I'm in a orchestral group in college and this year a good friend of mine has been voted president and will continue to be president next year. She has a great knack for music and really cares about everyone in the group. There is just one problem: she picks out really crappy music.
And it's not just that, since we as a group can veto a piece, it's the fact that she is picking pieces that are in memory of the tragic deaths of people. The final straw was a piece in memory of the music director of a nearby college (a man we have never met by the way) who died in a car crash last year. It's a sad thing and by no means am I saying that he shouldn't be remembered, but the song itself is godawful. But if I say "hey this song really sucks," I'll sound like an a-hole who hates dead people. I know there are other people in the group who feel the same way but no one wants to be the person to point it out to her. I feel bad because she really is a great leader and these songs really touch her, she is so empathetic and sensitive to others, but there is only so much a heartless girl can take! Please help!
Oh, Sparkler. As a comrade in heartlessness, I seriously feel your pain. I mean, death is a terrible thing—but sometimes, in their grief, people seem to lose all comprehension of the difference between "good" and "not good." And seriously, not even the most tragic loss excuses the horror that is a a dubstep-reggaeton mashup of "Candle in the Wind," accompanied by a torch-lighting ceremony and a chorus of singing cats.
The good news is, your and your fellow haters can find safety in numbers.
Or in other words, instead of having one a-hole who hates dead people, you need several a-holes who hate dead people—or at least, several a-holes who aren't afraid to point out that said dead people deserve a better send-off than a musical arrangement that makes the audience wish they could join them in the afterlife. (And it should go without saying, but I'm assuming that you're not exaggerating about the heinousness of these pieces or the consensus thereof amongst your group's members.)
Basically, assemble a handful of people who can make a kind, sympathetic, straightforward, and discreet case to your friend that while an "in memoriam" performance is a lovely idea, you're not positive that this piece of music is the best one for the job. Less, "This song sucks!"; more, "We feel, as a group, that this song doesn't do justice to the person it's meant to honor, or to your abilities as our leader."
Because that's really the issue here, right? Your friend is choosing terrible songs with the best intentions, because she's mistaken a noble musical purpose for actual musical quality. And because she's such a sensitive and sympathetic person, more likely than not, a little diplomacy is all you'll need to help her see that choosing a song just because it happens to have "In Memoriam" written at the top of it—and not because of the music itself—is actually one of the laziest and least thoughtful ways to honor someone's memory.
Are you an a-hole who hates dead people? Tell us in the comments! And to get advice from Auntie, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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