This article reminds me of the deep pool of passionate and knowledgeable amateurs in the musical world, a pool which, if tapped effectively, can overflow into concert hall seats of classical music performances.
At the "Dances and Dreams" chamber music recital I organized in June, I asked amateur musicians in the audience to raise their hands. An impressive 40% of them admitted so.
I then asked how many of them would like an opportunity to play chamber music with professionals in an informal, party-like atmosphere. I saw nods and heard nervous twitters, but most seemed interested.
I will organize one or two "chamber music parties" a year, probably at my house. The plan is to engage 5 or 6 amateurs, or perhaps more, to attend. Each will be prepared with one movement or more of a piece within their technical grasp.
Professional musicians from my orchestra and other local freelance players will fill out the mix. Each will be assigned an amateur or two to work with, perhaps even rehearse with or coach once or twice before the party event.
My hope is that amateurs will be willing to support the idea financially. A chance to be coached by and to play with professional musicians in a comfortable setting may offer a valuable inspiration to amateurs, and will also help weave more intimate connections between professionals and their audiences.
Excerpts from the article:
With the exception of the programs that specialize in professional musical study, playing an instrument—at least in the Western World—is no longer a standard of general education. Having said that, classical musicians are not dying out. Enthusiasts populate the seats of traditional high-end music halls as well as newer, younger alternative music venues, and while they don’t all study instrumental music professionally, many of them do play.
Who are these passionate musicians who, to differing degrees of perfection, practice their instruments even though there are no concert halls waiting to be booked and no fans lining up to buy tickets?
These are the amateurs—the musicians who are in it purely for the love of it, who have made their musical pursuit a vital part of their lives, despite jobs, careers or families. In some cases, these hobby instrumentalists follow their practice routines almost religiously, sometimes committing as many hours as professionals. Yet to play as an amateur, rather than playing in order to make a living, is to tread on different ground.
The pool deemed amateur is much larger and more varied than one may think, and some musicians land in it involuntarily. Competition in the world of professional performance is fierce, and even a degree in music and an impressive set of skills do not guarantee you’ll be quitting your day job any time soon. Until you’ve turned your passion into a career, you are—whether you like it or not—an amateur.
Not that the title evokes the derogatory sentiment with which some associate it either. Unlike the dilettante, the amateur may be a beginner but need not be. Whether on a path to professionalism or not, some amateurs are very gifted musicians. What defines the amateur is exactly what the Latin root indicates—the love for it.