Tuesday, June 24, 2008

A Dilettante Invasion? Rather, a manifesto?

This was originally part of a post on my personal blog. The original posting lost focus, so I decided to move this discussion over here... especially since I haven't posted anything here in quite some time.

Some may argue that part-time professional musicians like myself are selfish dilettantes who take away income from the more deserving full-time musicians. Objectively speaking, this is true. In fact, we dilettantes can even be accused of creating an artificially undervalued labor pool, making it even harder for our full-time brethren to make a living. I've often heard (muttered under one's breath...) "you don't see me trying to do physics on the side...". To this, I say, poo. I am going to be heartlessly capitalistic here, but if we dilettantes are talent-wise competitive with the full-timers, then we deserve to compete for the same gigs. Plus, I don't see us as being all that much of a threat. We are not as flexible time-wise, and thus cannot make the same commitments to work which the full-timers can make. (Regular day-time rehearsals? Week-long tours? Forget it). Also, many employers can tell from a resume whether an auditionee is part-time or full-time based on education and experience. In short, they can sniff out the dilettantes, and certainly weigh this information into their hiring decision.

Also, to those who say, "you don't see my doing physics on the side," I doubt that you are acting out of deference and respect for my commitment to my career. Rather, physics does not interest you, and physics as a vocation is not something that can be pursued on your own time. Music is just as difficult and "noble" a career as any other, but it is also one where there is no clear line drawn between occasional commitment and full vocation. It's a mixed blessing. Music in America is undoubtedly healthier because each and every one of us has the right to fantasize about "making it" (look no further than American Idol), but certainly, emerging professionals suffer when such thinking increases the competitiveness of the hiring pool. Is it better to be an emerging professional in a more socialist government (i.e. any western european state) where professional singing opportunities are more regulated? (Well, certainly can't complain in the short term about State subsidization of classical music.)

This surely reveals a glaring chip on my shoulder and some of the personal issues which I have with taking myself seriously as a part-time musician, but nevertheless is an active area of debate in my mind. Any comments?


Richard said...

Hey, Celeste . . . I say if you're talented enough to get the gig over another singer, more power to you!

I don't have any problem with "amateur" singers (don't really like that term so much, but since it comes from a Latin root meaning "to love," it'll do) competing with "pros" for paid singing jobs. It should be pure competition for the best musician that will work best in the ensemble in question.


Anonymous said...

As another data point, I'm a fulltime musician who's *never* had this kind of negative thought about musicians who also do other work for money. Some of the most talented people I know have day jobs. Everybody makes different choices!

Anonymous said...

Are you a good addition to the group/gig/performance or not? If yes, I don't care what you do with the rest of your time. You owe nobody an apology and if they ever give you crap because you are not a full time 'pro' then they owe you one.

As an aside, all of the semi-pros (my term) I have sung with are generally cool people. The (thankfully small) group of annoying singer types that I know are full-time. Coincidence?

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