Flea's Silverlake Conservatory

flea2When selecting a new automobile the typical buyer usually has a short list of required features that help in the final selection of what will likely be the second most expensive investment made by the modern consumer. There was a time when options such as disc brakes, automatic transmission and engine size were at the top of the list. But, as the things that made the car go, and stop for that matter, became less important than comfort features, things like climate control and the quality of the sound system became more important to the buyer. Power windows, alloy wheels, seat belts and airbags, once considered luxuries, are expected as standard equipment.

This shift of importance from what makes a car go to what makes a car comfortable while on the go has had a profound effect on the dynamics of the modern family. Both parents now drive to work in their feature-laden car in order to earn the cash to…well, pay for the car that takes them to work. And a large portion of whatever is left will go to buying all the shit that parents hope will keep the kids busy while they go to work so they can afford the comfortable car that brings them back home with a car load of fast food so they can ignore the kids long enough to get some sleep, nod to the kids at breakfast with a promise to text them from the car which takes them back to work so they can earn the cash to buy the aforementioned shit. Yes, that was a run-on sentence but it was necessary in order to describe the run-on existence experienced by the next generation of future fast food night-managers.

The point is, does all the consumer electronics crap stashed under little Johnny’s bed and littering his desk make up for the loss of human contact resulting from the need for more stuff? Every airport gate is loaded with bestsellers on the subject of increasing return on what’s left of our investments. But what investment can possibly be more crucial than the minds of our children? Sure, Garageband is a mother of a program, but can it replace an hour a week with a human mentor? Does a cargo container of iPods have more intrinsic value than a high school music teacher?

The dolts who decide who will get the tax dollars they can’t hide in their own trouser pockets have, over the course of enough years so as to make the change as imperceptible as rock erosion, created an educational system which resembles a flashy new feature-rich car. Multi-media gizmos, smartboards, local networks on which students can turn in essays lifted from wikipedia…why some urban schools even sport the latest in explosive detection devices. We’ve done a great job in using technology to get young minds ready for the challenging jobs of tomorrow.

But, and this is a huge but, the criminals in control of the purse strings have left out a few features that rightfully belong in the “standard equipment” category. They’ve been so busy skimming their share from the suppliers of optional equipment that they’ve omitted the things that make the car a mode of transportation in favor of the bells and whistles that make a car just fun to sit in.

Studies strongly indicate that early education in the arts is crucial to cognitive thinking. Teaching children how to learn during the formative years is a critical component of education.Our public school systems have become obsessed with raising standardized test scores while stripping the curriculum of the very subjects that would allow student to learn to learn. Nope, that wasn’t a typo. Sadly, this obsession results from the mandated requirements tied to government funding. Inflated test scores have become more important than training children how to think and learn in much the same way as the concept of fame has supplanted talent in measuring the viability of popular performing artists.

Silverlake Conservatory

Silverlake Conservatory

My harangue notwithstanding, there are a few sources of light at the end of the tunnel. One beacon shining brightly in the sky over Los Angeles is the Silverlake Conservatory. Founded in 2001 by Red Hot Chili Peppers’ bassist, Flea, and friend Keith Barry, Silverlake Conservatory has stepped in to fill the unconscionable void left in primary school education by those who would like us to believe that teaching to standardized tests has more value than exploration of the arts.

The Conservatory is a non-profit school which offers private music lessons as well as ensemble classes at reasonable rates. And, in following its mission statement that “The study of music enriches the life of the student as well as the community and society…” the Conservatory grants scholarships and provides free lessons and instruments to children in need. Flea, Keith Barry and their music school have found a way to invest in the most important resource the community has to offer and the return on their investment will be realized by anyone who comes into contact with the students who learn how to learn at the Sunset Blvd. facility.

The scholarships, free instruments and lessons offered by the Silverlake Conservatory are funded in large part by the school’s annual Hullabaloo, which features student performances as well as appearances by well known music icons. This years fundraiser, scheduled for October 31, promises not to disappoint. The Halloween-themed event will be more than just a concert and will include silent auctions, dancing, food and drinks. More information on the event can be found on the school website.

flea1So, while you’re stuck in traffic in your $50,000 climate-controlled, 5,000 watt stereo bubble of comfort wondering what your next investment should be, make a voice-activated note on your personal phone/music/video/gaming/scheduling device to save October 31, 2009. It might be your best investment in today’s financial climate.

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