Marching Orders: A High School Band’s Communist Celebration

A Pennsylvania high school has put together a rather startling halftime show for the school’s football games. The New Oxford High School marching band has performed “St. Petersburg 1917,” commemorating the Bolshevik Revolution that brought the communists to power and led to the formation of the Soviet Union. The band, which performed the piece at the Friday night football game on September 14th, wore olive-colored military-style uniforms, and carried red flags–along with giant hammers and sickles. “There is no reason for Americans to celebrate the Russian revolution,” said an irate parent who alerted Fox News to the debacle. “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.”

The parent, who asked not to be identified, attended the game with his children. He was stunned by the halftime performance. “It was Glee meets the Russian Revolution,” he told Fox. “I’m not kidding you. They had giant hammers and sickles and they were waving them around. Who thought this was a good idea?” he added.

Apparently the judges at the Cavalcade of Bands Association Inc. show at Manheim Township High School on Saturday, September 22nd did. They awarded the band first place in their category, according to District superintendent Rebecca Harbaugh, who spoke with Front Page regarding the controversy. She defended the band and the performance, emphasizing that it was not a “celebration” of communism, as some media outlets characterized it. Instead the performance was intended to “present the musical importance and the struggle during this turbulent time of world history,” she insisted. “It was never intended to be a celebration,” she added.

In an earlier story Harbaugh addressed the parent who complained, noting that she was “truly sorry that somebody took the performance in that manner, I am,” she said. “If anything is being celebrated it’s the music,” she added. “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.”

Paul Kengor, executive director for the Center for Vision & Values at Pennsylvania’s Grove City College, and author of  “The Communist,” put that so-called history lesson in perspective. “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…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,” he said.

Harbaugh told Front Page that the Conawago Valley School District was addressing the controversy. Part of that effort included removing the picture of band members posing with a large hammer and sickle from the band’s website. That picture had been linked to many of the previous stories on this controversy. “The district decided to remove the picture to protect the students,” said Harbaugh. “They’re being caught in the cross-fire, and they’ve worked way too hard to put them in this position.” When asked if the band would continue to perform the piece in its original format, Harbaugh said no. “The hammer and sickle will be replaced with traditional color guard band equipment,” she said. As for the olive-green uniforms, “they will likely stay” she added.

So will the music of Soviet composer Dmitri Shostakovich.

Critics of the program were quick to point out the obvious parallels that could be drawn, ones virtually assured of garnering unanimous condemnation. “It would be tantamount to celebrating the music of 1935 Berlin,” an offended parent said. “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.” Another local expressed his opinion on Facebook. “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,” Brian Albin wrote.

Gerson Moreno-Riano, dean of Regent University’s College of Arts & Sciences, addressed that brutality. “The Russian revolution was one of the most violent episodes of the 20th Century,” he said. “Lenin put into place a doctrine of mass terror to crush the opposition and thousands and thousands of people were murdered. 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,” he added.

The group photograph of the band posing with the hammer and sickle rankled him equally as much. “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 said. Or is it? “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 speculated.

It is unlikely that the adults involved here are ignorant of history. Yet it is quite likely the students are. A 2010 study done by National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) reveals that American students’ knowledge of history is limited at best. “It’s worth noting that of the seven school subjects tested by NAEP, history has the smallest proportion of students who score Proficient or above in the most recent assessment available,” said Assistant Secretary of Education Diane Ravitch in a statement released in 2011. “The results of this assessment tell us that we as a nation must pay more attention to the teaching of U.S. history.”

Make that history, period. Superintendent Harbaugh revealed that this program had been planned for a while. In fact, the band’s website, under the heading of “Band Camp 2012 Wrap-Up,” noted a performance of  “St. Petersburg: 1917″ took place before the football season began, and that “everyone is excited about the possibilities for the coming season. We hope to see you at a football game or competition sometime soon!” Yet somehow no one even anticipated the possibility that a bunch of high school kids marching in olive-green uniforms, and carrying hammers and sickles, would be offensive.

Unfortunately, that lack of anticipation is eminently plausible. Despite being one of the most brutal and oppressive ideologies ever inflicted upon mankind, communism has never provoked the same level of disgust that other oppressive ideologies, most notably Nazism, have. This pernicious double-standard is easily illuminated: is there any doubt whatsoever that a high school band, playing German music to express a “turbulent time in history”–even as they carried swastikas to represent that particular period of history–would be universally condemned?

It is a badly kept secret that communism, despite the fact that it is responsible for the deaths of ten times as many people as Nazism, retains a certain level of “chic” within the precincts of the American left. That attraction is motivated by leftist visions of a socialist utopian society, despite the abject failure to achieve such a society time and time again throughout the course of history. It is also motivated by a gargantuan level of hubris: leftists remain convinced those failures can be primarily  attributed to the idea that the “wrong people were in charge.” As a result, the American left was determined to pursue “detente” with the Soviet Union right up to its collapse.

Thus, it remains completely unsurprising that there are people who believe a marching band commemorating communism is indeed a “good idea.” And while such an effort ought to offend most Americans, it should also act as a reminder of something critically important: the battle for this nation’s heart and soul is not taking place in Washington, D.C. It is taking place in public school classrooms across this nation, and it is a battle the American left is determined to win–even if America’s children are given their “marching orders” in the process.

  • Xrae66

    What happened to freedom of speech?

    • KarshiKhanabad

      If they left out the commie symbolism & simply celebrated Russian folk culture complete with songs & dances, it wouldn't be that big a deal. But it's scary to think there are teachers who think the hammer & sickle is way cool. I listen to the classical music of Soviet-era composers, but that doesn't make me a Marxist.

    • JoJoJams

      They have freedom of speech. And we have freedom of speech to resoundly condemn their ignorance and hubris.

    • HotSalsa

      You'd probably like that catchy little tune called "Springtime for Hitler."

  • sdsali

    The students have freedom of speech, but this was a school sponsored indoctrination. What if they had wanted to not only perform a religious song but, say, bring in a priest and celebrate communion as part of an official school event in which everyone was expected to participate?

    • formerteacher

      What an amazing point of reference! AND I concur with your sentiments. I was a director for tens years with a NC band that performed, and still performs Nationally and Internationally. We had distinct honors which were not only category winners, but also event winners, being labeled "Grand Champions" at numerous competition, both on and off the marching band field.
      I currently have 30 former students either working in the music field, or studying to work in the music field (including jazz studies, performance, management, study musicians, touring musicians, agents, promoters, artist reps, etc).
      However, I stepped away from the podium when in 2004 I was told i could not perform a rendition of Julie Giroux's "Crown of Thorns" (which by the way, is still on the NC Bandmasters approved list for concert competitions).
      The piece portrays distinct aspects of the Passion of Christ: Last Supper, Exchanging of Coins, Beating, Crucifixion, Burial, and Resurrection. Two weeks before our first performance, the school administration told me that I could not put that show on the football field. It is a sad state of affairs that School Systems will approve and disapprove performances based on their own preferences! I loathe to ever be in the classroom again. Also, to note, I was twice nominated for District Band Director of the Year, and was once selected as Teacher of The Year.

  • oldtimer

    Just another reason to homeschool.

  • Omar

    This just shows that the schools are insensitive towards the victims of communism. Instead of celebrating one of the most radical, intolerant ideologies on the planet, the schools would mourn the victims of communist totalitarianism. Perhaps they should mourn the son of the last czar of Russia. The czar's son (who had hemophilia) was killed in cold blood by the Bolsheviks. His only "crime" was that he was the heir to the throne.

    • rifleboy

      maybe they are doing it to teach the kids about the horrible times and communism?? not commemorating it??? let’s think before we react.. if we hide history it won’t happen again right??? even if history is hard for some people to see…

  • Bernhardt

    Homeschooled? But certainly not by the ” educator(s)” who had this bright eureka moment .Delusional Fools , unfortunately , are among us everywhere. To wit , the laboured explanation of district superintendant Rebecca Harbaugh , denoted in the article

  • PaulRevereNow

    At a local school recently, a class of 7th graders was shown a video, called "Lorax–the Movie." Its a cartoon film about the trials of "The Lorax," a mythical character who "speaks for the Trees." The film portrays an "evil" capitalist, who chops down all the trees in a certain locality, to produce the products his business manufactures; running roughshod over the efforts of "The Lorax" to protect the forest. Flaming liberal jackwagon Danny DeVito was one of the voices, and Betty White was another. The film ends when the evil capitalist CEO of the tree-chopping company goes on a guilt trip, and is given the last tree seed in existence, and re-plants the forest. However, the 7th graders who see the movie are inculcated with a hatred of capitalism; they are likewise turned into environmentalist wackos; precisely what the teacher/administration wanted. This film, and dozens of others like it, along with the marching band incident described above, are part and parcel of leftist teachers unions and kooky school administrators' plan to make America top-heavy with socialism. DEMAND Rebecca Harbaugh's resignation.

    • Questions

      "The Lorax" originally was a Dr. Seuss story. Was he a Communist, too?

      • Aquinasthegoat

        Quite possibly

    • rifleboy

      omg…. and let’s bury our history.. it was not a show that commemorated or celebrated communism. It was a show that represented St Petersburg in 1917 which was communist. It was a learning tool. Maybe to learn how horrible communism really was??? let’s think… let’s also get rid of les miserables and shindlers list while we’re at it.. cause history will never repeat itself right???

  • MarshallDillon

    Give liberals an inch and they'll take a yard. They're trying to disguise this marching band theme as an expression of art or other liberal reasons. The taxpayers in this PA school district should order the firing of those responsible for putting on this demonstration. This is unforgiving.

  • http://reformedtrombonist.blogspot.com Reformed Trombonist

    I love the music of Shostakovich, but I also happen to know some of the history. Stalin had attended a performance of one of Shostakovich’s operas sometime in 1935 and apparently it didn’t sit well with him. The next day, a blistering review of the opera appeared in Pravda, entitled “Muddle Instead of Music”, in which Shostakovich was denounced as a purveyor of “bourgeois” and “formalistic” music, including an ominous note or two (“[Shostakovich's music] is a game of clever ingenuity that may end very badly. ” It is thought Stalin himself wrote this review.

    If you were a Soviet composer during the 1930s, you had to take such reviews seriously, as you personally knew people who had received that dreaded knock on the door at 2 AM. Shostakovich was, not unreasonably, in fear for his life. So, yes, he wrote propaganda music. You would too. But even the propaganda pieces have worthwhile musical content, and it’s enough, at least for me, to know Shostakovich himself chafed under and despised the regime that held him up as an artistic icon.

    So Shostakovich’s music? That’s fine. But hammers and sickles on parade? Might be on a par with prancing swastikas.

    • Maxie

      " It is thought Stalin himself wrote this review." He may well have. He was a patron of the arts and personally familiar with composers, poets, writers but certainly more than willing to rid Russia of anyone at anytime and in great numbers. His closest advisors and their families were terrified of him.
      Ms. Harbaugh is either a sympathyzer or dummer than a box of rocks.

    • Radegunda

      Almost anything by Shostakovich seems to convey some commentary on the terror of life under Stalin. Even the triumphal tunes have a sardonic edge, as though Shosta was getting in his critique in a way that the crude Bolsheviks were incapable of grasping.

  • tagalog

    I don't suppose anyone's informing these kids, and, apparently, their teachers who also seem to need some instruction, that all those St. Petersburg Communist revolutionaries were tried and punished, many executed and many sent to do "twenties" in the gulag, by Stalin during the 1937-1939 Great Terror in the famous Purge Trials, are they?

    Sergei Kirov would -possibly- be proud to have St. Petersburg's revolutionary past remembered. If he could be raised from the grave Stalin put him in as the head of the St. Petersburg Communists.

    Actually, come to think of it, while they're doing that celebration of the Bolshevik Revolution in St. Petersburg, they ought to say "Leningrad," don't you think?

    While they're playing all those stirring revolutionary tunes in celebration of the Bolshevik Revolution in St. Petersburg, they might give the dead revolutionaries, who were killed when the revolution (as revolutions do) killed its progenitors, some thought.

    We are STILL, a generation after Soviet Communism died, as Lenin said, selling the Soviet Commies the rope they'll use to hang us. The useful idiots will always be with us, I guess.

    And while we're at it, we might consider how appropriate it is that we have a Holocaust Museum in the United States. Why isn't it in Berlin? The U.S. fought to end the Holocaust.

  • https://www.facebook.com/david.mckenzie.92754 David McKenzie

    Most certainly this is over the top! I didn't realize till now just how far the commie liberals have infiltrated our educational system? I knew it was bad but this is american decay in high school? Celebration of a culture that killed so many people and enslaved the rest is an atrocity! The organizers are traitors to the american who died defending America from the commies! They should be immediately separated from any contact with students and fired! I would hold a meeting with the students and show them pictures of the goulogs along with some factual history! WTF ARE THESE PEOPLE DOING TO THOSE KIDS? Where are the parents? Where is the outrage? Common!

    • R.C.

      High school students–are NOT kids–but rather young adults–and they also share responsibility for being so ignorant and pathetic–its easy to know the truth!

  • https://www.facebook.com/possumntaters Frank Orlando Wilson

    Comrade Che haaaaaaaaaaaated rock and roll music and viewed it much the same way as Comrade Stalin did Shostakovich's! Carlos Santana still wears his Che shirt at concerts along with hundreds of thousands of others! WTF?

    • Omar

      Thanks for pointing out how Carlos Santana made a fool out of himself by wearing a T-shirt of the mass murderer Che Guevara during the 2005 Oscars. Apparently, Carlos Santana is ignorant of the fact that the man on his T-shirt is the emblem of a regime that made it a criminal offense to listen to rock and roll music. Santana's music would have been banned in Castro's Cuba.

    • Omar

      Humberto Fontova's books and articles expose the truth about the Castro regime and Che Guevara.

  • Gabriel

    It's Springtime for Stalin and Soviets.

  • http://tarandfeathersusa.wordpress.com/ Iratus Vulgas

    This is fantastic unintended satire. We need to get Mel Brooks into the loop. I see potential for a "Producers" prequel of some sort. Is liberal America ready for "Springtime for Lenin?" Trey Parker and Matt Stone could probably do a good job with this. It's a Mad Magazine bit without any good punchlines. "East Side Story," "My Fair Comrade," "The Commissar and I," — the possibilities are endless.

  • Ghostwriter

    I doubt that people from Russia,Vietnam,Cuba,Eastern Europe or other places like that who emigrated here would like something like this and I share their dislike of that tacky,tasteless performance.

  • riverboatbill

    Welcome to Commiebama High.

  • http://twitter.com/JeanCurry3 @JeanCurry3

    OMG

  • R.C.

    This was a celebration of communism–and It is for certain–many of the "parents" are ignorant of history and of communism!

    Just look at how many pathetic Pennsylvanians voted for the communist Barack Obama!

    Its easy for Americans to be informed about communism–just look at the history channel.

  • http://www.facebook.com/edward.allen.1654 Edward Allen

    If this story doesn’t verify 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!!!!!

  • Jim

    Like most people dear teacher thought the Communist revolution was a peoples revolution.
    Even the Communists believed that until they stupidly held an election and got only 20% of the vote.

  • Dan S.

    Reformed Trombonist is correct and I would like to add that the fact that Shostakovich wrote such amazing musing under those conditions is testement to his genius. In fact, he was very brave since, despite the danger, there is quite a bit of subversion in his music. The fact that they used Shostakovich's music in a show portraying, if not celebrating, Soviet history displays an appalling lack of historical knowledge and perspective by the school's teachers. No wonder kids get stupider by the year: stupid kids grow up to be stupid teachers.

  • Martin

    Why not a band musical celebrating 9/11? Or, Kristallnacht?

  • formerteacher

    EXTREMISM-PREFERENTIAL TREATMENT BY EDUCATIONAL ADMINISTRATION
    If I disagree with you-I am closed-minded; if you disagree with me, you are open-minded, and accepting!
    It doesn't go both ways for liberals!!!
    I was a director for tens years with a NC band that performed, and still performs Nationally and Internationally. We had distinct honors which were not only category winners, but also event winners, being labeled "Grand Champions" at numerous competition, both on and off the marching band field.
    I currently have 30 former students either working in the music field, or studying to work in the music field (including jazz studies, performance, management, study musicians, touring musicians, agents, promoters, artist reps, etc).
    However, I stepped away from the podium when in 2004 I was told i could not perform a rendition of Julie Giroux's "Crown of Thorns" (which by the way, is still on the NC Bandmasters approved list for concert competitions).
    The piece portrays distinct aspects of the Passion of Christ: Last Supper, Exchanging of Coins, Beating, Crucifixion, Burial, and Resurrection. Two weeks before our first performance, the school administration told me that I could not put that show on the football field. It is a sad state of affairs that School Systems will approve and disapprove performances based on their own preferences! I loathe to ever be in the classroom again. Also, to note, I was twice nominated for District Band Director of the Year, and was once selected as Teacher of The Year.

  • CTConservatives47

    Appalling. Millions died at the hands of the Soviets, millions more at the hands of the Red Chinese, North Koreans, and Pol Pot’s Cambodians. To celebrate the Russian Revolution is an affront to their memory.The band director should be summarily dismissed for his gross insensitivity and ignorance of history.

  • CTConservatives47

    Appalling. Millions died at the hands of the Soviets, millions more at the hands of the Red Chinese, North Koreans, and Pol Pot’s Cambodians. To celebrate the Russian Revolution is an affront to their memory.The band director should be summarily dismissed for his gross insensitivity and ignorance of history.

  • дмитрий Зюганов

    слава СССР. Вы американцы не знают правду. Ленин принес свободу и равенство для нас.