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Smithsonian curator defends arts as essential to democracy

In his letter to the editor, Eli Newberger writes: “John Hasse gave a daring, arching, and comprehensive examination of the salutary and urgently-needed contributions of the creative arts to our personal and social worlds.”

To the Editor:

Chosen as this year’s Herb Alpert scholarly honoree at Berklee College of Music, my friend, John Hasse, the distinguished and long-serving curator, educator, and presenter of jazz and American music at the Smithsonian Institution, gave more than the two inspiring presentations that I attended:

Last evening, when, supported by a fabulous cast of Berklee faculty and student singers and instrumentalists, he chaired an informative, and toe-tapping lecture-concert on the legacies of Ella Fitzgerald and John “Dizzy” Gillespie.

This afternoon, when he gave a daring, arching, and comprehensive examination of the salutary and urgently-needed contributions of the creative arts to our personal and social worlds, drawing from contemporary brain science, developmental psychology, the personal and social bedrocks of a civil society, the history and folly of war, the American civil rights movement, studies that document the yield of arts exposures to schools, the workplace, and the economy, and most engagingly, the compelling life stories of his most revered paragons of inspiration.

This was as convincing an argument as I’ve heard to preserve national arts funding, the more so because of John’s emphasizing the positive and avoiding both didacticism and politics.
Bravo and thank you!

Eli Newberger

Lenox

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