The First Minute Of A Ten Thousand Hour Journey

Recently, I had the pleasure of talking to Joff Schmidt, Associate Producer of CBC Radio One’s Definitely Not The Opera (DNTO), about what it means to be a professional musician; or, more specifically, the difference between amateurs and professionals. You can almost smell the loaded questions with this topic, can’t you? Nonetheless, the discussion was great fun and the folks at DNTO ended up putting together a fascinating segment which you can listen to in the following audio clip…

Sook-Yin Lee and Joff Schmidt examine the differences between professional and amateur musicians.
Sook-Yin Lee and Joff Schmidt examine the pros and cons of Pros and Joes.

I particularly enjoyed the perspective from Florida State University’s Dr. K. Anders Ericsson about the 10,000 hour mark as the threshold to professionalism for musicians. Something the DNTO discussion focused on toward the end of the segment was the influence of an individual’s state of mind. Ultimately, I think that’s a good place to focus but I do think part of being a professional orchestra musician means having the ability to maintain a level of musical excitement that is as fresh and exciting regardless if it’s the first or fiftieth performance.

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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