On Amateurs & Professionals

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [DB]' started by Jeremy Allen, Mar 7, 2005.

  1. Jeremy Allen

    Jeremy Allen Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    Mar 18, 2002
    Bloomington, IN
    Ugh. I know it's legit according to Webster's, but using the same appellation ("pro") to refer to those TB'ers with serious jazz cred (Fuqua, Parker, Sherry, Warburton, Fitzgerald, et al.) as well as to a self-acknowledged hobbyist who requires "more than a second" to parse a Dbm6 chord and who writes out bass lines to standards and then uses them on the stand kinda dilutes the meaning of the word for me. I know from your demeanor in this discussion, Mr. Hunter, that you won't take that as an insult whether I intended it that way or not (I did not intend it that way, by the way). There's no value judgment to be made about "being a pro" or not, obviously, but let's consider the subtext before tossing the word around.
  2. Sam Sherry

    Sam Sherry Inadvertent Microtonalist Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2001
    Portland, ME
    Euphonic Audio "Player"
    Johono, for what it's worth, I'm a struggling amateur -- I play a lot more in the living room than in public. The fact that I attempt what The Players succeed at doesn't make me any kind of special.
  3. Jeremy Allen

    Jeremy Allen Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    Mar 18, 2002
    Bloomington, IN
    Well, the bio on your website certainly doesn't seem to be that of an amateur! Of course, it could just be that I want to stoke my own ego by thinking that everyone who went to my school (NEC) and played with the same people I've gigged with (Bergonzi, Bob Moses, Billy Pierce) are some kind of special...
  4. hdiddy

    hdiddy Official Forum Flunkee Supporting Member

    Mar 16, 2004
    San Francisco, CA
    Sam: You're no beginner man. [Gracious but now off-topic comments by Huy excised.] My ears, at the least, tell me you're not one of us REAL beginners. :D This beginner can't even play thumb position or have the proficiency for making just a few mistakes in a simple chart. Me? I'm all over the place!
  5. Sam Sherry

    Sam Sherry Inadvertent Microtonalist Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2001
    Portland, ME
    Euphonic Audio "Player"
    I wanted to take this chance to spark an examination of "amateurism" and "professionalism."

    Music has not been my living since 1986. I play a "paid gig" just about every month, but if I'm a sideman best assume that I'm making fifty bucks or less. I have a day job which has nothing to do with music. About half of my close musical friends are in similar situations.

    Obviously, we're "pros" in that we've been working on this music for a long time and we make enough money to have to write something on our taxes. But I do not feel like a "professional musician" because you couldn't buy ramen noodles on what I make in a year.

    I wonder sometimes whether full-time players and teacher/players give me the hairy eyeball because I'm not "paying the dues" a full-time musician has to pay. With that notion in mind:

    a) If you're a full-time player, what does it mean to you when you find out someone is not?

    b) If you're a part-time player how much of your playing is with full-time players? Have you felt left out for being a part-timer?

    And folks, if I'm in left field here, say so and I'll try to put all these fellows' posts back where they belong.
  6. Hey Sam, as the part-timer who's partially responsible for this (although Johono5 takes a goodly amount of the credit), I'd appreciate a bit of a definition or context for "being left out." I've discovered some here take definitions quite seriously so I don't want to step on any toes. Do you mean left out in terms of getting paid gigs? Or is it, as you suggested, related to how you're viewed by the full timers?

    I don't feel left out of anything.

    And to answer your (b) question, I rarely play with full timers, if that helps. I did play with them when I was one briefly (20 years ago, when playing EB in rock bar bands) - so maybe each group simply works with "its own."

    I look forward to seeing what others think about this....
  7. Jeremy Allen

    Jeremy Allen Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    Mar 18, 2002
    Bloomington, IN
    I think it's a swell idea to have a new discussion about this. Although I can't promise not to derail it like I do everything else...
    Sam, your editing is sensitive and perfectly defensible--I felt my point was somewhat emasculated in the other thread, but I can re-post there (if I can stand to wade into what has become something of a lovefest for the guy doing something I find bizarre and distasteful).

    RE: the full time, part time thing: my periods of most "full time" playing have always consisted of about 20% beautiful, creative music for which I was paid little and 80% crap to which I tried to give my best (listen, I DO like playing "Disco Inferno," just not every night) and for which I was paid a lot. Then I realized that even the coolest people I played with were not really "full time," at least anymore--Bob Brookmeyer teaches to pay the bills and loses money on his big band whenever he takes it out, and our quintet with Kenny Wheeler ended up being a one shot thing; George Garzone plays great and we have fun at little gigs here and there and at jazz festivals, but he teaches his butt off and basically just blows off steam every Monday night with the Fringe; Jerry Bergonzi flies all over the place making guest appearances with various artists and ensembles, but his main thing is the teaching gig as well.

    Come to think of it, I don't know that many people playing the music they want to play on a full time basis. OK, Drew Gress plays 25 gigs a month all over the world and each one of them is with a serious ensemble playing creative music of the kind he presumably wants to play; Scott Colley has to figure out how to keep both Jim Hall and Herbie Hancock as well as his own group going. But they are exceptions. A friend of mine struck gold with a steady gig a couple of years ago--tenor sax in Michael Buble's road band. Now his student loans are paid off, but man is he tired of taking one chorus on "The Way You Look Tonight" every night for eighteen months.

    The conclusion everyone seems to come to is that each has to find his/her own compromise. Mine right now is to get the three intitials after my name and teach college 9 months out of the year, which is pretty fun and I get to play quite a lot in the meantime. I have nothing but respect for people doing it full time, but they've all made some compromises I can't make myself: one bassist in NY plays thirty gigs a month that pay between $25 and $50 each, which leaves him just enough money to not starve (unless he needs to go to the doctor for anything, in which case it's the old "antibiotics or ramen noodles" conundrum); another is doing well, but he has to be ready to get on a plane on six hours' notice and hit the road for two months; another, in LA, subs with the LA Phil and plays in the studio system on classical, soundtrack, and big-label jazz stuff (he's on Queen Latifah's new "jazz" album), but he...well, actually, he's got it pretty sweet. Except that he has to live in El Lay.

    So in the end, I think the "full time vs. part time" thing ends up begging the questions surrounding the commoditization of art and how much that truly sucks, and makes the value of music as something practiced for a smaller number of defensible ends (it's art; and it's fun) that much more apparent.
  8. Jeremy Allen

    Jeremy Allen Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    Mar 18, 2002
    Bloomington, IN
    Not that there's anything wrong with lovefests--but I think that thread has evolved into a discussion of something other than what is actually at stake.
  9. mchildree

    mchildree Supporting Member

    Sep 4, 2000
    I can't address these questions from the standpoint of the jazz player (which seems to be the predominant viewpoint here), but I can opine from my own perspective. All genre-qualification aside, I played professionally for over 10 years during the 80's. I made 100% of my living from music and generally felt only about 50% fulfilled. I envied many of the guys who had a home life and played original music part-time, while I was traipsing about the country playing covers. We got paid very well, but in the end it was only money, and little else to show for it. "Pro", to me, meant only someone else trapped in my situation.

    I've been a part-timer since 1990 and have found exponentially more musical gratification and success. I have so many more things that I could never live without now...a great family, nice home, good day job. I can play when/where I want. If that's what it means to be a "part-timer", then sign me up. I have little regard for what a "pro" might think of me, since I know from experience that anyone who might judge me based on my hourly on-stage time (without hearing me play) has utterly missed the point. When I hear the term "pro", I listen just long enough to determine whether or not the term is being used to quantify a player's reliability, skill, and versatility. If yes, I lend the term creedance. If it becomes apparent that the player's choice of breadwinning is being referenced, it means nothing at all to me. I find no honor in suffering for anything.
  10. "Bizzarre and distasteful?" Wow, that's over the top. I'd use words like that when describing what one would find in Jeffrey Dahmer's fridge!
  11. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    Well put, Mike. Wish I'd written that...

    While I'm flattered to be included in the mystical "TBers with serious jazz cred" group, I have no earthly idea whether I'm a "pro" or a "semi pro" or whatever. I considered myself a pro when I played 160 gigs a year in addition to three part-time teaching gigs, but those were dues-paying days, and frankly, I'm glad they're over. Last year my "quicken gig account" tells me I played 96 gigs and made between about 1/4 of my income in doing so - the rest came from the full-time teaching gig, which is good and fulfilling but also exhausting. Some days, it seems like a great thing, and others it feels like a ball and chain. What I do know is that of the 96 gigs I played last year, I'd gladly play about 80 of 'em all over again. When I was playing 160 a year, the number I would have chosen to do again if money wasn't an issue would be about 15 or 20. To me, that's saying that life right now isn't so bad even if I would rather be playing more. Beyond that, whatever label anyone wants to put on it is fine.
  12. Jeremy Allen

    Jeremy Allen Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    Mar 18, 2002
    Bloomington, IN
    Please. The Dahmer comparison is what is over the top. You have received nothing but well-deserved praise for receiving the criticism of others with grace and poise on the other thread by standing by the unassailable legitimacy of your opinions; my own opinions deserve no less respect.

    As a bassist who has devoted himself to seeking and revealing the deeper truths of the human experience through the improvised art form known as jazz, I do indeed find the practice you describe yourself to be following to be, as I said, bizarre and distasteful. As noted in my posts on the other thread, were you to use your technique, as many of us have, as a pedagogical tool or a stepping stone, there would be no contention. But to openly declare it to be an end in itself is an insult to what those of us who consider ourselves to be jazz musicians are trying to do with our lives. I speak not of composed bass parts as utilized in certain types of big-band jazz nor of the technique of "thinking through" bass lines by writing them out at some point in one's development; I speak rather of the belief that you can successfully "play jazz" when you know so little of what you are doing that you have to have a pre-written line for every instance of every chord quality based upon every root that comes your way in the course of a tune on the stand in front of you. Every musician has a certain learning curve, but to end that curve before it even gets started is to do a disservice both to the music and to your own potential as an artist. And should a musician beg off the responsibility of being an artist, no matter his or her level of achievement, let them put the instrument away; we are all artists.

    If you think that my reaction (and that of the other self-proclaimed "serious jazz musicians" on TB) is unaccountably strong, it may simply be a case of comparing apples and oranges, "Kenner" and "Liebhaben," hard-core practitioners and Sunday drivers (to mix quite a few metaphors). Some of us have devoted our LIVES to this thing, and it touches a nerve to have it trivialized. I have no doubt that it was not your intention to trivialize it, but that was nonetheless the effect for some of us.

    A portion of my sensitivity on this issue could come from the fact that I'm in the midst of preparing a paper on "Autheniticity and Jazz" for the upcoming Leeds International Jazz Conference, which means that I have been wrestling with the question of the dissipation of originality from what is considered to be, at this moment in history, "jazz;" but most of it simply comes from the fact that I work my a$$ off at this every day and thus jealously guard a tradition I consider to be one of the bright lights of human endeavor.

    PS Mr. Sherry, do you want to move this and the post to which it replies to the proper thread...? I said I would derail this thread if given half a chance...
  13. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    For me, as a full-timer, full-time v. part-time dudn't mean anything when it comes to music. That's something that just is and nothing else interferes, as far as I concerned. Minus some major BO or something. Although part-timers can end to be soft when things get off their well-beaten musical path. I don't include players who teach as part-timers, BTW, at least in most ways.

    Business-wise, though, it can mean a lot. If you're going to be spending precious time, effort and 'input' (live in The Big ****ty for a while and this is suddenly seems like a big deal) you want to spend it with people you want to work with. People that -- on top of music, now -- that are on the same or similar career path that you are. This gets into 'networking', which doesn't need to be covered here, I don't think. Not that there isn't business that can be done through the part-timers, but there are issues like: He can't get to a gig that early, can't go on the road, it's pretty late for him on a week night, that kinda stuff.

    Also, being a full-timer in NYC is a bigger rush just because it's so incredibly hard to stay afloat with the world here. But -- this also gives you an edge to what you're doing. Another way of saying is that the day-to-day drudgery and agony that this city can offer makes the time that you play with other (and great) players that much more a thrill -- slap 'n hug, if you follow me.

    Another category that you might trhow in there is 'full time players playing **** they hate to make a living'. I've been in and out of this group, but stay out of it now and hope never to return. Since I picked up the computerprogramming skill along the way, I don't see myself ever playing 'Disco Inferno' with a tuxedo band again. More that once an month, anyhow. ;)

    Now, all of that said, I don't hold amateurs and part-timers above or below full time players. Everybody has his own bag, and if he's happy, I'm happy.

    As long as he's not ****ing up the groove :)
  14. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    Boy, are you out of line. That's so over the top that I won't even address it, other than to say that you have some learning to do. About life and things in general. Major learning. To make a statement like that? A pretty severe case of anal-cranialitis.
  15. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    Well - you have taken my statement out of context!

    This is the whole thing :

    "What's interesting about this and other similar discussions, which have come up many times on TB - is that you never get what you might define as the full-time pros around here - so everybody is denying that they are this "thing".... ;) "

    So I was saying (jokingly) that most people seem to be denying that they are "that animal" in the posts here - I can see now why you have taken that the wrong way.... ?

  16. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    I've re-read your post to make sure that I didn't misunderstand what you typed. I think your point is clear, and I stand by my indignation.
  17. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    Well - I was simply making two points in a conversational style - the way I speak normally in a bar or club...?

    But here they are spelt out for the sake of further misinterpretation :

    1. Every time I see a thread like this - a lot of people say they aren't a full time pro...because of xxxx - although I'd almost certainly consider them to be so! ;)

    2. I've met many full-time Jazz pros in England/Wales, but have never seen any of those particular people, on an internet forum ...?

    I apologise if that appeared offensive - but I didn't mean it to be - just what I've noticed in 5/6 years on TB! :)

    Maybe I expressed this badly!
  18. Nuno A.

    Nuno A. Velvet Strings Customer Service

    Jul 9, 2001
    I've been a full time musician for the last 12 years, and when i say to the people that im a pro, that means only the fact that all my income comes from my bass playing... not that im a better player or worst player than someone else.. i know lots of amateurs who are better players than i am, and pros who have less chops, thats not the point.. the reason im a full timer is that im just too involved with music, my brain is filled with music 24 hours a day, my wife says i play bass on her arm while im sleeping, theres nothing else i could do in life... Im a firm believer that beeing a full timer depends more on your capacity of adjusting yourself to the hard realities of a musician's life than of anything else.. i play maybe an average of 200 shows a year and if i didnt need the $. i would only play maybe 50, if im unhappy? No, because despite everything, the music i have to play sometimes, the musicians i have to play with, etc, im still playing bass. When touring, i have to drive maybe 6 hours , sleep 4 or 5, eat on the road, and take whatever is there to be taken, good or bad, but i dont mind, thats what i choose...
    Like Ray, I don't think amateurs and part-timers are above or below full time players, as long as everybody is happy, theres room and need for everybody.. sometimes i think that if i would get a regular day job, i would find more music gratification since i wouldnt have to play those f****** gigs that i hate or play with that a**, i would have for sure more $ and could afford things i cant right now.. its all a question of personal choices, at the end of the day you look at the balance and see if its still worth it..
    And the music world is a funny world, you dont know what might happen tomorrow, if you will hit "that" gig you've been dreaming with .. About Bruce's sentence: "What's interesting about this and other similar discussions, which have come up many times on TB - is that you never get what you might define as the full-time pros around here - so everybody is denying that they are this "thing"", i really consider it a ignorant statement, who are you to judge the professionalism of the musicians who post here? just because you dont see their records on your local music shop? or because they dont play at your jazz summer fests?
    I guess we could talk about all this for years and lots of different people would come with different and valid arguments, i guess what really maters is to take the road you think ite the best for you and have a pro atitude in everything you do in life, even in your amateur tasks and hobbies.

  19. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    No, no no! :bawl:

    That's not what I was saying - you have misread as well!!

    So - this is how it was - I read the first few of the posts here and everybody is denying that they are full-time pros - so I jokingly or ironically commented on that fact - as I know that people like Chris, Ed, Sam, Marcus, Ray etc. etc. are all very good pro-level players!

    That's why I put the wink smiley! ;)

    Doesn't anybody have a sense of humour, anymore...:(
  20. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    This thread represents an interesting topic and a spirited discussion among people who feel passionately about what they do. That's a good thing. Please, let's not let it get derailed onto the topic of whether "X wrote something disrespectful about the forum". While "X" may spend more time than intended with his proverbial foot in mouth, I'm confident that the situation did not come about because of any lack of respect for TBDB or the playing ability of its members. More likely, it was simply about "X's" poor foot-mouth coordination. :)

    You may now return to your regularly scheduled discussion...