After a few years living in UK, I have sadly realised that not every musician shares the same concept about professionalism when performing or teaching music. What is the definition of a professional? Is it the fact of performing music in well-known venues? Is this concept related to the intricacy of the repertoire? ‘Being a professional’ involves having skills and experience whereas ‘professionalism’ is more about acting in a professional way which includes things like arriving on time and being organised rather than knowing what to do.
The simple truth is that high-qualified musicians find themselves hired in orchestras or other ensembles where there are also much less-qualified musicians than them. This level disparity wouldn’t matter that much if those last musicians’ attitude was that of working hard to defend their part and achieve a good performance standard, but unfortunately they get contented by ‘being able to follow the rest of the orchestra whatever happens’ and ‘rely on the professional players to get through the piece’, as they believe that the fact of getting paid for those concerts make them become a professional part of the orchestra. Consequently, this situation is constantly affecting the level of performances and what is more, the reputation of the orchestra and musicians that comprise it.
Teaching-wise I have discussed the same topic with some well-qualified teachers around the area who are quite disappointed about this matter too. They assure that students are not longer interested in becoming professional musicians for the simple fact that they could still get gigs and performing opportunities without achieving those higher qualifications.
On the contrast, it is likely to find students who hold a lack of guidance from their instrumental teachers, teachers that didn’t have any expectations to become professional performers during their studies because ‘they just wanted to concentrate on music teaching’ – as they were assuring –. The reality is that these teachers don’t know how to teach to a high enough standard because they cannot perform to that standard themselves and hence those students can’t find the support they need when playing a new instrument. How could these students expect to become good performers if they are not aware of their instrument possibilities or have never seen how professional players sound?
As a result, what could be music’s fate in a few years if this situation keeps going? Professors at Colleges of Music not having enough pupils, music missing its essence with every performance… not to mention the fact that audience keeps paying the same amount of money to attend what has turned out to be mediocre concerts.
Either a professional musician, student, parent or any other profile directly related to music, I invite you to think about this reality we are currently living overall in UK. Are you concerned about music?