Apropos of my recent exchange with Felix Salmon, my sister-in-law writes from three blocks away in Smalltown, U.S.A.:
You may assure your readers and Mr. Salmon that culture can be found in venues other than a radio broadcast from the Met that the midwestern Smalltown USA did not even know existed. SEMO [southeast Missouri] offers violin, piano, etc lessons to young children, (my nephew, age 4, takes violin lessons) The professor plays some classical music and has the children name the piece. Your own niece enjoys a variety of music without having been exposed to a radio broadcast. We sought out different events for her to see if she enjoyed them. SEMO also offers opportunities to listen to small classical and jazz concerts and see plays (even if they are only performed by students) and also brings various ballets in to perform at the Show Me Center [a local auditorium] from time to time. The Fox Theatre in St. Louis is 2 hours from us and offers a variety of cultural and general entertainment. We have played various radio stations that were never before accessible to us by using our computer. The cost is not as prohibitive as some like to believe – I worked ours into a cable package upgrade. It is only a matter of what it is worth to the individual user. I have even looked into the satellite radio receiver for your brother which would certainly be better quality than our computer speakers, but find that the expense is not worth it to us at this time.
I am sorry this is so long, but it irritates me that someone would imply that you are a snob and feel only that the affluent deserve opera (especially since your brother and I are neither affluent or elite).
My sister didn’t mention the St. Louis Symphony, Art Museum, and Opera Theater, which are also two hours away, or Smalltown’s own Little Theater, which has been active for something like a half-century–I performed in it when I was a teenager. Otherwise, I’d say she sums up cultural possibilities in Smalltown, U.S.A., pretty thoroughly.
Incidentally, my week with a dial-up connection has convinced me that the future of broadband is now, not because it’s anywhere near universal but because so many Web sites (including a number of bloggers in the right-hand column) have lately become all but impossible to use without it. I was a very late adopter–I actually launched “About Last Night” using dial-up, unlikely as it may sound–and it was only through a cable package that I made the big leap. I suspect that’s how most as-yet-unbroadbanded people will do the same thing.