A benefit concert was held last night at Memorial Auditorium on the Stanford University campus to raise awareness about deep cuts in funding for the arts. The concert featured student musicians and performers from the Stanford music, theater, and dance departments who volunteered their time and talents for the event.
The concert comes on the heels of recent budget cuts at both the state and federal levels that have severely impacted arts organizations and educational programs. Just last month, the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) had its budget slashed by nearly 20%, forcing the organization to reduce grant funding across the country.
“These cuts have been devastating for the arts community,” said Sarah Wilson, a senior at Stanford majoring in music performance. “So many educational programs and arts organizations rely on federal and state funding to survive. We wanted to use this concert to send the message that the arts should not be considered expendable.”
The program featured a range of musical genres from classical to jazz to modern compositions. Students played renditions of famous works by Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven as well as innovative new pieces written by student composers. Several dance performances were also incorporated into the concert, highlighting the interconnected nature of the arts.
“The arts have so much to offer in cultivating creativity, building community, and enhancing emotional well-being,” said Michelle Lee, a junior majoring in dance at Stanford. “Study after study has demonstrated the benefits of arts education for students of all ages. We need to impress upon our legislators that funding for the arts should be a priority, not an afterthought.”
In addition to performances, the concert included speeches from arts faculty and administrators about the vital role of the arts. David Lambert, chair of the music department, spoke passionately about how budget cuts have forced the department to reduce course offerings and cancel guest artist residencies.
“It’s been painful seeing opportunities for our students shrink as resources dwindle,” Lambert told the audience. “We’ve had to get very creative to continue delivering a high caliber arts education with limited funding. But there’s only so much that creativity alone can achieve without adequate financial support.”
To raise additional funds, the concert concluded with a silent auction featuring donated works of art by Stanford students and faculty. All proceeds from ticket sales and the silent auction will go to supporting arts programming at Stanford.
While the concert organizers know that one event alone will not reverse the arts funding crisis, they hope it will ignite meaningful conversations and prompt more advocacy.
“We want to activate and empower students to get involved,” Wilson said. “If we make enough noise, we can make our representatives see support for the arts as a political necessity, not an optional bonus. There’s too much at stake for students, artists, and communities to stay silent.”
The concert marked an ambitious first step in what organizers envision as an ongoing effort to resist cuts to arts funding. They plan to launch a student-led letter writing campaign to legislators and create a network for student arts advocates across campuses.
“Last night made me feel hopeful,” Lee said after the successful event. “Seeing so many students unite around this cause showed me that we can change the tide. When young people make their voices heard, politicians listen.”