A forbidding landscape for arts funding

February 22, 2011

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IT IS hard enough for emerging musicians to imagine a viable future in the United States, even if the funding for the National Endowment for the Arts were to stay at its current levels. We behave like a culture that looks with suspicion on any human effort that does not “pull its own weight,’’ that is, contribute black ink to the ledger. Some music makes money, some does not, but a mature musician, regardless of style, takes many years of investment in time and resources.

With further cuts in support to the arts, such as those proposed by Republican congressmen, the support this nation gives to noncommercial musical performance sinks to the level of insult.

The younger generation is being told: Don’t take up music as a profession unless you set your sights to be a one-in-a-million superstar in the popular media.

The worst part of this picture is that, to young musicians from families with no resources, the possibility of a musical career is becoming so remote that it is never even considered.

Robert Labaree
The writer is on the faculty in the music history department at the New England Conservatory.