The people holding the purse-strings in Scotland may see culture as an "add-on" that can be sacrificed in difficult economic times, warned broadcaster and writer Richard Holloway.
The former Bishop of Edinburgh chairs Sistema Scotland, the charity leading the ground-breaking Big Noise music project in Stirling's Raploch area. It had already led to the discovery of a seven-year-old musical genius who might otherwise never have picked up a musical instrument, he told Children in Scotland's annual conference.
But if arts funding was targeted under budget cuts, there was a danger that many "sleeping geniuses" would continue to go undetected, said Mr Holloway.
He also serves as a member of a Scottish Government's "excellence group", helping put Curriculum for Excellence into practice in religious and moral education.
CfE was "absolutely spot on" in theory, he said, because "what's being offered to schools in Scotland is liberation". But there was "an apparent reluctance in some schools to accept the freedom they have been given".
Delegates were warned to beware the dictatorship of "pre-determined outcomes", by Peter Moss, professor in early childhood provision at the University of London's Institute of Education.
His comments come amid growing concern in the education sector that teachers under pressure will become too fixated on the experiences and outcomes of CfE, rather than its philosophy.
Professor Moss accepted the need for "common goals and structures", but told a cautionary tale of outcomes becoming a mantra in England: "No one thinks about them any more - a bit like a corporate mission statement," he said.
He also found lazy thinking in the Con-Lib coalition's insistence that a choice had to be made between big government and the much-vaunted "big society".
They could co-exist, he said, as countries such as Sweden - with high rates of both volunteering and taxation - had shown.