing something which, personally, is incompatible with personal belief - but which nonetheless needs to be seen or heard, so as to widen the discussion.  There are performances and presentations with which I personally disagree; but the disagreement with those should not suppress them.  We artists are the ones called on to expand the "empire of liberty" (meant entirely differently from Jefferson's view) at every possible opportunity, because in so doing, we serve faithfully and humbly the art(s) we have chosen to participate in.
 
Ron
Applauded by an audience of 1
on February 27, 2016 8:07pm
Ron Duquette cites my suggestion as promoting mutual tolerance.
I must confess that tolerance has nothing to do with my suggestion; professionalism and truth do. I think it's important for anyone in a teaching setting -- and all conducting has, to some degree at least, a teaching aspect -- to make clear that there is no necessary congruence of actor and role ("I'm not a real doctor; I just play one on tv;" "I'm not a real politician; I just play one on tv"), that performance is just that: performance.
In the case I mentioned as an example, I judged that making the argument I did might be successful. The orchestra needed that musician to play because there was no available alternative of equivalent quality; I would have used any legitimate means of persuasion I could find, short of compulsion (which I believed wouldn't work), because my obligation -- the conductor's obligation -- was to the performance.
That, for me, is the essence of "choral ethics."
Best regards,
Jerry
on February 27, 2016 8:33pm
Several years ago, I was told by a retired principal of a prominent school told me his nightmare tale of inclusion.
There had never been any negative comment about prominent Christmas Decorations and Christmas Greetings at the high school until he decided  to add non-Christian seasonal greetings.
THEN, EVERYONE complained. He had never in 35 years had undergone such public abuse. No one was happy at the change.
 
 
 
on February 28, 2016 2:20am
"Home On The Range" would probably fit. It can be interpreted patriotically but it's a bit of a stretch, it's really more pastoral. Failing that, many things by Walt Whitman (e.g. the text used at the start of Vaughan Williams' Sea Symphony, "Behold, the sea..."
Applauded by an audience of 1
on February 29, 2016 6:20pm
Interesting thoughts here. Thank you.
on February 28, 2016 5:20am
Hello Seth,
 
I have been thinking about your search for an archaic text.  I came up with "Auld Lang Syne"    Remember it has a line about a a cup of kindness, so I hope the parents don't read it as a cup of alcoholic beverage, since JW abstain as far as I know.    A text that is not archaic but still in the canon of beloved American texts is " Over the Rainbow"    Another thought is "The Ash Grove", a beautiful Welsh melody.  Here is one text for it:
 
The ash grove how graceful, how plainly 'tis speaking
The wind through it playing has language for me.
Whenever the light through its branches is breaking,
A host of kind faces is gazing at me.
The friends from my childhood again are before me
Each step brings a memory as freely I roam.
With soft whispers laden the leaves rustle o'er me
The ash grove, the ash grove alone is my home.

 

 
Best wishes,  Jura
Applauded by an audience of 2
on February 29, 2016 6:21pm
I will have to listen to "The Ash Grove." Thanks for the idea.
on February 29, 2016 4:04am
I'm a retired music educator who had similar experiences at all grade levels.  Happy Birthday was also a problem for some families.  Here's my honest first thought - why are you trying to satisfy everyone's belief.  I realize that marks you as a caring person, but I offer a thought I learned early in my career -  "only a fool thinks they can please all people."  The fact is the anthem is our anthem, like it or not.  Also, your school has the children reciting the piece so I have to assume the children that won't sing the anthem, don't recite it as well.  Apparently, your administration supports reciting the text, but I'm deeply troubled at your choice of words - "mindless propaganda machine."  With that, I realize you and I are on a different page regarding patriotism.  Best wishes!
Applauded by an audience of 2
on February 29, 2016 1:38pm
I second your opinion, Michael. I'm too am very bothered by the expression: "mindless propaganda machine."  We live in a country with more freedoms than any other, so I guess that, unfortunatly, we also have the right to refuse any verbal expression of our appreciation for those hard-fought-for rights. Many people have sacrificed much to secure those freedoms. It's a shame that some will not express their appreciation through something as simple as our national anthem. I'm sure my opinion will be labled as polliticaly incorrect.
Applauded by an audience of 1
on February 29, 2016 6:19pm
Truly, if anyone's opinion is politically incorrect, it's mine. I come from a personal set of values that is pretty far left of center. My struggle with the decision to use the national anthem for this project is that it is not a good song to expect 4th graders to sing well. Its range goes well beyond what is comfortable, the chromatics arent' easy to sing, either. When grading students' performance on this, I never take their singing into account, although I encourage them to sing. To spend several weeks reciting and performing a song that is not musically a good fit for my students seems suspect to me. It seems, in fact, that the motivations are more political than musical. That's what makes me feel like a cog in a mindless propaganda machine. It seems we're putting the goal of teaching civics above the musical appropriateness of the content.
 
That said, "The Star Spangled Banner" is the musical symbol of our country. It has a beautiful melody. I love singing it. The history behind it is intriguing. It is a song worthy of study and performance. I just am not entirely convinced that fourth grade in music class is the best place to put it.
 
You asked me why I am trying to satisfy everyone's belief. This is a fair question, although one I hope won't take the entire thread. The answer is, I'm not. I'm trying to give all my students, regardless of religious or political stripes, the opportunity to complete an assignment where they have to memorize a difficult text set to music word for word. For almost all of them, they will be expected to memorize the Star Spangled Banner. For those who cannot for reasons of conscience, I have a different assignment because it is more important to me that they experience the musical challenge than to use my particular repertoire choice.
Applauded by an audience of 3
on February 29, 2016 4:25am
Like Jura, I was actually going to suggest the original secular text of Greensleeves.
I've had a few witness students in the past, and it is an interesting challenge. I appreciate the deep thoughts here, but that feels above my pay grade. (:
Applauded by an audience of 1
on February 29, 2016 8:19am
Hello Jerome, Hello Ron, Hello Seth,
 
It is possible that there has been some miss-reading of Seth's predicament, but it is also possible that it requires some clarification. Or maybe both. Seth states, “They (Jehovah’s Witnesses) have expressed no problem with the study of its (Star Spangled Banner) history, but singing or recitation is something that they feel bound by God and their conscience not to do.”
 
There is a pretty comprehensive Wikipedia article at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kingdom_song concerning in part the matter of singing songs at all. Of course Jehovah’s Witnesses are allowed to sing songs! They have in fact many, many songbooks and often sing from them in their homes and at their meetings.  That is not the problem.  The problem lies in what are they allowed to sing or recite, and I think this has to be looked at rather more carefully.
 
The Jehovah’s Witnesses know as well as any parent what the effects of singing have on children. We can not diminish this effect by pretending children are ‘actors’ who somehow have the ability to distance themselves (completely?) from messages – apparent or cloaked –­ in the texts. As a parent, grandparent, and great grand-parent (six progeny in the USA alone) I totally sympathize with Jehovah’s Witnesses who do not want their children reciting anything to do with the glorification of war (e.g. "bombs bursting in air"). But further than this, it appears that “since 1966, efforts have been made to use only songs composed and written by members of their religion rather than adapting music or lyrics from other religious groups, to ensure they are characteristic of and unique to Jehovah's Witnesses.” I hardly need remind choral conductors and singers that choral music can have an incredible impact on people’s lives! If Jehovah’s Witnesses have chosen to restrict what that choral music should be for their children, then I believe this has to be honored. Let's rejoice in the place that choral singing has in their communities.
 
I believe this all has to be taken into account before suggesting any other text for recitation or singing, as it could be that the school district regulation is at odds with Jehovah’s Witnesses’ beliefs.
 
There is something deeply disturbing about the change of mind and heart implied in the statement “I was uncomfortable with what felt like a unit that turns my classroom into a mindless propaganda machine, I've come to see some musical value for my students in learning "The Star Spangled Banner." Sounds to me like a lot of rationalizing has taken place, Seth!
 
Donald
 
on March 1, 2016 7:52pm
I can see why you would think it's rationalization, but I would argue it's refinement. When faced with an uncomfortable situation as a teacher, a performer, or in life, we can shy away from things that make us uncomfortable or wrestle with that discomfort. Given that when I came to the district, the only assignment was to memorize text, I felt uncomfortable. However, I had to teach this unit. So, I thought I would do it in my way.
 
I gave the students stickers if they attempted to sing it for me when they came up to recite it. Suddenly, the singing in class increased. Even if it isn't often pretty, more students began attempting to sing the song. Almost all of them sing it for me now.
 
My colleagues and I came up with a district wide test on the history of the song and the meaning of the words so that students would understand what they were singing and the context of the music. Music history has definite musical value.
 
After all students have memorized the song, I play recordings of various artists (choirs, pop icons, orchestras) performing "The Star Spangled Banner" and give students time to discuss the performance as truly educated critics. 
 
Then there's the memorization of text itself. As singers, we all have to memorize text. Some of it is unbelievably convoluted and complex. It is a musical skill worth studying to learn how to memorize a complex text and get every word right.
 
Am I perfectly comfortable with this situation? No. That said, I am no longer a cog in a mindless propaganda machine. I am asking my students to examine an important musical symbol from multiple angles and tackle skills that are challenging, if not always the ones I would pick. I cannot ditch the unit entirely. There would be uproar. Maybe their even should be uproar. At some point, students should study "The Star Spangled Banner."
 
However, if I have a student who cannot recite the words as a matter of conscience and that means they cannot work on the central assignment of our in class work, I have a problem. I am not teaching them. If I can find a song that helps them learn the recitation skills along with their study of the Star Spangled Banner's history, I should do so. Their time will be well spent and they will be developing the same skills as everyone else. By wrestling with this issue, I become a better teacher and my students learn better. Everybody wins. Thank you to those who have offered helpful suggestions to me as I consider how to best help my students.
Applauded by an audience of 4
on March 2, 2016 6:45am
I appreciate tremendously the effort and time – and soul searching – that you are putting in to this, Seth. It is exemplary, all the moreso as you are searching for truth, and not simply a convenient solution. It is wonderful that you have continued to explain and explore as you receive answers from a variety of viewpoints. The children in your class, as they are everywhere, are so precious, so open to persuasion, even so 'fragile' Thank you for being so persistent. Lucky kids! And lucky educators who are learning from this thread; I most certainly am. 
 
Just one suggestion to make at this point, and that would be to somehow address the Jehovah's Witness community itself (I suggest starting from the 'top' down!) and see if they can suggest something which is appropriate for their flock, but which suites your own sensibilities and the school curriculum. Tall order, but I am sure if anyone can do it, you can.
 
Donald
Applauded by an audience of 1
on February 29, 2016 9:06am
The original text of Greensleeves is an interesting suggestion. It is an extended complaint against a woman who is content to accept everything that her hopeful lover can do (and buy) for her, while offering nothing in exchange. See this and this.
 
If the requirement is for serious thought, expressed in language that needs some explanation, without offending religious sensibilities, then how about Robert Burns' poem "A man's a man for a' that"? Its theme is that honesty and virtue are the true measure of a person's value, outweighing riches and and social position.
on February 29, 2016 9:15am
I teach K-5, and often have a few Jehovah's Witness students in each grade. If a student is uncomfortable singing a song for religious reasons (any religion), I see no reason in trying to talk him into it or creating a work-around. There are lots of other songs during the year that the students will sing, memorize, work on vocal skills, etc.
 
I cover the Star Spangled Banner over several lessons. During the time the students are working on it, I give the Jehovah's Witness student an iPad, headphones, and a music app to work on. Consider it enrichment. (It could be Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra, any of the apps about orchestral instruments. I've also given a keyboard app along with a self-paced melody page.) After the 10-15 minutes or so of Star Spangled Banner work in class, the student rejoins the class for the remainder of the lesson.
Applauded by an audience of 2
on March 3, 2016 10:27am
Hello Susan,
 
It would appear that Jehovah's Witnesses are not comfortable in general with their children reciting or singing (= reciting in song) any texts outside of those prescribed by their religion, or (possibly) those of which they approve. (Personally, I wish parents everywhere were as vigilant!) That being said, my point is that – contrary to your state ment "There are lots of other songs during the year that the students will sing, memorize, work on vocal skills, etc." – there are in fact no other songs, so some sort of accomodation - i.e. a 'work-around' must be found if the chld concerned is going to fit in with the others in the class, and this I think is very important. My proposal (please see above) is that Seth might find such a work-around by asking the Jehovah's Witness community to recommend some texts. This could be a win-win situation, as the other children would be exposed to texts outside of those which they typically choose or have chosen for them. An ideal learnign situation. There is always something very positive to 'accomodation' when approached in a positive way, and with love rather than suspicion or fear, let alone hate.
 
on March 4, 2016 9:23am
The Jehovah's Witness students in my experience (37 years) have been able to sing anything that is non-religious/holiday or non-patriotic. One of my very best singers in the auditioned choir is Jehovah's Witness.
on March 7, 2016 7:38am
Live and learn! But I'll contact their headquarters and find out from them. There's a lot of hear-say going around!
 
Donald
 
on March 4, 2016 11:42am
The topic of JW kids in music is one that has come up frequently in my career as an elementary music teachers.  What I've found through my own experiences and talking with other teachers is that there is no standard for what JWs can and cannot perform.  It is largely a personal or family issue.  If you are unsure, ask the family directly for guidance on how to make music class the most meaningful experience possible for their child.
on March 4, 2016 5:28pm
Kate Campbell Deglans writes that in her experience, issues such as the one under discussion are "largely a personal or family issue."
This is exactly what I've been told by the Jehovah's Witness student and family whom I referred to in an earlier post. It's not a top-down sect.
Best regards,
Jerome Hoberman
Applauded by an audience of 1
on February 29, 2016 1:56pm
I am not convinced that the text of "The Star-Spangled Banner"  is, in fact, patriotic in nature. It essentially asks a question: is the flag still there? The mention of rockets and bombs does not glorify them; they only provide the light by which the flag can be seen. It does not glorify war; the British attack on Fort McHenry was a tyrant's attempt to reconquer lost colonies, and was not sought by the fledgling United States. The only thing I see that can be called "patriotic" is the statement "what so proudly we hailed."  Far from being "mindless propaganda,"  the song is perhaps the most thoughtful of any national anthem, as it requires us to evaluate whether the nation's founding principles are still in effect.  
I am more alarmed by your casual dismissal of the text in those terms than by a religious sect's mindless rejection of it.
Applauded by an audience of 1
on March 1, 2016 7:35pm
I don't think that the Jehovah's Witnesses (as a group) have mindlessly rejected the text. The concerns, as I understand it, are that it places a person in a position of honoring a false idol. In this case, you could either put the flag in for the false idol or the United States because the song itself honors temporal power. I don't agree with this position, but it is a reasoned one.
 
As for myself, I have not dismissed the text. Admittedly, I don't see where the national anthem's first verse requires an examination of our founding principles. It is, as you say, the recounting of an aftermath of a battle. In and of itself, the first verse doesn't seem to outline the principles of democracy. That said, I certainly cannot come up with another song that would be equally worthy of being our national anthem, and I enjoy the challenge of singing it. All the same, when I came to the district I work in, this unit was simple and straightforward: memorize the text and receive a grade. Although I wasn't in the room when this became part of the fourth grade curriculum, I strongly suspect that the motivation for having students memorize the text had more to do with obligatory patriotism than with the belief that "The Star Spangled Banner" is a song that would be extremely appropriate for fourth grade voices. This begs the question: why am I as a music teacher spending time teaching students a song that most of them cannot sing well by themselves? The text itself is worthy of study, but when the only grade is rote memorization of that text, I get uncomfortable. I start to feel like I am part of a system that imposes its values on everyone rather than a system that calls students to think for themselves. I also feel like I'm not teaching many musical skills. In other words, I feel like a cog in a mindless propaganda machine. I should add, we've improved this unit a lot, and it is now much more up to the standards of excellence I've come to expect from my district. Read my response to Donald's post (see above) for more on that.
Applauded by an audience of 1
on March 1, 2016 3:36am
Seth - I read your reply to my post.  Consider your words - "it is not a good song to expect 4th graders to sing well. Its range goes well beyond what is comfortable....."  I agree, so consider using My Country 'Tis Of Thee which has a singable range for grade 4 students.  My grade 3 grandson sings it at his school.  I admire his music teacher who taught it with text AND solfege.  He shows gramma and grandpa how she taught him Kodaly hand signs while he sings the solfege.  He's perfectly in tune.  She also eliminated the dotted notation when they were first exposed to the song.  It was added after the reading/tuning goals were accomplished.  Creativity is often coupled with simplicity.
on March 1, 2016 2:44pm
AND, you can use the original words  "God save great George, our King..."  as an example of colonialism and how songs change.  I also teach 3rd and 4th graders to play it on recorder after they've learned some basic BAG songs.  The song introduces C, D, and F# as extensions of BAG, and the last phrase, with a single high E, provides an introduction to the high register and the technique of half-holing with the thumb.
Applauded by an audience of 1
on March 1, 2016 7:16pm
I love this idea. However, this is a district departmental decision. I can decide how I teach the SSB, but I can't supplant it easily from the curriculum. If I have additional time, it might be worth examining that song. Not many kids know it. It makes preparing for Minnesota's ACDA honor choir difficult.
on March 1, 2016 5:16am
"No Man is an Island" is a song that might work.  It is about eight lines and has a range not unlike the Star-Spangled Banner. It is uplifting and implies universal "patriotism" rather than one country "patriotism".
Perhaps you could play it for the parents and see if they object but I find very little to object to in the lyrics.

No man is an island
No man stands alone
Each man's joy is joy to me
Each man's grief is my own

We need one another
So I will defend
Each man as my brother
Each man as my friend

I saw the people gather
I heard the music start
The song that they were singing
Is ringing in my heart

No man is an island
Way out in the blue
We all look to the one above
For our strength to renew

Applauded by an audience of 2
on March 2, 2016 4:51am

Catherine offers an excellent suggestion, except for one word…MAN.  Unfortunately, by offering a compromise to satisfy the Witnesses, the text would offend the INCLUSION crowd.  As an alternative, I suggest “God Of Our Fathers,” but on second thought, changing it to “Fathers and Mothers” causes rhythmic problems.  Maybe “Parents” instead of “Fathers?”   I’ve enjoyed the polite conversation on this stream, but realize how fortunate I am to be retired because I un-fondly remember having to deal with these problems.  A PERSON of wisdom once stated “only a fool thinks HE/SHE can please all people.”

Applauded by an audience of 3
on March 2, 2016 8:02am
Excellent point, Michael. I am retired as well and I'm very glad I no longer face this problem. We would do well to remember Ricky Nelson's song: GARDEN PARTY, which contains the line: "you can't please everyone, so you've got to please yourself."  Those who constantly try to please everyone will eventually find themselves on the brink of insanity, or at least extreme frustration.
Applauded by an audience of 3
on March 5, 2016 5:55pm
I'm so glad, then, that I am pleasing myself while helping someone else learn. I have had the experience of being in an ensemble where performing a song made me uncomfortable. I knew that if I brought it to the director's attention, I would have been brushed off, told to sit out, or told to drop out. I'm pleased that I am at least trying not to be that person. Whenever I have struggled over a song, I have become a better person. It's hard to struggle alone. It's harder still when you feel your teacher would lose respect for you if you admitted that you felt an ethical conflict. Hopefully, I am laying the groundwork in a child who someday will be in a situation like Jerome's oboist and will also be able to say yes to music rather than sit out of a performance.
Applauded by an audience of 2
on March 2, 2016 10:02am
I think the word "man" in the song actually implies " human" rather than a specific gender and can be taken that way but there may be some who object.
You might alter a word or two here and there without consequence.
However, you will never please everyone!
Bravo to you for being so pro-active and trying to resolve the issue.
Catherine
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on March 2, 2016 4:40pm
Looking back through the retired, rear-view mirror, it is safe to state that compared to other world problems, ours were minor.  (No pun intended on the word minor)
on March 7, 2016 8:56am
You are right, Michael– 'our' (those of everyone in the music 'biz) problems were minor, but the beauty which music brings to the world is MAJOR. Can you imagine what a totally different world it would be if everyone had the ability, time and desire to sing with their neighbours instead of fight with them?  Music is about sharing, not competing (well, there are exceptions, unfortunately), music is about beauty, not despoiling, music is about love, not hate. 'Our' problems were/are minor, but out successes were/are MAJOR. And this is why we were/are musicians. How very fortunate!
 
Donald
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on March 8, 2016 3:58am

I love your post Donald.  If I might extend your MAJOR thought a bit - most choir members follow the lead of the director, but human nature will always have an individual who AUGMENTS the norm into a problem.  Fortunately, choralnet colleagues have offered advice to DIMINISH the Star Spangled Banner text concern.

on March 6, 2016 9:11am
HI Seth,
 
Maybe you could work up a creative  arrangement of the "Star Spangled Banner" where some of the students (especially including the two with the text recital problem) sing backing words or sound effcts that support the text while others sing the words!   Could be done.
 
Good luck,
 
Sol Mogerman
 
 
 
 
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