For me the subject was military bands and it began a few weeks ago when I had a conversation with an acquaintance in the Air Force Band. In brief, I left that conversation with a sense that playing in the AFB was what we call "a sweet gig". Not only does the Air Force keep their musicians well--something akin to a 18th century royal patron--but they also hire composers, arrangers, etc. to write new music for their large variety of bands. Anyway, this man was about my age and was living a great musical life and I was glad for him.
The 'convergence' began yesterday when I heard an article on NPR about the cost of military bands. This article then revealed a recent debate in the Washington Post, by columnist Walter Pincus. With Defense Secretary Robert Gates looking for areas to cut in military spending, military bands are likely targets. The cost of the combined bands runs into the millions of dollars--it's unclear exactly how much. It's also unclear exactly what percentage of military spending goes towards its musical programs.
I think most people will agree that these bands should not be done away with, so I won't bother going down that path. The debate is whether the programs should be cut and by how much. I can't help but feel very defensive because the issue comes down to the fact that once again a musical program is in the awkward position of defending its value to society. I find it sad that music often finds itself on the defense in a country that insists on justifying a thing's existence by its financial contribution to society. I guess that is the nature of capitalism.