Why Do You Need a Job, Rocco?

Being a political junkie, avid lover of all things Oklahoma and having immense appreciation for all arts, you can imagine my excitement when I heard that the new chairman of the NEA mentioned Oklahoma in his speech announcing his “Art Works” tour in Brooklyn on October 21.

As I started reading through the speech, I had mixed emotions between laughing at the ignorance and pompous attitude of Mr. Landesman and having that nerve in my neck tweak as he gushed about how Obama is next Ceasar (and this is a good thing?)… You could hear the thrill running up his leg.

Then I found it, Oklahoma. Here is what he said…

“I know firsthand that great art can come from the unlikeliest of places. A few years ago, I visited Eric, Oklahoma, where a museum was being dedicated to one of my idols, the great country music songwriter and singer, Roger Miller. He wrote the music for my first show, “Big River.” While driving the 140 miles from Oklahoma City to Eric, you pass the hometowns of Sheb Wooley, one of the creators of rock and roll, the songwriter Jimmy Webb, and Garth Brooks. What is in the water there? There are certainly no music conservatories, probably precious few music teachers, no colleges, no arts centers, nothing. Just an inexplicable concentration of genius.”

This type of “how does a back-woods red state produce a decent artist?” mentality isn’t abnormal for Landesman. In an August 8 interview with the NYT, Ladesman made multiple statements that he was against artistic endowments to rural areas or any areas without what he considers to have “artistic merit.” In that same interview, he talked about how the arts can play into economic development, yet he doesn’t want the arts to be developing the economics in “rural” areas (and I use that term loosely). Isn’t this the land of opportunity, Mr. Optimist? Does this opportunity not apply to those who reside in “rural” areas?

And speaking of Garth Brooks, what great school developed his musical abilities? His family.

That seems to be an important piece that Rocco is missing from this entire equation. Although passing artistic appreciation from generation to generation doesn’t require federal funding, only the best education in Rocco’s mind can come from music conservatories, colleges, and “good teachers” whom, according to Rocco, appear to reside in massive population centers. Or, perhaps Rocco thinks they should only reside in massive population centers.

Throughout the interview, Landesman talks about providing subsidies for housing for artists to encourage them to move to downtown areas. Why not provide incentives to keep them in their suburban or rural areas to enrich the “artistic merit” of their community? What I find particularly interesting about this is that his precious country music singers that he mentions so fondly come from rural areas. Just think how many more of your favorite artists could rise up from a little bit of “economic stimulation” from the NEA.

Let’s look at his quote about Oklahoma in a little more detail. Even though this isn’t surprising behavior from Rocco, I really feel the need to address the artistic merit of the state of Oklahoma.

Now, if anyone from Oklahoma is reading this, you will find that Rocco has 1 ½ good points. The first one is the water. If you have ever drank water from OKC and then drank the water in say…Norman… you would be asking yourself the same question that Rocco did.

The next point that he makes is that he didn’t find anything from his drive from Will Rogers to Eric, Oklahoma. To be quite honest, he didn’t pass through the major metropolis areas (though, having been through the Brooklyn area, I’m not sure how much of Brooklyn has “artistic merit”). He was driving to a place that has a population of 1,076 people and maybe has 3 stoplights. But, what he did pass by was USAO. Rocco, if you would have looked to your right, you would have seen the University of Science and ARTS of Oklahoma!

Do we have an extension of Julliard in Oklahoma? No.

Really, we only have precious few teachers like Valery Kuleshov, the most respected pianist in the Russian Federation, Dr. Edward Gates, whose performances have been reviewed multiple times by the NYT, Dr. Jonathan Shames, Dr. Z. Randall Stroope (who sells over 200,000 copies of his compositions a year around the world), and Dr. Randy Von Ellefson, but no other teachers to their caliber.

No, we don’t have any colleges that produce people to the level of Kristin Chenoweth, Kelly O’Hara, or Leona Mitchell.

Our schools don’t place in 3 of the top 5 spots (including first) at the Bands of America Super Regional marching band competition as well as winning national marching championships.

We don’t have some of the top jazz education in the country in our high schools or in our colleges.

We don’t have choirs made up of laymen that are invited to sing in the Sydney Opera House. In fact, we don’t even have camps for students that bring in artists from all over the world to educate our children from elementary through high school. I mean really, it’s not like we’ve produced a vast quantity of talented Miss America’s.

Actually, we have all of those things and I would personally like to invite you to come to Oklahoma and listen to one of our "laymen" choirs. We also have the Oklahoma Arts Council, which is locally funded and receives few federal dollars. The only federal dollars that I found that the OAC received was from the stimulus. Do you know what this means, Rocco?

We don’t need you.

But it appears that Rocco has figured this out. “There are certainly no music conservatories…music teachers…colleges…arts centers…nothing. Just an inexplicable concentration of genius.”

If that's the case, Rocco, why do you need a job?


JG said...

Excellent article. Well done.

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