Six years ago, I heard, via a telephone call from the White House, that I was being nominated by the President for a term on the National Council on the Arts, the advisory board of the National Endowment for the Arts. This month my term officially comes to an end, and questions of what has happened, and even more of what has been accomplished, lie heavy on my mind.

I am afraid that I am hardly able to keep a certain valedictory air from suffusing my thoughts. Valediction is the right of the young and of the old; it may accord less well with those who are, as I am, in what might be called the full steam of middle age. And yet in the present context, I do have something to look back on. I have spent most of my life playing the piano, performing music from Bach and Scarlatti to Olivier Messiaen and Elliott Carter. For over a decade now I have been writing about music as a critic. Recently, somewhat...


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