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Michal Shapiro

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The First Casualty Is Always Art (VIDEO)

Posted: 06/19/11 04:25 PM ET

Last year I attended the Dutch Jazz and World Meeting (DJWM) in Amsterdam. The event was beautifully organized, with a trade fair during the day, and performances at the clubs Melkweg, Sugar Factory and the imposing Bimhuis at night. Business interaction was lively throughout; at the fair, at the shows, at dinners and at after-hours jams, when players, promoters, presenters and press schmoozed till the wee hours. The music was top notch, I learned a lot, and I got several great vlogs out of it.*

The event was organized by the MCN (Muziek Centrum Nederland), and I was so impressed with how naturally they combined art with business, that I grabbed a Flip camera, walked past several canals and up icy streets to check the multi-level Centrum out myself. In my tour of the facility, I was again struck with the kind of pragmatic support the Centrum gives to musicians. Unlike here, it's not just about grants: Want your band to tour in another country? The MCN will give you contact information. Want to write for the screen? The MCN gives courses. There is an extensive archive that houses recordings and memorabilia, and a music publishing arm. In its accessibility it is a far cry from the labyrinthine institutions here in the USA and I walked out of there thinking how much more enlightened the Dutch government was to maintain this wonderfully functional cultural bastion. I shot video of the people and the place, but wondered if I'd ever have a reason to use it.

Now, unfortunately, I do. Just the other day I got the news that the Centrum is in danger of losing all its funding, due to an new government that evidently does not consider culture to be worth supporting.

I've seen too many great cultural organizations and programs go down the tubes during economic hard times here and abroad. And I certainly know what it's like to try to make any kind of art with no support system. The MCN is a beautiful institution that serves the people of the Netherlands well; both the artists and the audiences world wide and at home. It should continue to do so. Think about all that will be lost when you watch the video. And if you feel like it, go to their website and sign the petition to support them. Do it right away, the deadline is June 20th, so this is truly the 11th hour. Don't let the MCN be the tree that falls in the forest... let's let them know we are there, listening.

Here in the USA parents dread their children becoming musicians or artists of any kind because the chances of "success" are so slim. That attitude persists because we don't accept the legitimacy of the calling and respect it properly. But in Europe this attitude is nowhere near as pervasive... yet.

Here's my rant: Art enriches every aspect of our lives, particularly when we are going through hard times. We are fundamentally poorer without it. It's a fact that it promotes creative thinking, and if anyone says we need the math and the science skills to stay competitive, I reply that a practical society encourages creative, artistic thought because that's where the great breakthroughs come from. And these are the breakthroughs that ultimately lift a society up both intellectually and economically.

*To see the vlogs I posted about the DJWM go to:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/michal-shapiro/a-snowy-night-with-warm-m_b_801885.html
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/michal-shapiro/punk-meets-world-video_b_806161.html
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/michal-shapiro/for-the-holidays-saxophon_b_798773.html

For more of Michal's original music videos visit http://inter-muse.com

 

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