I know most who read this blog do not live in Kansas, but I must talk about something that I am so passionate about. But first, I would like to give a little update before I talk about that. I have heard from Sugar Creek Symphony and they have informed me that I am one of their 30 finalists after hundreds of auditions for only 10 spots in the summer season. (UPDATE: I just received an invitation to be cast in the Daughter of the Regiment at the Sugar Creek Opera Festival this summer in Chicago. More information to come on Monday's update) I should find out sometime this week about their decision. Also, in a bit of fun news, I have asked the Kansas City Royals and Sporting KC (MLS) if I could sing the National Anthem at some of their games. I am a huge sports nut, so this would be a lot of fun. I will keep you updated on these, but I have to spend some time on what has been on my mind in recent days.
Kansas recently had a Gubernatorial election, and to no one's surprise, former Senator Sam Brownback won the Governorship. Governor Brownback is a Republican and has taken over after the previous two Governors were Democratic. As a result, there were some changes, obviously triggered by the motives of what one party favors over the other. One always expects this to happen in these situations.
Well, Governor Brownback recently released his proposed budget for the year. He is wanting to make significant cuts to balance the budget. Unbelievably, he has proposed to eliminate the Kansas Arts Commission by the middle of the year. The Kansas Arts Commission provides millions of dollars in grants to local communities to help foster the artistic culture of the state. This move will also likely eliminate state funding from the National Endowment for the Arts and cancel all public funding for public radio and public television stations in the state.
All that can be done now is to help educate our representatives about why this is important to retain. Without public television, I would have not been introduced to opera - with the three tenors programing. Organizations like the Wichita Grand Opera introduced me to the art form and allowed me the amazing chance to see Pavarotti in concert (one of the greatest thrills of my life). I have been a public radio member for seven years and that is now the only station I listen to. Public school educators will see a $103 million cut in their operating budgets, even as the Governor increased teacher pensions and building projects. I suppose there will now be more new schools, but sadly a greater chance of fewer music, dance, art, and drama teachers. I have been a recipient of public school music education for twenty years and I owe all of my gratitude to my wonderful teachers. All of these were public sources of education and all of which have led me to where I am now even as I am beginning my own music charity.
I am so saddened that this would occur in my home state. It is full of gracious and loving people, none of whom zealously attack education and all that is noble in this world (as it may appear, between events like this and other infamous debates of the past).
However, we can do things to help. Here is a very simple way to send a message to your local representatives. Just fill out your information, send it, and forward another email to more friends who are sympathetic to our cause.
No matter where you are from, please show your support by joining the facebook group - Protest Phasing Out of KS Funding for the ARTS!! The group has grown 6 fold over only the last 3 days.
I have asked to meet with my representatives and hear where they stand on the issue. I have not heard a response but I will post it and let you know if I will be heading to Topeka.
Many artists including myself have had to live a life in which we struggle to find respect in our profession - even the painful and ego-crushing debates with family and friends combating the purpose and necessity of what we do and who we intimately are. Art is not entertainment. It is an expression of what it is to be human. And it educates us in passion, tolerance, reason, and love. Striving to be elite, to be the best, to learn all that is possible to learn, to express all that can be expressed, to understand all that can be understood - these are not enemies of humanity. This is what defines us.
What better way to end than this? Dramatically, of course! Just like an opera, with my favorite aria of all time - so meaningful and passionate. It is sung by one of my very favorite singers Renee Fleming at the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize Concert. This is Vissi d'arte (lyrics included below) from Puccini's opera Tosca. The aria is sung by Tosca before she allows Scarpia to have sex with her as a bribe to release the one she loves from being wrongly executed.