A Few Thoughts On Careers In Music by Steve Lawson, another wonderful bass player whom I recently discovered
Favorite quote: ” … being a full time musician is so rarely stable in the traditional job sense, that having any unnecessary overhead is deeply unwise — gas guzzling car? smoking? expensive holidays? large house? just not viable … ”
I do “get” how hard it is to be a musician, how much training it involves. I seriously do. I know how hard it is for me to manage even the stuff I do, which is nowhere near ABRSM 10+ stuff. I know what I would need to do in order to play Rach and Liszt and I know that it is not going to happen in this lifetime.
But just because you’ve Worked Very Hard, that doesn’t mean that you are entitled to not worry about making a living. It really doesn’t. I’m not being mean, I’m just surprised that this isn’t self-evident sometimes, especially in the worst global economic collapse since the United States came into being.
I’m also not sure how much of the “you don’t understand that classical musicians start in the womb” thing I have sympathy for. I do get that they often start young, and I wish I had starter younger. My favorite tier-1 violinist famously started at three and a half years old. My favorite pianist literally began in the crib. I’m just not sure whether it puts a bigger barrier between the audience and the music than is worth it, whether it’s at all healthy for the music to belong lock, stock, and barrel to a culture that believes that you’re over the hill if you start any later than 9. Sure, there are some classical musicians who did not, but that message is very carefully not sent.
For those who did start that young (Pine and Montero being my two favorite and most beloved examples), they sure do have an advantage. But to demand that one begin while still not entirely toilet-trained or else is a musical arms race of the worst sort.
Meanwhile, the greatest electric bass player in the history of electric bass and possibly in the history of electricity, Carol Kaye, started at 13 — an age where the classical world would have told her that she might as well not even bother.
Anyway. Just because you’ve Worked Very Hard doesn’t mean anything to the world. Yes, it means something to you and to me, but it doesn’t mean anything to the world. Whole countries are falling apart for pete’s sake.
And if the demands of that world are so ruthless that one must be consecrated to it at birth in order to be (considered) any good, that might not be all that healthy anyway.
It just really chaps me sometimes how, when forced to think about the financial instability of a career in music, non-classical musicians will face it head-on and classical musicians will wander off in la-la-land about what special snowflakes they are whenever the topic of money comes up. Oy.
I have to wonder how this could be misinterpreted as my hating people who began young or disliking their music out of hand *sigh* …