For those of you who raised children, perhaps you remember those first moments breathing the same air? It was hard to find enough oxygen perhaps because your heart had grown so large as to overtake all space in the room. That was my experience at least, and it can return at unexpected moments.

I had the extreme honor last night of hearing a middle school “pops” concert where many, many hundreds of children laid bare for twice as many proud guardians, the fruits of their past ten weeks’ worth of hard labor.

Performances like this make me proud of my own child in unutterable measure. But beyond that, the level of accomplishment of so many is marvelous beyond words. These ensembles sound amazing and the musician-teachers who coach them to this place are beyond-amazing. I know that the outsized pride I myself feel, is just a small measure of what these children are feeling for themselves, of themselves. How can there be any accomplishment more worthy than that, to give to a child the means to know his/er own worth? The means to hear their own worth. The means to work together with others, and to immediately feel and know that worth as a shared community, together.

Music is unique in its gifts to the group, to the individual performer and listener, to one and all. Its immediacy, its incomparable ability to bypass reason and speak straight to the soul – these are some of its unique components. Music is a world unto itself.

And our children of Los Angeles used to belong to a community that afforded its members this opportunity to one and all.

I am afraid this is not the case any longer. With the education budget cuts of these past few years, many schools have seen their music programs decimated, their music teachers “RIF’d” (a euphemism for ‘laid off’) or transferred away and their children without recourse to learn this unique language. It is a tragedy of enormous consequence, for individual students not fortunate to have been born to parents with the means to purchase this experience extracurricularly, but as well for the future of our whole society.

This is the proverbial bed we make in which we must lie, this will be the reapings of what we sow. For if we do not choose to fund a rich education for our children, inclusive of arts and culture and books and good health; all the vast myriad elements of civilization above and beyond the mere generating and exchange of revenue – if we do not make a place in the education of our children for all these “extras” above and beyond mere basic existence, we will none of us be living in a society that enables existence above and beyond mere basics.

If this is not a value we choose to afford for the future, we will none of us experience hearing those children perform together with such pride and excellence. That experience is, in my opinion, just about as good as life can ever get. Enabling its funding within a wealthy, elite educational system exclusively, begs the question of what we wish our democratic society to look like.

Why would we chose to deprive our society of the education afforded those in private schools? Why would we accede to defund the arts in our schools – not to fund it in some Machiavellian “integrated”, watered-down and disingenuously revamped-out-of-existence way. But fund it head-on instead, with teachers to teach music; with instrument makers to repair broken instruments, with facilities that are large enough to house ensembles and clean enough for wind players to perform and artists to produce without inhaling asthma-inducing filth — with heart enough to let in the beauty that mitigates the meanness among our society, a meanness that is reflective of nothing more than what we opt to afford.

We don’t have to do this. There’s plenty of money to fund modest salaries for actual teachers and defund profligate programs and salaries for the white collar workers who champion them. Wake up and hear the mellifluous strains, Angelenos! Agitate for the way you want your schools to look, sound, smell and operate. Speak up and speak out about public education. It is the future of us all.