Wednesday, 26 September 2012 18:30

Pa. High School Band Commemorates Russian Revolution; Citizens Outraged

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Pennsylvania’s New Oxford High School marching band stirred controversy earlier this week after a halftime show that commemorated the Russian revolution included olive military-style uniforms and giant hammers and sickles. There was an immediate public outcry against the performance prompting the superintendent to issue an apology for the display. Additionally, the band has reportedly made significant changes to the halftime show.

The theme for the New Oxford High School marching band was “St. Petersburg: 1917.” The band’s performance featured red flags, military uniforms,  and giant hammers and sickles, even as the school’s athletic teams are called the Colonials and feature red, white, and blue uniforms. The website for the band included a large group photo with students donning a hammer and sickle.

An angry parent notified Fox News to alert them to the school’s antics. The parent, who asked not to be identified, attended a football game at the school with his children on September 14 and was appalled by the performance he witnessed. He told Fox News,

It was Glee meets the Russian Revolution. I’m not kidding you. They had giant hammers and sickles and they were waving them around. Who thought this was a good idea?

There is no reason for Americans to celebrate the Russian revolution. I am sure the millions who died under Communism would not see the joy of celebrating the Russian revolution by a school 10 miles from Gettysburg.

It would be tantamount to celebrating the music of 1935 Berlin. If I was Lithuanian, Estonian, or Ukrainian, I’d be a little hot. I’d be really hot. It’s insulting to glorify something that doesn’t need to be glorified in America.

The Blaze reports that another parent “equated it to unexpectedly seeing your children waving swastikas during a halftime performance, noting that communism has killed more people than Nazis."

But Conewago Valley School District Superintendent Rebecca Harbaugh argued that the halftime show is “not an endorsement of communism at all.”

“It’s a representation of the time period in history called St. Petersburg 1917,” she said. “I am truly sorry that somebody took the performance in that manner. I am.”

“If anything is being celebrated it’s the music,” she said. “It is what it is. I understand people look at something and choose how to interpret that and I’m just very sorry that it wasn’t looked at as just a history lesson.”

Attempting to shake the school’s unpatriotic image, she added that the school did “an entire show on freedom” in 2008.

Despite the superintendent’s assertions, parents are still infuriated by the halftime performance. In fact, the influx of complaints has compelled Harbaugh to admit that “many people have expressed concerns about the show.”

She argued that the purpose of the show was to underscore “a dark time in our world’s history and that’s the way it was portrayed on the field.”

“It’s not an uplifting performance,” Harbaugh said.

But for some connected to the school, such a theme was too harsh for a high school band to portray at a halftime show.

One student posted on his Facebook page,

I think the question is whether it is appropriate for a high school band to commemorate an event that led to unimaginable brutality of millions of Russian citizens. Stalin was just not a very nice guy. The tie to socialism is also a sore subject in this day and age.

Harbaugh attempted to quell the situation by indicating that the school recognizes some fault in the matter and has made the necessary changes:

We are taking steps to address many of the concerns expressed to us. This is a learning opportunity for not only our students who have learned about the Revolution and its tragic consequences but it also a learning opportunity for us as teachers and administrators.

The performance will now be called “The Music of Shostakovich,” with the hammer and sickle replaced by the traditional color guard band equipment.

Some are still in disbelief over the performance.

Paul Kengor, executive director for the Vision & Values center at Pennsylvania’s Grove City College, said he believed that the halftime show was a joke initially. “This is surreal,” he told Fox News. “This is like something out of the Twilight Zone — but it’s even stranger than that.”

Kengor said even if the school was not celebrating the revolution, “they seem to be commemorating this to some degree.”

“The Bolshevik Revolution launched a global Communist revolution that from 1917 through the 1990s was responsible for the deaths of over a hundred million people,” he said. “What the Russian revolution unleashed was a nightmare — a historical human catastrophe. This is something that should be condemned and not in any way commemorated or laughed at.”

Gerson Moreno-Riano, dean of Regent University’s College of Arts & Sciences, found the performance shocking:

The Russian revolution was one of the most violent episodes of the 20th century. Lenin put into place a doctrine of mass terror to crush the opposition and thousands and thousands of people. It’s full of violence, terror, destruction, and in some weeks thousands of people were executed — some thrown with rocks around their necks into the river to drown.

It’s quite frankly horrific that a high school would be celebrating that at a football game.

Even worse for Moreno-Riano was the photograph of the band on the school website that showed the students holding a hammer and sickle.

“To raise the emblems of the hammer and sickle — the emblems of so much violence, destruction and terror — is a lack of knowledge of history," he maintained.

Moreno-Riano contends that the best case scenario is that those who orchestrated the performance were simply ignorant of the historical reference.

“The worst case scenario is someone who is trying to celebrate something they know about — and they’re trying to insert this into their educational agenda,” he said.

Despite the controversial choice of entertainment, however, the Evening Sun reported that the judges of the Cavalcade of Bands Association Inc. show at Manheim Township High School awarded the New Oxford High School marching band first place on September 22.

Photo: New Oxford High School marching band


  • Comment Link E Thursday, 27 September 2012 19:56 posted by E

    Vicky, dont be ridiculous. What do you have a problem with exactly? The musical choice, or simply the fact that one of the props used was a hammer and sickle?

    There are some very thinned skinned and ignorant people in this country who see history as something to be scared of, and any reference to it somehow meaning a glorification of it.

    I am astounded. Simply astounded. In fact, I am going to go youtube this band's performance so I can witness the horror, yes the horror of seeing hammers and sickles being thrown in the air to the music of Dmitri Shostakovich. Gasp....

  • Comment Link Vicky Davis Thursday, 27 September 2012 17:56 posted by Vicky Davis

    This performance is an outrage and an insult. The Superintendent's explanation is lame and stupid. She needs to resign along with everybody connected to it - especially the band director.

  • Comment Link E Thursday, 27 September 2012 13:19 posted by E


    This IS freedom! You want the government to tell high school bands what music they can or cant play? Because it might be offensive? The irony is that the music of Shostakovich was very critical of Soviet Communism and Shostakovich more than once earned the ire and glare of Stalin and his cronies. Shostakovich was very brave. Many artists were killed or imprisoned for their art not falling in line with the Soviet artistic ideal.

    Again, this marching band show, unless there is some narrator over the loud speaker praising Stalin and Communism is simply an artistic performance that utilizes real Russian Music and real historical Russian symbols. For anyone to cry murder over this is ignorant. This IS freedom of speech, and its not promoting Stalin or murder. Stop it.

  • Comment Link Eddie Thursday, 27 September 2012 13:02 posted by Eddie

    If this story doesn’t varify who is in charge of American and our school system and why the American idiots except the Soviet Police State and a Communist for their President, well this story is a perfect example why, a blatant glorification of the murder of over Sixty-six Million people in Russia, half the population and the majority being Christians. What occured in Russia and what is being glorified at this Pennsylvania “public school”, will be done to Americans ten fold, so be on guard and buy a rifle. “The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world”, and the Trotskyite Soviet murderers are indoctrinating and brainwashing the youth of America. WAKE UP!!!!!

  • Comment Link E Thursday, 27 September 2012 12:26 posted by E

    This outrage is ridiculous. As a former high school bandsman, this happens all the time. Music is chosen, and the historical context is woven into the show. The hammer and sickle are a symbol of the time period, and the show is entitled "St. Petersburg: 1917." This is history, not a commemoration. And the music is Shostakovich. Should his music be banned because he was a Soviet composer?

    When I was in high school we did a "Miss Saigon" show, you know, the musical? Guess what, we had giant red flags with gold stars on them as props that were raised during the "Fall of Saigon" musical number. No one was outraged or cried that we were promoting Communism. Its the context people.

    If a movie is made about the life of Hitler, are the producers promoting Hitler? If they have Swastikas in the movie, are they promoting the SS and the Nazis? No. They are showing an important part of our history, and people need to MAN UP and understand that just because a high school band performs a half time show with historical context that does not mean they are promoting communism (Face Palm). Would you rather they do a Brittney Spears show?

    Americans are being wussified on a massive scale. Where was all the outrage when Schindlers List came out? Think that was glorifying the Holocaust? Please.

  • Comment Link REMant Wednesday, 26 September 2012 18:52 posted by REMant

    I suppose this is what passes nowadays for history education.

  • Comment Link Keith R Warner Wednesday, 26 September 2012 18:19 posted by Keith R Warner

    How many of those outraged citizens even know the Bolsheviks were financed by Jacob Schiff, one of the Rothschild bankers who created our "Federal" Reserve?

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