Will Obama appoint a Secretary for the Arts?

January 22, 2009 at 05:48 PM ·

This is an article in the Washington Post about Quincy Jones' campaign, urging Obama to appoint a Secretary for the Arts.  If you google this topic you'll find the online petition signed by over 75,000 people, a video of Jones speaking on the issue, and several articles.  I am bit torn about the issue myself but would like to hear what you all think of this as well.

Artists Urge Obama to Name a Secretary of Culture - washingtonpost.com

Replies (80)

January 22, 2009 at 07:08 PM ·

That is just what we need  right now-- A Minister of Culture.  Does Joseph Goebbels have any grandkids living in this country who would be willing to fill the bill?  What a waste of money and manpower.  As a music teacher in the public schools I say what we need is not a cabinet level position for a Minister of Culture but rather for music teachers to do their jobs.  If a high school kid doesn't know who John Coltrane is its because his music teacher didn't teach him.  Most state music standards have music history as part of their requirements.  You know, I was in McDonalds the other day and thought the quality of the french fries was rather appalling.  Lets petition the goverment to create a Minister of French Fry Management to solve this problem.  We all know we can't solve this problem without the governments help.

January 22, 2009 at 07:15 PM ·

It's an interesting idea to say the least. I mean they have a Secretary for just about everything else. 

January 22, 2009 at 07:50 PM ·

If the fringe benefits include front row concert tickets and complimentary beverages....where do I apply?


January 22, 2009 at 08:41 PM ·


and from this day forward all performances shall include "At Last" by Etta James and all performers MUST wear an "Aretha Hat"

Aretha Franklin sings Tuesday.

January 22, 2009 at 10:10 PM ·

Haven't we already discussed this--like last week? 

January 23, 2009 at 12:13 AM ·

Holy Big Bow Batman!  

Scott, see the link in my post above.  Yes, it was last week.

January 23, 2009 at 12:15 AM ·

Let us hope not!

It is not the role of government to become involved in artistic values either directly or through influence. It can only lead to larger government, a bigger tax burden, and more meddling in areas not assigned it by the constitution. Such meddling only weakens us as thinking adults by encouraging us to think of ourselves as adult children who need to be guided in our values, what to think, and how to act.

And Yes, we discussed this last week.

January 23, 2009 at 12:35 AM ·

Yes there was a brief discussion on it that I forgot about when I posted the article.  I think it's an important issue to discuss though and I think there are valuable points being made.  I'm not against having an advocate for the arts but I'm afraid that the bureaucracy it will create might be more damaging than helpful.  It would be nice to have someone on the federal level be able to step in when states cut the school arts programs out of their budget.

January 23, 2009 at 04:37 AM ·

The reality of the problem is priorities.  The majority of parents in the US push their kids to do sports.   Parents dream of having that pro athlete in the family or at least a kid playing college ball.  They see no value what-so-ever to their kid playing clarinet in band.  That takes time away from sports and they don't like going to middle school band concerts.  There might be a good game on TV that they'll miss.

We can complain till the cows come home about the poor or complete lack of music programs in schools; that community orchestra's are dissolving because of lack of donations and community support.   Most Americans do not place a value on or see a need for the arts in their lives.  They go to work.  They go home at night and watch TV.  The only time many American's even listen to the radio is while in their car...and only because they can't watch tv and drive.  We also lose valuable classical programming on public radio every year too.

I don't see where an Arts Secretary could change the mindset of the entire nation especially right now when people are far more concerned witht feeding their families and finding jobs then worrying about the future of classical music.  But...never say never as the saying goes.

We also aren't comparing apples to apples here either.  We need to remember that the arts have been alive and flourishing in Europe and the rest of the world for centuries, many, many centuries.  The US does not have that same history.  We are not, as a whole, a nation of romantics who place a high value on music, art, theater, etc.  We don't have valuable classic architecture in this country as other parts of the world have and protect.   Well, we do have the Grand Canyon but not the same category.

So, if the US wants to change how it's people value the arts...it has to start with the children because you can't change the habits of billions of adults.  So, how do we do that?  How do we expose every child in the US to great works of art, great classical music and opera?  It will most certainly take a grassroots movement beginning in the elementary grades and educating the next generation on art/music appreciation and history.  We can't value what we don't understand and let's face it, most Americans do not have an interest in classical music nor any desire to learn about it.


January 23, 2009 at 05:02 AM ·

classical violinists may need to clarify the definition of "art"  in the said context before getting all tangled up emotionally and intellectually.  "art" of popular culture---for some reason i don't think mr jones was thinking of classical music necessarily with his quest---is something that some classical violinists can do without, methink:)

every time i hear the term hip hop artist, i marvel.

probably sitting on 300-500 mil, i think mr jones is looking for a title.

January 23, 2009 at 01:36 PM ·



I am sorry you feel so bad about your country.


1. Sports are fun. They provide exercise, coordination and physical skills, teamwork, sense of belonging & fellowship, a positive attitude...what is wrong with that?  In a country where 30% of children are overweight, sports seems to me to be a good thing!

2. It is interesting how Eurocentric and anti-American your arts viewpoint is. Actually it is royalist elitist and not Eurocentric. We have, as a nation, been just as interested in art as any other nation be it France, Italy, or China. That you don't see this merely shows that it is not *your* favorite art!

Musically, where did the blues come from? Rock and Roll? Soul? R & B? Bluegrass? Western Swing? Cajun Zydeco? Texas Swing? Jazz? Hip-hop? Rap? And on and on! There is so much "indigenous" American music and always has been.  Maybe most people in this country are not moved by Schoenberg, or Cage, or Berg; Schumann, Bartok, or Haydn. That doesn't mean they don't appreciate music. They might like NWA or Notorious B.I.G. or Hannah Montana or Ashlee Simpson, and you might not like it, but your opinion is merely that--an opinion.

Somehow, art has "survived" for centuries without any official support.

January 23, 2009 at 01:44 PM ·

Bill, I think she was referring to sports as an industry in general.  Kids are seduced into sports and athletics and that's great.  They do it for a while and then what?  They become sports consummers!  My husband used to do little league baseball when he was a kid.  Now he spends all summer watching games on tv, and going to games.  Do you know how much it costs to see the Mets play?  Do you know what it costs to get a hot dog at these games?  People always contribute hundreds of dollars to seeing their favorite ball players.  We're only hoping that with a more rounded musical education that those same kids will grow up and support NPR or their local symphonies, or their local museums, etc. 

January 23, 2009 at 02:33 PM ·

Bill, sports are great.  Sports are fun.  Sports teach valuable life lessons.

But, children's sports, at least where I live, is professionalized.  Children are pushed out of their chosen sport by about age 11 if they don't show "promise" or "talent".  A huge amount of taxpayer money is spent on children's sports, for the benefit of the few that have made The Team.  

January 23, 2009 at 02:49 PM ·

i think it is unfair and inaccurate to generalize "sports",,,,there are so many different sports, so many different reasons to participate and so many different levels of participation.

to a footballer, a bunch of kids playing in an orchestra is pretty organized.

to a violinist who does not see sports with much value,  then it is such.

 that is why i insist my kids do both sports and music, to make sure they confuse everyone, including themselves.

January 23, 2009 at 10:06 PM ·

Hi Al, I like your style.  We have sports and music here, too, but there isn't any insistence.  The interest is genuine on both counts.  I am mystified by the need to be "one or the other" . I never saw the football team disparage the marching band in either of my schools. Why would they--they are rooting for the team! And how many kids who play baseball or football like to jam on electric guitars?  A lot!

 This isn't about sports. It is about art, art support, from where that support should spring, who should have the power to define what is art, and how much support it should receive, whether or not we should have a national art agenda, to what extent and how art should be supported in schools, whether the latter should be central government support or local determinism etc.

The sports dicsussion is a Red Herring here.

January 23, 2009 at 03:06 PM ·

I'd rather my son played football well then play the violin terribly.  In other words, different things for different people.  In regards to the original point, a peoples' culture is just that, the people's.  It may be that in the United States "sports" may be more popular of a pastime for kids than watching "Live from Lincoln Center", but I don't think that means we need to appoint a cabinet level person to decide for us what our culture should be.  My earlier reference to Hitler's "Minister of Culture" serves as a good example of how one person with that sort of power can do a lot of harm.  Do people really want a "top dog" who gets to make the final decision about what our culture should be?  Its dangerous. 

January 23, 2009 at 03:27 PM ·

I just have one question.  Which one of the New Kids On The Block did Mr. Jones have in mind for the secretary of arts?  haha



January 23, 2009 at 03:29 PM ·

bill and thomas, your points on sports and music are well taken.   to push that line of thinking further,,,some sportsmen,,, their performances, how they carry themselves... are art forms in and by themselves, some would say.

back to "art"...i don't think popular media art needs help at all (not those ventures that get bankrolled by mr jones and such), certainly no need for govt intervention, with the possible exception to tune down explicit and violent materials on music videos.  the popular media industries are very well established,,,those with interest to participate, really, come on down.

however, i do think classical music needs help and subsidy.  for kids at school who want to play classical instruments but cannot afford them, some agencies should be able to step in,,,,to provide instruments and offer "mony" for lessons.  because my bias is that classical training is good for the mind and soul, i would like to see incentives built in the education system to encourage kids to explore this route, which needs money, power and influence.   some kids are naturally  attracted by classical music,,,like the crowd here on v.com.  they don't need help so to speak.  but within the vast middle, there are kids waiting to be influenced and initiated (man, sounds like gang talk).  central or local govt, if they have the money and interest, can step in to help.

it is a tough call what is facing obama.  unfortunately, if he has his priorities right, right now, to help boost classical music awareness should be at the bottom of his to do list.  too bad, not the best of times.

January 23, 2009 at 03:33 PM ·

I am neither for nor against creating a position for the Secretary of the Arts, but I am surprised at the number of people who think that government should have no role whatsoever in the arts.  Government funding for arts can make it possible for all groups of people, regardless of income, to have access that they otherwise wouldnt have.  It can help schools to improve education, giving all children a knowledgable background in music, literature, and other forms of art, which are important because they reflect our culture and our history. Government involvement does not have to mean cencorship, or the promotion of one artistic form over another.  Nor does it mean, and shouldnt mean, an attempt to change our society.  But it can help to create an awareness and knowledge of what is there, and to bring the opportunity to experience and enjoy the arts to everyone.

January 23, 2009 at 04:46 PM ·

Bill...my post was not anti-American nor Eurocentric.  I was merely pointing out that in this country, the majority of the population do not see a tangible value to the arts, as they do to sports.  Isn't baseball the American past-time? 

But, ask yourself, why do wealthy individuals fight over the purchase of professional ball teams yet no one is desperate to own a symphony orchestra.  Pro football players are paid tens of millions of dollars to play.  What are the salaries of the principal players in the New York Phil?  How many sports games are broadcast on television every week?  Now, how many live broadcasts of any music, ballet, opera, or museum collection do we have access to?  We can also listen to sports broadcast on the radio at all levels, high school, college and pro.  When is the last time you heard your high school orchestra broadcast on the radio?

My point is, in this country the arts are not a priority.  Whether that is good, bad, or indifferent is up to each individual but appointing an Arts Secretary isn't going to accomplish much because the majority of the population are going to see it as another waste of tax payer dollars. 

And then, there is Scott's' view on how would someone appointed to such a position decide what is culture in this country:

"For one thing, one must define the word "culture" itself. Does it mean symphony orchestras, ballet, and opera? Or does it mean heavy metal music? Photography? Chitlins and biscuits? Pole dancing? Cock fighting? Monster truck racing?"


January 23, 2009 at 05:51 PM ·

Yes, well, I guess we don't disagree except that it seems that you think that somehow either America is different in this respect, or that it shouldn't be this way. Do you think Europe is any different?  They watch soccer instead of football, bike racing instead of baseball, formula one instead of nascar (actually formula 1 is elite--really they watch rally instead of nascar) etc.  You think Europeans come out in droves to see classical music?  Well Andre Rieu gets big audiences but I guarantee that the Schenker brothers have drawn more crowds etc.

Maybe you don't disagree--but really, what is your point then?  Locally, work to support what you enjoy. Spread the word.  Spend your money on the symphony if you enjoy it. Give money to your classical music station. Support music education in your local school, petition your state legislature to support arts education. It is that simple. Classical music will be what it will be, nothing more, nothing less.

But as you do that, learn to recognize that it is insulting to say that America has no interest in the arts or no architecture etc. We have a different set of arts, but not a lack of interest. We have architecture that has changed the world forever (need I remind you of Furness, Kahn, Wright, the list goes on...)

January 23, 2009 at 05:42 PM ·

Well in times past Minister of Culture was sort of Minister of extol the State and its Leaders. Another role was entertain and narcotize the masses.

No one in the elitist culture of violin playing should get much hope up for state support of the arts that are dearest to our concerns. 

January 23, 2009 at 09:44 PM ·

3,000 points to Elizabeth for a great post.

January 23, 2009 at 09:53 PM ·

Thank you :)

January 23, 2009 at 11:01 PM ·

I agree with Elizabeth as well. The "Market Fairy" isn't going to fund the arts in any kind of consistent or sensible way, I think we should know that by now.

There's another problem with this proposal, though: I think that Congress would have to approve a new department before Obama could appoint a new kind of cabinet secretary. So perhaps people should be petitioning for Congress to create a Department of Arts.

I guess he could appoint a "National Arts Advisor" officially. Actually, some kind of Office of Arts Policy might be useful for coordinating arts efforts, funding, policy, etc.

January 24, 2009 at 02:35 AM ·

"Market Fairy?"  What is that supposed to mean? Oh, I think I get it--this is a cut at the market approach to arts funding.  Well, you might be right that unpopular arts will not receive large funding through the open market: perhaps that is as it should be. Should we spend taxpayer dollars on unpopular programs, inefficient systems etc?  Where does all the money come from, anyway?  Oh, I forgot, the market...fairy...

The problem with the government funding approach is that it is regressive taxation: it takes from everybody and gives to the wealthy. Classical music is far more popular among wealthy people than among regular folks. This makes government spending awkward especially in recessionary times and even moreso when you have a populist movement in full swing.

Note that we already have significant Federal activity in the arts! We do have the Smithsonian and many other federal programs.  Since we already have them, and nobody is really screaming to eliminate them, we can leave the sleeping dogs where they are.

In terms of market support, well, here in Connecticut, we have that. We even have a classical music station that is overwhelmingly funded by listeners--not by corporations.  That is the true "market fairy" at work--except that it is real and not a fairy tale. It is disheartening that this is not true all across the country but then again, Connecticut is rich. It is also disheartening that most of America is 4 lane strip malls as far as you can see, and many other larger issues...

Funding education is a state and local process. If we want arts funding that is where to look. However there is a federal government program that has dramatically affected arts: NCLB. This legislation forced poor school districts to focus on the basics--even though we know that the basics can be strengthened with art, that is not how many school districts reacted. So keep the Feds out of it I say--they %$%$# it up mostly.

January 24, 2009 at 02:16 AM ·

The artist as mugger.

By the way, it would be the only cabinet that exists solely to obtain money (according to Elisabeth)





January 24, 2009 at 03:17 AM ·

bill platt you are spot on.

In 1990 the government decided to place a luxury tax on yachts. Surprise surprise. American yacht makers who employed highly skilled boatbuilders couldn't sell boats any more. Effect: no work for boat makers. Rich people could still buy boats...overseas. They could even sail them in America. 

Classical music's audience is still much larger  than the market for yachts but it is an upscale audience that some people think should be hurt some more. Everyone says the rich don't pay taxes but in fact the rich pay almost all the income taxes paid. The top 20% of taxpayers pay nearly 70% of taxes. If we decide to punish them some more what will the have to give up for more taxes? Do you think that funding rich people's art is going to be politically popular? 




January 24, 2009 at 03:15 AM ·

"The artist as mugger."


January 24, 2009 at 04:06 AM ·

I think the more appropriate question is not "Will he create it," but "What will it accomplish?"

Al, we already have such an "agency" -- it is called the Mr. Holland's Opus Foundation.  What if every one of us cut them a check for as much as we could afford?  Wouldn't that be preferable to giving up more of our tax dollars to be spent irresponsibly?

In my humble opinion, grassroots beats top-down any day of the week.

January 24, 2009 at 12:20 PM ·

"I guess he could appoint a "National Arts Advisor" officially. Actually, some kind of Office of Arts Policy might be useful for coordinating arts efforts, funding, policy, etc."

Laurie, I like the idea of a "National Arts Advisor" for coordinating efforts, etc.


"By the way, it would be the only cabinet that exists solely to obtain money (according to Elisabeth)"

Oh really, have I said this?  This is news to me.  This is what I said:  " But it (government involvement) can help to create an awareness and knowledge of what is there, and to bring the opportunity to experience and enjoy the arts to everyone."

Jim, please edit your post removing the accredidation of your remark to me because this reflects your personal opinion, not what I wrote, nor believe.  Thank you.

btw, "art" doesn't just refer to classical music, nor to the idea of old-school art and high culture - there are so many different things encompassed in art, and a government support for the arts would not/should not include just one kind.  It's function would be to bring access to varying art forms to all people, to create opportunities to children to try out and experience different art forms while in school, and to create a knowledge of their history, and place/function in society, both in the past and today.  Art is so much a part of our culture and history, and yet many people remain ignorant of it.  It forms and shapes who we are and what we do.  As to the comment, "the artist as mugger" government involvement doesnt have to mean just giving out money to artists to produce their works, and can be used to the benefit of many people and not just a few.

January 25, 2009 at 05:28 AM ·

Bill....you said

"Classical music is far more popular among wealthy people than among regular folks. This makes government spending awkward especially in recessionary times and even moreso when you have a populist movement in full swing."

Just because wealthy people have access to such BRAIN DEVELOPMENT TOOL, gvt should do nothing to try to nurture classical music in the next generations, specially among lower income families?

Did you know that the venezuelan EL SISTEMA founded in 1975 (so you notice that Hugo Chavez has no merit in this), is mainly helping kids from VERY POOR AREAS to escape from a life of drugs, gangs and/or ignorance?  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/El_Sistema

It seems that you and Corwin have the idea that classical music is just another form of ENTERTAINMENT....can't you really see the difference between true ART and just TRIVIAL ENTERTAINMENT?

What can you say when such art is every time gaining more SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE about being an UNMATCHED TOOL FOR INTELLIGENCE DELEOPMENT IN YOUNG KIDS?

Are you aware of 'Fujioka et al' study in Canada in 2006? they had 2 separate groups...one group started learning to play an instrument with the Suzuki Method, the other group kept doing popular extra-curricular activites (sports, dance, etc..)...

....after just one year, the group learning music showed changes not seeing in the non-music group...and this was meassured using Magnetoencephalography, exact SCIENCE, not just by emotional guess....

this is one of the many links for you to see about it http://intro2psych.wordpress.com

I couldn't find online the 16 pages PDF with more details about this study...anyone ...Anyone wishing it can send the pdf by email.

you can also wath the NatGeo documental http://video.google.com/    .....Check from 4:50 to several minutes later....

Also you can see this http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZgKFeuzGEns

READ THIS http://www.musicianbrain.com/

Are you aware that practicing a sport at competitive level, won't leave yuo anything useful for a career at the university, if you don't become a professional athlete?

OTOH....Are you aware that a lot of training in classical music, will leave your brain in optimal shape for going into a career, if you decide not to become a professional musician?

Are you able to see the difference now?

So, do you still think that classical music training should be considered as 'optional' as any form of entertainment?

Can you imagine leaving as 'optional' to teach kids to read and write? can you imagine people saying that only professional writers should be taught how to read and write well?

Is my point well explained? english is not my native language, so please let me know...

January 24, 2009 at 03:33 PM ·

nicole, thanks for the mr holland's opus suggestion,,will check it out.

concur that grassrooting our own effort is something fundamental and a good place to start.  we are all doing some of  that to some degree i think.  but for long term, better results, i am not sure if that is the way to go. just look at what is in front of us, the result of such thinking and doing.

i am not a big fan of  "central planning", but there have been clear benefits with regulations like childhood vaccination and speeding enforcement, to name just a few.  sure, with govt intervention there will be associated inefficiency, corruption, frauds, etc, but imagine kids coming to school without vaccination if their familes cannot afford them, or we enforce our own speed limit:)  

i think it is misleading and futile  to advocate to be fair to all "arts" in clear view that classical arts have been severely neglected and classical music is something that this group is familiar with.  (sorry if  there are neglected hip hop artists here in the audience)  i cannot take seriously those whose survival is in jeopardy and whose slogan is political correctness.   my stand is that classical music needs to be the priority if there is federal funding.   can a student in school graduate by not participating in physical education?  probably not, unless you have a doc's note.  so why should a student grauduate without having gained proficiency with a classical musical instrument?  

i cannot imagine obama's kids not receiving any musical education outside school.  if he cares to elaborate on that, without even trying hard given his oratory skills, that will be best endorsement that money can or cannot buy.  

January 24, 2009 at 03:59 PM ·

What's the outline for checks & ballance? Is it up to this Secretary's opinions alone? i like what Elizabeth and Lauri have posted, but what would happen if you, dear posters, are slighted from the program????



January 24, 2009 at 04:53 PM ·

"In 1990 the government decided to place a luxury tax on yachts. Surprise surprise. American yacht makers who employed highly skilled boatbuilders couldn't sell boats any more. Effect: no work for boat makers. Rich people could still buy boats...overseas. They could even sail them in America."

Are you saying they taxed the *production* of yachts, as opposed to taxing the *consumption* of yachts? If so, that was extremely stupid. They could learn a thing or two from the EU, I guess. In the EU they tax the consumption, not the production of yachts. Buying one outside of the EU won't get you around paying the tax unless you never bring it back home. Even if you don't live in the EU at all, if you sail your yacht into an EU port and you stay there for a certain amount of time per year (I think it is either 91 or 181 days), then you have to pay the tax or they will confiscate the boat. Anyway, this method hurts all boat builders equally, not just the ones in the EU. Taxing production is just silly.


January 24, 2009 at 06:59 PM ·

How about cutting taxes and programs and offering further tax breaks to businesses for doing things like supporting the arts?   

I don't know, just an idea...

January 24, 2009 at 08:00 PM ·

It's hard to imagine, given the financial state of the country (and the world), a worse time to try to initiate an arts support program at the national level. 

January 24, 2009 at 08:48 PM ·

...fix health care!

January 24, 2009 at 08:54 PM ·

"...fix health care!"

Emily, that's the best idea I've heard yet!!! Unfortuneately, this will probably take the back burner because of the economy, which it really shouldn't, in my opinion.

January 24, 2009 at 10:29 PM ·

I agree Health care needs fixing. However, I think that fixing our economy is a more critical need as it affects more people-virtually everybody. Cesar makes excellent points however. I just don't think it posible to fund yet another program (more taxation) with the current state of our economy. Also, I don't like the idea of involving government when not necessary. I think a grass roots approach would ultimately be more cost effective and palatable.

January 24, 2009 at 11:30 PM ·

Al, we need more people like you who consider a lack of music to be right up there with more literal matters of life and death.  "Soul death" is a less tangible thing, and therefore a hard sell.  That doesn't mean it isn't worth trying, but that we have our work cut out for us.

Cesar, I too am in awe of El Sistema.  But I am wary of comparing other countries to the US because each has a unique history that influences the culture in ways that, although subtle, are strongly ingrained.  I have no idea whether the cultural factors that allow it to work in Venezuela are also present here. 

January 25, 2009 at 01:08 AM ·


"Nor does it mean, and shouldnt mean, an attempt to change our society. "

If there's no change, then the only reason for it is to collect money.


January 25, 2009 at 02:24 AM ·

No, by the "Market Fairy," I meant the major reliance on corporate sponsors and the like. Corporations are not public guardians, they are not accountable. Also, a lot of the corporations who recently who earned huge profits (enough to be sponsors) were simply riding the economic bubble on bad business, and every artistic organization that relied on those corporate funds is SOL, folks. So are the ones whose endowments were heavily invested in the stock market, if those organizations are relying heavily upon their endowments to cover operating costs.

January 25, 2009 at 09:54 AM ·

I'm a happily self-employed musician with no health care.  I guess that's why I would rather see efforts in that area first.   It's a personal agenda of mine.

Interesting fact: did you know that in Alaska, health care costs 22% more than the national average? 

We also have more grizzlies.

January 25, 2009 at 10:40 AM ·

"Nor does it mean, and shouldnt mean, an attempt to change our society. "

 I was referring to a drastic shift in the basic values of our society, ie. something that would be brought about through propaganda - the purpose of government involvement shouldn't be to spread propaganda.  So therefore an attempt to make people value classical music in the same way they do, for example, pop music, would be a change in our society that shouldn't be brought about through government involvement (now of course if people naturally drifted that way from free choice after actually having true access to such, I of course wouldn't be opposed.  But somehow I don't think that woudl happen)

January 25, 2009 at 06:33 PM ·

Laurie, the funding you're talking about comes from corporations, regardless.  The debate is whether or not it should be strong-armed from them.

January 25, 2009 at 09:58 PM ·


January 26, 2009 at 05:31 AM ·

not much to say except that yes, there is a language barrier here...[shakes his head at the utter vacuousness of  European Tax Policy]...

January 26, 2009 at 05:31 AM ·

January 26, 2009 at 06:16 AM ·

"Socialism sucks. It already failed." 

Makes me wonder whether it is safe to ask if there is any public toilet nearby while visiting the US. Note to self: when in the US, try to time the call of nature when you're safely in your hotel room, not while venturing out in the street where you might get mistaken for and shot as a communist. :D

January 26, 2009 at 02:58 PM ·

Nicole, you said: "Cesar, I too am in awe of El Sistema.  But I am wary of comparing other countries to the US because each has a unique history that influences the culture in ways that, although subtle, are strongly ingrained.  I have no idea whether the cultural factors that allow it to work in Venezuela are also present here. "

Nicole, I agree with your point of cultural differences..... I don't think El sistema should be applied in the exact way.....of course cultural differences should be analyzed (FWIW...They have heavily funded, about about 600 mill euros per year, as far as I remember, for porting El Sistema to the United Kingdom) .....I wrote about it just for the purpose of countering the argument that Classical Music is just for rich people....instead it can be a powerful tool to help poor kids.

In fact in USA there have been very positive experiences with classical music and poor kids.....Roberta Guaspari for instance....And a more closer experience is Laurie Niles, having a modified Suzuki teaching in a Public school, perhaps she could give us more inside info.

And to Bill Platt, I didn't understand your reply, ¿could you ellaborate please? ¿what's your opinion between the difference of Art vs Entertainment? ¿what's your opinion about clasical music used as an UNMATCHED intelligence nurturing tool? ¿Did you read about the Fujioka et al study in Canada? Thanks in advance for the clarification....

Best regards to all.

January 26, 2009 at 03:14 PM ·

I don't know of any public toilets in america. The only ones I ever use outside of home are ones from privately owned businesses (such as McDonalds).

January 26, 2009 at 03:47 PM ·

Public toilets:

They are everywhere.  Let's see, Grand Central Station, Pennsylvania Station, Museum of Natural History, the New York Public Library....and in case you are really desperate, you can go here:



I've found public toilet facilities in many small towns, in state parks, in municipal parks etc.

What on earth are we talking about this for!

As for the risk of being a commie and getting shot, really, don't you realize the reverse is the case? It is the commies who do the shooting most of the time. To keep in the absurdist spirit of this thread, I absurdly post google "evidence" to support my claim. (Real evidence would require a proper effort, but this thread is obviously not about reality).



January 26, 2009 at 04:01 PM ·

Hi Cesar.

Art vs Entertainment. OK so what. In the end, classical music is entertaining. If not, we don't watch it. Like John Cage.

If classical music is good for the brain and not sports, it has more to do with the way the study is carried out. They didn't normalize properly and they didn't compare high level athletic training to classical music.

And furthermore the study does not make any claims about "classical music." Rather it claims that music students get their brains wired for memory and sound recognition. (well, d'uh!).

They also didn't directly compare other musical genre training such as Blues, or Jazz, or Carnatic, Gamalan, or Syrian Bellydance music etc but assume that it would be the same result:

"colleagues reached a conclusion that musical training has an impact on the wiring of the brain in areas related to memory and attention."

January 26, 2009 at 05:00 PM ·

I stand corrected, but to be picky, those you mentioned, while being owned by the public, are not independant of themselves, which is what I was thinking of.

January 26, 2009 at 05:13 PM ·

I usually Run for the Hills when I see an (Inde) Pendant Toilet coming my way...I don't want it falling on me!...talk about Thread Decay...can someone please say Nazi and get this thread over with...oops, I guess I just said it...those toilet-NAZIs!

January 26, 2009 at 05:37 PM ·

This morning on TV they said that the number of Broadway shows was about half normal.  That made me ponder what this money would be used for, anyway.  To pay people to play to empty rooms?  Or to return the money to the rightful owners so the market fairy can buy them tickets?  There's already a dept. of education, if education is the purpose.




January 26, 2009 at 05:37 PM ·

This morning on TV they said that the number of Broadway shows was about half normal.  That made me ponder what this money would be used for, anyway.  To pay people to play to empty rooms?  Or to return the money to the rightful owners so the market fairy can buy them tickets?  There's already a dept. of education, if education is the purpose.




January 26, 2009 at 05:42 PM ·

"those toilet-NAZIs!"

Huh? I thought public toilets would fit the definition of socialism. Shouldn't it rather be "those toilet-commies" instead?!

January 26, 2009 at 05:53 PM ·

"What we have here is a failure to communicate."

January 26, 2009 at 06:27 PM ·

(I thought  Socialists have class distinctions, true communists do not?)

Who would make the decision of what and or who is to benefit with this? The Secretary of Arts? A committee that the Secretary answers too, or is Chairperson over? Who decides? Us? We have a Representitive of the Arts Community? What's the outline for this too work? How about Buri for Secretary of the Arts?



January 26, 2009 at 08:35 PM ·

Hi Bill...you said "Art vs Entertainment. OK so what. In the end, classical music is entertaining."

¿Could you explain how come just because classical music can be enjoyed by some people....would it automatically imply that all trivial entertainment can be labeled as 'art'? ....just because classical music is entertaining for some people....¿Britney Spears' music would become art?... rap agressive or sexual wording, bundled into a 'song', would become art?

you said "If classical music is good for the brain and not sports, it has more to do with the way the study is carried out. They didn't normalize properly and they didn't compare high level athletic training to classical music."

Is there ANY serious study AT LEAST ONE showing how 'high level athletic training' improves the neural networks? how can it be verified using MEG or some other scientific method NOT based on 'interpretation'?

Something equivalent of what is seen on these Fujioka or Schlaug  links (did you really check the NatGeo video, from 4:50 on)?, that are not the unique trends of scientific research on the subject?....would you dismiss the music as an EDUCATIONAL TOOL just because this kind of research is just in initial stage? would you ignore the results presented before these studies by the Suzuki Method?



They also didn't directly compare other musical genre training such as Blues, or Jazz, or Carnatic, Gamalan, or Syrian Bellydance music etc but assume that it would be the same result

Classical music is the most complex, and that's not an emotional assertion, it can be verified mathematically....

¿So, if we accept that classical music is the most complex music..... isn't more likely than COMPLEX activities would challenge better the brain than simpler activities? what makes you suppose that rapping would challenge the brain as much as learning to play the violin, for instance?

Rap and classical music is an extreme example....just to show you can't say all the music genres are 'equally complex' ...perhaps the difference with other genres exist....just not as evident as the case of rap...isn't it?

What's your opinion, Bill?

January 26, 2009 at 08:38 PM ·

Queen Victoria was a Rap Artist by the way.

January 27, 2009 at 04:53 AM ·

January 27, 2009 at 02:00 PM ·

Cesar, I appreciate your passion but I think you're going a little overboard trying to make cases against sports.  Sports are valuable to play.  Physical education is suffering in this country as much as the arts are making for an extremely obese nation.  This is a major health concern that affects the welfare of americans and healthinsurance.  We are becoming a country without physical training and a lack of arts appreciation, making us a nation of people that are physically ill, and devoid of culture. 

I'm all for grass roots organizations but the arts industry has serious internal issues and THAT is the real reason that the arts are suffering.  I'll only speak for classical music since that's what I know and what I do, but this definitely applies to other areas of fine art.  Classical musicians are dumb, self-centered, dellusional beings with horse-blinders.  Before you get offended think for a minute.  This is one of the only professions where the main body of workers don't know how the industry works.  Musicians don't understand how to obtain government grant money (that is there for the taking).  They close themselves in practice rooms for decades and expect the world to fall at their feet once they come out.  Meanwhile they dont know how to promote themselves, and don't know how to write their own bios and resumes! 

I don't think the government should throw money at us unless we do everything from the inside to ensure that musicians, artists, dancers, etc know how to guide themselves around the business.  Petition to conservatories to mandate business and arts management courses!  Require that college arts students volunteer in the community.

What is important to understand is that the government views the arts as a public service.  They will fund you only if you provide educational opportunities, free concerts in underpriviliged settings, and promote the arts to a wide range of people.  The government will not hand you a check just because you want to be a famous superstar violinist and because you practice a whole heck of a lot.  Right now classical musicians themselves are highly elitist (anyone recall the heated discussions about clapping between movements?) and expect the world to flock to Mozart without really reaching out to the audience.  Why would anyone want to fund that?

Musicians, let's get our priorities straight!  You want to make a difference?  Join your union and strengthen it.  Demand healthcare for freelancers!  Learn how to write a grant, how to market yourself, and worry about government funding later.

January 27, 2009 at 03:08 PM ·

Yep. There you go.

January 27, 2009 at 03:27 PM ·

yes, concur with marina's stand on this, although i think classical musicians are bright and decent people, just not street wise or opportunistic enough to compete and promote.  when the going gets tough, i will retreat into my classical world.  as marina pointed out, the time and training has been devoted very lopsidedly to perfecting tech skills.  clearly, the music education system has a lot to do with it:  we will teach you how to play,,,you go out to make something out of yourself, hopefully.  to train people with no regard on the job market.   it may work for a very selected few, the ones with blatant superstar potentials.  with the rest, from an economic point of view, the time and money invested is not met with reasonable return at all.   do what you love should be entertained with do what you should do.

bashing sports to me is like throwing stones in glass houses.  from my personal experience, i think many musicians can benefit from participating in some form of sports to alleviate tension and promote a better sense of physical and mental being.  even heifetz played ping pong!  it is naive to think of sports only as football,,,i cannot imagine cesar is against swimming, biking,  other non contact sports and some gentle contact sports, or many many classes of physical exercises.   how about some exercises with your wii?

next time in a room full of violinists, ask for a show of hands to see how many right there and then have physical discomfort somewhere on their bodies!

January 27, 2009 at 03:39 PM ·

I'd like to be showed where I wrote I'm against sports ...FWIW...Al Ku was right....in fact...my kid practices swimming and tennis (on non competitive basis) now... and I plan him to practice a martial art, to learn how to defend himself....

If you read what I wrote...I only wrote an ANSWER to a statement implying that Sports could be as mental stimulating as music training.....I showed how there were serious scientific research showing music and brain development....and asked to back up with facts the claim that sports could provide the same....

.....my point was that perhaps there are more cases of parents who have the priorities reverted......giving a lot of priority to sports and recreation, and less to mental stimulation....of course there are WORSE CASES, where neither mental stimulation, neither sports, are encouraged...such kids end up in front of the TV dumbing down themselves and getting used to a sedentary life from very early....

About teens or adult musicians having adaptation problems?...my speech was about EARLY education.....however, I'll give my opinion......

.....If the kid doesn't receive complementary educations to do well in th real world (Theater courses for improving their relationship skills, sports activities to improve their health, accounting basis courses, etc...)....we should not blame the music for that... music teachers are there to teach music, not gymnastics or accounting...

My opinion is that it's the parent task to search how to get the knowledge and concepts into your kid whether thru courses or thru teaching by example (I don't consider myself a good example of financial handling, I'm not a musician myself, or have a great charisma...and a ton more of shortcomings in in other areas...so I guess my only option, is to look for outside help in such cases)....

One more thing, EL SISTEMA, Roberta Guspari work or Larie Niles Work... were not implemented in an elitist way, AFAIK.....I also was talking about such approach in education, to take this mental stimulation to the masses, the opposite way that an elitist would like, isn't it?.....

January 27, 2009 at 03:51 PM ·

cesar, the points you have made in the preceding post are well taken. 

earlier you wrote:  "Is there ANY serious study AT LEAST ONE showing how 'high level athletic training' improves the neural networks? how can it be verified using MEG or some other scientific method NOT based on 'interpretation'?"

to me, that view does not sound very balanced, but pointing toward a bias for music and against sports. 

i can tell you this: on the issue of  its effect on neuromuscular development, there are much much more serious studies on physical training than on musical training, just the opposite as you have postulated, one reason being funding for althletic research is much more abundant.

there are just too many articles to cite, but often you can find large scale studies in new england journal of medicine, lancet, jama,  the am journal of sports medicine, am j of rehab medicine, etc, etc, etc... 

BUT, i do want to acknowledge cesars' concern that some sports are perhaps taken to extreme extreme.  in bolivia, i am not sure if soccer fits that bill, but in the usa, because of prof football, basketball, baseball, hockey, etc, clear tracks have been laid down to feed kids into them.  at the risk of developing jocks with small brains and nowhere to turn because of lack of secondary skills?  sure.  i know of kids in the usa that import steroid from mexico by mail, meant for horse use, to inject themselves to bulk up. 

January 27, 2009 at 03:45 PM ·

Well, if such studies exist, I'd like to see them....but on the way sports improve MENTAL skills in such DIRECT way showed in Fuijoka or Schlaug (or any of the others already in course) studies....

Of course it can be claimed that good health improves your mental potential...I didn't deny that ....my point is such direct results as shown in the music&brain research...

January 27, 2009 at 03:48 PM ·


there are also some related articles on the same page.  cesar take my word for it,,,too many to list.

January 27, 2009 at 03:59 PM ·

Al, "Mens sana in corpore sano" was known a lot ago....the article is more or less about that....

This was about elder people RECOVERING their mental skills after getting in better shape.....

It's different with BUILDING mental skills in small kids where the brain is just forming itself....

Even the Fujioka study had kids doing sports in the examined group, and sports showed no mental effects in brain DEVELOPMENT....

for instance, one of the links about kids says "mental retardation and cerebral palsy can improve their COORDINATION and AEROBIC FITNESS."

I guess that's the difference between the Fujioka or Schlaug research showed....is the difference more noticeable now?

January 27, 2009 at 04:02 PM ·

Who knows the impact of the arts on our neural health? How can music be reduced to science?

The real benefit of the arts is their impact on our spiritual health. A society that denies the essentially spiritual nature of music and the role of beauty in revealing God will not fund the arts in any way that will be meaningful to violinists. 

January 27, 2009 at 04:10 PM ·

I pay for the arts, I appreciate art, and music, and I leave god out of it. So art appreciation doesn't require god-sense, though that is fine if you like it that way.

January 27, 2009 at 04:38 PM ·

cesar,  that empirical canadian study you have cited has interesting findings.  in layman's term, if you study violin vs if you do not study violin, your brain develops differently.  interesting but not surprising.  i bet we can draw similar conclusion with foreign language study and i postulate, similarly with certain physical manuever exercises.  one limitation of that study, to my understanding, is that the 2 groups are not randomized to start, that is, violin players came as violin players, thus not clean slate.

that study reminds me of how modern luthiers make use of tech equipments to measure peaks in sound waves in an attempt to better understand sound and make better instruments as a result.  just like the canadian study, there are things good to know, or good to note, but that aspect of knowledge does not necessarily translate into a better sounding violin.

not sure if you have seen my kid playing at the age of 4.  musical? hardly.  youtube watchers are suckers for kids and puppies. good concentration, stamina, focus on stage? yes.  from violin teaching and practice? i doubt it..how much can you really teach a 4 yo?  from golf training where she learns earlier than that how to handle pressure, how to coordinate her arms, how to appreciate precision,  how to handle herself in a world where everyone else is bigger and better...?  yes.  in the case of my child, i credit golf, a sport if you will:),  a lot for her violin development because violin performance is much more than a show of tech/musicality.  it is a window into one's soul,,,how comfortable you are with yourself,  how confident you are with yourself,  etc, things that cannot tested but only felt.

January 27, 2009 at 04:45 PM ·

Al, I guess your concerns are addressed in these paragraphs extracted from the PDF I haven't found on the web anymore. Again, if you wish I can email it to you or anyone requesting it...

"The average time for listening to music was 4.4 h per week for BOTH Suzuki and untrained children. Only one child in the Suzuki group had both parents who played musical instruments actively without formal training, and another had a parent who was trained in piano at an advanced level but was not playing currently. Four children in the untrained group had a parent who was trained to an advanced level, two of whom were currently active hobby musicians. NONE OF THE PARTICIPANTS reported either having absolute pitch perception or playing/singing by ear. The Research ETHICS  Board at Baycrest APPROVED ALL EXPERIMENTAL PROCEDURES."

"We chose students in Suzuki training rather than other institutional or private music programmes for four reasons. First, the programme is provided by a certified teacher in an institution licensed by the association, which uses the Suzuki lesson books in order. Thus common exposure to musical materials across participants over time was ensured. It should also be noted that absolute pitch training is not a part of Suzuki method. Secondly, the programme STRICTLY FORBIDS SELECTION of children according to their initial musical talent. This ensures that children enrolled in the programme are NOT SELECTED because they are behaviourally gifted BEFORE THE TRAINING. "

FWIW, what more reviewed by MEGs was CHANGE, so, even if one kid was already trained....it was change that was researched, not how superior he/she was from the start....

About the sports, as I told you, my kid practices sports, it's not like I'm against them.....Unlike you, I'm not aware of how sports helped him with violin... I'm not a musician myself, and neither I have any reference to compare if he's doing better or worse on what he supposedly should advance...

My main point was mental stimulation....even if my kid won't be a musician, every time more serious research shows that it's likely that such training will help is brain be in the best shape possible for any career he wants to pursue in the future....and I guess that's a very important goal of all of us as parents regarding our kids, isn't it?

January 27, 2009 at 05:01 PM ·

concur, cesar!

in fact, i disucss things with my violin kid:  daddy does not know what is going on.  forgive me if i make mistakes because this is my first time being a parent to you.   we learn from each other and do it together.  as long as we keep trying, we will get somewhere.  just don't ask me where though:)

the other point is that as parents, cesar, don't you think sometimes we just know, without even studies, that certain approaches just fit the kids better? 

that is why, in the other thread where the kid is trying to do what the parents ask not to,  a little voice inside me says: hmmm, may be the parents know enough about the kid than the kid himself or the people on this board, out of love, care and possibly fear! :)

January 27, 2009 at 07:53 PM ·

Bill Pratt

I no more expect the government to sponsor the arts than for them to establish a state church. I agree with you that funding the arts must be based on individual values not group or societal values.



January 27, 2009 at 09:28 PM ·


Wow, this is SUCH an interesting thread! From the beginning to the end! When I started reading through the first replies I could hardly wait to get to the finish to write my own , I had quite a lot to say. But , going through all the answers here, haha, it was so interesting that I think I forgot about half of what I felt the urge to write at the beginning. But , anyway , I will write my opinion .
So , I may not be the most authorized person to give an opinion , because I am still a student , and maybe I am also not old enough by many people's standards to have a clear idea of what is going on in the world. :)  Nonetheless, I think that from one point of view having a kind of representative authority for the arts would be benefic , because it might give  music ,as an institution , more credentials to the outside world.We would be represented on the high level ,right ?This might help a bit in taking our problems out of the fairy-market that some have been talking about here , and maybe give us more security financially speaking.I remember reading in a recent post the idea that classical music as an institution is on its way to disappearing (probability of happening -who knows?) Well, maybe having someone at  higher rank to support our interests would be a sign of reassuring that this is not going to happen. If not something else , it would at least give us a bust of confidence and a different image ("hey , if the arts have made it to the government , they must worth something,huh?').
I think the arts do need a lot of support -here I am thinking firstly of classical music. It is clear that the demand for classical music is lesser and lesser. The reasons, I say to myself , must be numerous. First , we notice, as the society evolves, a tendency for simplicity and les formality- do what you feel , express yourself, forget about norms and barriers . I think all these are reflected by the musical preferences of our days :people go to ,let's say , rap concerts , because there they have the possibility to express themselves there, to give their bodies the freedom to move , and their minds a break . Many times these manifestations are like catharsis . Then ,  there is usually  direct contact made between the people onstage and the people off-stage, a contact that the audiences enjoy (after all, the public will always wonder :what's in it for me? )  If we take a look , however , at classical music concerts , we encounter the exact opposite. The behavior norms are very strict , the setting is a formal one , and there is most of the times no contact between the audience and musicians. Actually , visual contact between the soloist and public is strongly discouraged , as it disturbs the process of music making.  People don't feel they are addressed to. Most of all, if   these people don't know how to behave on such concerts , they will be harshly judged.  The classes of business management that I took have taught me , if nothing else, that  nowadays the demand is the one that  dictates the offer what services to give. Thus, I think that we, the service providers, should try to adapt to the demand around us , and make our art more attractive to the wide public.  I noticed here that someone referred to classical music as an elitist art , for the rich. I think it is far from being that ( or at least it should be ), but the way sometimes it is projected to the outside gives this impression .(I can’t help adding here that , often , although rich people go to our concerts, they don’t understand classical music- some of them come because it is an “image” thing).
This being, I think , the  problem that comes from inside the community of musicians, I say to myself that there is more to look outside, for finding the roots of the problem. The truth is that a student who has had serious training in classical music will understand it better, will be more likely to go to concerts, and will encourage his /her children to study music. The truth is also that not many students have access to such an education. Thus , my opinion is that we should rather struggle to make musical education more accessible to people. If, by some miracle , musical education would become as accessible to the wide public as other forms of education , I believe that would mean a large step forward for the arts.
So, whether we will have or not a representative for the arts in the government, there are fundamental problems to be addressed in our branch, and these problems come as much from the inside as from the outside. Rather than waiting for miracles to happen , maybe it is time we all take some action towards the accomplishment of our goals.

January 27, 2009 at 11:44 PM ·

Great thread Marina. Once again I succumb to the tyranny of the interesting! After reading the posts, I pick up that many musicians are not really elitists. They seem to think, however they are entitled to support at some level because they work very hard and imply they should be aprreciated. While I find a strong work ethic very admirable, there is little precident for funding based on hard work, but more upon demonstrated results. Measureable results are what funding is usually tied to and relatively low risk to achieve those measurable results is even better.

The take no prisoners approach popular with some parents, for sports, music and school, in my opinion, shows a lack of patience. Why should kids have to pick between sports and music? In my humble opinion, I think sports are every bit as elitist as classical music and it is a case of the pot calling the kettle black. I think there is easier access to sports at an entry level however, which is why they are so popular with students. At the recreational level, they are also less strict which an undisciplined practitioner appreciates if they just want to move around and have some fun with friends. They are participatory where many formal concerts are not. Many concerts are largely a heady, static experience, which assumes a high level of discipline. Al, it reminds of how the sports announcers whisper at the putting greeen. Heady stuff.

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