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Singers in 2009

An article about performing-Arts and music-related topic

By Ralph Schatzki

for La CoffeeMelodie Suite

  • Singers in 2009

  • It's 2009, and we have our first African-American president. We're in a recession, if not a depression, and an unprecedented stimulus bill has been approved by Congress. And opera companies - an important portion of this country's artistic community - are failing.

    We are all of us in the position of having to make difficult decisions, and there's no doubt that having food on the table (never mind having a table) takes precedence over an evening of music. Still, I don't believe that the arts should be relegated to (or beyond) the fringe of human activity. As a singer and performer I'm rather biased in my views, of course, but I will nevertheless defend the arts over many other activities as being worthy of our time and effort. Entertainment is a facet of our lives that we crave: it diverts, it enriches, it makes us feel complete. And music is something almost everyone enjoys on a daily basis.

    But that discussion is for another time.

    For now, I want to rally fellow musicians to the cause. The old saying goes, "when life gives you lemons, make lemonade." Well, I believe that the tough times we are entering - and things are not getting better anytime soon - actually gives rise to the opportunity to make the arts both stronger and a more integral a part of American life.

    What we need is action. We can no longer wait for any opportunities to come our way, but rather we must make them. Yes, it's true that people will now spend less on entertainment than what they may have used to, but that doesn't mean they won't seek it out or they need it any less. And I believe this opens a door of opportunity.

    It's time to approach audiences at a grass-roots level, to introduce them to artists that may, one day, be world-famous. Then, they can say, "I knew him when he was just starting out." Do you know any movie or sports stars? If so, isn't it great? You can say, "I know so-and-so," and everyone looks at you through admiring eyes. If not, don't you wish you did? (Come on, admit it...)

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    But even if 99% of performers will never achieve stardom, it doesn't matter. A live performance, whether it's a play, opera or basketball game, is infinitely more satisfying than a recorded or televised one. We've become such a media-driven and media-obsessed culture, that the "true" experience has become something of a rarity. Still, even the most jaded audience (and by that I mean a group of high school teenagers, but the premise applies to all) never fails to be impressed by a live event- especially if it's relatively intimate - where it becomes something tangible, real, to be touched and savored. It becomes something that touches them somewhere deep inside, and connects them to an aspect of themselves that before they didn't know existed.

    We need to bring music to the living rooms, the way it used to be one, two, three hundred years ago. We can increase the number of people who love great music, which in the future will pay untold dividends for generations through more music lovers and more support. For most of us, a major performance at an international venue is even more of an unattainable dream than ever before; but that doesn't mean we can't create and bring great music to audiences that will enjoy it equally as much.

    This means each of us must become an advocate for this art form in which we passionately believe. We have to take the initiative, to advertise and promote, to "talk it up." We have an advantage, too: we can bring music into people's homes where a lot of entertainers are actually constrained by their grandness - movie stars can't bring a film production to a house, and Kobe Bryant wannabes don't shoot hoops with neighbor kids for a few bucks. It just isn't done that way, but we musicians can touch people on an individual level in a live performance. That's what it's all about.

    And that's what we need to do.

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