There was an issue that flared up amongst my friends and I at our University recently. We are all university music students. Our choir was singing Schumann's Mass in C minor and because this is a class there is a mandatory test on the piece. If you don't participate in the test and the final concert, then you fail.
The issue was that a certain student, who happens to be the leader of the bible study group at our school, went to the music director and told her that they refused to participate in the exam and their final concert. The reason being that this person is an evangelical and the Mass is a catholic song. This individual said they were uncomfortable promoting catholic views. My atheist friends and I thought it was ridiculous, until we found out that this person was actually exempted from performing and the final exam. All the other students would have to practice and take time out of their weeks to prepare for this exam and concert, but he gets special treatment because he's "not" catholic. Not to mention the atheists in the group, who have to spend an hours and hours during practices of the mass singing about the "glory of god." How do you think they feel? We feel like complete idiots, but we suck it up because it's not about religion. It's about the music and art.
I am posting this because I want to know if I'm just crazy or should we have actually done something about this. Any feedback?
While I agree that the precedent is set, I do not think it should be taken advantage of. The predicament here is that a HUGE amount of music is related to god - especially choral music since it was created for (guess where) CHURCH. It is simply not possible to teach music without running into it. Bach, the very foundation of classical music, was about as big of a Lutheran as you can get. It would truly be a shame to teach a music class without his choral works. And that's only one example.
So my advice would be to suck it up, do the exam, and be a better musician for it. Being that this is a college environment, I sincerely doubt this is the first time this other kid has run into a piece of music that doesn't fall inline with his personal beliefs. He must be trying to work the system for some other reason, and it'll come back to bite him eventually.
It is unfair, but in my mind the remedy is to revoke the exemption. That's probably unlikely and I'm not sure you could protest it without stepping on the music director's toes. The arts express just about every aspect of human nature, belief and philosophy from the most ennobled to the most reviled. There is a degree of separation from what a performer expresses and what they espouse as their own personal philosophy. I don't think there's anything wrong with the music director telling a student that it's their right not to perform, but the end result will be to flunk the exam. Like you said, you suck it up because it's about the music and the art.
Hell, you suck it up because it's your job. Some musicians can pick and choose work at whim, but most that I know cannot afford to refuse work for such a meagre reason. I don't think this exemption helps this student; it just coddles him.
I'm going to go along with the sentiment of those who say it should at least be brought to the attention of the director. In arts (singing, acting, drawing, etc.), sometimes we have to put our personal beliefs aside and do what is asked of us. If this person is going to get an exemption, then anyone who doesn't believe in what the song is depicting should be exempt as well.
Athiests are far more tolerant than any religious person I've ever met. Ask the director if every single religious person would be exempt if the song was about god -not- existing, or the big bang, or even evolution for a few examples.
I'd have to say something regarding the fact that all those who are "uncomfortable promoting Catholic views" should be exempt, or a new piece for the final ought to be chosen.
I also feel sorry for your classmate. She's going to miss out on a lot of fantastic art in all of its forms. I'd certainly not miss out on a chance to see the Sistine Chapel just because it is a chapel. Seriously.
When my oldest son was in high school there was a class where the instructor taught the Bible under the guise of literature. He refused to participate and took a F instead.
I'm so proud of my boy.