The business of music is my life.
For over 30 years I have stood in the wings of some of the greatest music institutions across North America. I am honored to be a part of the rich cultural history of Sonoma County, and emboldened to be entrusted with the keys to the Green Music Center.
The landscape of our society has changed quite a bit since I left a career in accounting to assume my first appointment in the arts field with Montreal Symphony in 1981. We live in challenging times — just take a glimpse of the headlines of any newspaper and you can see how the United States is undoubtedly at a historic intersection of social and economic change.
In fall 2015, President Obama issued a proclamation declaring October to be National Arts and Humanities month. His statement begins “Over centuries of change — through trial and triumph — the arts and humanities have chronicled history in ways that have brought the past to life and provided a vivid vision for our journey forward.”
At a time when innovative thinking, creative problem solving and flexibility are indispensable to economic and political survival, the arts provide some of the most robust methods for developing these abilities. According to a survey of 1,500 chief executives conducted by IBM’s Institute for Business Value, CEOs list “creativity” as the most important leadership skill required for future success.
Undoubtedly, as business leaders you understand the power of the pioneering individual who is both a creative thinker and collaborator, often hiring people who are imaginative and add dimension to your company’s potential. There exists a certain reciprocity in that the arts provide a direct and positive influence on the communities in which your employees live and work. Artists are employers, producers, consumers, and key promoters of their cities and regions, leveraging significant event-related spending by their audiences for local merchants.
Nonprofit arts are not only drivers of business but also a key component to economic sustainability and future prosperity. With billions in arts funding, businesses play a vital role in ensuring the health and longevity of the nation’s arts sector. Business support for the arts can be more than a motivation for charity. Support the arts and you are encouraging growth of tourism, stronger communities, improved academic performance, and employee retention.
Over the past five years, the Green Music Center has established itself as a preeminent performing arts venue, attracting artists of the highest caliber such as Wynton Marsalis, Lang Lang, Renee Flemming, Yo-Yo Ma, and Kevin Spacey, to name a few. It is truly a one-of-a-kind experience and has become a central focal point for the arts in the greater San Francisco Bay Area.
The gifts these artists bring to the region are more than just a cultural tour-de-force: their performances are a special highlight to the growing number of students who attend Sonoma State University. By incorporating a variety of noteworthy concerts into their academic syllabi, the recently established Arts Integration program gives professors an opportunity to amend the dialogue about arts advocacy in our community and world. Over 1,713 students will participate this fall alone.
It is through education, patronage and fervent commitment to the worth of a creative mind that we will pass on the values of arts appreciation and empowerment to the next generation. When you partner with the arts, you partner with the entire community.
Zarin Mehta is executive director of the Green Music Center at Sonoma State University (gmc.sonoma.edu) and has previously served as president and executive director of the New York Philharmonic, CEO of Ravinia Festival and managing director of the Montreal Symphony.