Principal Helpline: “Do you have to please everyone with the school holiday concert?”

Joy to world! Also, cheers…to LOTS of opinions

Managing school holiday concerts

Q.

There are few things that put me in the holiday spirit more quickly than the annual holiday concert. Listening to children sing traditional holiday songs just warms my heart. But this year a small group of parents is objecting to the focus on Christmas carols, insisting on a more diverse, secular program. Our district doesn’t have a particular policy about what music teachers can choose, and I’m a little at a loss about how to proceed.

 

A.

One of the weirdest holiday concerts I ever went to was when my kids were in middle school. The district had decided that all holiday concerts had to offer a diverse and generally secular program. Music teachers were unhappy with what they saw as encroachment on their authority to select their own music. So when parents arrived for what we expected to be a typical holiday concert, instead the music teacher announced that in order to avoid controversy, since the concert was held on December 6, Pearl Harbor Day, the program would be a salute to the military.

Listening to children singing about angels and snowflakes and Santa is one thing; listening to kids sing about how they would “all go down together” was something else entirely. The program did not give anyone the warm holiday feeling you referred to. Parents were pretty unhappy, and that was the end of the holiday concert/military salute.

I’ve always tried to avoid telling specialists, like music teachers and art teachers, how to do their jobs unless an obvious problem arose.  Fortunately most of the professionals I’ve worked with wanted holiday programs to be inclusive, so they included everything from “Silent Night” to “Sleigh Ride” to “Grandma Got Run over by a Reindeer” on the program.

It might be helpful for you to find out how your colleagues throughout the district are making their holiday program more inclusive. Perhaps you can work with your music teacher and parents to find a reasonable compromise that includes lots of varieties of holiday music. With so many options available, I’m hopeful that you can, in the spirit of the season, find a compromise.

 

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Suzanne Tingley

Posted by Suzanne Tingley

Suzanne Tingley has been a middle/high school teacher, department chair, principal, and superintendent. She taught graduate classes in education administration for the State University of New York. She developed a series of education videos and has been a Scholastic Administrator blogger.

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