As I think about the deep and lasting impact of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and South Dakota Arts Council in our state, friend and fellow musician Jami Lynn immediately comes to mind. I’ve worked with Jami on many occasions and she has often talked about her love of being a South Dakotan and joy in sharing her art “at home.”
Folk singer/songwriter Jami Lynn Buttke first gained an appreciation for music in a small South Dakota elementary school. Today she is a professional performer of bluegrass and folk music, and brings her exuberance and musical talent into state classrooms as a roster artist with the South Dakota Arts Council’s Artists in Schools & Communities program. She believes in the power of the arts because of her own story of discovery.
“My personal experience with the Arts Council’s impact on our rural schools began at Koch Elementary in Milbank. I had probably seen a cello and violin on television because, although we only had four channels on the farm, one of them was PBS,” Buttke said. “But I had never seen or heard orchestra instruments in person until the South Dakota Arts Council helped bring a string quartet to our school for a lyceum. I was enamored with the sound, the style of playing and the music that echoed around our packed gymnasium. I had never experienced anything like it. The resonance of the strings, and how their sound vibrated in my chest, was life-changing. I didn’t know it yet but I was going to be a string player, and that experience in fourth grade was pivotal.”
Buttke finds that the magic and power of artists traveling to South Dakota communities is as strong today as when she was a grade school kid.
“The sound that comes out of elementary school kids when they see a banjo in person for the first time is excellent,” she said. “It’s one of those sharp inhalations of disbelief, like I’ve just done three back flips in a row. The sound kids make when they hold a banjo for the first time is silence. Most of them haven’t had the opportunity to see, hear or hold a banjo before, and it’s cool to see how it affects them. We need to make sure South Dakota students continue to discover music in this very personal way.”
Your advocacy for this critical federal-state partnership that brings the arts and artists to young audiences across South Dakota is needed now! Let our leaders know that the NEA is vital to a creative South Dakota. To connect with our Congressional delegation or learn more about Arts South Dakota programs, join us online at www.ArtsSouthDakota.org.