Editorial License

Rob Hammerton, music educator etc.


It would be pointless, I suppose, for me to waste any time at all on the news story to which I was alerted earlier today.

Actually it might be pointless to call the thing a news story. But you can be the judge.


Alerted by what he termed “an irate parent”, an online columnist named Todd Starnes held forth today about the latest Very Grave Threat to American Values:

A high school marching band field show.

But not just any high school marching band field show. No indeed. This one, “complete with red flags, olive military-style uniforms, and giant hammers and sickles”, commemorates the Russian revolution. Or at least that’s what Mr. Starnes got out of it.

And, since Mr. Starnes works for the organization for which he works (whose webpage I will not award any easy hits; if you Google “Todd Starnes marching band”, trust me, you’ll find the article) … he accepted that football, looked for his blocker, and ran that sucker toward the end zone for all he was worth – however much that really is. The headline on his article: “American High School Band Marches with Hammer & Sickle”. Un-American, more like!


Mr. Starnes, who has more than a passing acquaintance with Missing The Point, listed the “theme” of the New Oxford (PA) High School Colonial Marching Band‘s field show as “St. Petersburg: 1917”. It would be pointless, I suppose, to mention that this high school band’s field show (according to the band’s website) was actually entitled “The Music of Shostakovich.” Pointless, perhaps, to point out that although Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich wrote music which met the surface criteria of acceptability by the Soviet government, scholars concur that at deeper levels, his compositions reveal an artist who was quietly pushing back against repressive rulers and maintaining his artistic integrity.

Pointless to hope that people might understand that the design of such a performance, featuring music of such a composer, would call for some historically accurate and evocative visual representation of the government against which the composer secretly railed.

Pointless to suggest that perhaps this band’s performance might have encouraged students (both in the band and not) to investigate the work of a composer, whose music they might otherwise have passed over as being not rock ‘n’ roll enough, too orchestral and therefore too staid, too square, too boring.

Pointless to propose that it’s the height of jingoistic, knee-jerk, unthinking non-logic to deduce that a pack of American high school students who are performing Russian music must obviously be committing an un-American act.

(From Mr. Starnes’ article: “’It was Glee meets the Russian Revolution,” [the irate parent said]. ‘I’m not kidding you. They had giant hammers and sickles and they were waving them around.’” Pointless to ask if this parent has seen any drum corps shows lately. Heck, it’s only a couple hours’ drive from New Oxford to Allentown. Santa Clara Vanguard 2005, hello? … Oh hell, never mind.)

Pointless to be disappointed that many people (not least those brave anonymous online commenters) should have so swiftly descended upon this field show and these students, hurled invective and veiled (and not-veiled) intimations of political agendas and conspiracies, and – dear Lord! – made connections between this Communism-loving performance and those horrible public schools with their socialist Marxist Communist (what-EVER) America-hating educational aims, which of course are being pushed relentlessly by that fellow in the White House who is himself socialist Marxist Communist and secretly bent on bringing down our great nation from within …


People! … … Get. A. Grip!

It’s a school band show!

Perpetrated by (horrors) a group of students who just want to do their thing on the field, and get a little applause from an audience that mostly came to see large boys in shoulder pads hit each other.

Woe, I suppose, to the band’s instructors, who tried to design a show that would feature challenging music, that might entertain a football audience, and that could slip in some historical context and education under the radar, to boot. We should all just play frickin’ “Yankee Doodle Dandy” at every halftime and aspire to nothing more thoughtful.

Shostakovich could have taught all those people a little somethin’ about integrity.

By now, of course … it would be pointless to even need to note that Mr. Starnes writes for Fox News. Pointless to try and note that there is precedent within that organization for taking footballs in the form of stories like this and running with them. Pointless to note that somewhere, someone will read this piece and conclude that I have a liberal bias for even mentioning that. Pointless to point out that we live in an online Internet world of basically wide-open, publish-anything-no-matter-how-fact-free, jump-to-absurd-conclusions non-journalism … so any yahoo with a computer and a pair of opposable thumbs can take a perfectly innocent school band show and blow it up into a national crisis. Or try awful hard. Just because they can.

Pointless … but I’m going to say all that stuff anyway. Because I can.


September 24, 2012 Posted by | band, blogging, drum corps, education, entertainment, Internet, journalism, marching band, media, music, news, politics, social media, teachers | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment