WASHINGTON — Former Guns N’ Roses drummer Matt Sorum joined cellist Yo-Yo Ma on Capitol Hill on Tuesday to urge lawmakers to increase funding for the arts in a year of deep federal budget cuts.
The rocker and classical musician played a jam session briefly together for a gathering of legislators and arts advocates from across the country who planned to visit congressional offices. They performed with bagpiper Cristina Pato and dancing star Lil Buck.
Sorum said his mother was a music teacher and that his high school classes in orchestra, jazz and marching band were critical in launching his career in music and in business. More recently he has started a charity to support arts education in Los Angeles. Guns N’ Roses was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland last year.
Sorum said he was excited to visit Washington to press Congress for funding.
“This is the coolest thing I’ve done since Madison Square Garden, I’ve got to say. Slash is going to be really jealous,” he said, referring to the lead guitarist from Guns N’ Roses and now the group Velvet Revolver. “If I can navigate the music business, I’m going to have fun navigating Congress.”
The group Americans for the Arts is pushing for funding to be restored to $155 million each for the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities. Last year each agency received about $146 million and lost about $7 million of that due to Congress’ automatic budget cuts.
House Republican budget leaders have called for eliminating the two agencies altogether.
Still, Republican Rep. Leonard Lance of New Jersey joined advocates Tuesday, saying the arts benefit the entire nation.
Arts programs face a daunting budget environment. With the $7 million in automatic budget cuts, each endowment stands at $139 million for the current fiscal year. Overall, each has lost about $30 million in annual funding since 2010. It’s an even bigger drop since the endowments’ high point of $176 million in arts funding in 1992.
Ma has pressed for greater focus and funding for the arts in education, joining a White House initiative to help turn around failing schools with arts programs. He also called for including the arts with the educational emphasis on science, technology, engineering and math. Creativity connects the other subjects, Ma said, and helps students become self-motivated and innovative.
“It seems to me that many of the skills in terms of what children need in order to succeed … are actually best modeled through the arts,” Ma said.
Matt Sorum, famed for his work on the drum stool with Guns N’ Roses, The Cult and Velvet Revolver, has revealed that he is working on a new solo album.
“My new solo record will not be a rock record and I am not playing drums on it. [I am] singing and [playing] acoustic [guitar] mainly, [and] using another drummer [for the recording sessions].”
Sorum has revealed that the material to be featured on this new album is “a cross between The Doors, Pink Floyd, Wilco, David Gray, Peter Murphy and Portishead.” Sounds thrilling.
Songtitles set to appear on the album are ‘The Sea’, ‘What Ziggy Says’, ‘Blue Josephine’, ‘Gone’, ‘Lady Of The Stone’, ‘Killers N’ Lovers’, ‘Ode To Nick Drake’ and ‘Land Of The Pure’, the latter of which is “about children of Pakistan,” says Sorum.
Sorum’s new CD will be the follow-up to 2004′s ‘Hollywood Zen’, his previous solo effort which featured his GN’R/VR bandmates Slash and Duff alongside Giuffria legends Chuck Wright and Lanny Cordola, the latter co-producing with the veteran sticksman.