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I find the present climate toward the arts in both the state and federal governments extremely distressing.

One of the major reasons I was able to pursue a career as a professional musician was because of help and programs designed to encourage and develop my talents -- sponsored by local, state and federal governments -- when I was growing up.

I realize we are in financial trouble in all aspects of government, but to decrease or eliminate programs like the National Endowment for the Arts -- the program that supports public broadcasting and the school music program -- is a crime and a gross injustice to the creative, artistic and intellectual soul of our great nation.

Also, the development of the concept that private industry can replace this support will lead us down a path where the opinions of the few will dictate the growth of our collective intellect as a nation and seriously deter the advancement of our independent spirit.

I travel all over the country playing concerts and performing clinics and workshops with grammar-school, high-school and college-level students. When I see the joy and enthusiasm they exhibit through performance and the dedication and diligence they possess, it's truly inspiring.

These children are not doing drugs and generally are doing well in school. They admire their teachers and have overwhelming support from family members and their peers. What better programs could anyone want to help fight crime, drugs and the degradation of spirit and morality than these?


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