WHS choir, school caught in landslide over Queen song
By K.T. McKee
WASILLA — When members of Wasilla High School’s symphonic jazz choir heard Friday it wouldn’t be singing the popular Queen hit “Bohemian Rhapsody” at this year’s graduation ceremony after working on it all year, the students couldn’t get their heads around it.
WHS Principal Dwight Probasco reportedly had received complaints from at least one parent that the 1975 hit written by Freddie Mercury wasn’t appropriate for the ceremony simply because Mercury was gay.
“The whole thing was just ridiculous,” senior Rachel Clark said Monday. “They’d played the song on the school intercom and we played it at prom. It’s a great song and the choir was really excited to be singing it. And the senior class felt like it defined them.”
Choir member Casey Hight, a junior, was angry enough to contact a gay and lesbian support organization in Anchorage for help. They told her to contact an attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union.
“I felt like the school was discriminating for sexual orientation and I felt it was wrong,” Hight said Monday. “It’s so stupid because there’s nothing sexual in the song. There aren’t even any cuss words.”
Although Probasco wouldn’t comment on the issue Monday, Senior Class Advisor Deb Haynes said Probasco has now agreed to allow the choir to sing an edited version of Bohemian Rhapsody that doesn’t include lyrics in one section about killing a man.
“The kids had put a lot of time into the song, but at graduation we really try to accommodate anything that might be a sensitive issue for anybody,” Haynes said, adding she didn’t understand why the song would have been a problem in the first place. “I’ve heard it a hundred times and it’s never bothered me.”
Hight said she believes Probasco decided to put the song back on the graduation program because he didn’t want any problems with the ACLU.
Clark said it didn’t make sense for the school district to tout tolerance for all and then turn around and allow homophobia to dictate something such as graduation music.
“We were joking about singing Elton John’s ‘Candle in the Wind,’ instead,” Clark said. “I guess no matter what you do, someone’s feathers are going to get ruffled.”
Clark said she’s glad the choir will be able to sing the song after all, because several of the singers have solos.
“The whole attitude of the song just seems to fit our class,” she said.
Contact K.T. McKee at firstname.lastname@example.org or 352-2252.
If anyone didn't know, Wasilla is the town Sarah Palin is from/was mayor of.