Defending the arts

As I read last week’s article on the varsity athletes’ new weight room, I found myself flashing back to high school. At Our Lady of Mercy in Rochester, N.Y., the arts were considered unworthy, left to dwindle away as the sports teams received all the glory.

It didn’t seem to matter, for example, that the choirs, orchestra and band placed highly in their categories at local competitions.

As soon as one of the sports teams won a victory, the trophies that our ensembles had worked so hard to attain were moved to a cabinet that barely saw the light of day.

I do not wish to be misunderstood here – by no means are sports an unacceptable activity, nor should the hard work and dedication of our athletes be disputed in any way.

This is simply an argument for a reevaluation of priorities.

I have participated in and appreciated the arts all my life.

But I also competed in sports such as track and field throughout high school. I have seen both sides of this argument and have enough experience to speak with authority.

The arts, in my experience, have been seriously underestimated, misjudged and underfunded.

Sports are undeniably a test of physical strength and mental tenacity. They require hard work and dedication if an athlete wishes to be successful. What seems to be miscounted is the artist’s similar requirement of perseverance and devotion to be prosperous.

For example, my roommate, a violin performance major, wakes up at 5 a.m. every morning in order to be in the practice rooms by 6 a.m.

At minimum, she practices seven hours a day, in addition to classes and outside performances required by the music department. During my freshman year, I knew students who would sleep under the piano in their practice room in order to attain the desired amount of rehearsal.

These students are taking between 13 and 16 credits a term, combining both music and college graduation requirements. Outside of academics, they devote hours to practice, attend recitals and performances and perform at least once a term.

After graduation, the struggle becomes harder as students apply to prestigious graduate schools or search for jobs in the field they’ve worked so hard for.

Mercyhurst represents a smaller picture of the larger trend, where sports take the glory and money, and the arts are pushed aside.

And yet these students are working just as hard as athletes. Music takes an incredible amount of personal strength and physical training in order to attain even satisfactory results, much like sports.

Still, most people think music is only about opening your mouth or pulling a bow across a string.

I urge a sincere examination of traditional policy – the building of this new training facility is only the tip of the iceberg.

Give our artists and athletes equal credit to help them achieve their goals, be this with attention, understanding or support.

Everyone involved would greatly appreciate it.