Individually they are beautiful.
Brightly colored and tightly strung, each of the ukuleles that now call Tara Scheyer’s classroom at Episcopal Day School home seem like a perfect tool for engaging young students. Their tone is appealing, the size and scale perfect for the small hands of young players and, as far as instruments go, it’s not much of a journey from absolute novice to rousing renditions of simple tunes.
But the appeal of these instruments is much more than musical and represents much more than the opportunity to introduce young students to the pleasure of making music.
Each of these instruments – and the new piano that sits beside them – represents that abstract idea that remains foundational to the supporting, teaching and, ultimately enjoying the arts.
They represent commitment.
You see, these instruments didn’t just appear in Scheyer’s classroom, nor were they paid for by student tuition. They have become part of the EDS curriculum because parents cared about arts education and a local business owner was inspired by their commitment.
The ukuleles, you see, were purchased, in part, by the EDS Association. It’s membership, comprised of student parents, staff and alumni, clearly understood that music education offers much more than the ability to bust out an aloha version of Merrily We Roll Along.
Jonathon Karow, the owner of Rock Bottom Music & Sound Super Store, not only sourced and delivered the ukuleles, but also kicked in 50 percent of the purchase price. He wasn’t looking at his (rock) bottom line, but rather the broader dividends of his investment.
I found this story which, in the grand scheme of things, is relatively minor, particularly enticing because it encapsulates an important idea and ideal that often goes ignored when we are talking about the arts – philanthropy.
So many, and I, include myself in this number, often get so caught up in the idea of what the arts offers us – enrichment, entertainment, a cultural mirror – that we forget that there is an unwritten agreement that exists between art and patron. Just as art is responsible for the aforementioned enrichment, entertainment and cultural reflection, the patron is responsible for ensuring that art remains vibrant and healthy for the next generation. That’s the agreement.
So whether it is buying ukuleles and a baby grand, supporting events such as the recently wrapped Westobou and Arts in the Heart festivals, or merely offering support, financial or otherwise, to anyone interested in the arts, it’s a two-way street.
That’s the agreement.