For the last week I had been working on my next blog post which was going to be about Sugar Free Allstars’ recent 10 day tour out West. That was… until I got home to Oklahoma and learned about OK House Bill 1895. This bill proposes to cut state funding to the Oklahoma Arts Council by 25% per year for four years, eliminating all funding by 2017. This is disturbing for numerous reasons. On the grand scale this is sending a message to the nation that the arts aren’t important in my home state. On his blog Representative Cockroft, who authored the bill, says:
“I have nothing against the arts, in fact; quite the contrary. However, I do not support the misuse of taxpayer’s dollars. Every dollar saved from these side projects is a dollar better spent for our education system, state employees, and agencies across Oklahoma.”
Needless to say it’s discouraging when one of your state’s legislators refers to the arts as a “side project”. In reality, studies have shown time and time again that this “side project” increases students’ intellect and test scores, has a positive impact on local economies, and culturally enriches communities, thereby attracting new businesses and families.
If the motivation behind this bill is purely fiscal responsibility, let’s talk numbers: the Oklahoma Arts Council only receives $4 million per year of the total state budget of $6.8 billion (that’s less than 1/10th of one percent!) and according to a 2010 study by Americans for the Arts, the arts in Oklahoma actually generated $29 million in tax revenue, a $25 million profit. I’m no financial expert, but I’m not sure it makes much business sense to cut a program that provides a 600% return on its investment.
On the smaller scale this bill would affect me, professionally and personally in my ability to provide for my family. The first family shows Sugar Free Allstars ever played were for programs funded in part by the Oklahoma Arts Council, so I feel confident in saying we would not be where we are today without them. More than half of the shows we play in our home state are subsidized by the council in countless libraries, schools and festivals – in many smaller Oklahoma communities it’s the only way kids and families are able to experience live music. If the arts council isn’t able to help fund these shows they just simply won’t happen, and for SFA that means fewer shows and less family income. It’s already a full time job finding shows to keep the band busy, and this would greatly reduce our options. SFA is honored to be included on the Oklahoma Arts Council’s touring roster, which allows schools to apply for a special grant to bring us to their town to play concerts and teach workshops about music theory and history. Many of these schools have already lost their arts programs and our visits are an effort to help fulfill their statemandated art education requirement. Without these grants from OAC, these rural communities wouldn’t be able to have us come visit, decreasing their exposure to the arts.
I’m a lifelong resident of Oklahoma, and I’ll be the first to admit that in the past we haven’t been viewed as the most forward-thinking or culturally-advanced place; but within the last 5 years or so our image has improved. There is a sense of upward momentum and civic pride coupled with support of all things local that is making me increasingly proud of living here. Then something like this comes along and reminds me that there are still people here and around the country that view the arts (one of the things at the very heart of our cultural renaissance) as expendable.The arts are around us everyday, in virtually every aspect of our lives, and yet they are almost always the first thing on the chopping block when it comes to balancing the budget. The next Oklahoma legislative session begins on February 4th, so it looks like I’ll be contacting my legislator this week to express opposition to this bill. I am encouraged to see the outpouring of support for the Oklahoma Arts Council from the community and hopeful that HB 1895 won’t make it past committee.
Sometimes you have to fight for what you believe in from Behind the B3…..
If you had to go away for awhile and you could only take five of your favorite albums with you, which ones would you choose? Yes, we know it isn’t a fair question, but that hasn’t stopped us from asking music fans who happen to be recording artists in their own right. This edition of Desert Island Discs comes courtesy of Sugar Free Allstars, whose latest LP, All on a Saturday Afternoon, arrives June 12. You can preview the first video from the album below — after reading their Desert Island picks, of course!
Dr. Rock’s Picks:
Brian Wilson Presents Smile
I love this nearly lost classic album. It’s three sides on vinyl of playful, intense, and amazing songwriting. I find it very engaging and love the complex harmonies and rhythms that tell a great story all the way through. Sounds like the best Beach Boys you ever heard.
Led Zeppelin, Houses of the Holy
It’s Zeppelin — what can I say? I could probably pick any of their albums as I find them all equally good, but for a serious hi-fi rock out, this is the one for me. These are the albums we all learned from, and the musicianship is out of this world all the way around. It always feels to me this record was made at a peak of songwriting and recording technique for the band. Doesn’t disappoint to this day.
Devo, New Traditionalist
It’s no secret how huge of a Devo fan I am, and this is one of many of their albums I could pick. This was the first of their highly synthesized albums which continue to this day. The songs are flat out anthems to me and I will keep singing them long after the record is over. Super catchy if not maybe a bit dark without realizing it. And really the only other thing I have to say is: synthesizer explosions.
The Beatles, Abbey Road
I have always always always loved the Beatles (did I mention always?). When I was in fifth grade I saved up my money so I could buy the 1962-1966 compilation on cassette and pretty much wore it out, following it up with the 1967-1970 compilation. Then I found Abbey Road on vinyl (in terrible shape) at a garage sale and couldn’t get enough of it. I especially loved (and still love) the way they merged so many song snippets together to form one long song on side two. This album also has one of Ringo’s greatest compositions, “Octopus’ Garden.”
Dr. John, Gumbo
This is the album that really got me into New Orleans music. Before I heard it the main styles of NOLA music I was familiar with were Zydeco, Jazz and Dixieland, but this record really opened me up to the city’s Rhythm and Blues and Second Line Street Parade sounds that have become a huge influence on my writing and our musical style as a band. And on top of that, we’re huge Dr. John fans!
Little Richard’s Greatest Songs
There are several reasons I like this 10 song greatest hits compilation. First of all, it’s Little Richard, one of the true pioneers of rock and roll. He was/is such a great singer and piano player with a personality that is, to put it mildly, over the top. Secondly, I love every song on the album and feel it should be required listening for anyone wanting to be a musician (it has one of my favorite songs ever, a not-quite-as-overplayed tune called “Lucille” that gets me excited no matter how many times I’ve heard it). And finally, it influenced us to only put 10 songs on our albums. I ALWAYS listen to all the songs on this album, and usually will start it over again. “Leave ’em wanting more…”
Today’s youth are in desperate need of a family-friendly funk infusion, and just in time, here comes the leadoff single from Sugar Free Allstars’ upcoming album All on a Sunday Afternoon. Featuring the duo’s trademark drum kit kick with Hammond special sauce, “Sunday Afternoon” makes extra room for the additional song stylings of Trout Fishing in America’s Keith Grimwood and Ezra Idlet. Check it out below, and visit the band’s site to get more information on the new album, due June 12: