Linda Ronstadt, Wynton Marsalis, and Josh Groban Pitch Congress

Congress is scared to push for arts spending, so artists like Linda Ronstadt make the case.

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By Nikki Schwab, Washington Whispers

It seems they were preaching to the choir. Singer Josh Groban, diva Linda Ronstadt, and jazz great Wynton Marsalis were on Capitol Hill today trying to convince lawmakers to budget $200 million for the National Endowment of the Arts. But it wasn't lawmakers who needed to be persuaded—it was their constituents who seemed to stand in the way.

"How do we convince the American public that investment in historic preservation, that investment in the arts are important?" asked Rep. Mike Simpson, who had taken some heat from constituents for funding a theater project that some have characterized as pork. "I was elected—I can take the heat," he added.

The artists tried to convince lawmakers that music does a lot more than just teach kids how to play a tune. "In the United States, we spend millions of dollars on sports because it promotes teamwork, discipline, and the experience of learning to make great progress in small increments," Ronstadt said. "Learning to play music does all this and more," said the 1970s star and singer of the aptly titled Tracks of My Tears.

Groban made a similar argument. "Learning piano isn't just about being able to produce notes in a melodic and harmonic structure that becomes 'Moonlight Sonata,' it's about the personal discipline that is hours of practice," the artist said. Adding that one of his own musical achievements was playing for President Obama.

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Linda Ronstadt autographs a record for a fan.

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Josh Groban poses with Capitol Hill staffers.

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