This week I was faced with a tough situation. I need a place for my next recital. The retirement home we usually host at is too small for my growing program to hold all of our students, teachers, families, and friends. A good problem, but still, a problem. Several of my students attend a somewhat controversial religious center, and the members of this organization were kind enough to offer their building to me, complete with a PA and Microphones, a warm up room, and a lovely outdoor patio for parents to relax while kids do warm ups! On top of that, the performance space is beautiful. I was so excited. But then, when I told the parent of one of my other students, she got tense, and said that it would be a sin for her to go in that building. A sin? I was not prepared for this.
I am no stranger to being a religious minority. After living in the most religiously diverse city in the country, Los Angeles, for 5 years, I have learned a lot about being around religious cultures different from my own. Most people associate LA with plastic surgery and celebrities, but there is much more spiritual activity than you may think here in Hollywood. We have Evangelicals, Pentecostals, Catholics, Unitarians, Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, Muslims, Jews, and everything in between. But, my experience goes back much further than that. I was raised in a religion that was not only a minority in the town I grew up in, but a hated minority. Whenever I told people what religion I was, I braced myself for the verbal attacks of being told I would go to hell because of the affiliation. It hurt. In my public school, we sang many songs that were of the city’s common religion. I kind of liked some of the songs, but I have to admit that every time I sang many of them, I was reminded of my minority status. So due to that, I am extremely sensitive to religious differences. I don’t teach songs that are blatantly religious, unless I know what the child’s religious background is, and I can choose appropriate songs. I have a colorful spectrum of religions among my students from Wiccan to Episcopal, to Orthodox Jewish, to Kabbalist, to Evangelical Christian. I love it! I love being around so many different faiths all the time, but I got hit a new one when that parent told me it would be a sin for her to enter a religious building not of her faith. I have been in Buddhist Temples, Jewish Synagogues, Mormon Churches, Baptist Churches, Catholic and Episcopal Cathedrals. To me, I find it fascinating to learn about different faiths. So to hear someone say they would be committing a sin. Wow. What do I do? For the first time ever, I was speechless. I certainly don’t want to make anyone commit a sin, but I also don’t want to leave anyone out. What do I do? Well, she offered to let me use her religious center’s building. Great. Only problem is that it is not handicap accessible, and there is not a piano, just a Yamaha Clavinova.
The recital is 2 months away, and I need to have a recital location. Part of me wonders if I should just keep the original place, and search for a place in the student’s faith that she will be able to enter for the next one. I feel that at least 2 of my other students will have the same problem. I think everyone else in my program is neutral enough that they will not be plagued with the fear of committing a sin by entering a different religion’s building. I want to respect everyone’s religion, but is there a limit to trying to please everyone?
I still have not come up with an answer. I’m not entirely sure what the right thing is to do. Any suggestions? I’m open to your responses.