Arts Issues for Journalists: October 2008 Archives
Jennifer asked if I were going to post this to Flyover. I’m still not sure, so I’ll let you tell me if this was the right thing to do. From the Charleston City Paper:
Dear Charleston Arts Community,
You know me, don’t you? I’ve been the arts editor for nearly a year. You know my tastes, my writing style. You know my voice — one that’s for the arts, one that’s of the arts in Charleston.
A voice that’s lately appeared, some of you have said, to be overly critical, dismissive, superior, and a bit snobbish.
Maybe you’re right. I don’t deny it.
When it comes to tone of voice, sensibility, and other subjective matters, there is no accounting. Who am I to say you’re wrong?
I hope, however, you believe me when I say my intentions are good.
Some are surprised after getting to know me. How I grew up in a county with more cows than people. How my dad is a truck driver, my mom an old-fashioned homemaker. How they are severe, practical, stoic, and good.
We were death-oriented. Life was about saving one’s soul. Good and evil, heaven and hell — these were literal. The root of this knowledge was thrust deep. No will but God’s will.
We accepted this. Sometimes violently.
Not much was expected of me. A good and a bad thing. My first job was as a farm hand. I was 13. Baling hay, whitewashing, picking vegetables. A friend, who grew up nearby, calls it a Huck Finn existence. That’s about right.
In high school, I was encouraged to take vocational classes. That my dad drove a truck for a living was reason enough for me to take up a trade, like carpentry or automobile mechanics. Never mind that I wasn’t good with my hands. My parents believed my teachers had my best interest at heart. I’m sure they were right.
Music was a means to an end. I began playing trumpet at 9. I had ability, even talent. Nothing like a gift.
Teachers encouraged me to teach music. That’s what you did. Study education to be a teacher; study plumbing to be a plumber. If you study history, what are you? I didn’t know. Nobody knew.
I played classical trumpet in college, but eventually fell in love with jazz, in love with the promise of performance, of making that feeling the center of my life.
It was a moment, an epiphany, really, that I believe all aspiring artists have at some point — that moment when you get a glimpse at what could be after so much time accepting what can’t be.
There was more at stake in succeeding than ego.
Music, as I said, was a means. A means of escape. Not just from my childhood and the darkness there. Failure meant confirming what I suspected all along — that I had nothing to offer, that I didn’t belong where I wanted to be. I had to succeed to be normal. Otherwise, just give up. Go back to farm country, take up a trade.
I had my parents’ fear and self-loathing. But I also had my mother’s strength and my father’s courage. So I tried, despite myself. I tried for a long time. A long, long time. I wanted it so badly. I was willing to do anything. Eventually, I walked away.
It was my choice to abandon music. Nobody made me. I won’t go into the details, except to say my dream was in reality a quest to understand myself. It was hard. It was painful. I’m not sure it’s over. But I’ve moved on.
I’ve earned three degrees in music, literature, and writing. I’ve become a cultural critic. I’ve won a couple of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts. I write about arts, culture, and ideas in a cosmopolitan city I like a lot. I’m really very happy.
I’ll not soon forget how close I came to allowing my passion to overshadow the truth about myself. I never stabbed my eyes with pins, fortunately, but I know how painful self-knowledge can be.
I know it can hurt. I know it can heal, too.
I run the risk of more criticism by letting you know more about me and about my lost love. I’m now vulnerable for writing so personally, which I’ve never done before. Some will take a stab at a Freudian analysis: that I’m a wannabe artist compensating by being overly critical, dismissive, superior, and a bit snobbish.
That’s wrong, but I can’t stop you from thinking it.
I can hope, however, that you know how tough love can be.
AJ BlogsAJBlogCentral | rss
Terry Teachout on the arts in New York City
Andrew Taylor on the business of arts & culture
rock culture approximately
Laura Collins-Hughes on arts, culture and coverage
Richard Kessler on arts education
Douglas McLennan's blog
Dalouge Smith advocates for the Arts
Art from the American Outback
For immediate release: the arts are marketable
No genre is the new genre
David Jays on theatre and dance
Paul Levy measures the Angles
Judith H. Dobrzynski on Culture
John Rockwell on the arts
Jan Herman - arts, media & culture with 'tude
Apollinaire Scherr talks about dance
Tobi Tobias on dance et al...
Howard Mandel's freelance Urban Improvisation
Focus on New Orleans. Jazz and Other Sounds
Doug Ramsey on Jazz and other matters...
Jeff Weinstein's Cultural Mixology
Martha Bayles on Film...
Fresh ideas on building arts communities
Greg Sandow performs a book-in-progress
Exploring Orchestras w/ Henry Fogel
Harvey Sachs on music, and various digressions
Bruce Brubaker on all things Piano
Kyle Gann on music after the fact
Greg Sandow on the future of Classical Music
Norman Lebrecht on Shifting Sound Worlds
Jerome Weeks on Books
Scott McLemee on books, ideas & trash-culture ephemera
Wendy Rosenfield: covering drama, onstage and off
Chloe Veltman on how culture will save the world
Public Art, Public Space
Regina Hackett takes her Art To Go
John Perreault's art diary
Lee Rosenbaum's Cultural Commentary
Tyler Green's modern & contemporary art blog