The state of Wisconsin once again sits center stage in the War on Christmas. The Wausau School District has issued an edict about Christmas music that has caused several school associated music groups to either disband or cancel December performances.
Phil Buch, who has directed Wausau West High Schoolâ€™s choral programs since 1981, said the decision to halt rehearsals for the Master Singers was made after a meeting Thursday with district officials and Frank Sutherland, an attorney who represents the school district.
Buch said district administrators gave music educators at Wausau schools three options for December concerts, which typically contain a significant amount of religious music: choose five secular, or non-religious, songs for each religious song performed; hold a concert and have no holiday music whatsoever; or postpone any concerts in December. Because the 20-member Master Singers group is invited to sing at nearly a dozen holiday concerts each year, Buch said, those options were unacceptable.
“This group sings at Christmas programs,” Buch said. “We sing for nursing homes, grade schools, businesses. To do that without Christmas music doesnâ€™t make sense.”
District administrators did not return calls Friday seeking information about the rules, but Wausau School Board President Michelle Schaefer said the change in direction stems from legal concerns over the amount of religious music performed in the schools. The decision will not eliminate religious music altogether but will give teachers a better idea as to how much religious music is “too much,” Schaefer said.
“From a School Board perspective, we look for music that is balanced,” Schaefer said. “Yes, we are a predominantly Christian society, but we are also a society of many faiths, and we want to respect that.”
The 15 elementary schools in the Wausau School District have jointly decided to cancel all winter concerts.[School Board member Patrick] McKee said holiday songs sung by elementary school students such as “Frosty the Snowman” and “Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer” donâ€™t have religious themes, and the schools canceling those concerts because of backlash concerns him.
A Facebook page supporting students and music educators AGAINST the direction of the school district has been set up to draw attention to the controversy.
Stay tuned, this one will likely garner a lot of media attention.