When I was a kid, practicing the piano was a chore. I always loved the final result, of performing in front of people, but the amount of work required to get there was done begrudgingly, with little enthusiasm. I wanted to be an artist, and then a writer. I spent hours every day in my room, filling up spiral-bound notebooks with pencil sketches and snippets of stories. I dabbled in acrylics, charcoals, pastels, and photography. I wrote the beginning of a sweeping epic fantasy novel with a strong female protagonist long before I knew what feminism was.
Once I decided to pursue music in college, my other artistic aspirations fell by the wayside. While I don't regret my career choice, a part of me has always missed that feeling of stretching my imagination in extra-musical ways. I started to wonder why artists today were so isolated in their own endeavors; I had no idea what my fellow creatives in the visual, literary, film, and dance fields were up to. I wanted to know.
At the same time, I was struggling with a crisis of entitlement. I had always felt music was a selfish life choice. Who was I to do what I loved all day long, with no regard to the bigger problems at hand? Was I really making a difference? All my life, I've been hearing about how classical music is dying, audiences aren't showing up, people are disinterested.
Soon it became clear to me that this couldn't be further from the truth. There is a huge audience out there; you just have to bring the show to them. We no longer live in an age where access to entertainment was available only to the moneyed and privileged few. So how can we keep approaching concerts the same way we did a hundred years ago? Why would anyone pay money to dress up and sit silently in a stuffy hall when Netflix exists?
The arts have a unique ability to unite people from every culture, creed, and class. A struggling single mother could benefit from getting lost in a Beethoven sonata just as much as, if not more than, her tech mogul counterpart. Children whose families and schools do not have the means to provide them an arts education are often the ones with the most to say, yet their voices have been stifled. American prisons are overflowing with people who have been told to relinquish their rights to beauty, humanity, and hope.
This is a broken system. Access to the arts is a fundamental human right, not a privilege. It is what separates man from beast; without it, we are merely animal.