We live in a society which doesn’t really value artists until and unless they become very very famous. Then they turn into demigods which is lamentable for the artists. Some survive that condition and some don’t. It can’t be an easy life. What happens to those who are really fine artists but who never make it to Lady Gaga status? In a word, struggle. Finding an audience and making money can be very difficult.
For the past 40 years, maybe more, we have allowed music and art education in public schools to be beaten down into a nearly dead state. Music programs are among the first to go, typically before sports. The pity is that there are many children who might be quite talented if they had a chance to find out and the only way for that to happen (if you don’t have a parent or guardian who can facilitate it) is in school. I know several people who became professional musicians/singers because of the exposure they had to music in public school. I am one.
There are many private organizations doing what they can to make up for this loss. There is awareness that things aren’t good. What is lacking, however, is made worse because of the consciousness of the average person. What they know of music is found only on American Idol, X Factor and Glee or on the local “top 40” radio station. That’s a sorry state of affairs indeed.
The discipline of learning to appreciate music can also teach you how to appreciate other things. And the relation between performing arts and fine arts is an important one. Creating art and/or music connects us to aspects of ourselves that can’t be accessed through the intellect alone.
I have dear long-time friends who are not much for the arts. They don’t read books, they don’t attend musical events. He likes the outdoors, she likes her above-the-ground pool. They are wonderful people, but the arts don’t mean much to them. We went with them once to the Metropolitan Museum and visited the American Wing. They found an old formal portrait to be peculiar and laughed at it, thinking it stupid. I was horrified. It represented a particular aesthetic of a certain period in American history that was quite important and I thought it was wonderful to see how artists reflected that aspect of their society at that time. These two people attended the same school I did but they did not have any music or art courses while I took all of them that were available. Perhaps, even then, the paths of our tastes were well established, but would it have been the same if they had been required to take an arts course? Our school had plenty of them back in the day.
What is lamentable is that people in our country do not understand what they lose when they don’t live in and with the a wide variety of the arts. They do not understand how their day-to-day lives could be enriched by hearing music that’s never going to be on a top 40 radio program, or by having a fine painting to view in their living room every evening.
If there are any kids in your life, even if it’s the neighbor’s kids, offer to take them to a concert of classical music, music theater, or jazz. Offer to take them to hear an opera or a concert or a cabaret performer. Take them to hear an alternative band or a folk singer. Take them to the art exhibits at Washington Square Park every summer. Take them to a museum. Be an advocate. Be an inspiration. It’s up to us.