Christmas Concert Ruminations

195645_christmas_2My Christmas concert came and went. No, I don’t have a “winter concert” or “holiday concert.” We don’t play winter music at the concert. We don’t play Easter or Halloween or Arbor Day music at the concert. We play Christmas music. So it’s a Christmas concert. Why is it so difficult for people to understand that concept? Why are so many people scared of offending people that they let fear dominate their lives?

My concerts used to be offensive, but that was because my bands didn’t know how to play. Now, they sound pretty good, and all that stuff. We have fun. We perform both secular and sacred music. Of course, none of them have words, so there is really no such thing as secular or sacred instrumental music, but nevertheless, that’s how it ends up being.

I was so proud of the work my kids did! If you’re interested in hearing them (and telling me what’s wrong with them), let me know and I’ll try to email recordings to you.

About Joel Wagner 522 Articles
Joel Wagner (@sywtt) began teaching band in 2002. Though he had a lot of information, his classes were out of control. He found himself tired, frustrated, disrespected by students, lonely, and on the brink of quitting. He had had enough. He resigned from his school district right before spring break of his second year and made it his personal mission to learn to be a great teacher. So You Want To Teach? is the ongoing story of that quest for educational excellence.

4 Comments on Christmas Concert Ruminations

  1. I did 30 years’ worth of Christmas concerts, too, mixing up sacred and secular literature, and enjoyed every one of them. Two thoughts on your post: #1) Just because instrumental music does not include lyrics doesn’t mean that the audience is not thinking “holy infant, so tender and mild” as the mere notes are playing. Or that the overture to the Messiah, for example, is not thoroughly “sacred” music. Music written in the service of worship (whether it has words or not) is sacred music–it’s not lyrics that make music holy, it is the music’s purpose.

    #2) If the bulk of your community was Jewish or Muslim, you would be certainly feel differently about an all-Christmas repertoire, at least after the first dozen calls from parents concerned about a Christmas-only concert. If you work (as I did) in an almost exclusively Christian community, is it not your obligation to share culturally diverse music with your students? And is it not your obligation to do a winter/December/holiday/Christmas concert that pleases your audience and teaches kids something about why many religious or non-religious traditions celebrate a holiday around the darkest days of the year?

    There is a large and worthy body of Christmas music–worth performing, for Christians and non-Christians alike, because it is fabulous music. And “peace on earth, goodwill to all” is a universal truth and goal. It’s really not about being worried about offending someone. It’s about honoring diversity. Even in the most non-diverse student bodies. It’s 21st century learning, in the music program.

  2. “My concerts used to be offensive, but that was because my bands didn’t know how to play.”
    hee-hee!!! love your sense of humor. i must say, our winter concert (includes pieces about winter as well as xmas music, so i guess its accurate) was a very pleasant experience. all 3 times as i attended the actual performance and both assembly versions. it’s thrilling to see the students be so proud of themselves for working hard.

  3. Glad to hear it went well. I attended the local 6th-HS Christmas concert earlier this week and it was very interesting to hear the difference just 1 more year of instruction/practice makes in the Jr High groups. By the time the HS concert and symphonic bands got to play, I was amazed at how much more polished they were than the young beginners. There wasn’t but 4 or so years difference in age, but my, how much they’d learned in those 4 years! The HS group’s final piece was playing snippets of familiar songs in different styles around the world. The director challenged the audience to identify the country as they played – it was fun to do so. I can only suppose it was fun to learn to play in all the different ‘flavors’.

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