Saturday, January 24, 2009

Thoughts on the arts

Someone passed this along to me today. It's a California public school teacher's thoughts from inauguration day.

"As I watched the inauguration yesterday, I was struck by something in addition to the historical significance of the event. When it comes to the highest degree of ceremony in our land, we turn to that which is often the first to be on the chopping block in tough financial times: the arts. There was singing, poetry, an ensemble of some of the most talented and accomplished instrumental solo artists in the world, discussion of the particular painting featured at the luncheon, grand marches played by a band. Because great societies are often measured by their progress in the arts, we seem to understand intrinsically that these things belong, yet we are often unwilling as a society to preserve them in our education system. For every artist who blessed the nation with their gift yesterday, there was someone who had initially recognized their talent, nurtured it, guided its technical preparation, encouraged its development. Someone introduced Yo-Yo Ma to the cello, and put Aretha Franklin on a stage. These things do not just happen by accident.

The next time you hear the flippant suggestion to cut the arts out of the schools because it’s “nice, but not necessary,” imagine yesterday without the arts… a walk to a podium, an oath, a speech, a walk to whatever comes next… no parades, no balls. Imagine the band members who played “Hail to the Chief,” told in middle school that music would not be offered in their school any more. Imagine if Itzhak Perlman never held a violin. Imagine the featured choir given over to the directorship of someone with no vocal training because the chorus position was cut. These things are happening every day, and someday we may be faced with a quickie courthouse ceremony rather than royal pomp and circumstance befitting a presidential inauguration. Think about it."