Two schools nix Indigo Girls concerts

Friday, May 1, 1998

The Indigo Girl...
The Indigo Girls
Free or not, officials at two high schools aren't buying Indigo Girls concerts for their students.

Officials at a South Carolina high school have canceled an Indigo Girls concert scheduled for next week, saying that many people in their community disapprove of the singers' sexual orientation.

A Tennessee school also canceled a performance, but officials say that the lesbian duo's language is to blame.

Amy Ray and Emily Saliers were scheduled to give free half-hour, students-only concerts next Tuesday at Germantown High School in Germantown, Tenn., and next Thursday at Irmo High School near Columbia, S.C.

Irmo Principal Gerald Witt canceled his school's concert, saying he worried the duo's appearance would polarize the community, said school spokesman Buddy Price in a statement.

“After it was made public that this group was coming, he got a lot of phone calls from parents and others raising various concerns … one of which was the sexuality issue,” Price said, noting that parents also complained about the appropriateness of a rock group playing at a high school assembly.

Germantown Principal Ernest Chism said he canceled his school's concert because of the singers' language, not their sexuality.

Chism said that he called school officials in Logansville, Ga., where the Indigo Girls performed a similar concert recently and reportedly sang a song emphasizing the word “f—.”

“They told me that things had gone great until they used that word,” Chism said. “Our students using that word, and a lot less, will get them suspended for three days. We just don't need this here.”

Chism said the group's sexuality never came into question.

The group's current tour was originally scheduled to include performances at Irmo and three Tennessee high schools. The schools arranged the concerts through a student newspaper network designed to give student journalists an opportunity to interview musicians and review new albums.

The Indigo Girls released their latest album Shaming of the Sun last year and are featured in this summer's Lilith Fair, a national tour of female artists.

The Indigo Girls and their publicist denounced the Irmo decision but weren't available for comment about the Germantown one.

“We are saddened and angry to hear that our show at Irmo High School has been canceled,” said Saliers in a prepared statement. “It is a blatant case of homophobia. The show was canceled because we are gay.”

Lisa Markowitz, the group's publicist, said: “They're going to do a show and they are going to make it a free show. We just haven't worked out specifics yet. Amy and Emily feel strongly about going to that market and doing something for the kids despite what their close-minded parents think.”

Susan Groves, a disc jockey for WARQ/93.5 FM in Columbia, S.C., said Irmo students are so distraught that they plan to walk out of school at 8:40 a.m. Thursday—the time the Indigo Girls were scheduled to play.

Groves said she can't believe the school barred the Indigo Girls from playing when the duo has a reputation for public service and decency.

“There are other bands out there that deserve to be canceled,” she said. “This isn't one of them.”

School officials at Farragut High School in Knoxville, Tenn., and Franklin High School in Franklin, Tenn., said they plan to keep the concerts scheduled for Monday and Wednesday, respectively.

“There's no way we're not having them,” said Peggy Lowery, a secretary at Franklin High. “Everybody is real excited around here.”

While Franklin school officials are aware of the cancellation in South Carolina, Lowery said the matter of the singers' sexuality was never at issue.

“I don't think you look at that,” Lowery said. “You look at their music.”