Procter and Gamble, maker of brands like Gillette and Tide, is the biggest corporate presence in Cincinnati, where I live, and they are a huge supporter of the arts here. Recently, I performed and spoke at two P&G offices on behalf of Artswave, the Greater Cincinnati region’s local arts agency, which is beginning its big annual fundraising campaign.
Many people view what P&G does and what I do as completely different – they make things people need, and I give them something that’s nice to have, but not essential.
A perfect example of this kind of thinking was in this morning’s New York Times, in a column by Frank Bruni. In an otherwise superb defense of liberal arts education, he called his own “transformative” encounter with Shakespeare as an undergraduate student “a luxury,” and that he “can’t think of any bluntly practical application for it.” Say what?
You can read Bruni’s column and my online comment here – my point is that even someone who was profoundly impacted by the power of words, and wound up a writer himself, allows the “art isn’t necessary” crowd to frame his argument, and that’s a shame. Even if art doesn’t lead you to your profession, as it did for Bruni, it adds to the whole person you become, and should not be viewed as optional.
This brings me back to P&G. I am sure that many who were at my Artswave presentation were not “transformed” by it, but I also talked to some for whom it clearly had an impact, and I at least got most people listening and thinking differently for a little while. That’s enough for me – I’m content to play the long game, as P&G does.
Incidentally, I also made an ad pitch that morning – with his 20 kids, Bach would make an excellent Pampers spokesman. Haven’t heard back about that one yet.
Companies like P&G support the arts in no small part because we help people become more creative and engaged, which makes them more valuable employees. And yes, it’s also good PR – those of us in the classical music world could learn a thing or two from them!
We can take another lesson from P&G, too – if you want to be successful at something, you need to be relentless in pursuing your mission, and constantly re-evaluating yourself to make sure you’re reaching your goals.
Well, my mission is to make people feel great music is essential. I am not naive enough to think that Bach cello suites will ever have the ubiquity of Crest toothpaste, but I firmly believe that caring for your soul is as important as caring for your teeth.
Procter and Gamble has been around for 175 years. Bach’s music has been around for 300 years plus – strong evidence that his music is a very durable good indeed.
Till next time,