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Musicians Plead for Increased Arts Funding

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Musicians Linda Ronstadt, Josh Groban and Wynton Marsalis recall their experiences with music before a House panel in hopes of raising the budget for the National Endowment for the Arts to $200 million.

A woman held a BlackBerry over the crowd surrounding Linda Ronstadt to get a shot of the onetime queen of country rock. Someone else thrust an album insert and pen at Josh Groban. “Just one more photo, please," followed jazz musician Wynton Marsalis out of the room.

The three musicians were among a group who appeared Tuesday on Capitol Hill to speak in favor of increasing funding for the National Endowment for the Arts to $200 million in the 2010 budget. In an effort to demonstrate the importance of the arts to the community -- particularly for young people -- each talked about how music had shaped his or her life.

“I don't remember when there wasn't music going on in some form" at her childhood home in Tucson, Ronstadt told the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment and Related Agencies. She recalled her father whistling while he puttered with things needing repair, her brother stumbling over double bass strings, her mother ripping ragtime tunes on the family piano.

But people don't do that anymore, she said.

“Increasingly, people's experience with music is passive," Ronstadt said. “We need to teach our children to sing their own songs and play their own instruments, not just listen to their iPods."

Concerned about possible cuts in a tough budget year, the stars told their stories in hopes of convincing politicians of the importance of maintaining funding for the arts, which they say is instrumental in helping youths succeed.

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