There is a jazz pianist of my longstanding acquaintance - I first met her over twenty years ago when I had a magazine assignment to profile the fusion group she was then playing with, and have since gigged and socialized with her - who posted on Facebook her displeasure with the plug having been pulled on the National Endowment for the Arts in the new White House budget proposal.
She began by recounting how earlier this week, she and a jazz violinist, also of my longstanding acquaintance, went to a school in our area and demonstrated musical principles at a convocation. She said the delight and engagement among the students was palpable and rewarding to see. She then mentioned that the event was made possible through a NEA grant and lamented at how such occasions might soon be a thing of the past.
What occurs to me is something that, it seems to me, ought to be rather obvious: Why is a NEA grant necessary? Why does it require federal dollars for these two musicians to hop in their cars and go show some scales and harmony concepts to some school kids? Isn't there, or couldn't there be, some money right out of the school's own budget for such events? Wouldn't there be far less paperwork and bureaucratic doo-dah involved if the whole thing were kept local? What is the going rate for a couple of musicians to put on such an event? I know I'd go to that school and do it for, say, $150. Is it really necessary to involve a chain of form-filler-outers extending to Washington, D.C. to make it happen?
Once again, this demonstrates the principle we hammer home here at LITD with a fair amount of frequency: Freedom is always elegantly simple compared to any alternative, which always involves red tape of some sort.
And what does freedom have to do with the above scenario? Well, the federal dollars used came from all the disparate parts of America, and from people who may or may not think that a grade-school demonstration of musical principles by a couple of jazz musicians was a preferable use of their hard-earned dollars.
So it seems to me the pianist who posted her trepidation could widen her perspective just a little and examine ways that the whole thing could be handled on a local scale.
Provided there's an actual market for the product, of course.