Tuesday, March 29, 2011

A look back, and a rare editorial on the arts in society

Last week was an interesting week - auditions for our Studio Artist Program, and then a Masterclass with high school students this past Sunday.

I am going to digress from talking about auditions per se, and instead talk about the wild disconnect that I believe exists today between"society's" perception of the arts, and the reality of it (the arts).

I had the opportunity of hearing some very talented young people, who are between conservatory training and a career. Meanwhile, I also heard some talented young high school students, most of whom are planning on pursuing careers in music, or some other branch of the performing arts.

What I find remarkable in this, is the fact that in today's world, these young people are fully aware of the fact that the arts are being devalued on many fronts - everything from the National Endowment for the Arts to Arts in the Schools are being seriously defunded. And if that weren't enough, anyone involved in the arts is, at worst, accused of having a political agenda, and at best, accused of being a non-productive leech on society.

Even if all of those factors weren't at play, there is no guarantee of riches and fame, by following this career path - indeed, it is sometimes quite the opposite.

BUT, in spite of all of that, these young people are still pursuing the dream of devoting their lives to artistic expression - because, as all of us who are involved in this know, when the spark is there, you have to follow it.

No amount of defunding, politicizing or devaluing will ever quench the need for humans to express the artistic impulse. And, if the rest of society is honest with itself, they know that.

How can I say this?

When we excavate ancient cultures, what do we look for? What do we display? What do we try to analyze? Beyond knowing how they survived, we look to know how they expressed themselves - everything from cave paintings to drums and flutes to earthen bowls - these are all the footprint of a society. And you cannot legislate that out of anyone!

Instead of being derided for following a path that doesn't offer a large financial portfolio, these young people deserve praise for the courage to pursue the dream of artistic expression. In a world where we spend a lot of time blowing each other up, attacking each other, poisoning the atmosphere, etc. etc., the last thing that should have to be defended is adding even a small phrase of beauty to the world.

And that, for today, is more important than any comment on posture, bad vowel formation, or publicity photos I could possibly make.


  1. A small phrase of beauty indeed. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Being a singer and knowing what an economic committment it is to keep putting oneself out there time and time again, I can not but help be disheartened at thinking that there is a whole new crop of singers who are entering a marketplace where even those who are talented today are not getting jobs. Heaven forbid these young singers are Sopranos! Can you honestly feel that there will be a place for these singers in the future of this country? I'm not so sure. I think the old model of 'how to be an opera singer' is out, and the next generation, and the current young generation (such as myself) needs to find a new model which will allow for financial growth of the arts, in particular opera, so that we aren't forced into the Welfare population simply by paying for auditions and coachings and lessons. I agree with your general principles very much of your above statement, but I don't believe that the singers who are going into conservatory now, or who are exiting conservatory now can enter into the operatic model as it is and expect to find jobs after a reasonable amount of difficulty, like was true in the past 20 years.

  3. Even if their intentions are noble and necessary to keep society a float culturally.