As we enter this new year with excitement and perhaps a bit of trepidation, we find ourselves almost automatically in sympathy with anyone who is without work in their chosen field. And so it is with any musician locked-out of their place of work, unable to fulfill the contract they believed would provide them with a steady income. And so we should. Nevertheless, is there even more to a situation such as this than what we are being told?
The public tends to view professional musicians as gentle, giving souls who have sacrificed all for their art. The reality, however, can be a bit more grisly. First of all, anyone who starts their employment by having not only to fight their way to succeed over countless other contenders, must then fit in perfectly with a pre-existing organization led by a conductor who makes ordinary micro-managing look blase. In other words, these players are on the firing line every day. While they may love to tell the public how soothing and uplifting the music is that they perform, the fact is that much of it, in a large ensemble anyhow, is far too loud for most ears, and can even create permanent damage.
To be realistic — these people are tough as nails. They have no choice. If they were not, they would fail. One of them even said to me, “You have to have the killer instinct to survive in this business.” Yet these are the people we welcome into our schools, blissfully turning our children over to their tender care and instructions, proud that we have managed to give our child lessons with a professional musician. The truth is, some of these people are hardly angels. They may choose to teach one student and refuse to teach another (while keeping your money). They may even appear to nurture those with ‘promise’ while doing their best to weed out any potential competition. They may have such little self-esteem that they could even deliberately try to lead a potential star of music astray. One would certainly hope most players would never behave in an unethical manner, but if even a handful did, must we not do our due diligence and ask about those they may have themselves locked out? How much concern did they give to those people the players themselves may have locked-out? What about the children of those people?