Thursday, April 30, 2009

We Need YOU!

Knox County Mayor Mike Ragsdale announced his proposed budget for 2010 on Tuesday. It's not pretty. Actually, it's downright ugly. This year the symphony received over $43,000 in county funds. Next year we are slated to receive just over $6000. (No. I didn't forget a zero. I wish the problem was that easy to fix.) Our friends at Knoxville Opera and the Knoxville Museum of Art are in worse straits: neither organization will get any funding from the county if Mayor Ragsdale's budget is approved.

Here's the thing: the funds that the symphony receives from the county don't fund our subscription performances. They don't pay for guest artists. They don't go into a general slush fund. The funds that the Knoxville Symphony receives from the county go right back into the community. They pay for things such as free community concerts, sending small ensembles into the schools to expose and teach children about music, bringing children to our Young People's Concerts, sending musicians into area hospitals as part of our award-winning music and wellness program, and our long-term side by side partnership with Austin East High School and other area public schools. These are all programs that directly benefit the community that will have to be severely restricted or even cut out all together without adequate funding from the county.

For the data-minded, here are some numbers. This year:

  • 200,000 people were reached through all of the Knoxville Symphony's activities.
  • 60,000 were reached through our community outreach and education programs.
  • 10,000 children in Knox County were reached through our Young People's Concerts.
  • 5,000 children in Knox County had a KSO musician visit their classroom.
  • 1,000 preschool children in Knox County were exposed to classical music through the KSO's story time program.
  • 2,000 patients at UT hospital took part in the KSO's music and wellness program.

I love to perform, true, but in my opinion the most important work we do as musicians is community outreach. Music is for everyone, not just people who understand Webern or who can afford the best seats in the house. The idea that lack of funding could turn some of these numbers into big fat zeros is absolutely unacceptable.

The budget has not yet been approved by the board, so it's not too late. The board will meet on Monday and will vote on the budget in the next few weeks. If you are a Knox County resident, I urge you to write to your elected officials. Tell them you expect them to support the arts in our community. A trickle of dissent won't change anything. We each need to take responsibility to let the commission know how we feel. Only then can we hope to restore county funding to the arts.

To email Mayor Ragsdale, click here.

For a list of commissioners, districts, and email links, click here.

To email the Knox County Commission, click here.

I thank you in advance for your support.

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