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Random Rainy Day Ramblings and Research

Well, that was stimulating! I must say, my last blog post certainly got me thinking, and it would appear that it stirred up a few things in you wonderful readers, as well ~ sadly confirming that the issue of slashing funding to the arts resounds across the universe in deafening fashion, it’s simply that Kansas is leading the way. Not the kind of leadership I can stand behind, I’m afraid.

But feeling helpless or harboring hopelessness has never sat well with me. In fact, I detest it. I much prefer to be certain that in my little circle of life I’m doing all I can to address the things that I wish to change.  The undesirable situation may or may not change ~ many things remain out of our control ~ but I prefer to go to sleep at night knowing I tried.

So I’ve been scouring around for solace, solutions, wisdom, inspiration ~ grasping for anything, really, that might provide insight ~ and not only was I INUNDATED with an abundance of good news and uplifting material, but my sense of security in humanity and the arts is greater than before.  However, the reality persists that it will take the effort of many people to be sure that not too much damage is done while people with short-sighted, or let’s say simply misguided vision are in power.

So this is my plea to you ~ “the choir” (the ones who already believe so passionately that the Arts are a NECESSITY in our society) ~ please use your voice to be sure that those in YOUR circle know the facts, sense the urgency, and understand what is at stake.  I fear that the majority of people will wake up one day and simply say, “What happened?”, and perhaps if we speak up, they will be ignited to activate their power to assure that what we all know to be inherently vital in our lives, will not fall into obscurity.

So, please allow me to arm you with a few random bits of goodness I’ve stumbled upon (a few graciously forwarded by some of you – the Brilliant Yankeediva Readers!!!) and have at it: Pass it around. Get inspired. Call yourself and your friends into action. Silence is the thing, I’m certain, to avoid at this moment.  Feel free to use this, or my Facebook page, as a forum to sound out ideas and inspire each other to action. Why not, right?

My inspiration from the week:

“Benjamin Zander on Music and Passion” Why Classical Music, is, INDEED, for EVERYONE.  Why should we buy into the assumption that Classical Music is for only 3% of the population? He demonstrates how it CAN be for everyone, and why we need to radically spread that word.  I’ve started to get upset with some of the “powers that be” that seem to be constantly apologizing for, in particular, Opera, and think it is more important than ever that we start singing the praises of these art forms that are unlike any other, and offer greater benefits to society than we ever give them credit for. If we can’t explain and defend and proclaim why they are important and necessary, why should we expect anyone to attend, let alone fund our endeavors?

Makoto Fujimura on “The Value of Art” One of the best essays I’ve read on why “the Arts are not a peripheral luxury for the elite few, but a central necessity for how a civilization is to be defined, and how our humanity is restored.”  This article alone provides ample ammunition for why a society needs culture and an artistic voice.

Health Benefits No joke!  In my last blog I posted a great article about the financial benefits to a healthy arts sector in a society.  I’m still somewhat convinced this will be the most effective, pragmatic argument to grab a leader’s attention. But it certainly can’t hurt to point out well defined health benefits to singing: longer lives, better immune systems, higher intelligence? (Surely tenors weren’t included in the study! ;-)) Personally, I think there are numerous others, but I need more time for the actual scientific studies.

Passionate, Courageous Soldiers I am constantly shocked and awed by the heroic stories I hear of the people in the trenches who are operating on much less than a shoestring budget in the music classroom’s across the country: the music teacher. They are the lone voices who are trying to keep alive the joy and discovery of introducing music to children, and I love her take on the price reality television might be costing the voices of tomorrow.  (The thing that I miss in this, however, is that American Idol is a competion, and goodness knows going into the music business is as competitive as it gets, but her overall point of ENCOURAGING young singers is a very important one.) Please support your local music teachers ~ they need it!

Jim Gilliam ~ “The Internet is my Religion” You may need a few tissues nearby if you press play below, but I can promise you that it is incredibly powerful, and likely worth your time. Now I’m smarter than to open up a religious discussion here, and while “Religion” is in the title, it’s much more about the power of humanity, the power of activism, the power of the spirit, and gives me hope that through connection and determination ANYTHING is possible. ANYTHING.

Karl Paulnack to the Boston Conservatory Freshman Class Without question THE greatest argument I have ever read for the NECESSITY of music in our lives. If you don’t read anything else on the topic, please do read this. Please pass it to everyone you know. Please live this out. In his speech to the incoming Freshman, he charges them:

“Frankly, ladies and gentlemen, I expect you not only to master music; I expect you to save the planet. If there is a future wave of wellness on this planet, of harmony, of peace, of an end to war, of mutual understanding, of equality, of fairness, I don’t expect it will come from a government, a military force or a corporation. I no longer even expect it to come from the religions of the world, which together seem to have brought us as much war as they have peace. If there is a future of peace for humankind, if there is to be an understanding of how these invisible, internal things should fit together, I expect it will come from the artists, because that’s what we do. As in the concentration camp and the evening of 9/11, the artists are the ones who might be able to help us with our internal, invisible lives.”

Truly.

Finally, in what may appear unrelated, but I assure you is not: A Nurse reveals the top 5 regrets people make on their deathbeds

1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
2. I wish I didn’t work so hard.
3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

I propose that music and the arts facilitate each and every single one of these items with staggering power. Music helps us discover who we truly are and allows us that precious avenue in which to express that. (Hence the reason it can be a threat to people…)  Music IS play.  Expressing your feelings? Ha. Not even debatable. Are there many other greater ways to share and grow with friends than through dance or song? NOPE. And music IS joy. Period. So, as we can conclude with perfect accuracy and certainty: music is the avenue to a regret-free death. What else do we need?!?!

Ah, yes – we do need Kevin Bacon:

Honestly, who can argue with Kevin?

“It’s the way it was in the beginning. It’s the way it’s always been. It’s the way it should be now!”

So, spread the word!

17 Comments

  1. Martha Meacham said…

    You go, Girl…keep preaching and I’ll keep supporting! :) GOD BLESS…you truly are a shining star in opera and a credit to our great country! :)

  2. Judith Dollenmayer said…

    You understand what a challenge it is to restore any primacy to ARTS when education is cutting it at state & local levels. I’m so distressed when most of the opera/theatre/classical music audience is as gray as I (at 70). Ignorance is expanding, alas, not contracting. But I will advocate on, as you do. Grateful for your voice, Joyce!

  3. marcillac said…

    Joyce,

    I don’t want to cause more trouble and I could not agree more with your general point about the value of art to society (and certainly this in all likely hood applies a fortiori for most people who read this blog).

    The list of regrets you set out not only does not seem unrelated but gets to the heart of the matter quite incisively.

    However, I have to (and you certainly don’t need post the comment but I do want to make this point) disagree most intensely and comprehensively with the statement Karl Paulnack. Again I revert to the example of Weimar and Nazi Germany because of its ubiquity and relative proximity but sundry similar illustrations can be found throughout history.

    Its difficult to identify a time when the arts in various form enjoyed a greater variety, dynamism and popularity than in the the Vienna, Munich and Berlin of the 20s and early 30s. This DID NOT prevent the development, in this very time and in this very place, of perhaps the most evil ideology and political system in human history. Moreover, the proscription of a great deal of the literature, art and music of this period by the Nazis notwithstanding, there can be not question but that their regime not only exploited but was perhaps genuinely inspired by the significant portions of the Germanic artistic legacy. Moreover, while many artists supported the regime motivated by opportunism and careerism there were other whose enthusiasm was sincere and extravagant (Tiana Lemnitz is on example of the latter category).

    Even in the here and now one can as readily think of classical artists capable of the most sublime and moving music making who support some of the most evil regimes currently extant as one can identify “Corporations” which contribute generously to the arts and make them accessible to a great many people who would not otherwise have such access and fund projects which would not otherwise come to about.

    Again, I cannot possibly agree more with the proposition that, as a general matter, exposure to art generally and perhaps music in particular makes us better and happier human beings and leads to better, spiritually richer societies. Still, neither can we look to art as a panacea that for what ails humanity nor can we extricate it entirely from the ineluctable and in all likelyhood perpetual interplay good and evil.

    • Yankeediva said…

      Marcillac! No worries ~ this is all part of the discussion and should be addressed. If we can’t have civil discourse here on the matter, where, then? However, I think you’re striking on a much bigger issue here – and one which I am woefully inept to address. (But let me forge ahead, of course!) I’m not sure I see the connection between your example of Nazi Germany and what Karl Paulnack is saying. What I take away from Karl’s speech is the necessity of art, but music in particular, to the human spirit. In fact, it has been attributed to actual survival in many cases. Warped minds will always be able to find symbols among material not created for the intent of evil and use it for their own purpose. And, we walk a very slippery slope if we say “only good and uplifting music” is allowed. It is the difficulty of allowing free expression through the arts – I think we have to allow all possibilities, whether to our taste or not, because once the censoring starts, where does it stop? Would the Nazi movement still have occurred without the musical inspiration of nationalism? I would venture a guess that, yes, it would have. Did it make it stronger? Perhaps, but is that reason alone to no longer support the arts? I suppose if you could say the music CAUSED the movement, I might have to look at it in a different way, but I don’t believe it was the instigator. I think just evil, ignorant minds did the dirty work.

    • J Gerhard said…

      We came full circle in an ironic way: the only thing good the Nazi terror brought about, in its cruel and crooked way, was the emigration of so many creative people to the USA and UK. Often when i attend a concert or museum in NYC i think with gratitude of the many survivors who brought so much to us in this country, despite being forced in the most evil way from their homes and way of life. Please don’t think i’m grateful to hitler or his henchmen for anything else whatever.

  4. Ken Taylor said…

    Ooops — Joyce, I am a fan, but I guess I’m not in the choir.

    Here’s a video about the issue, from the libertarians at Reason Magazine. It is a bit snarky in tone, but it makes good points.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IwzHovOB1Vc

    In my opinion, we should leave the political hacks out of it. Let arts lovers fund the arts.

    BTW, I don’t expect to change anybody’s mind, but I just wanted you to know that there really are two sides to this and it is possible to love the arts and still be on the other side.

    • Yankeediva said…

      Ken, there are definitely some really great points on that video, and they should definitely be a part of the discussion, without question. However, I still can’t get away from the idea that governments over the centuries have supported, out of need, the arts, and I shudder to think of what artistic masterpieces we would be missing if they hadn’t: Mozart? Michelangelo? I don’t want to think of my life without those works … But I agree, above all, that arts organizations absolutely MUST to be fiscally responsible, regardless of who is picking up the tab.

  5. Richard Whittington said…

    Great music and great awareness raising, this is why Joyce is so fabulous. It is so important that all of us who are SO lucky to have Art in our lives to spread the word. We should all become arts activists. I believe I owe my very life to art, especially music, so the thought of people growing up without art is a scary thought for me. This makes me especially grateful that my hometown of Memphis was named one of the ten best cities for young artists in the world. The world can seem a terrible place, Art in all it’s forms balances all the bad stuff.Art is NOT a luxury it is a necessity.

  6. Richard Whittington said…
  7. Emi said…

    Thank you for your music, for posting all these links, and for being a voice of optimism. The naysayers may be correct in saying that music can be used as a conduit for ill-will, but in that way, it is only like any other tool in the hands of mankind. Do we outlaw the spoken word because it can sway millions? Are we so afraid of music’s ability to make us think that we would let slip a medium that so effectively bridges linguistic and cultural divides?

    While living abroad and throughout the US, I’ve met a lot of different people from a lot of different backgrounds. Sometimes we can’t even begin to understand each others points of view, let alone come to a consensus. It’s made me despair that people could ever coexist side-by-side with all these warring ideas.

    One of the things that’s given me hope is music. We might argue passionately with someone about our moral beliefs and feel that the other person is completely wrong, but at the end of the day, if we can all sit down and make beautiful music together, somehow it’s more okay. Somehow we can still acknowledge the other person, smile, and coexist. Because here we are striving for the same goal: making something beautiful out of the crazy mess that is human life.

    Maybe I’m strange in ascribing such power to music, but I’m glad to know I’m not the only one. Thank you again for sharing your thoughts, and for all of the emotion you share through your music.

  8. juno jones said…

    Croeso i Cymru (Welcome to Wales) hope the South Korean soprano wins Cardiff! Her Zerbinetta was stonkin! Have not heard it for donkeys but sang along badly to it made my night and her Madam Mao was just roof raising! The bbc think we are too stupid to watch it on terrestrial tv so we have to watch it on bbc4 and we pay £145 per year for our tv licence too absolutely outrageous! Nice to see there is a Joan Sutherland prize for the lst time this year going to vote for the South Korean soprano, albeit i am a mezzo lover, Jackie Horne looks fab love the Birkenstocks she is wearing! Are you familiar with Henry Runey a fabulous bass baritone who now lives in France? He did the Rossini bi centennial concert in Avery Fisher Hall with Jackie Horne ,Sam Ramey et al FABULOUS esp Il Viaggio a Reims! Hope you have fully recovered from your broken leg, waiting for my friend Adeline to deliver Juliette who should have come on the 15th and waiting to see how Camille 21 months will react to having a sister, will be interesting, as long as she does not arrive between the final! Buona fortune e dolce vita. A presto. Juno x

  9. Chris said…

    Actually it is mainly “classical” music that needs funding support, is it not? “Popular music” (I am too “out of it” to know pertinent examples at the present time: hip hop? whatever?) manages to get enough commercial support so it doesn’t need charitable funding. So in a sense the issue is simply the very small niche now occupied in US culture by “classical” music vs the overwhelming preference for other types. I of course regard popular music as merely assorted types of noise, and find it incredible that others think differently. Yet a musician like Juan Diego Florez defends popular music, saying any type is fine if it is of good quality. He has even been known to say he likes Amy Winehouse! This disappoints me greatly. I wonder if it is an attitude he acquired before he became a classical musician, or if he likes to appear very democratic, tolerant and catholic in his tastes. But there it is. Classical music is without doubt elitist and therefore without the power of popular taste behind it.

  10. There is NO arguing with Kevin! Sadly, arts funding is going much the same way over here in the UK. I think we all have a responsibility to stand up for and support these things and I definitely include both myself, and the government in that. Thanks so much for your wonderful Vlog on Nerves also. I have been thinking myself through my various college auditions and assessments they have saved up for these last two weeks of term (I think I did this anyway but without the clarity and assurance that this will help, it’s not just some weird OCD habit!) and I feel a little more confident than I would have otherwise. Fingers crossed!

  11. Stanley Murashige said…

    I’ve just shared some of this on my Facebook page–the Benjamin Zander talk and Makoto Fujimura’s also, though my friends are mostly part of the choir, since I teach at the School of the Art Institute in Chicago. But I think even in the arts, such as at my school, there isn’t sufficient self reflection on the meaning, value, and importance of the arts, and also of the role of the arts in human life. I suppose you might say that we take it for granted, but I’m not sure that that is the case. More self reflection is necessary, and we also need to demonstrate, as Zander does brilliantly, what the arts are. My students, both undergraduate and graduate, often haven’t really thought about it. Thanks!

  12. Maude Larke said…

    Joyce,

    In response to Marcillac’s comments particularly: my alter ego just went to a conference on humor that took place in Boston. There was a presentation made on humor during the Holocaust. Humor BY the captive Jews. They found a way to laugh to survive. They also found a way of doing cabaret and writing songs. (There will soon be a book published in English that deals with this, written by Chaya Ostrower.) The foisonnement of music in the 20s and 30s did not prevent the rise of Nazism, but it surely helped those who did not agree with it to find an outlet. Music and humor are the two most vital forms of self-expression that we possess, and with them we can make it through anything.

  13. Anthony Schneider said…

    Thank you for this inspiring post. I am a budding opera singer in my own right and passionate about music and arts, but it is so seldom that it gets expressed as passionately as it needs to be. It is, as you say, about living a life free from regrets, and every day since I chose to become a singer, I live a happier life. It frees me, it is me, and it helps me free others and touch their soul.

    Thank you for your inspiration and your awesome singing! Your “Crude furie” on youtube is my favourite!

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Bring that innocent, childlike sense of wonder to your craft, and do whatever you need to find that truth again. It will continually teach you how to be present, how to be alive, and how to let go. Therein lies not only your artistic freedom, but your personal freedom as well!

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