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VIDEO: Student plays cello, urges Fairfax County not to turn Bach on arts funding

A student plays the cello before Fairfax County supervisors during a budget hearing (via Fairfax County)

In a push to convince Fairfax County to fund the arts, one high school student put on a show.

The performance on April 13 provided a musical interlude after hours of in-person, phone, and video remarks across three days of budget hearings before the Board of Supervisors.

Student Christopher Tate, who attends Washington-Liberty High School in Arlington, only shared his name and spoke about himself when asked by the board after his performance, which drew applause.

“I play in the jazz band there. It’s really fun. I also play bass, and sometimes they’ll let me play cello,” he told the board.

He performed the prelude of Bach’s Cello Suite No. 1.

Tate will perform with five other young musicians with the Amadeus Orchestra this Sunday (April 24) at 4 p.m. at St. Luke Catholic Church in McLean (7001 Georgetown Pike).

The orchestra plays mainly in McLean and Great Falls. A. Scott Wood, the orchestra’s conductor, said in an email that funding from the county and the nonprofit ArtsFairfax have helped local arts and cultural organizations, especially during the challenging last two years.

Wood noted that Amadeus Concerts has frequently received funding from ArtsFairfax, notably the Operating Support Grant that involves a competitive process for receiving it. During the pandemic, Amadeus also received ArtsFairfax Emergency Relief and Recovery Grant and Fairfax County PIVOT funding.

“From my perspective, if the county were able to increase funding to ArtsFairfax grant programs so that every qualified organization could cover 15% of its expenses (and note that this still requires them to raise 85% percent from other sources!), it would represent a significant endorsement of the arts in general, which are so important for quality-of-life in the county,” he wrote in an email to FFXnow.

ArtsFairfax is funded by a combination of county and state money, federal grants, and private donations. For fiscal year 2021, which ran from July 1, 2020 to June 30, 2021, about 70% of its revenue came from the county — 33% to cover operational costs and 37% to give grants to local arts nonprofits.

ArtsFairfax President and CEO Linda Sullivan asked the county to increase funding for arts grants, stating that despite facing significant challenges during the pandemic, the arts sector got just a fraction of the relief money awarded to the food, hospitality, and retail industries.

The advertised fiscal year 2023 budget currently being considered by the board allocates $1.1 million to ArtsFairfax, the same level of funding as the previous two years. Grant funding has remained at $550,000 since fiscal year 2020, according to Sullivan.

“The arts sector is being called upon to provide community engagement activities that not only benefit other sectors, such as retail and restaurants, but also offer the intangible social and emotional health benefits,” Sullivan said. “…We respectfully ask the county for a significant, one-time boost in nonprofit arts grants to support arts recovery and community activities, as other emergency relief sources will no longer be available.”

In addition to Tate’s performance, ArtsFairfax enlisted outgoing Fairfax County Poet Laureate Nicole Tong, the first person to hold that position, for a poem reading as part of its plea to the board.

Angela Woolsey contributed to this report.

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