I am working to ensure that the notes are so ingrained in my muscle memory that I can focus on the feelings of the piece. … I think my greatest strength as a musician and performer is my stage presence. In addition to having a lot of experience with performing violin and piano, dancing has definitely helped me be bold yet remain level headed in stressful situations.”

 — Henry Schwab Violin and Viola Competition contestant Joanne Ma, “Take a bow,” music story

With over $11 million newly invested in the Ventura College music department, enabling students to pursue their love of playing music, the possibilities and impacts are practically endless.

It’s not just what the students will learn and explore at the college that matters, but how enabling them to pursue their musical inclinations and aspirations will help shape the world and people around them wherever they go indefinitely.

As Joanne Ma pointed out, however, fine tuning a skill, her craft of playing the violin, also enables her to further express her true creative genius, her exploration of all things related to her craft and then some. And that is a beautiful thing, especially given she admits that, in this case, “dancing” helps her keep level headed instead of stressed. Imagine what being truly expressive could do for so many.

While the practice of the arts may not often yield literal cash returns, being inspired by another’s expression has unlimited potential, from better health to better ideas to solve problems to better overall quality of life. There are also plenty of studies that confirm that there is exponential fiscal impact in the local economies that invest in the arts.

While there are plenty of role models we are taught to respect or admire, from soldiers to rock stars, world renown doctors to Pulitzer prize winning journalists, picking the most accurate representation of those to mimic and follow may not rest in such obvious categories. Perhaps, they are sitting in classrooms where artistic expression is taking a back seat to calculus and historical facts due to funding cuts or simple indifference.

When looking at how government spends money, particularly the endless war on terrorism, we can’t help but wonder if instead of pinching every penny in the realm of arts, classes such as visual arts, sculpting, writing, etc., were required every year and not just an elective and the grading was nominal. Or rather instead of encouraging people to show up at city hall to fight for funding for the arts, the community instead turns out and participates in the arts, especially on a true personal level.

As witnessed by what $11 million is doing to enhance the music department, we should be encouraged to support further investment in the arts overall. With so much investment already going to the ordinary, perhaps it’s time to explore the extraordinary.