Even if you're not a sports fan, you'll be intrigued to learn that the Swedish soccer star who now coaches the US Women's World Cup team often starts her speeches with a song. Pia Sundhage began her first team meeting by pulling out her guitar and singing the Bob Dylan classic, "The Times They Are A-Changin'." "She was everything we needed," said goalie Hope Solo, "Our team was broken, we were down and out, there were a lot of fires to be put out...”
There are fascinating studies about the science of music. Author Daniel Levitin, who has built a career studying the effects of music on the brain, says that our brains co-evolved with music as a means of communicating with each other. Music modulates our neurochemistry and affects our moods, a process he calls "emotional regulation." Music can trigger the release of dopamine, the "feel good" hormone, or activate the amygdala, the brain’s fight or flight center, causing a release of adrenaline.
Like the World Cup team prior to Pia's arrival, our colleagues in the arts are also feeling broken. "This is the most difficult time to be an arts manager in my 26 years in the profession," says Michael Kaiser, the President of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.
We are so tired of fighting fires. The demise of the Kansas Arts Commission, which saw its budget zeroed out by the Governor, and pending reductions in funding for the National Endowment for the Arts that are more severe than proposed cuts to sister cultural agencies, indicate that we should be on guard against an alarming trend of privatization of the arts.
Public support provides resources for diversity, access and equity, says Jonathan Katz, Executive Director of the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies (NASAA). In a brief phone call this week, he expressed disappointment with President Obama's proposed budget reduction for the NEA for 2011-12, from $155 to $146 million.
The NEA is now in the crosshairs of the Tea Party wing of the Republican Party. An amendment by Rep. Tim Huelskamp, a former member of the Kansas State Senate, to eliminate the agency was defeated by a vote of 126-284 in the House of Representatives. However, Congress is now considering further reductions. Americans for the Arts and NASAA, as well as California Arts Advocates, provide current news and tools for communicating with legislators.
As we weather the further marginalization of the arts, maybe we need to apply some of our best medicine to ourselves. I'm thinking about starting a round at the next meeting of our state-wide California Lawyers for the Arts team: "Row, Row, Row Your Boat, Gently Down the Stream/Merrily, Merrily, Merrily, Life is But a Dream...."
Or maybe I'll croon my favorite from the great Nat King Cole: "Pretend you're happy when you're blue/It isn't very hard to do...."
What would you sing?
Alma Robinson, Executive Director
California Lawyers for the Arts