Comments upon receipt of the John C. Argue Dickens Medal of Honor
December 10, 2010, USC Thornton School of Music Dickens Dinner, Los Angeles Biltmore Hotel
© David Bohnett, December, 2010. Not to be reproduced without permission
Thank you, Ron, for that gracious introduction...... Your leadership on the Board of the LA Phil is much appreciated and we are so grateful that you and Val are part of the LA Phil family. Congratulations to my fellow honorees Maestro Conlon and John Herklotz, it's an honor to share the stage with you both this evening. My dear partner, Tom Gregory, is here tonight, and a special acknowledgment to Deborah Borda and the senior staff of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, it's my great privilege to work alongside the best management team in the cultural arts in America.
I brought a prop up here with me tonight, it's a shirt with a quote from Gustavo Dudamel on it that says, 'Music is a fundamental right'. And Gustavo is right. When he talks about our music education efforts and his own background in El Sistema in Venezuela, he never fails to emphasize the point that playing in an orchestra is more than about learning to play an instrument, it's about learning how to be a contributing member of a community, and making music requires discipline and teamwork in the same way that success in life requires the same skills.
When we talk about music as a fundamental right, I think what Gustavo is really saying is that either playing or listening to the music of one's choice is akin to freedom of speech or expression, music is fundamental to our soul and taps into the innermost depths of our being.
This was made apparent to me most recently and poignantly when I visited my 87 year old mother, who has receeded into the depths of dementia to a place where the names and recognition of her children is a past memory and her life fast approaches the midnight hour. The one thing that can reach my mother through the wet and heavy blankets of mental and physical infirmity is live music, the look of joy and awareness on her otherwise unresponsive face that comes from listening to a live musical performance is a gift for the soul and as much evidence as anyone needs to know that music touches the core of our being.
We are all here tonight because we know what Gustavo says to be true, that music is a fundamental right. My work to support the cultural arts is an extension of my passion for social justice and my commitment to help build a culture and community that provides nurture and support for all segments of our diverse society.
I think in order for any of us to truly enjoy the full beauty and transformative power of music we must dedicate ourselves to ensure that all our fellow members of society have the same opportunity and access to music that we have. It's our responsibility as privileged members of our community to dream, and to dream big, and put our minds and our hearts and our financial resources to help support the music education and outreach programs in our educational and cultural arts institutions that serve the less fortunate among us.
Just as the performance of live music touches down in the depths of my Mother's nearly unreachable conscious, musical performances and education can reach down through the depths of poverty and lift up whole segments of our population with hope toward a brighter tomorrow. We know it works, Gustavo is a product of such a music education system, and there are thousands of kids and their families in Los Angeles right now that are benefiting from our efforts. Thank you to USC and the Thornton School of Music for your contribution to our community.
As a fellow Trojan, and proud citizen of Los Angeles, I accept this award with great appreciation and a renewed commitment to service and the promotion of music and the cultural arts. Thank you very much.