Pianist attacks Trump’s ‘cruel’ cuts

Pianist attacks Trump’s ‘cruel’ cuts


norman lebrecht

March 24, 2017

Emmanuel Ax’s letter in today’s NY Times:

To the Editor:

President Trump’s proposed budget, which cuts funding for the National Institutes of Health and eliminates the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities, not to mention the cuts to such programs as Meals on Wheels and school lunches, is selling American scientific and intellectual capacity down the river.

It will lower our quality of life in the service of an ideology that is as outdated as it is cruel. The lawmakers supporting this are yesterday’s people, and we desperately need to look to the future, lest our children pay a heavy price.



  • KyprosMarkou says:

    What Emanuel Ax wrote is accurate, beautiful and true; just like his playing. I would not describe this as an “attack” but a call to our so called political leaders to come to their senses and fulfill their duties to serve the people in a considerate, thoughtful and humane way.

  • Cubs Fan says:

    Emmanuel Ax is another useful idiot – the Trump budget does not cut Meals on Wheels. MOW is a state/local run program (and a pretty lousy one, too) that some locales fund using federal block grants. It’s the block grants that Trump is proposing to cut. As to the NEA – ok Mr Ax, when’s the last time you played in Lohrville, Iowa? What about Blanding, Utah or Baker, California? No, you like to play in the big places, New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco…where the wealthy elite can pay your huge fees. The NEA does little, if anything, for taxpayers living in the small hamlets all over the country. And frankly, we have a lot bigger issues and $20 Trillion in debt than to worry about $500 million in NEA funding.

    • georges sand says:

      The NEA’s annual budget is less than $150m, not $500m; it costs each taxpayer less than $0.50. Ax is a generous citizen of the classical world and does play in small venues at times as well. FYI, Lohrville, IA, pop 368, does not have a venue with a piano in it, or any venue at all. It is rural farm country. Those of us who have done the midwestern concert circuit play in barns, schools and town halls that need groups that do not require a piano — because many of these communities simply don’t own one. Now kindly remove that pole from your derriere.

      • Scott Fields says:

        Or to put it in a way that Cubs Fan might understand, the NEA’s annual budget is 19 million dollars less than the Chicago Cubs 2017 player salary commitment.

    • Steven Larsen says:

      I heard him play in Rockford, IL last year. And yes, parts of that concert were funded by grants from the NEA. I’m sure if you bothered to do the research you’d find many other small cities have benefited from NEA funding. I’m disappointed in you, since your pen name indicates that you are person of unusual intelligence and taste, that you could write such nonsense without knowing anything of the subject.
      The NEA is truly one of the federal government’s best-run and most productive agencies. Every dollar it gives out in grants is returned at least five-fold by economic activity in American communities (and yes, especially the smaller cities). Its funding guidelines are rigorous, and receiving an NEA grant acts as a kind of imprimatur attesting to the integrity and quality of an arts organization, assuring other potential donors and philanthropic organizations of its excellence.

    • Robert Fitzpatrick says:

      I agree that Manny Ax is useful but far from being an idiot. The current NEA budget (2016) is $148M https://www.arts.gov/open-government/national-endowment-arts-appropriations-history .The main target of these funds is support of state councils of the arts plus program grants for special projects submitted annually by arts groups and individual artists.

      A $54B increase in military spending has been proposed to augment the current $550B defense budget bringing it to an annual budgeted amount of $600B The entire NEA budget is but a gnats eyelash by comparison.

      As Churchill said in 1938: “The arts are essen­tial to any com­plete national life. The State owes it to itself to sus­tain and encour­age them….Ill fares the race which fails to salute the arts with the rev­er­ence and delight which are their due.”

      We need more artists like Mr. Ax to speak out publicly concerning the creeping neanderthalism in Washington.

      • NYMike says:

        Hear, hear, Robert – Manny lives in my congressional district, Jerry Nadler’s, who as our congressman saved the NEA from the GOP wrecking ball years ago. BTW, without an NEH grant in 1992, my wife would’ve had great difficulty finishing her doctoral dissertation which won a CUNY Grad Center prize.

    • MacroV says:

      As others have pointed out, the NEA budget is miniscule; to argue for cutting it because of the national debt is silly. Argue about Trump’s proposal to give the Pentagon another $54 BILLION it hasn’t even ask for if you’re concerned about deficits.

      As for Ax, he’s playing in places where there is an audience. Sure, it would be nice to see him in Ames, Iowa or Walla Walla, Washington. And after much of the NEA ruckus in the early 1990s, NEA now tends to distribute money to every state (maybe even every Congressional district); the big orchestras that Manny Ax plays with generally get tiny percentages of their budget from the NEA.

  • Cecylia Arzewski says:

    Bravo Manny! Beautiful and truthful statement!

  • harold braun says:

    Trump is the biggest moron ever.

    • Petros Linardos says:

      That’s an understatement.

    • Daniel F. says:

      NO, Mr. Braun!! NOT a moron but rather a very savvy, intuitive, political person with utterly despicable ideas about running the country and about the values the country should uphold. Simply dismissing this man with a single-word epithet is not only incorrect, it is a recipe for continuing disaster down the road.

      • Walt says:

        Agree 1000%. Good reply.

      • Nick says:

        @Daniel F.

        Great reply, Daniel F.! These idiots Trump-bashers cannot even foresee what potential calamity they are bringing to the US with their stupid comments, marches, protests, etc.!! They are concerned with NEA, which does little for the arts and much more for itself that its existence is practically irrelevant. When heads roll one should not weep about hair loss.

        • Guadagnini says:

          I remember Joseph Silverstein told me that Ax complained to him about when he was preparing to play a recital with Nathan Milstein in NY. During rehearsals, Ax started arguing with Milstein about wanting to play with the piano lid up, because Ax thought the piano should have more of a ‘presence.’ He even suggested to Milstein that instead of it being just a ‘violin recital’ that he consider letting Ax play a couple solo pieces by Chopin and making it a ‘joint recital.’ The ego of Manny has always been astounding. It’s not commensurate with his ability!

  • Axyourfee says:

    Why doesn’t he take an ax to his fee and donate it across all of the organizations that need yo raise tons to pay his 50k a performance free. Stick to the keys.

    • Nick says:


      How correct you are!! Ax is one of the least creative, least interesting artists in the US but he generates enormous fees, which he indeed should ax as his name implies. But this will never happen. Easier, cheaper and more fashionable to join the ugly chorus of Trump-bashers.

      • Holly Golightly says:

        I venture to suggest that emoting is the singular prerogative of the Left – for EVERYTHING. The Right does all the thinking for them. “Cruel”..priceless. Sounds like a little kid complaining to his mommy!! “They’re being cruel to me”.

        Man it up!!!! Stop being cry-babies, snowflakes.

  • Edgar Brenninkmeyer says:

    Ayn Rand reigns supreme. As Dante aptly writes of the Gates of Hell: lasciate ogni speranza, voi ch’entrate – abandon all hope, ye who enter. We must resist the moral decay and bankruptcy envisioned by the criminal Administration in the White House and its enablers in Congress. Otherwise we will descend into economic violence and unhinged savagery compared to which the Neanderthals practiced high culture (they did, in their way. but that is another discussion).

  • Charles Timbrell says:

    Right on, EA!!!! The issues are so large and numerous, and each day DT and the deplorable generals and yes-men congressmen cause the country to slip further down the drain–and make the rest of the world laugh at us, or cry.

  • METS FAN says:

    I wonder if Cubs Fan supported their massive free agent signings. Bravo Mr. Ax! While I am not a fan of his pianism, he spoke truth to power here.

  • Marc says:

    Typical of Trump boosters to belittle the attacker rather than respond with a cogent counter-argument. (Same for those engaged in mindless name-calling toward Trump and his fans). Manny Ax is not the issue. Those who know him recognize what a fine fellow he is, in addition to being a first-rate musician – but that’s beside the point. Nor is this about comparing the NEA’s budget to the DOD’s. There is more to consider here than dollars or personalities. As that timeless quote from Churchill notes, a nation’s support of the arts – or lack of it – speaks loudly about what kind of society it aims to be. What hope is there for us, if our leaders show little interest in intellectual or spiritual pursuits, instead engaging in the pursuit of personal wealth and power at the expense of the poor and powerless? This is a war for our nation’s soul. Art and science are under attack. Write your representatives, attend meetings, get active!

    • Makeadonation says:

      The citizens of the US donate more to the arts than any nation on Earth. The NEA is a pittance. If we depended on the NEA there would be no Art in America. This is what America is about, charity. The people vote with their pocket books instead of depending in bureaucrats deciding where their tax dollars go.