Dec 30, 2011 10 Comments ›› Pat Dollard
INDIANAPOLIS — Oh, say can you . . . sing?
And, more importantly, can you sing it the “right” way — the way one Indiana lawmaker thinks the national anthem should be sung?
Sen. Vaneta Becker, R-Evansville, has introduced a bill that would set specific “performance standards” for singing and playing “The Star-Spangled Banner” at any event sponsored by public schools and state universities.
The law also would cover private schools receiving state or local scholarship funds, including vouchers.
Performers would have to sign a contract agreeing to follow the guidelines. Musicians — whether amateur or professional — would be fined $25 if it were deemed they failed to meet the appropriate standards.
But just what is appropriate? Would Jimi Hendrix’s electric version make the grade? Are Christina Aguilera’s vocal gymnastics a fineable offense?
That’s unclear. What is and what is not “acceptable,” according to Becker’s bill, would be determined by the State Department of Education, with input from the Commission for Higher Education.
Becker said she would expect the guidelines to require that the national anthem be sung with the usual lyrics to the traditional melody — “the way that we normally have it sung or heard throughout most of our state and our country.”
Becker said she authored the bill after a constituent called her last spring upset about a school program in which the words of “The Star-Spangled Banner” were substituted or parodied in a way the caller found disrespectful. The senator said she herself had heard parody versions of the national anthem on television programs.
“Sometimes it’s just done in a joking manner,” she said, “but I don’t think the national anthem is something we ought to be joking around with.”
Becker stressed that her intent is to punish only those who make intentional changes — not those who can’t carry a tune.
The bill calls for schools to maintain audio recordings of all performances for two years and develop a procedure for dealing with complaints if a musician is alleged to have strayed from the approved lyrical or melodic guidelines.