THE #OPERAGEEK ON THE NEA ELIMINATION PROPOSAL

Hello again, and happy Saturday!
I wrote the following essay/post waaaaaay back in January, when it was merely rumoured that the current administration would attempt to eliminate the NEA and the NEH. However, now that the budget has been officially proposed, I feel it is worth a share here as well; please feel free to share it on, as I believe this impacts both artists AND their audiences.

Today, the incoming administration released their budget proposal to cut the deficit and reduce spending. included in this proposal, almost as if it was a throwaway line onstage, is casually stated, “The Corporation for Public Broadcasting would be privatized, and the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities will be eliminated entirely.”
I’d like to have an honest discussion about what that means for performers such as myself.
Very few people in the world of classical music or opera are working as solo artists in the ‘name-recognition’ houses. By this, I mean houses such as The Met, La Scala, Covent Garden, et al. For the purpose of this explanation, I would like everyone to know that even the artists who are internationally famous/recognized are freelancers, working on a 1099 basis, which is a situation fraught with disaster unto itself.
For those of us who have not yet broken that beautiful crystal ceiling into the ‘big houses’, we rely on small local or regional opera companies, symphonies, and orchestras to keep ourselves afloat in the industry. Even singers who do perform at these houses can often be found working in between the ‘big house’ gigs at wonderful small companies nationwide and internationally.
Do you know what those small companies rely on to pay us?
Grants from the NEA. Even with grants from the NEA, the burden of fundraising from private donors to pay the artists is a huge task – without the NEA, it is nigh insurmountable. Without the NEA, many of these small companies will vanish, and the work they provided us along with them; that is even before you consider the loss of PBS, which in many cases is the first exposure young children get to the world of art and music, now that theatre and music programs are cut across the country to make way for sports.
When they vanish, so will the work. When the work vanishes, taking away our means of supporting ourselves as singers, so too vanishes the network of people that rely on performers and artists – coaches, stage directors, repetiteurs, voice teachers – because we simply cannot pay them.
All to save approximately .002% of the budget.
Music and the arts does a very important job; it teaches young minds to dream, to imagine, and to believe there is something better to work towards. In this modern world, I don’t think we can possibly afford to cut that from humanity’s collective budget.

Posted on: April 8, 2017Kelli Butler

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