Sunday, January 29, 2012

On Stage with an Air Force Band

Last night, we went to the ArtsPark in downtown Hollywood, Florida, about a mile from where we live.  The park once was Young Circle Park, a simple place in the middle of a traffic circle, a park with several pathways across the circle and huge, beautiful trees.

About 7 or so years ago, the ArtsPark was created in the space.  I mourned the loss of the trees, but I had to admit that the resulting park is a thing of beauty.  And last night's concert reminded me again of what a great resource it is, as did the Band of the Air Force Reserve who played there.

It was supposed to be what would be a summer evening outing elsewhere, people gathered on the lawn under the sky to hear a military band.  But it started to rain about 3 songs after the start of the concert.

Lots of people came to the space at the front of the stage, and when it started to rain much harder, the band leader invited us all to come up on the spacious stage.  He said, "And if you've ever played one of the instruments that we're playing, feel free to come up and stand beside us."  What an amazing act of generosity.

I watched children awash in wonder at getting to see a concert from closer than the front row.  I watched one child spend song after after song doing her own conducting--and then sticking her fingers up her nose.  I felt the music reverberating through my body in a marvelous way.

In this age when most of us make music by playing a recording of someone else playing, I had hopes that the love of an instrument might be kindled in some of the children.  In an age where we don't want to pay for art, or anything else, with our taxes, I had hopes that we'd come away from a concert with a commitment to art, whether it be the art of park design and the programming that it offers, or the art that military bands create, or any other art form.

I understand that a major part of why the armed forces support these bands and send them on the road is to be ambassadors for the armed forces, to build good will and support.  Last night's experience certainly did that.

It made me wonder how those of us who are practicing artists could similarly be ambassadors for the world of our art forms.  I also wonder how we could interact with younger generations to make sure that our art forms don't die.

It used to be easier to do that.  Now, in my part of the world, to visit a school requires all sorts of background checks, some of them expensive.

But I am probably thinking too small.  There are other ways to interact with the young, after all.  And even if I serve as an ambassador to older people, that work can filter down to other generations.

But maybe I'm making it sound too much like work.  One of the advantages to watching a concert on the stage was to see the joys on the faces of the band members.  I sometimes forget that making art is supposed to be fun and enrich our lives.  Sometimes, I let my art making drop into the realms of drudgery and obligation.

Today, I'm going to do some art making, just for the fun of it.  Maybe I'll doodle with markers.  Maybe I'll assemble the collage with the pictures that I cut out last week.  Maybe I'll write a poem.  Maybe I'll cook a pot of soup for the week.  If it's useful, does that count as fun?  I say yes!

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