Unlike some of the other posts in our The Year in Q series, this one happily isn’t just a look back at a past highlight, but an ongoing concern.

One of the causes that Quincy championed in 2008 was his call for a secretary of the arts. That call was heard loud and clear by Q fans around the world, including Jaime Austria, who plays bass for the New York City Opera and the American Ballet Theatre Orchestra. 

Inspired by hearing Quincy call for a secretary of the arts on a podcast of WNYC’s Soundcheck, Austria created an online petition to President-elect Barack Obama asking him to heed Quincy’s call and create a secretary of the arts post. 

When we first reported on the petition, back in late November, it had more than 1,000 signatures. Austria recently notified us that the number of signatures has multiplied tenfold and now includes more than 10,000 signees. He also pointed out that the list sports many famous names, including singers Marni Nixon and Joan Wile; saxophonists James Moody, Charles Lloyd, Phil Woods, and Branford Marsalis; composers Snuffy Walden, John Corigliano, and David Amram; conductor Marin Alsop, instrumentalist/composer/arranger Jimmy Heath; and drummer Jack DeJohnette.

The petition also continues to garner press attention. First Philanthropy.com reported on it and today The Baltimore Sun classical music critic, Tim Smith, highlighted the petition in his Clef Notes column. You can view it here.

During the question-and-answer segment at Q’s book signing of The Complete Quincy Jones: My Journey & Passions at Barnes & Noble in Santa Monica in December, noted music journalist Don Heckman asked Quincy what he’d do first if Obama created a secretary of arts post and appointed him to the position.

In his response, in the video clip below, Quincy praised Obama’s cabinet appointments, mentioned the music summit announced during the Q Prize honors (made possible by Audemars Piguet and The Harvard School of Public Health), and the recent dedication of a performing arts center in his name at his Alma matter, Garfield High School in Seattle.

61 Responses to “The year in Q: secretary of the arts drive”

  1. Helen Fleming

    Dear Mr Jones,

    Our family has listened to your music for more than three decades and applauds your musical genius recognized throughout the world. Of all who may be considered for the auspicious position of the U.S. Secretary of the Arts, we can think of no person more deserving. In light of the world’s current economic situation however, we believe a request of our new President, Barack Obama, to create a paid position within his cabinet is ill-timed. If the position were to be an honorary one without government salary, staff and associated expenses, we doubt there would be a need to debate the issue of the petition at a moment in our history that demands frugality.

    We believe our family’s opinion is representative of people of all generations in this country and around the world facing imminent loss of income, home and healthcare, who do not consider the petition to President Obama requesting a Secretary of the Arts a priority expense that will give relief to our financial dilemma but, on the contrary, add to the taxpayer’s looming burden.

    We hope you will encourage your supporters worldwide to continue promoting the petition. We request, however, that you will press to delay its submission until the policies of President Obama and his administration are enacted and begin to solve our greatest challenges since WWII. We are all being called upon to do our part.

    Our family is not generally involved in politics with the exception of voting, but if you were to press for immediate presentation of this petition to our new President it may be interpreted as an effort by a segment of our citizen community to call in a debt, perhaps a show of power, for contributions and support for his election to office. President Obama may be forced to make a decision with political ramifications that may compromise his promise to work in the best interests of all of us and distract him from focusing on the most important and challenging issues of this century.

    We believe, in due time, there will be stability in our worldwide marketplace and a new energy will emerge that will demand a Secretary of the Arts which will show to the world we are again one of the most progressive nations whose people appreciate the arts and the world’s cultures.

    Until then, of course, we will continue to enjoy all our local and national art forms wherever and whenever possible… without the benefit of a Secretary of the Arts cabinet position. We hope you will continue to promote this petition and that you will be the person appointed by this administration or another in our future.

    Thank you for the opportunity to submit these comments. We would appreciate your reply if you feel this opinion is deserving.

    Yours truly,

    Helen Fleming

  2. Candice Johnson

    Today I received an email for the Petition for Secretary of Arts. Bravo for initiating this. I lived in France for 11 years and was greatly respected as an Artist and coming home to a much different environment for artists makes me very passionate about this issue.

    Now is the time for you with a voice that is listened to and respected by so many to step up again and try to get Press to talk about this issue. The Petition has just gone viral. There are apx 20 people signing it a minute. Read the comments and you will see that you are not the only one passionate about this.
    There should be just about 70,000 signatures as I write this…
    Now is the time with this momentum to act. Call up your reporter friends and get them to write about this…

    Thank you so much for taking the time to do this..

    Yours with great respect and admiration,
    Candice Johnson

  3. Carolyn Taylor

    Dear President Obama and Others,

    I just read an articulate letter by Helen Fleming, speaking out against the creation of the position of Secretary of the Arts. Her letter was followed by another, more arrifmative comment by artist Candice Johnson.

    A few years ago, I was given backstage tour of the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre. At one point during the tour, Terrence Orr, then director of the Ballet explained precisely how much money attendees the the Ballet and other Arts venues funnel into Pittsburgh’s economy. Today, I can’t remember the amount he mentioned, but it was exponentially higher than the combined revenue to area hotels, restaurants, bars, etc. than added from our Pitt Panther, Pirates and Steelers’ rabid fans, who come from many cities to see the teams play! That surprised even me, an artist! The impact must be added from the richly – varied theatre scene we have here, art museums including the Carnegie, Warhol, Westmoreland Museum of American Art(nearby in Greensburg), the Pittsburgh Glassblowing Center, and the world class Pittsburgh Symphony and Pittsburgh Opera, and one can only imagine the economic impact the Arts have on our city. It’s more than a theory that a vivid arts scene can rejuvenate any community in America. Still think that appointing a Secretary of the Arts would be a frivolous endeavor and unnecessary expense for a President concerned with America’s financial health? Research the most recent numbers available on revenue brought in by Arts events in your area before you answer.


    Carolyn Taylor

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  1. Do we need a Secretary of the Arts? — Art Biz Blog

    […] I know a petition has been going around asking for President-elect Obama to give culture a cabinet-level position: Secretary of the Arts. […]

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