The Editor's Soapbox

Allow me to stand atop this magnificent soapbox and indulge in a moment of shameless self-promotion, or give background information, depending on whose side you are on.

I play four musical instruments. I have played the clarinet for nearly a decade. I have played the guitar for nearly three years. I also dabble with the piano and I sing, though the quality of my voice may be called into question. I own dozens upon dozens of CDs, including diverse names such as Tricky, Chicane, My Bloody Valentine, Depeche Mode, Miles Davis and Sasha & Digweed.

I have spent many hours and a lot of cash so my band could cut five tracks in a recording studio. My experience in a recording studio has to be one of the most exhilarating experiences in my life.

My mother is a fantastic piano player. My father has dabbled with the guitar and the trumpet, and he also has a wonderful voice. My 13-year-old sister has been playing the violin for many years and has also picked up the flute with much enthusiasm.

Music is the perfect friend. Music will never turn its back on me nor will it stab me in the back. I suppose I have an unhealthy obsession with all things musical, but music has been able to console me and lift me out of the low points in my life. Beautiful lyrics and passionate melodies have been able to grab me by the arms and drag me forward when I have fallen by the wayside.

That being said, I hope it has become obvious that I have a great passion and love for music. It causes me great pain when I see that music or any of the arts are being neglected, or that funding for the arts is the first to be cut.

There seems to be too much focus in this world on higher test scores and making six-figure salaries. Children are being pushed to become doctors, lawyers or engineers. It seems rare to me for a parent to tell his children to grow and become a rock star or an artist or a fiction writer. I know many people regard music and art as mere accents on their sparkling college transcripts.

Music, art and other forms of creativity must be nurtured at a very early age. Studies have shown that musically oriented people have better study habits and seem to be more focused. Music and art must not be lost, because they define what we are as a society. Currently, we are being defined by the Backstreet Boys and Britney Spears. I find that highly disconcerting.

Music, art and writing allow people to express themselves outside of the confines of an office. The arts allow people to express feelings about themselves and to comment on society in a vibrant way. I believe that the arts create a well-rounded person, not a selfish, career-oriented person who will step on anyone to reach the top. Ambition makes you look pretty ugly.

That is why we must continue to fund and support federally funded programs such as the National Endowment for the Arts.

Since its creation in 1965, the NEA has been dedicated to helping everyone in the United States. Over the decades, the NEA has awarded over 111,000 grants in all 50 states. It has supported the design of the Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial, the original production of “”A Chorus Line”” and jazz legends such as Dizzy Gillespie and Miles Davis.

The NEA has funded thousands of “”schools for arts”” education programs as well as in-school and after-school arts programs. The NEA is currently funding projects that implement programs to help children get involved with music in their communities. The NEA’s ArtsREACH program is dedicated to supporting artists, musicians and local governments in rural areas and small towns to ensure that art and music continue to represent the culture in these places.

A three-year study of the NEA’s YouthARTS program has shown that arts programs have helped lower the delinquency rate among youth. This study was sponsored by the U.S. Department of Justice and was the first to show statistical information that offered quantitative evidence on how the arts enhanced the development of a child and how the arts improved behavior and academic performance.

With a presidential election year upon us, I shall provide an interesting bit of information. Upon researching the candidates, I found a large difference in their views on the arts.

On I searched for “”NEA.”” What I found was that the NEA had recommended Al Gore for president due to Gore’s progressive education program. On, I had a difficult time finding anything about Bush and the NEA. What you get from that bit of information is up to you.

Here is an interesting comparison.

Over the next four years, the United States will spend nearly $1.6 trillion on defense. That means $1.6 trillion on bigger and better weapons to kill people faster and more efficiently.

Over the next four years, a mere $390 million will be spent funding the National Endowment for the Arts — a paltry $390 million to give children the opportunity to express themselves through art and music. A paltry $390 million over the next four years to promote art and music in small towns, inner cities and suburban communities. I find this quite troubling.

Now the part of the soapbox where there seems to be some wise parting words or a bit of advice.

I urge everyone not to forget about how important art is. Go to your local museum. Buy paintings from local artists. Buy local music. Go to jazz shows at small coffee shops. Vote. And vote for someone who will support art in the schools. Find a way to express yourself through art or music or writing. Discover that creative outlet within yourself. You might discover that your creative outlet is the best part of your day.