Monday was International Find a Way to Encourage a Young Artist Day. I had meant to write a blog entry informing everyone of this fact but was really busy earlier this week with all the flooding in Atlanta. Thanks to all of you who offered to help or just inquired whether I was floating down the Chattahoochee. I think it is only appropriate that we celebrate International Find a Way to Encourage a Young Artist Day all week or even next week. Don’t the arts deserve a month? Use the moment that you read this blog and let your week or month begin and find a young person who is passionate about an art form and encourage them. Purchase their art, attend their play, hang a young persons’ art in your home or office, give words of encouragement, praise the piano practicing, be grand or small but find a way to support the arts.
Arts are important to society. Whether it is written or sung we relate to art and we gravitate to art. It helps us express what is deep inside of us, joy or fear. A speech by Dr. Karl Paulnack, Director of the Music Division at the Boston Conservatory has made its way around the internet. When I read it I finally felt that someone had put into words how I feel about my job. Why do I sing? Why do we write? Why do we paint? Why do we need any of it? Mr. Paulnack writes,
"I have come to understand that music is not part of 'arts and entertainment' as the newspaper section would have us believe. It's not a luxury, a lavish thing that we fund from leftovers of our budgets, not a plaything or an amusement or a pass time. Music is a basic need of human survival. Music is one of the ways we make sense of our lives, one of the ways in which we express feelings when we have no words, a way for us to understand things with our hearts when we can't with our minds."
"If we were a medical school, and you were here as a med student practicing appendectomies, you'd take your work very seriously because you would imagine that some night at two AM someone is going to waltz into your emergency room and you're going to have to save their life. Well, my friends, someday at 8 PM someone is going to walk into your concert hall and bring you a mind that is confused, a heart that is overwhelmed, a soul that is weary. Whether they go out whole again will depend partly on how well you do your craft.
You're not here to become an entertainer, and you don't have to sell yourself. The truth is you don't have anything to sell; being a musician isn't about dispensing a product, like selling used cars. I'm not an entertainer; I'm a lot closer to a paramedic, a firefighter, a rescue worker. You're here to become a sort of therapist for the human soul, a spiritual version of a chiropractor, physical therapist, someone who works with our insides to see if they get things to line up, to see if we can come into harmony with ourselves and be healthy and happy and well.
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."
Wow. That’s a great job to have. Every day I get to make music. I hope that it calms people after a hard day, inspires other artists, encourages love, makes connections, splits the heavens wide open with positivity. We need it. Artists need encouragement and support. I wouldn’t be an opera singer without the tons of people who helped me along the way and who continue to encourage me. Let’s celebrate this month the young artists who are growing up to be our inspiration!