One thought that haunts me from time to time is the horrible state of music arts in America. This view may surprise you. You may even find it based in unsound logic. Let me share some history with you as it pertains to America’s cultural development.
There are over 6,000 brands of pianos in America. Most of them are names of companies that stopped making pianos years ago.
In 1865, our country was populated with very uncivilized, uneducated and uncultured citizens who could only resolve their differences by killing each other. Texas seceded from the Union in 1861.
By 1900, 5% of the population lived in cities. 95% lived in the country, on farms.
We were not unquestionably considered to be a viable country (by European standards) until the 1930s when we built the Chrysler Building followed by the New York Empire State building. Prior to that we had not distinguished ourselves as a unique civilization.
However, with the Great Depression, our economy and our ability to manage the affairs of our nation were once again drawn into question. In 1932, it is said within the piano industry that over 2,000 piano companies went out of business – overnight. There was no Federal bailout.
It was 100 years after the Civil War that we finally resolved our differences over Civil Rights.
1965 is a mere 49 years behind us, and yet we still have to address racial prejudice and hatred throughout America.
Consider also that your values, and mine, were shaped by our parents and their parents who defended the values of the 20th century.
Consider that in 1965 some parents were arguing for increased funding for education, and that today – 49 years later, our nation is beset by another generation of morons who want to cut funding to education.
Consider how many football stadiums, richly adorned, have been built by school systems in Texas, like so many Towers of Babel, in tribute to what only the barbarians of the Roman Age would consider to be the mark of exemplary virtue and culture.
And yet throughout all these tribulations, American composers wrote some of the world’s most marvelous music. Unfortunately, only 15% of the high schools in America offer a school orchestra program – where aspiring young musicians can gain access to our national heritage of orchestral masterpieces.
Today there are fewer than ten piano companies that manufacture in the U.S.; a tragic chapter in our industrial history that is fairly attributed to management incompetence and greed. The names of the greatest pianos of our past are now just words on decals applied to pianos made in China.
We managed to save Harley-Davidson though.
Within the past ten years, many of our largest professional orchestras have suffered from financial struggles. Attendance is down.
In 2012, Texas Governor Rick Perry “hinted” that Texas might secede again.
Make no mistake about it, America is a nation of proud citizens, but when it comes to the finer arts, the overwhelming majority’s understanding is common and base. If you are one of the few who do not fall into that classification, do more than thank a teacher; invest your time and your money in the fight to increase funding for the arts in education. Volunteer your time for a local symphony or arts group. Attend more concerts. Employ more musicians for your private parties. Cultivate the arts in your community through participation.
America is still a new country. We have not yet achieved what we set out to do. As a nation, we get a few things right, but we still have a cultural deficiency when it comes to the arts and education. A nation that is culturally illiterate is not an enlightened nation. We have come a long way, but we have “miles to go before we sleep”.