Listen... the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra is playing

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Owning another kind of podium

I found out something new about the Olympics last week: medals were once awarded in arts competitions alongside sports. ran a story recently about Canadian composer John Weinzweig, one of only two Canadians to receive a medal in the cultural portion of the Olympics. The arts categories were last seen in 1948 because, the article says, "most competing artists were professionals, while Olympic athletes were required to be amateurs." (Just like hockey players - oh wait...)

Local artists still continue to be a part of the Olympics, most demonstrably in the opening ceremonies, but also in what's often called the Cultural Olympiad - arts events taking place in and around the sporting venues during the games. So I'm not necessarily advocating that we revive the arts categories at the Olympics, but it did get me thinking about the "Own the Podium" program that Canadian sport organizations have had in place for athletes in an attempt to top the medal standings in 2010 (which sadly doesn't look like it will happen). Alongside investing in athletes, what if we had a concerted effort in place to make Canadian artists and cultural institutions truly world class?

I'd say that geography and cultural offerings are the primary drivers of tourism, so there are definite economic benefits of cultivating Canadian artists and institutions in this way. We've got the geographic features down, so let's complement them with arts offerings that are just as compelling for travelers from abroad!

Funding is crucial to developing institutions into cultural forces, and in encouraging and enabling individual creators. We also need a strong focus on arts education in schools to become an artistically rich nation. Of course, as we've seen in this province, arts funding is usually the last to receive an increase, and the first to be cut, so it will be an uphill battle. Perhaps that's fitting if we're going to compare ourselves to Olympic athletes...

By the way, we have our own "Tribute to the Games" this Thursday. And one piece that's NOT on the program is "I Believe", AKA, the music CTV has played every 17 seconds since February 12.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Another TED talk

Earlier I posted a TED talk by Benjamin Zander, and here's another one, this time from deaf percussionist Evelyn Glennie, one of the best percussionists in the world. I've seen her perform at the Winspear Centre, and she's incredible. In this video she talks about how "listening to music involves much more than simply letting sound waves hit your eardrums."

Just watch: