This is for Eskimo Monk... my comment is just too long (comment to a comment for Le Mouton)
Thanks for your input. You touched on many topics worthy of discussion... maybe even a whole book.
I think we (human society) are on the brink of something really big. We had a discussion the other day about the future of book publishing. Right now, there are the obvious paths to getting ideas out there... namely via books and printed media. But, one has to admit that books will soon be a thing of the past (devices such as the Kindle or Apple's rumored tablet)... soon all education will be through electronic media. Ideas already flow freely... to publish an idea or a "book" all one needs is to blog! And, it is put out there. Authors are no longer restricted by publisher's budgets and whims.... which brings me to your observation about the shifting economy and technology. Unfortunately, technology also leaves much to criticize. It can lead to mass production of art and music and so ultimately lead to the death of unique cultures such as can only develop in isolation (remember how much more interesting Europe was before the euro?). and like you said, musicians now spend so much more time trying to line up work than in performing. Sadly, I believe this is a consequence of our society and its mistaken belief in the irrelevance of music and art. In American society today, art, music, and other intellectual pursuits are seen as mere hobbies. Children are given music and art lessons so that they will NOT become musicians and artists; the usual intention is to round out their education so they can get into a good private school and eventually into a good college so they can become doctors and lawyers. Even in universities, professors in the liberal arts are not paid as highly as professors in the sciences. All of this is due to market forces and capitalism, which is our great misfortune. But... I digress...
Much can be said to criticize academia, but I hold firm to the belief in higher education. Reading and discussing and writing about topics/literature/science/human knowledge in college opens up many paths unseen and allows a person to grow intellectually... this is somewhat difficult to do in a work setting where there are always deadlines and minutiae to fill every waking moment of one's lives. As I said in the previous comment, I do not have a degree in art, did not undergo the constant critiques... I, for one, have probably too fragile an ego to survive it! Still, the world is forever cruel and judgmental... perhaps there is some good in it?
So... ultimately where does this leave us? Modern beings see art as an end in itself, as an expression of individuality. And so by that thinking, art is for everyone to pursue... BUT, (and this is my opinion) I believe that one can never truly express oneself freely unless they have learned the basics... just as one could never compose a symphony without first learning do-re-me.