My grandson is 18 months old and I think he has musical talent. Now I suppose it is remotely possible that I am the tiniest bit prejudiced in his favor, but I don’t care, I still think he is gifted musically. He clearly reacts to music– bopping his head, wiggling his shoulders and hips in rhythm – and he has his own taste in music – he likes classical like Mozart, and seems to have a thing for Springsteen too; Country and hip-hop, not so much. He loves making sounds on his toy xylophone and he will sit on my lap for a long time while I sit on the piano stool and play the piano. His grandfather, my ex-husband, is musically gifted, so why shouldn’t our grandson have inherited his grandfather’s talent?
So what, you say? Because I want my grandson to live a happy and fulfilled life, and I can hear those voices in my head shooting me the very same line of BS that I got when I first knew I wanted to be a writer. These voices are familiar to all American artists, whatever their art form.
Art is just a hobby, not a profession. You can’t make money at music, writing, painting, etc – unless you are really really lucky and become Beyonce or Dan Brown or Judy Chicago – you have about the same chance of becoming rich in the arts as you do of winning the lottery. Make sure you train for something else to fall back on. People who try to become artists are immature Peter Pan types who don’t want to grow up and face the real world. Most artists end up broke or mooching on their relatives. Artists are selfish types who are always looking to others to support them. Do any of these sound familiar to you?
One of the things I find ironic and infuriating is that the same negative messages are true for athletics also, yet sports does not get this treatment nearly as often or as stridently as the arts do. Children are encouraged, even expected, to try their hand – and other body parts – at sports.
What if we encouraged budding artists the same way? Arts are the heart of any society; we need artists. What if we actually compensated artists for their contributions to society – and not just the tiny percentage who manage to rise to the top? What if painters and sculptors and poets and trombone players made as much money as corporate executives and engineers and doctors?
What would have happened if Mozart, Beethoven, Shakespeare, Van Gogh – or to take American examples, Barbra Streisand, Jimi Hendrix, Meryl Streep, Ansel Adams, Ernest Hemingway, Toni Morrison, etc – what if they had given in to those negative messages and gave up their dreams? Our society would be unrecognizable if there were no artists. In fact, our society would be dead without them.
What if my grandson was encouraged to become a musician? Would that be so bad? Would he really be condemned to starving in a garret?
If we encouraged children to explore and develop their artistic side, what would happen? Perhaps we would have a nation of art lovers, instead of money lovers and sports fanatics. Perhaps that would be just as good, or maybe, just maybe, even better.