Here in Arkansas, every once in a very small while, I hear a shade of contempt in the polite “oh, really?” response I get when I say I’m from the East Coast. Inevitably its followed by a huge Southern smile and a heap of genuine (or a good imitation of it) curiosity about how I found my way to the middle of the country. And immediately following that, a very sincere “so, you like it here, don’t you?”
After assuring my companions that I do, indeed, like it here, we are off into some other small talk and this little exchange is left behind. But as a transplanted Yankee who also happened to grow up in a very small New Hampshire town, I don’t begrudge them their suspicion of my homeland. I find it awesome that people here actually care if I like their town. Because as much as I might complain about the lack of oceans and Red Sox fans, it’s a great town, full of great people. There are hundreds of small towns around this country that are also great towns, full of great people. That’s why this little gem from an LA Times blog made me steam earlier today. It’s a story about Gustavo Dudamel, the new music director for the LA Philharmonic, who just last night conducted the Vienna Philharmonic in a town of 18,000 in Kentucky.
The title of the entry is “Gustavo Dudamel and Vienna Philharmonic go to a small town in Kentucky. But why?”
Why?! As several comments pointed out, “why not?!” Is there something about Kentuckians that make them unworthy of great symphonic music? To give the blogger her due, she did explain that this little town in Kentucky has a pretty impressive history of presenting “known” artists (kind of like a PAC in Arkansas that I happen to know of). But then she began her final paragraph with this:
“The nagging question about this was always: Why? Surely students can just watch the DVD like everyone else in small-town America.”
I have to admit that when I read this, my jaw nearly hit the floor. I don’t like being reactionary, and I want to think that this blogger was just trying to make a point about the remarkable nature of this concert. But, the contempt and dismissal of millions of people in that one little sentence was enough to make me immediately forward the article to a half dozen people to share my outrage (oooh, scary, I know! Beware the email forward!). To imply that I don’t have as much right as anyone else in this world to experience world-class art is not only elitist, it’s downright silly. I had to come to Arkansas to ever have a chance to meet Yo-Yo Ma or see the Blue Man Group live from the 10th row. Our little corner of the world is doing its damnedest to bring the arts to every child in our community, and we’re doing it without millions of people in our MSA.
I know many who live on the Coasts or in large “cultured” cities think such thoughts, but I figured they were generally too PC or polite to say them aloud in quite so blatant a manner. In that, I guess, I should commend this blogger. At least she didn’t try to hide her bias. But then again, I’m live in Arkansas. I doubt my opinion is worth much to her. I think I’m goin’ to go git some cultcha an’ watch me a DVD. Maybe I’ll watch one about Joshua Bell. Since he’d never come here to Arkansas, right?