My friends at the Illinois Arts Council reminded me that we should all make sure to look at the way each of the candidates consider the arts. I really dislike it when anyone refers to music as one of "the arts," but it is something that I have learned to live with. I have come to understand and accept that these days (the days after the Kennedys, who invited musicians like Pablo Casals to the White House because they admired the man and his performances of music, music that the people in the administration actually ended up liking) playing background music for a reception or a dinner is probably the most state-like activity that a "classical" musician would be able to do--aside, perhaps, from going to North Korea and playing a televised concert for the sole (and that ain't Seoul) purpose of what I guess is "diplomacy." I still don't understand what that was all about.
I dream of a State where what I do and what I teach my students to do and to love is a viable way for a person to make a living, even if that person doesn't live in a major city. I dream of a State where music is considered a vital part of a child's education, and every school district is given ample funds to hire and retain excellent music teachers, buy and maintain instruments, and develop good instrumental and choral libraries. I dream of a State where tickets to concerts could be affordable to everyone, and musicians could also be paid well. I dream of a State that asks (that is a short way of spelling commissions) composers to write music for public functions (to be played by musicians who are hired for the occasion) in places other than major cities, and shows the citizens that new "classical" music is something that people still write and people still play all over the country. I dream of a State that values its local talent, musical and otherwise.
I want to believe the Democrats when they tell me that in America you can be anything that you want to be, but I find myself discouraging people, even people with talent and ambition, not to go into music in order to make a living. The opportunities (as I have written in previous posts) are too few, and the people who have success have to rely on a lot of financial support in order to study with good teachers and live the kind of life where they have ample time to practice. They also have to have a great business sense, and know how to market themselves. Good looks also help, and nerves of steel and a competitive drive are essential, because competition is the heart and soul of American success.
I don't think that any administration will change the reality of competition, but it could do its part to teach people that there is more to music than competition. There should be a place for all serious musicians, and "serious" music in what I hope will once again be a great society.