Musicians and Artists Are Essential Workers Too
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Before the brutal and racist murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery exploded into mass protest and resistance, we were merely in the midst of the Covid crisis (illness and skyrocketing job loss.) It seems like another lifetime.

We watched growing Covid casualties with horror but also inspired by the outpouring of support for front-line workers — the nurses, doctors and hospital staff, public and private sector workers who are keeping us fed, delivering the mail, and teachers using technology to stay connected to students.

We were learning (or relearning) that health, education, communication, transportation, food, water, shelter, and more are basic public goods we all need all the time. They shouldn’t be privatized commodities available only to those who can afford them. These are life’s essentials that we can only do for all if we do it together.

We must deal with both crises at the same time. We have to foreground and confront the deep history and impact of structural and cultural racism. We also have to remember that there are millions of essential workers, putting their lives and families in jeopardy while waging a war against the pandemic and keeping America moving.

There’s an even deeper lesson about what’s important. After several months in isolation we hunger to reconnect with our friends, our families, our communities. We’ve seen in sharp relief that the community we need is the community of all of us — bereft of racism, hatred, and oppression and full of understanding, empathy and connection.

It turns out that community is a vital public good that provides the glue that makes possible our common purpose.

If that’s true (it is) then we have to acknowledge that musicians, (and artists, writers, filmmakers, dancers, etc.) and the workers who support them are also essential workers. Our health and hatred crises have exposed a fundamental truth: We need art and music, and we need to experience it together. As Rosanne Cash says, music is “the premier service industry for the heart and soul. We cannot survive without music. It is the language everyone understands in this dangerous and divisive time.”

The economic impact on the music industry is profound. Thousands of its workers are watching their livelihoods evaporate, their tours canceled, their venues closed (some permanently) and their connection with fans changing by the day. There's even more at stake. Music, like all art, is essential for our health, for community solidarity, for education, for understanding of our common history (both the pain it unveils and the progress achieved), for creating connections and fostering empathy. It’s essential for life, society and democracy to flourish and therefore needs to be available to all. As Louis Armstrong said, “Music is life itself.”
We can’t eat art, but it feeds us.
Art is the glue that ties us together.
Art is what makes us feel real.
Art is not an excessive luxury.

- Rhiannon Giddens, Amanda Palmer, Neil Gaiman

Music as community
The pandemic has obliterated the concert experiences we share. Online shows aren’t the same, but powerfully demonstrate our need for connection. For example, 2.5 million people watched Andrea Bocelli livestreamed on Easter morning from the Duomo of Milan, Italy. We watched together, across every barrier we construct — geography, language and culture.

There’s an even more fundamental way that music creates communities of common purpose.The currency of democracy and a functioning society is trust. We simply can’t tackle the big things unless we tackle them together. And we can’t do it together if we don’t trust each other. We can’t trust each other if we are unable to see the world through the eyes and experiences of others.

Read the full article on Medium here
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