Supporting the arts

Here´s a great article from Barry Hunn at Deering Banjos that I read years ago and I kept:

I once had the opportunity to go to a stock car race because a friend had received some tickets from his company to attend.  I was surprised when I discovered that our seats, all the way to the rear, top of the stadium, up in the “nose bleed” section, cost a bit over $200.00 dollars, EACH.  Those were the cheap seats.   The stadium was sold out!  The fans loved every minute. The race lasted a few hours.

I soon learned about the cost of seats at other sports events like Super Bowl, and local football games and was again surprised at the prices.  But fans buy tickets every year, sometimes in advance due to high popularity.  The ball games usually run a few hours.

As a contrast, I over heard several gentlemen in a music store who were complaining about the cost of a bluegrass festival where the $60 ticket price was good for three days…from noon till almost midnight each day…. and they were complaining that the price was too high!

I’ve seen folks buy a big flat screen TV, which has a comparatively short working life (say 5-10 years)  for $3,000 grinning with excitement.  Then I’ve seen folks walk away from buying a hand made banjo or violin, which could be given to their grandchildren’s grandchildren because it cost $2,700.

Though I am a man of modest means, and not being used to even thinking about spending $200 for a ticket to a car race,  I think it’s great that the grandstand was filled with enthusiastic racing fans willing to spend $200 to $1,000 a ticket.  It’s great that sports fans fill the stands.  But why do I hear complaints about the cost of a festival or concert or even a musical instrument?

In America today, there is a tendency to think that the arts, music, dance, paintings, sculpture etc, have little “intrinsic” value.  The excitement of a ball game, or racing event is somehow seen as more “valuable” or “worth the money” compared to the arts.

But, think about the music that is used to “enhance” sports events and ballgames.  The famous pipe organ music at baseball games is stragically placed in the game to excite the fans.  Half time events always revolve around music and marching/dancing.  The music is used to “enhance” the enjoyment of the game.

If you want to see the power of music, watch a few minutes of a TV show or a movie with the sound turned off…. Ok, the voices go away too, but when you watch the scene with no sound, it takes on a totally different character than when it’s enhanced by the sound track.   In many cases, the movie is largely stirring, exciting and engaging because of the sound track or it’s boring, lifeless and plodding because of the sound track.  Other factors not withstanding, the music makes a huge difference in a movie.

Music and art carry a power that can affect you emotionally and mentally and physically; just like a sports game, a race or a movie.

Can we live without music? Sure.  Can we live without football, car racing or movies?  Sure.  But most people would agree that these activities add richness to life that would be terribly missed if they were gone.

Music has been in civilization almost as long as civilization has existed.  It’s hard to imagine a world with no whistling, humming, singing or instrument playing.

So what am I talking about that is relevant to supporting the arts?

The famous artist and inventor Leonardo Da Vinci was supported by a rich family in Italy so he could spend his time creating and developing his art.  Michaelangelo was supported by the Church to create many of his greatest masterpieces.

Musicians in America are supported by us, the average person. Am I saying we OWE un-questioning support to artists? Absolutely not! The artist must reach us, touch us, inspire us for us to feel comfortable parting with our hard earned money to support them.

We must want to buy the concert ticket.  We must want to buy their CD or download their song to our iPod.  They must work hard to develop themselves so their “product” is appealing to us.  This is heart-breaking work and a constant challenge for a performing artist.  But that’s life.   Your plumber must do a quality job for you to call him or her back for more work or for you to recommend them to a friend.  The musician is no different in this regard.

What I AM saying about supporting the artist is:  In our spirit, our hearts, in some special place in all of us, we need music as much as we need to get our broken water pipe fixed.

Maybe there are moments when the leaking water pipe, or flat tire takes precedence over going to a concert or festival but the emotional, mental and therefore physical benefit we all receive from music and art, benefits us in ways too important to dismiss.

Music and art are vitally important to humanity.  They allow us to dream; to become more of who we are; to grow and develop as individuals and as a human race.  Without the stimulating, challenging, touching, power of music in our lives, a part of us would not feel as nourished; as refreshed; as inspired.  That would be a dreary existence for most of us.

So treat yourself to a concert or a festival.  Buy a Deering banjo and learn to play a little.  Take your children to a music festival.  Teach them to play music and play music with them.  When you like an artist’s performance, buy a CD.  Buy CD’s for your friends for gifts.

You and I, the common man, can direct the course of music history more than at any time in history.  We decide what music survives.  Not some rich politician or king.  Buy going to a concert or buying a CD, we cast our vote in the election of cultural history.

Source: Barry Hunn (Deering Banjo Company)

supporting banjos