Last night Ryan and I attended the Catalina Ball out on Catalina Island. We were fortunate to attend a reception on Mt. Ida at the Wrigley Mansion, and then the ball itself held in the famed Catalina Casino. The events were beautiful and we had a wonderful time. The ball is an annual event held by the Catalina Nature Conservancy to raise money to support their preservation work around the island.
The highlight of the evening came about halfway through the program. Music began playing and two young black men entered playing violins. If you ever watched season three of America's Got Talent you may have recognized the young gentlemen as Tourie and Damien Escobar. These two violinist were born in Jamaica, found music at the ages of seven and eight and used this art to avoid the trouble in the streets surrounding their childhoods that befell many of their peers. They later studied music at Julliard and then remained in New York trying to catch a break. Ultimately they did just that and last night I was fortunate enough to see them perform live. As they played in one of the largest ballrooms in the country, to an audience whose median age was probably around sixty five, there was an amazing amount of enthusiasm. The audience joined them on the ballroom floor and clapped and danced along with this violin meets hip hop performance. If you have never heard or seen the group it is worth a minute to check them out. Their website is www.nuttinbutstringz.com.
This performance made me again realize the importance of arts education for our children. What an amazing journey these two young men have had, and their success has come playing instruments that are often not associated with young men of color growing up in rough neighborhoods. In their case, music took them to a place that was unlikely for them without it. As budget talks continue I wish that the people making the hard decisions would take a look at the story of the Escobar brothers. In their case music was a way out and a way up. We have many children living in the inner city looking for the same type of escape and as we continue to cut funding for our schools there are less opportunities for many children to learn the skills that may just be their one big chance.