Wednesday, June 12, 2024

NHCS limits music selection to 117 songs after Israeli tune removed from chorus program

The new selection process will require the chosen clinician to select five pieces from 117 songs in the NHCS repertoire.

NEW HANOVER COUNTY — Administrators at New Hanover County Schools have outlined a new process for selecting songs for the annual All County chorus and band concerts. 

READ MORE: NHCS explains why Israeli song was pulled from chorus concert

The new selection process will require the chosen clinician to select five pieces from 117 songs in the NHCS repertoire. All-County Chorus brings together students from each school countywide, totaling 180, split into three performances — elementary, middle and high school.

The clinician has the option to add a sixth song outside of NHCS’ library, but the piece will need approval from a newly created “screening committee.” 

According to district spokesperson Salvatore Cardella, “details concerning screening committee members are still being developed.” 

Committee members will ensure the appropriateness of music, by considering instructional value, the cohesion of selections, previous usage, and community/global awareness.

Chief Academic Officer Patrice Faison notified the school board of these changes — to no objections — at its March 27 agenda review meeting. The process does not need board approval, as it’s an internal procedure now adherent to policy 3210 on curricula selection.

According to NHCS’ new song-selection process, parents with concerns will need to submit a reconsideration form, matching policy 3210, which outlines steps for raising complaints against other curricula, such as books. 

The new process comes after a complaint over a selection at this year’s All County Chorus event on Feb. 17. Israeli song “BaShana HaBa’a” was removed from the program on Feb. 2 when the family of one student singer notified the district about the context of the song. 

The song was written by Nurit Hirsch and Ehud Manor in memory of the latter’s younger brother Yehuda Weiner, killed during Israeli military service in 1968. The lyrics do not allude to the death directly, instead stating: “Next year we will spread out our hands towards the radiant light” and “a white heron like a light will spread her wings and within them the sun will rise.”

The district also cited an increase in derogatory language, cultural slurs, and bullying among 4th- and 5th-grade students, further informing their decision.

The removal of the song came as Israel entered its fifth month of fighting Hamas militants in Gaza, a Palestinian territory that has an extensive history of conflict with Israel. 

“While ‘BaShana HaBa’a’ was not selected for the All-County Chorus performance, elementary music teachers were told they are welcome to continue teaching it and incorporating it into other performances because of its cultural value,” NHCS spokesperson Christina Beam told Port City Daily in February. 

“BaShana HaBa’a” remains in the All County repertoire, which was provided to Port City Daily on April 9, alongside spirituals, Latin liturgies, folk songs and a piece about English statesman Oliver Cromwell. 

The full list of pieces in the NHCS is below:

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