Musician Compensation

Mcgarrity

Message 1774 · 3 May 1995 20:01:30 · Fixed-width font · Whole thread

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I'm writing in response to Courtney's views on musicians and
compensation. The following is NOT meant to be a balanced
presentation of anything (I *know* about all those things I left
out) -- but want to put forth thoughts on two points:
1) many people put time and effort into such things as
teaching, managing a class, decorating for a ball, etc etc etc.
Musicians, however, put in that sort of effort PLUS have
presumably spent YEARS, in the privacy of their own living
rooms, learning to simply play an instrument, getting to a
point where they CAN make those efforts (e.g. actually
playing for dancing) which might correspond to others'
efforts. Even the best example of "comparable" effort,
teaching, is WAY different, I promise you (having done both.)
To compare the effort the teacher makes with that of a
musician, the teacher would have to spend years just
talking/teaching aloud in private, *every day* (the musician
learns to play the instrument), then prepare a class (the
musician does the arrangements for the dances at hand),
then teach the class every evening, at home and in private,
for a week (the musician practices the music), then teach the
class to a group of stooges (the musician has a rehearsal),
THEN go really teach the class (the musician plays for the
dancers). Money is far from the only reward that matters --
*appreciation*, for the music itself and the EFFORT involved
are extremely important. But I think that, ideally, dance-
musician skill and commitment build gradually, with
appreciation and acknowledgment for those efforts (including
money) building alongside. But which comes first? Do you
acknowledge musicians early (with money, when possible
and appropriate, with LOTS of appreciation otherwise), to
encourage them to work toward excellence and be
committed, or do you wait (years) until they attain excellence,
meanwhile risking that they'll give it up and go home (or,
more likely, go play for contra dances, which tend to pay a lot
better....)?
2) one of the most noticeable differences, for me, between
teaching and playing turned out to be the difference in social
rewards. A teacher is very visible, is known (and hopefully
liked) by many, and *at the very least* comes into social
contact with many, many people. The musician, while very
much a presence, is separated, and has to make a real effort
to continue enjoying the sorts of social contacts that any
dancer enjoys automatically, let alone the high-profile
teacher. When I stopped teaching, I basically felt I knew
almost everyone in my branch, AT LEAST by sight (and we
have a large branch.) Now, after 15 years of playing, I have
probably met only as many NEW people as I would have met
in a single season of teaching (if that many.)
So, you can SAY that this is a volunteer organization, and it
is, but I think you have to look at what the rewards are for
those volunteer jobs, and with what kind of regularity they're
done, and what kind of personal effort/learning is required to
do them.

Kim McGarrity
Palo Alto, CA
xxxxxxxxx@xxx.xxx

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