School Choir: Church and State?

Last night, we attended our daughter’s first choir concert of this school year.

I love her choir director.  He wants the students to learn an array of music from many different eras and countries.  In addition, he wants them to experience the sound of that music in different settings.  The concert last night had songs from a variety of eras.  One of those eras included a time where composers wrote a lot of music for European church choirs.  Therefore, he held the concert at a Catholic church.  All high school choir students should experience an Ave Maria while singing in a cathedral.  Such acoustics can be found in few other places.

As we waited to sit down, I overheard another attendee question the setting of the concert.  He said, “What happened to the separation of church and state?”  Oh my!  What an ignorant man…

I could go on a rant about what the separation of church and state is meant to be, but I am not the most qualified person to do that.  I suggest that we all take another lesson in this, though, as our children enter high school.  And we should dive pretty deeply into the content of what it truly means to have a separation of church and state if our children choose to be in choir.  Much of the music that actually teaches students anything will have religious ties to some culture.  In removing those songs from the curriculum, we lose what it means to learn.

In fact, if we want to remove any ideology from the music classroom, we cannot have a music class at all.  Even Justin Bieber and Brittany Spears have an ideology woven into their music.  Music at its very heart is ideological and, often, religious.  Most cultures use song and dance as a way to connect with others as well as their Higher Power.  Whether to connect with others or to worship a god, song is integral to the the culture.  Simply exposing students to these songs will not convert them to a particular religion.  Singing an Ave Maria at a Catholic church is not the school imposing the Catholic religion on anyone!

While I understand that many want to ensure that the state stay out of our church affairs and that the church stay out of our state affairs, a choir concert held in a Catholic church is not a way to circumvent this concept.  Rather, educating our children in a way that allows them to appreciate and understand other cultures is an important part of public schools.

Many cultural perspectives have found their way in to curriculum and textbooks, so why the opposition to the concert in a Catholic church?

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