If you take the time to look around, you will notice that many people of the same profession share a common bond. They gather together for parties, birthdays, holidays, or just to go out and have fun; but there is one community that seems to share a unique bond. Musicians seem to be their own types of people. While some combine the musician who plays pop songs on the piano as a hobby with the one who plays Chopin for a living, these are two vastly different types of musicians. Professional musicians share a different kind of bond -- one that cannot be easily broken. Not only do they share a love of the performance, they also share a passion and love for the music itself.
Some may wonder what it is that makes musicians who we are, and why every musician seems to have a similar personality. In a study done by Goldsmiths and Cambridge psychologists, people with an "open" personality, were more likely to have musical abilities. This makes sense because as a musician, you are going to have to perform sooner or later; there is no way around it. If you do not have an open personality, then you are not going to be able to perform well. Yes, musicians get nervous - that is something that never goes away - but because of our love for music we are able to overcome the nerves and perform really well. I consider myself an introverted person, but there is something about music, the piano to be specific, that makes me want to get up in front of everyone and share these beautiful sounds with them. Many times we get nervous, but once we begin playing with other people, the nerves seem to fade away into joy and confidence.
Musicians have a special aspect to their community, aside from the love of music and performance: the ability to communicate through music. Musicians have the ability to convey thoughts, feelings, and emotions through numerous sounds played in even more various combinations that seem to speak. The satisfaction musicians feel when they hear those notes played perfectly is something that can only be shared and understood with another musician. The Oxford Dictionary defines music as "vocal or instrumental sounds (or both) combined in such a way as to produce beauty of form, harmony, and expression of emotion." The beauty of music is what we crave, we long to create sounds and produce dissonance and resolution. The feeling is so satisfying; it is why we do what we do: produce music to evoke emotion in our audiences.
Some might say the musicians who go "professional" only do it for the money - to be clear, there is no "big money" in teaching, composing, or conducting music unless one is lucky enough to become famous. In a study done by Artist Revenue Streams, musicians had an EMI (estimated music income) of just $35,000. Compared to other professions such as engineering, the medical fields, or even teaching in some cases, the income of a musician pales in comparison.
I have often been asked by various people as to "what I plan to do with a music degree." To be honest, that question is a little offensive. In and of itself the question implies that I should be worried about money, or that my intention is to become famous. That is certainly not the case. My "plan" for my degree is simply to make music that affects people, music that changes people's lives. My goal is to expose to others to the music community, so that they too might come to appreciate and love music as much as I do. If that is done by teaching on a pre-college level, then so be it. If by some crazy chance I become a famous pianist or composer, then I will gladly go in that direction too. A musician's goal is not any one of these things. If it is, they will not make in very far in the game.
Musicians have a strong bond with each other because they have to; their performance depends on it. In "The Musician's Trust," John Whitbourne writes in his prologue of the significance of connection and trust between musicians. He states that, "Connection is about recognizing a common direction, and trust is about recognizing the validity and integrity of a particular individual." If musicians who perform together do not trust each other, the audience will be able to tell. There has to be a mutual understanding between every musician that their partner will play the right notes, begin playing when they're supposed to, and play the music as written. Building that trust is one of the huge benefits of the music community. Once we build that, we then have a group that we can go to with any concern, musically related or not. To go even further, that trust is then extended to the general community (humanity). If the audience can tell that the musicians trust each other, then they in turn will trust them too.
Musicians have been stereotyped in many different ways over the years. Some might say they are weird, unable to function in normal society, or proud. Angelika Gusewell and Willibald Ruch talk about studies done by Martin, Kemp, Bell, and Cresswell, in which non-musicians characterized musicians as being "more autonomous, introverted, sensitive, and intelligent than non-musicians and displayed higher levels of anxiety and neuroticism." Those who think musicians are proud or weird do not understand the joy music brings to the musician. The opportunity to share something that we think is beautiful, or fun, or exciting with an audience is one of the best feelings in the world. We want to make the audience feel the same emotions as we do.
An amazing aspect of the music community is musicians' ability to perform together despite differences. One instrumentalist might not like another instrumentalist, but they are often able to overcome their differences and perform a piece flawlessly just for the sake of music. They do not let their preconceived opinions, harsh though they may be, come between them and the music. I had an experience once where I had to play a piano duet with someone that, if I have to be honest, had a really bad attitude. However, despite our little annoyances, because we shared a love for music we were able to pull ourselves together and play a really awesome piece, and we even made it to a national competition.
The musician community is like a family; everyone is their own individual person, but they're connected by one thing. A family is connected by DNA, and musicians are connected by their own "DNA" - music. They share a common goal, and that is to evoke emotion in their audience through the music they perform, write, or teach. In order to achieve this goal, there must be a mutual trust within the community. Just like a family is there for each other, musicians are there to support their peers as well. They all understand the struggles of becoming a professional musician: the music theory courses, the student teaching, and the late nights spent practicing the same pieces for hours. There is a great deal of support and encouragement within the music community.
To me, the music community is a second home; everyone is free to be themselves, and everyone is accepted for who they are, despite gender, race, social, and economic differences. We can communicate through a language all our own and we can feel and produce various, strong emotions through music. We are not "in it for the money." We are musicians because that is who we are.
Jordan, James, and James Whitbourn. The Musician's Trust. Chicago: Independent Publishers Group, 2013. eBook Collection (EBSCOhost). Web. 15 Nov. 2016. In John Whitbourn's prologue, he discusses the importance of connections and trust within the professional musician community. He describes the difference between a musical connection (which is based on instinct and happens seemingly upon the first meeting with an individual), and musical trust (which he describes as something that is based on knowledge rather than instinct and is formed over time). Whitbourn further explains these concepts by saying, "connection is about recognizing a common direction, and trust is about recognizing the validity and integrity of a particular individual." He later discusses how trust can form the beginnings of a connection, and how music is the platform on which that connection and trust is built. He uses his personal experiences and own observations to draw these conclusions and describes how musicality can defy all odds of a connection forming between two (or more) musicians.
Thompson, Kristin, and Jean Cook. “Money from Music Survey Data Portal.” Future of Music Coalition's Artists Revenue Streams Project, Future of Music Coalition, 5 Dec. 1ADAD, arsdata.futureofmusic.org/. The Future of Music Coalition is an organization that assesses musicians' revenue and informs them on ways to make a living in their chosen musical field. The survey used in this essay deals with the estimated musical income of musicians today. There are various studies that correspond to the estimated musical income, such as the gross estimated income of musicians by age, percent of income of musicians earned from fan funding, corporate sponsorship, AARC royalties, persona licensing ASCAPLUS awards, fan clubs, etc.
Cox, Sarah. “Have You Got the X Factor? Psychologists Say You May Be Musical and Not Even Know It.” Goldsmiths, University of London, Goldsmiths University of London, 14 Oct. 2015, www.gold.ac.uk/news/have-you-got-the-x-factor/. This is article is written to provide information about a study that links certain personality traits to musicians or musical abilities in non-musicians. Seven-thousand participants were studied and tested on melodic memory and rhythm perception. Those tests were then linked to the "Big Five" personality traits: openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neurotocism. Those who scored higher in each category were most likely to be a musician or have musical abilities. The highest link between the two was between musical abilities and having an open personality. There were also links between those who scored high in the personality categories as well as the musical categories who did not play an instrument, meaning they may have some hidden talent they themselves did not know about.
Gusewell, Angelika, and Willibald Ruch. “Character Strengths Profiles of Musicians and Non-Musicians | Güsewell | Journal of Arts and Humanities.” Character Strengths Profiles of Musicians and Non-Musicians | Güsewell | Journal of Arts and Humanities, Journal of Arts and Humanities, www.theartsjournal.org/index.php/site/article/view/734/381. This is a journal article about the different characteristics in musicians and non-musicians. It discusses various studies done in which non-musicians characterized musicians as being "more autonomous, introverted, sensitive, and intelligent than non-musicians and displayed higher levels of anxiety and neuroticism." Studies are also discussed in this article which provide information about "professional musicians [who] scored significantly higher than non-musicians on self-regulation, appreciation of beauty and excellence, and responsiveness to artistic beauty; they scored significantly lower than amateurs on judgment and perspective, and lower than both amateurs and non-musicians on teamwork, fairness, and leadership. Professional classical musicians scored significantly higher than professional non-classical musicians on prudence. The latter, in turn, displayed significantly higher scores on creativity, bravery, and honesty."
Jordan, James, and James Whitbourn. The Musician's Trust. Chicago: Independent Publishers Group, 2013. eBook Collection (EBSCOhost). Web. 15 Nov. 2016.
I chose to write about the musician community because it is very special to me. Music can be a very personal thing not just to the musicians, but to the audience as well, and for me to be a part of that community is honoring. It is an amazing thing to be surrounded by people who share a common love for music, and will do anything for the sake of it. I believe the pictures below capture this idea of community between musicians. The second picture is from when I got to meet my favorite pianist (which was also the best day of my life). The third picture is one of me and my piano teachers, without whom I would not be where I am today. The first picture on the second row is one of the Marshall piano studio on a trip to the museum. The rest of the pictures show groups of musicians coming together with their differences in status, personality, and everything else, but uniting because of their love for music.