Saturday, November 5, 2016

Westboro Baptist Church vs The Julliard School

The Westboro Baptist Church staged a protest at The Julliard School in Manhattan this week. As the church is based in Topeka, Kansas, one wonders what this is all about? Westboro, as you may learn from the Wikipedia article, is a notoriously active congregation that fight hard for what most people regard as their mistaken beliefs. I suppose we can admire their conviction (and travel budget) if nothing else. The congregation is very small, around forty members. The Julliard School has around 850 students and is one of the most famous music schools in the world. Sure, they have a reputation of being a pressure-cooker environment, churning out masses of technically accomplished virtuosos and I'm still annoyed with them because a Julliard bassoonist beat me in a music competition in New York decades ago, but hey, in a contest between them and the Westboro folks, there really is no contest. Here is an account of the demonstration: Westboro Baptist Protesters at Juilliard Get 'Rickrolled' by Student Musicians:
Protesters from the Westboro Baptist Church showed up to protest at The Juilliard School in New York on Thursday and were joined by counter-protesting students, who greeted them with music.
Apparently the protesters from the Westboro Baptist Church Cult have run out of dead soldiers' funerals to disrupt, so they looked far and wide and decided that the greatest menace currently bearing down on America right now is—I am not making this up—the arts. All of them.
The church cult announced on their website last week that they would be protesting at The Juilliard School. In a press release, WBC decried the school's dance, drama, and music programs.
Oh the vanity of it all! “For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself.” (Gal. 6:3) Too many words to cover the awful sin of this “institution of higher learning”. Sum it up like this: You have made your children to be good for absolutely nothing except full, final and awful destruction!
In an apparent message to the students' parents the release said, "If you had taught those children to invest 5% of the energy they use for the vanity called 'The Arts' America would not be leading the world in racing to destruction."
The report, as in all media reports these days, is anything but objective. Here is another account from Playbill:
The Kansas-based hate group the Westboro Baptist Church, known for disrupting soldier’s funerals with chants and signs displaying gay slurs, is coming to the supposed heart of Gomorrah 8-9 AM November 3, to picket outside The Juilliard School in New York City.
The cause of the protest appears to be nothing more than the group’s anger at “the vanity called 'The Arts’,” according to a statement posted on the group's webpage. The call to action can be read in its entirety here.
Juilliard students told Playbill.com that they are planning a counter-demonstration called ”God Loves Jazz.”
Using Bible verses to attack the supposed vanity of the school, which is ranked as one of the top music academies in the world, the Westboro group decries ”Too many words to cover the awful sin of this ‘institution of higher learning.’ Sum it up like this: You have made your children to be good for absolutely nothing except full, final and awful destruction!”
The site goes on to explain, “If you had taught those children to invest 5% of the energy they use for the vanity called ‘The Arts’, America would not be leading the world in racing to destruction. Clarifying, God will not ever have idolatry, fornication, adultery, divorce and remarriage (which Christ said is adultery, at Luke 16:18, and other places) sodomy, same-sex marriage, murder, lying, stealing and all the rest of your proud sin, including your awful pride.”
The Juilliard School is part of the Lincoln Center arts complex on Broadway at 66th Street in Manhattan.
 I doubt that the Julliard students are guilty of anything more than excessive practice of scales. I think we can label this story The Most Inappropriate and Mistaken Critique of the Arts in the 21st century so far.

I run into the occasional Julliard alumnus and have noticed that they do have a touch of hubris. I used to tell them that I graduated from the McGill School of Music, also a body of about 800 or so dedicated students, but that never seemed sufficient somehow. So lately I have been responding to the phrase "I went to Julliard!" with the comment, "you know, I attended one of the very few music institutions in the world that has a higher reputation than Julliard: the Mozarteum in Salzburg." That is usually followed by an extended silence. Here is a photo of me playing a concert in the Wiener Saal at the Mozarteum:


4 comments:

Marc Puckett said...

Ha; that they don't respond bespeaks a different sort of lacuna in their education. But those poor WBC people really do behave in such an awful, offensive way.

Bryan Townsend said...

I think that Julliard folks are surprised and can't think how to respond. The Westboro Baptists seem to be a kind of caricature of what a backward, hidebound Christian congregation is imagined to be.

David said...

If Westboro Baptist Church is really a group that has only 40 members, the media should be ashamed to have given them a platform that is much larger than they deserve. Their positions are generally retrograde and out of sync with the world of today. Are they not aware of how high a percentage of Julliard students probably have their sights set on perfecting a Bach partita, chorale or cantata? It was Bach whose signature was SDG: To God alone the Glory. Like watching a car wreak, a moment spent thinking about WBC is a regrettable waste.g

Bryan Townsend said...

Yes, I agree! So one does want to ask why the media do give them so much coverage? It would be better to simply ignore them.