More on “Professional” Nomenclature

Last week I posted a Reader Response that stemmed from a reader’s email inquiry about what characteristics differentiate between who is a professional musician and who isn’t.  The article generated some interesting responses and a few additional questions. 

“I believe any neologisms would just call attention to the whole dilemma rather than giving the affected people a straightforward way to refer to them when asked.” –  Eric Bruskin, Pennsylvania

“A professional sits in the practice room and if after playing a passage six times they still can’t play it, they continue to practice until they do.  Amateurs stop after six.” – A musician from an ICSOM orchestra

“Anyone who shows up at the audition as my competition is a professional.” Andrea, trumpet

“So what do you call the orchestra musicians that recently lost their jobs, ex-musicians?” Former member of the Savannah Symphony Orchestra

“You forgot to mention the musicians who play in chamber groups as well as quartets and trios.”  – A member of a full time professional piano trio

Although it certainly seems easy to distinguish those at either end of the “musician” spectrum, those individuals trapped in the middle will have to fend for themselves. 


About Drew McManus

"I hear that every time you show up to work with an orchestra, people get fired." Those were the first words out of an executive's mouth after her board chair introduced us. That executive is now a dear colleague and friend but the day that consulting contract began with her orchestra, she was convinced I was a hatchet-man brought in by the board to clean house.

I understand where the trepidation comes from as a great deal of my consulting and technology provider work for arts organizations involves due diligence, separating fact from fiction, interpreting spin, as well as performance review and oversight. So yes, sometimes that work results in one or two individuals "aggressively embracing career change" but far more often than not, it reinforces and clarifies exactly what works and why.

In short, it doesn't matter if you know where all the bodies are buried if you can't keep your own clients out of the ground, and I'm fortunate enough to say that for more than 15 years, I've done exactly that for groups of all budget size from Qatar to Kathmandu.

For fun, I write a daily blog about the orchestra business, provide a platform for arts insiders to speak their mind, keep track of what people in this business get paid, help write a satirical cartoon about orchestra life, hack the arts, and love a good coffee drink.

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