"It feels like bringing a sports team into the Super Bowl," says John Gosling. "It's that kind of spirit."
Gosling's "team" is the North Carolina Symphony, and their version of the Super Bowl is the Kennedy Center Concert Hall, where you could feel the spirit yesterday afternoon as the young musicians tuned up for rehearsal.
For an hour of prime time last night, the state of North Carolina was to be blanketed with a live telecast of the North Carolina Symphony playing the "Symphonie Fantastique" of Berlioz live from the Kennedy Center. Six commercial stations donated the time, along with the state's Public Broadcasting network, which programmed the entire concert on FM radio.
A North Carolina team in a super bowl could hardly have received more attention.
The Concert Hall was completely sold out months ahead of the performance-just as Carnegie Hall was when the symphony played there last year. Most of the tickets went to people from North Carolina, and some Washingtonians who wanted to hear the visitors were disappointed.
"I got a call from the assistant attorney gsneral of North Carolina," Gosling remarked, "and I can't help him. If we had known it was going to be like this, we would have done two concerts."
This kind of enthusiasm did not spring up overnight or by accident. it can be explained in part by a bill that was introduced in the state legislature years ago (with the double-meaning nickname of "The Horn-Tootin' bill") to supply state subsidies for the arts.
It is also explained by the fact that North Carolina is the only one of the 50 states that has a cabinet-level secretary of cultural resources - Sara W. Hodgkins (who was in town for the concert along with Gov. James Hunt and a lot of other North Carolinians).
"I sit around the table at cabinet meetings along with Transportation and Corrections, Human Resources, Revenue and the others - there are nine of us," she says with a touch of wonder in her voice.
"I'm working on all the things I love and care for and I'm being paid for it. I'd do it free - I was a volunteer worker for years - but it certainly is nice this way."
It may be that enthusiasm for the arts in the government of North Carolina is not completely based on esthetic considerations, but the result is still esthtically impressive.
"Governor Hunt has said, and I also believe, that the economic development of our state goes hand-in-hand with our cultural development," Hodgkins says.
"When the governor took a trade mission to Europe, he took me along; the Europeans understand the tradition of culture and government support and how it influences a whole society, and they wanted to know about our symphony and our art museum before they made an investment.
"We really stook apart. There are a lot of other states sending missions to Europe, but none of them sent a secretary of cultural resources."
Besides the symphony, this cabinet position is concerned with libraries, an art museum and arts councils, theater arts, archives and the preservation of historic landmarks.
State support for the symphony is not limited to setting up a cabinet post; nearly $1 million per year, approximately half of the orchestra's annual funding, comes in a direct grant from the state, and in return the orchestra has made itself a state resource, logging 20,000 miles of travel within North Carolina each year and giving 260 concerts in schools and halls throughout the state.
The school program has been going on for a long time (the orchestra is 46 years old, though the average age of its players is 30), and most members of the state legislature were first exposed to it when they were schoolchildren.
Today, 2000,000 North Carolina schoolchildren hear the symphony each year - and, equally important, they do it as part of a total program, for which the teachers receive special training. Part of the system is a series of booklets, "Tips to Teachers," which explaines how to prepare the students for each concert - and a special program, booklet "Symphony Stories," which allows the children to approach the music knowledgeably.
The North Carolina Symphony proudly terms itself "the only major orchestra between Arlanta, and Washington, D.C.," and this term is not used loosely. It was formally awarded the status of a major orchestra two years ago by the Americans Symphony Orchestra League. It has only begun to invade the home grounds of other major orchestras on its infrequent trips outside the state New York last year, Washington last night, Chicago in October.
So far, these trips have gone well - but the next time it comes to Washington, the orchestra should try to rent a larger hall.*