Pavarotti singing Schubert’s Ave Maria.
As a kid, growing up in West Virginia in the 70s, my introduction to opera came with a Pavarotti performance at the Met that was broadcast on our local PBS station. I was not very old — maybe five? — the opera was a Pucchini (Perhaps Tosca? I’m not certain but that seems right), and I remember sitting transfixed at the beauty of the music and the soaring voice coming out of that big bear of a man on the stage.
Public television and radio have been a big part of my cultural education. We didn’t have a lot of access to live performances outside of local high school bands and the occasional traveling symphony company that might perform somewhere within driving distance. But through the magic of television and radio, I could sit in our home and hear the arias and watch the performances on the world’s great stages.
And I did, soaking it in every chance I got. Still do.
Exposure to music and the arts is vital to rounding out a child’s education. To be able to get that exposure for free on the public airways has been such an amazing gift in my lifetime, and one that a lot of other kids in my little neighborhood growing up got as well. And now, as you can see from the video above, anyone with computer access can listen to Pavarotti’s best performances on demand. Amazing.
But not everyone has computer access. And with family budgets tightening up everywhere, public arts outlets need help from folks who can afford to donate when they can. Here in WV, we have a long tradition of supporting folk music roots with our weekly Mountain Stage performances on our own NPR affiliates — something that I listened to all through my childhood until now and still love. What a gift, not just to me, but to anyone who can simply turn on a radio and get a signal.
At a time when so much that is wrong with the world makes headlines, day in and day out, I wanted to pause for a moment to give thanks for something that is so right. Beauty that everyone can access, with a radio and a little listening, regardless of social standing or budgetary abilities.
And I wanted to pause in a moment of gratitude for the world of beauty that this one man opened up for a young girl from the sticks, sitting in the darkness in front of a glowing television screen, transported to a world so beautiful her heart still aches for more.