The Johns Hopkins Gazette: April 19, 1999
Apr. 12, 1999
VOL. 28, NO. 31


Looking at "The Arts in America"

Music, discussion put focus on role of arts in the human experience

By Greg Rienzi
The Gazette

Johns Hopkins Gazette Online Edition

Eileen Tate Cline vividly recalls the memorial service for Leonard Bernstein held at St. John the Divine Cathedral in New York City. Cline, then dean of the Peabody Conservatory, was quite thrilled and surprised to be Hopkins' representative on that night.

Cline says it was an extremely moving evening, resplendent with a who's who of the music and entertainment world. Yet the famous faces she encountered were not what made this night special for her. That moment came when Peabody's own pianist Leon Fleisher gave his performance.

"I had an idea that before I left Hopkins I would like to share with people what it is I learned and to summarize what I've been trying to say and do all my life," says Eileen Cline, dean emerita of the Peabody Conservatory. On April 26, a panel discusses "The Arts in America."

"He said, 'I'm going to play this piece in his memory.' Then he sat down and played a left-hand version of 'The Man I Love,'" Cline said. "He wasn't out there to say, 'I'm Leon Fleisher. I can play Bach, Beethoven, whatever.' But the point was, he played this wonderful and touching Gershwin number. It was one of the most powerful moments in my life."

This "spirit" of artistic sincerity is something that deeply touches Cline.

"To me, the point of being an artist is the discipline one learns and the insight one learns about humanity," Cline said. "And the rest of it is using that insight one has gained to becoming an artist to enrich other people's lives, to encourage others to transcend the difficult things we are all being faced with."

The impact of the arts on society is the theme of a panel discussion, to be held Monday, April 26, at Homewood's Shriver Hall, titled, "The Arts in America: Lifeblood of a Nation and its Citizens--Past, Present and Future." The event, which will be from 4 to 6 p.m., will feature four speakers selected by Cline and a performance by cellist Bonnie Thron and Fleisher himself.

Cline also will give a presentation detailing her own experiences with the arts. She served as dean of the Conservatory from 1983 to 1995 and for the past four years has been senior university fellow in arts policy at the Institute for Policy Studies. Cline, who retired in June 1998 but will be leaving the university this year, also sees the event as a farewell gathering of sorts.

"I had an idea that before I left Hopkins I would like to share with people what it is I learned and to summarize what I've been trying to say and do all my life," Cline says.

For the past two decades Cline has served on various boards, advisory committees and panels, including those of the Thomas S. Kenan Institute for the Arts, the American Symphony Orchestra League and the National Endowment for the Arts. In her own artistic career, Cline is an accomplished pianist, has performed with a semi-professional folk dancing troupe and was a member of the Oberlin College Choir and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra chorus. Cline also has taught music at the elementary, high school and university levels.

"Eileen is fully dedicated to the arts and how the arts enrich the lives of everyone that they touch. It's not just for serious musicians; it's for anybody," says Fran Zarubick, dean of the Peabody Preparatory, who has known Cline for 25 years. "She has helped countless students to achieve their musical goals. This event is a wonderful tribute, and it's something that should be a highlight of her career here at Hopkins."

The goal of the panel discussions, Cline says, is to spotlight the tremendous value of the arts as an integral part of human life and to make that reality functional in people's lives.

One aspect of these discussions will be on the inclusion of everyone in the arts. Cline says she strongly believes that there is too pervasive an "us and them" sentiment in regard to artists and the rest of society.

"It's not about finding the 2 percent of the population that people feel have talent. Too many artists perpetuate that myth because they like being special--which they are, after having invested so much dedicated work into the results they gloriously share with the rest of us," Cline says. "But so many children by the time they are 5 or 6 years old think that the arts are only about being able to draw and sing at a possible level possible only for a 'chosen' few. I would like to do whatever I can to slay those dragons."

The panel's speakers include Peabody graduates Darryl Durham, executive director of the Harlem School of Arts, and Kwang-Wu Kim, artistic and administrative director of El Paso Pro Musica.

Cline says she feels Kim's efforts are very representative of the types of activities and practices that she, as a teacher and policy maker, has been advocating.

Kim's organization each year presents a chamber music festival, and a stipulation in the performers' contracts is that they must agree to speak or teach at a local public school.

"As musicians they are able to make real contact with these kids who are starved for more music," Cline says. "His efforts [in El Paso] have transformed a town in a very great way."

Other speakers are Ellen McCullough, director of the White House Council for the Millennium, and James A. Smith, executive director of the Howard Gilman Foundation, both of whom are well-known for their work in the broad field of philanthropy and policy development. These panelists will provide a historical and policy perspective of the arts. McCullough is largely responsible for the cultural aspects of the Council for the Millennium, while Smith's organization is a major supporter of artistic foundations such as the Center for Arts and Culture, based in Washington.

An introduction by President William R. Brody and a performance by Fleisher and Thron will precede the panel discussion.

The event is free and open to the public.

Cline wants people to walk away from the afternoon's experience realizing how connected they already are with the arts and how the arts personally touch them.

For Cline, an avid mountain climber and skier, the emotions she experiences while making music, she says, are as heightened as the ones she feels while traversing a mountain: "Both show freedom of spirit and the involvement with something bigger than yourself."

For more information, call 410-516-8072.