Saturday morning quotes 3.20: Professionalism
Today’s post touches on a theme that needs mentioning from time to time, and we begin by revisiting a quote from Julia Sutton’s summary of Jean Baptiste Besard’s instructions for the lute (1617):
“Besard first asks the student to treat this “divine art . . . cultivated by men of the highest position” with proper respect. One should try to learn to play well enough to please others; if, however, one develops professional skill, be sure to charge adequately for one’s performance in order not to cheapen the art!“
Today, the DIY industry and the internet offer vast opportunities for those with sometimes aggressive ambitions for a more public personality to advance themselves, using technology to blur the distinctions between amateur, dilettante and professional musicians. Again, if we take the time to read and heed history, we find that this is by no means a new phenomenon.
First, a few words of definition:
“The dilettante differs from the man of science not in degree, but in nature; and so does dilettante knowledge from professional knowledge. For instance, a musical dilettante may have more knowledge of music than a professional musician; but it is not exactly the same kind of knowledge. He may even play the piano, or any other instrument, better than it is played by some acknowledged virtuoso. Nevertheless, he remains an amateur musician; and for that reason there is in his music some quality which the professional musician will detect (and perhaps dislike) as unprofessional.”
- Robert Bulwer-Lytton, 1st Earl of Lytton, “An Essayist of Three Hundred Years Ago,” The National Review, Vol. 1 (March, 1883), p. 189
Moving forward in time, we offer a more generous excerpt of these appropriate words from Charles E. Watt writing for the venerable magazine from yesteryear, The Etude:
“According to Webster the dilettante is one who pursues music (or any of the fine arts or sciences) merely as a pastime. The Amateur, according to the same authority, is one who cultivates an art or study from love of attainment and without reference to gain…The Student, basically (although all musicians must remain students of a kind through life), is one who has not yet sufficient technic, repertoire or interpretive intelligence to entitle him to be ranked as ready for paid work. The Professional, on the contrary, is one whose attainments in all these lines and in many others is such (or should be) that he is amply ready to take up any definite piece of employment in his particular line and do it skillfully and artistically, with due reference to the art in general and of all other educational consideration.”
“The amateur and dilettante classes are absolutely necessary for the proper development and support of music in a community: for it is they who buy tickets for concerts and in every way support the growing musical interests of the place. Without students the prospect for any continued life for music in any given locality would be indeed meager. But, all of these are positively in different relation to the art and to the public than is the professional musician; and this relation should be understood both by them and the public.”
“The professional musician always has been too much absorbed in his own work to think much about this and “too busy” to take the proper steps to protect himself: but, in these times of difficult living, a state of things has arrived when he must take the necessary actions or he will be utterly overthrown by the force of circumstances.”
“The Public accepts work at the appraisement of the workers, and for musicians to falter in their determination to set standards and prices and maintain them is but to invite an indefinite continuance of the idea that all music is, sometimes, procurable for nothing. The dilettante and the amateur should, as a rule, stay out of paid positions, or at least they should not work gratuitously in those which should yield pay: and in those few cases where it seems fair and desirable for them to do any public work at salary they should stubbornly maintain a price and conditions which will aid professionals to hold the same ground.”
“A certain young contralto whose career on the American concert stage was an object lesson of what can be done by a brainy, talented American girl to bring herself to the very top, married a man of wealth and immediately and permanently retired from all public life. “For,” said she, “I no longer need the money and therefore, if I sing for money, I am taking it away from those who need it more. If I sing for nothing I am ruining the market for all professional singers and so hereafter I will only sing only when the spirit prompts me to give a musicale at my own home where I can invite my personal friends merely as guests and where my singing becomes just a part of the entertainment I have to offer them.”
- Charles E. Watt, “A Square Deal for the Music Teacher: Let Us Have a Better Financial Status for the Professional Musician,” The Etude, Vol. 39, September 1921, p. 561.
You can read a more realistic and up-to-date take on the issue from columnist, Igor Saavedra, and you can even examine more quasi-scientific information on the neurological differences between musicians and others. But the fact remains that professional musicians make a difference. Indulge in your music at home but support the efforts of those who dedicate their lives to their art.