Monday, November 24, 2008

Caroline Kennedy for NEA Chair

Cross posted in my Daily Kos diary. Please log into Daily Kos and recommend my diary!

Ever since Caroline Kennedy endorsed Barack Obama's presidential candidacy in January 2008, the chattering classes have been speculating about possible roles in an Obama administration: Secretary of Education? UN Ambassador? Vice President?

Notwithstanding her book, Profiles in Courage For Our Time (a sequel to her father's book), the annual Profiles in Courage Award, and hosting the annual Kennedy Center Honors, Caroline Kennedy has been famously publicity-shy. It seems to me she might be equally averse to a high-level cabinet post. So-how about appointing her to head a government agency providing funding to something near and dear to her heart?

I would like to make a modest proposal: Appoint Caroline Kennedy as the next Chairwoman and CEO of the National Endowment for the Arts.

While Ms. Kennedy is not, herself an artist (which is not a requirement for this post), she has a well-documented commitment to the arts. She is Honorary Chairwoman of American Ballet Theatre, and worked for five years for the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, giving her a hands-on perspective of the workings of arts institutions.

Since the NEA is a governmental institution, political savvy is also a must. After call, Congress holds the purse strings, as we have seen through repeated attempts to cut, or even zero out, NEA funding. Caroline Kennedy has gained first-hand knowledge of the workings of Congress not only through her work with the Obama campaign, but through her internship with her uncle, Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA).

Caroline Kennedy has the knowledge of the arts and the political savvy necessary to oversee the NEA. Most important, she has the proverbial "fire in the belly" to help the NEA fulfill its mission "to enrich our Nation and its diverse cultural heritage by supporting works of artistic excellence, advancing learning in the arts, and strengthening the arts in communities throughout the country."

The Kennedy family seeks to make a difference in our country, and Caroline Kennedy is no exception. She can make a big difference by promoting excellence in the arts in our country by chairing the National Endowment for the Arts.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Sunday Evening at Home

Well, here I am on a Sunday evening. "60 Minutes" is broadcasting a story about Rex, a teenage musical savant, and my cat, Phoebe, is sitting on one of the arms of the chair supervising my blogging. (Actually, she just curled up on my feet.)

It's been fairly quiet weekend, which is fine by me. Friday night was busy-dinner at Keo, then a concert at Trinity presented by the University of Tulsa Chorale, Cappella Chamber Singers and Symphony Orchestra. Keo is a trendy Pan-Asian restaurant in Tulsa's Brookside district. The dinner at Keo was pricey but wonderful-I had the chef''s special, halibut with a red pepper sauce, jasmine rice and stir-fried vegetables, and started out with steamed shrimp dumplings. The fly in the ointment was the indifferent service.

The TU concert was excellent. The TU School of Music has come a long way in the past 5-10 years or so, and this concert proved it. The Cappella Chamber singers presented an fine program of a capella works to start the program, and Rick Wagner led the TU Symphony Orchestra in the "Preghiera" movement of Tchaikovsky's Mozartiana Suite (sometimes referred to as Suite No. 4). The evening ended with an outstanding student performance of the Mozart Requiem, which I consider one of the most beautiful compositions of all time.

Kim Childs has more than adroitly led the choral music program at TU in the three short years he's been at TU. The students sang with clarity, confidence and conviction. Best of all, they had an incredible blend and pure sound-at no point did vibrato distort the pitch, and I never heard any one voice overpowering the ensemble. Trinity was jam-packed with TU students, faculty and community members. I was particularly glad to see a good number of Trinity parishioners in attendance.

Casey and Philippe are taking "a holiday" (as they say in the UK) in England, so Karen was on the organ bench, and David did the choral conducting. Karen did an excellent job with the service-one of the best, if not the best, subs we've had.

And I couldn't help but smile during the Prayers of the People when we prayed for "Barack, our president-elect." I can't wait until the "elect" part is taken off!

Monday, November 17, 2008

The Magical Music of Disney & Inaugural Gigs

Saturday night was my first post-surgery subscription concert. It was a pops concert-The Magical Music of Disney. Basically, this was a concert of medleys from Disney movies (my favorite was the medley from Mary Poppins, as it brought back fond childhood memories). James Bagwell, music director of Light Opera Oklahoma was on the podium. This concert also involved coordination with slides of scenes from the films (some of which were conceptual drawings from the films' development), and Jimmy did a great job staying on top of the visuals. What I liked most was the number of children in the audience-there were kids sitting in the front row! Get 'em while they're young, and hopefully, they will become symphony lovers for life.

One of my fellow choristers at Trinity made the point of telling me how much she enjoyed the concert the next morning at church.

I recently received an e-mail message from the Secretary-Treasurer of Local 94, AFM. She's part of a trio that played for one of the inaugural balls for President Bill Clinton's second inauguration in 1997. She thought that since I had been an active volunteer with the campaign, I might know of a contact for one of the inaugural balls-Tammy's trio is looking for a gig. I had to tell her I had no earthly idea who to contact, but gave her the name of a local coordinator who's involved in Eco Fest (formerly Reggae Fest), so perhaps Amie knows something that I don't. Saturday night after the concert I related to Local 94 President (and Tulsa Symphony Principal Horn) Bruce the e-mail exchange. Bruce then put in a plug for his brass quintet. I'm flattered that people think I have these inside connections, but I have no earthly idea who is organizing all the inaugural balls in January!

I just wish I could be there for that historic occasion . . .

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Secretary of the Arts Petition

In a recent interview, Quincy Jones said that he'd "beg for a Secretary of the Arts" next time he speakswith President-Elect Obama.[ ]

A petition to create a cabinet-level Secretary of the Arts has been posted. I hope you'll join me and sign too. And please-spread the word.

Secretary of the Arts Petition

Monday, November 10, 2008

Yes We Did!!!

Well, after almost two years of silence, this historic election is probably a good time to resume posting (I hope).

It's been almost a week since November 4. It's finally hitting home to me that Barack Obama will be our next President. This is the first time I've supported a candidate since the day he announced (actually, before he announced, since I signed one of the petitions urging him to run back in 2006). Since he announced in February 2007 I have been involved as a volunteer for the campaign-organizing, cajoling, sending money (I was part of the $25/month club), making phone calls, even spending a day in Joplin, Missouri to GOTV (Get Out The Vote).

Because of my involvement, and that of so many other grassroots people, we will probably always remember where we were when we learned Barack Obama had been elected 44th President of the United States.

On Election Day I was on pins and needles. The polls said that Obama was going to win, but the polls have been wrong before. I wasn't trusting anything. When 5 o'clock hit I joined two of my symphony colleagues in Marc's office for a celebratory straight Knob Creek. (Marc and Tim were more trusting of the polls than I was.) Before I headed upstairs to the Jazz Hall of Fame for the watch party, I spent some time on my computer checking the MSBNC, Daily Kos and Huffington Post websites for updates & live blogging. I headed upstairs about 7:30pm & immediately came upon a jam-packed house. I spotted a few friends, but could say little more than "hi" to them because of the joyful pandemonium. (Most people were clearly expecting a victory.) The media was out in force-KOTV Channel 6 (CBS) had a camera crew interviewing Amie, one of the local coordinators. I was stopped by a photographer from the Tulsa World wanting to get my name-he had taken my picture. (It didn't get into the paper.)'s live stream was projected onto one wall.

Pennsylvania was called not too long after my arrival, and within half an hour of Pennsylvania, Ohio. I think we all knew Obama was headed for victory.

I found a quieter place in the Jazz Hall of Fame's listening room, where another television had been set up. The TV was mostly set to MSNBC (my favorite), with occasional forays to CNN and KJRH (Tulsa's NBC affiliate). I won't go into the all-too-depressing local/state results now, save for the election of Karen Keith to the Tulsa County Commission and the easy re-election of Rep. Jeannie McDaniel & Sen. Tom Adelson.

I found Jeannie, who had done a lot of work in the early stages of the campaign, there with her husband. We sat together watching the returns come in with the rest of the room. Shortly before 10pm CST I remember saying to Jeannie, "Well, the polls will be closing any minute now on the west coast. California has 55 electoral votes right there." (MSNBC had Obama at about 204 electoral votes, I believe.) I remember checking my cell phone for the time-it said 9:59pm. Next thing I know MSNBC was playing that "Projection" music, and flashing Obama's image on the screen with the words "44th President of the United States."

The cheers that went up were simply unbelievable. There was one woman in the anteroom with me who had her arms lifted up, presumably praising God. Plenty of folks were wiping tears from their eyes. I wandered over to the main hall, and joined in the cheers of O-BAM-A! O-BAM-A! YES WE DID! After I was hoarse from the cheering I retreated outdoors and called my mother. Although she was very happy, she was more relieved that McCain/Palin had not been elected (she was absolutely petrified that they would steal the election).

Mother and I agreed the Chicago skyline was particularly beautiful on television, and were very moved by the hundreds of thousands of supporters in Grant Park. We were both very proud that a fellow Chicagoan would now be President of the United States.

I decided to head home, and listened to McCain's acceptance speech on NPR on my way home. I remember thinking, "Why couldn't he have been this gracious during the campaign? He must have received terrible advice from his handlers." I got home, turned on my television, and within a few moments savored the victory speech of President-elect Obama, with my cat in my lap. I will never forget the tear-streaked faces of Oprah Winfrey & the Rev. Jesse Jackson. It occurred to me that Rev. Jackson was likely hoping Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was watching his dream unfold from heaven. There were the images of the jubilant crowd, entranced by the eloquent words of our next President. There was the Chicago skyline, more beautiful than ever, as if the buildings themselves were embracing our country and its new leadership. There was Lake Michigan, reflecting the pure joy of the hour. There was Field Museum, lit up in all its glory, seeing history itself in the making.

Finally, there were the Obama families-the incredible future First Lady, Michelle, the beautiful Obama daughters Malia and Sasha, and the wonderful Biden family: the Vice President-elect's attractive wife, Jill, his children and grandchildren, and his mother. How moving it was when Vice President-elect Biden brought his mother to the edge of the stage to introduce her to the crowd.

Who would have thought this "skinny guy from the South Side with a funny name" (as President-elect Obama himself said in 2004) would win such a convincing victory in 2008? Who would have thought he would best the "inevitable" Hillary Clinton, and then the seasoned veteran John McCain? The "experts" were saying "this isn't Obama's time. He needs to wait. It's Hillary's turn." Many of my acquaintances couldn't understand why I, a feminist, was supporting this "inexperienced" upstart and not falling in line behind Hillary Clinton. Well-it was just something I felt in my heart was the right thing to do. It was never an anti-Clinton thing for me-it was pro-Obama. Indeed, if Barack Obama had decided not to run, I would probably have been supporting Hillary Clinton.

Well, this was a long time in coming. A lot of grassroots people worked very hard-even in the face of the establishment who said this wasn't Obama's time. But it was Obama's time-no, it was our country's time for change.

PS: Musicians and artists overwhelmingly supported the Obama/Biden ticket. Here's why: