As a public school music educator and choral director for more than 30 years, I was surprised and disappointed with the conclusions arrived at in the Nov. 7 News editorial "Don't mistake schools for churches."
I do not understand how in one paragraph The News can state that "any study of serious music that omitted Bach would be educationally deficient" and then conclude the editorial by saying that choral music such as Bach's chorales and Handel's "Messiah" should be performed in churches or concert halls only, not in public schools.
If one is to study and perform the choral music of Bach, it will almost certainly have a sacred text since the majority of choral and vocal music that he wrote was sacred. To not study the chorales of Bach, which forms the basis for the harmonic structure that is used in music composition, would be as wrong as to not study the paintings of Michelangelo or El Greco in art class just because many of them have a religious subject.
Sacred choral music is chosen by music educators not for its religious content but for its musical and educational value. Certainly choral directors must be sensitive to the many beliefs in society today, and a concert program should have a balance between sacred and non-sacred music as well as music from different cultures, languages and religions.
But to eliminate the sacred choral music from a program, especially such significant choral works as Bach's chorales or Handel's "Messiah," would eliminate an important part of any choral curriculum and an important part of vocal music history.
As The News stated in the editorial, "One clear distinction here must be between musical study for education reasons, which should pass legal muster, and religious music intended to proselytize, which should not." I agree with this statement.
It all comes down to how the music educator presents the choral piece to the student. Without exception I have found that I, and my colleagues, have taught sacred choral music for "educational reasons" and not to proselytize a certain religious viewpoint.
Let us not take away from the public school curriculum one of the best ways to teach cultural diversity and our own cultural heritage. A full and complete choral curriculum must be left intact.