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Trumpet Discussion Discuss The Amateur/Professional Divide in the General forums; Hi Guys and Gals, I have been pondering, as I am often wont to do in my spare time, at ...
  1. #1
    Pianissimo User
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    Apr 2008
    Hertfordshire, UK

    The Amateur/Professional Divide

    Hi Guys and Gals,

    I have been pondering, as I am often wont to do in my spare time, at which point an amateur musician becomes a professional musician... Is it clean cut i.e. one day you are an amateur, the next a professional? Or, is there a grey area....?

    Music is my main main source of income, I teach trumpet and I do gigs with professional bands (supplimented by a few hours a week in a petrol station to keep head above water), however, I don't have a regular spot in a professional band/orchestra etc and the groups I play with week-to-week are amateur groups.

    Am I a professional musician, am I an amateur musician or am I something else?

    I chose the term musician over trumpet player because I would class myself as a professional musician rather than a professional trumpet player as I make my living from music in general as opposed to just by playing trumpet (altho that's what I'd like to do in the future).

    Any input would be greatly appreciated.


    Nick Jolly

    Life is something like a trumpet. If you don't put anything in, you won't get anything out. - William Christopher Handy

  2. #2
    Utimate User Dale Proctor's Avatar
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    Jul 2006
    Heart of Dixie

    Re: The Amateur/Professional Divide

    I have a good friend who does pretty much the same as you, and I consider him a professional musician. I'd probably starve if I tried it, though...
    Olde Towne Brass

    Brass Band of Huntsville

    Trumpet: 1976 Bach Stradivarius ML 43, Curry 3C.
    Cornet: 1993 Bach Stradivarius L 184G, Curry 3BBC.

  3. #3
    Fortissimo User veery715's Avatar
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    Mar 2007
    Ithaca NY

    Re: The Amateur/Professional Divide

    A few weeks ago I received $20 for a gig. That was the first time I'd ever been paid to play. What that makes me is a good question. I put it in the collection plate and figure I have preserved my amateur standing.

    Music being your main source of income makes you a professional musician. Perhaps a hungry one, though.

    Veery, the good question.

  4. #4
    Moderator Utimate User Vulgano Brother's Avatar
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    Mar 2006
    Parts Unknown

    Re: The Amateur/Professional Divide

    Good question! The distinction between professional and amateur has less to do with the skill sets involved, but rather the exchange of money for services.

    Although one could argue that receiving money for a gig makes on a professional, others might argue that a majority of the player's livelyhood must come from music. For me it is not so much what others can see, but rather the attitude of the player. If the player views themselves as a professional, only playing for money (with rare exceptions) that person is a pro. Those who will play anything are amateurs.
    "A tool good enough to be so used and not too good"
    C.S. Lewis That Hideous Strength

  5. #5
    Fortissimo User
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    Nov 2006
    Greenfield WI

    Re: The Amateur/Professional Divide

    I think we would all agree that there are people in many endeavours who are collecting money but are by no means professional.


    Buescher Lightweight 400
    Other Buescher horns 1939--1955
    Al Cass 1-28 mouthpiece
    Humes and Berg mutes

  6. #6
    Forte User
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    Jan 2009
    Clarksburg, WV

    Re: The Amateur/Professional Divide

    tutin asks:
    at which point an amateur musician becomes a professional musician... Is it clean cut i.e. one day you are an amateur, the next a professional? Or, is there a grey area....?
    Its a very clean cut. It happens at night (pending you put your old mouthpiece under your pillow) and with the fairy dust that they use, you'll barely know it happened. All you'll know is the next day, people will be giving you really hip nicknames like "Doc" "Miles" "Dizzy"or "Satchmo".
    OK I've had my fun. IMO, A pro usually:
    Cost money
    Fills out tax forms
    is a vendor.
    Works playing the trumpet or in the performing arts
    can step in and play at a professional level but works a different occupation
    Are there people out there that are pro quality but not doing these things?
    You betcha!!!! Music is great but music business sucks.
    There are many many people who have what would be referred to as "regular jobs" that can play extremely well. They just got fed up with the business and the road and wished to start a family.
    So be careful challenging some elementary teacher or city worker that says they "play a little trumpet". They could have easily played in some top flight band just a couple of years ago.
    Last edited by Markie; 01-26-2010 at 01:59 PM.

  7. #7
    Piano User
    Join Date
    Jun 2009
    A village in Saskatchewan

    Re: The Amateur/Professional Divide

    The terms "amateur" and "pro" don't mean much these days in terms of players. The number of players who make their entire income from playing is a precious few. Modern symphony players are weekend warriors who teach and do other things to earn their living. A lot of jazz musicians I know are lucky to play a few times a month. Most are teachers.

    Regardless, if people pay you to play, good or bad, you're a pro. That's all there is to it. In the 1920's and 1930's there were plenty of very mediocre musicians populating the bandstands.

    There's a huge difference between the music world and the music business. Most professional players (all musicians) making a living right now are musically illiterate, self-taught wankers who belong to the entertainment industry.

    If your ego ever needs a boost, just think of Mick Jagger: he's been at it since the late 1950's, and he still hasn't learned to sing or play guitar with any degree of facility. And think of the example he represents in terms of your question.

  8. #8
    Pianissimo User Bagnewauckland's Avatar
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    Dec 2008
    New Zealand

    Re: The Amateur/Professional Divide

    I tend to think of a professional as someone who makes a living from playing, a Semi-pro as someone who makes money from playing, but has a different occupation, and an amateur as someone who plays for free (though this is probably so I can call my self a semi-pro! :P)

  9. #9
    Piano User
    Join Date
    Jan 2008
    Northern Virginia

    Re: The Amateur/Professional Divide

    This comes up all the time in my house, as when I watch a trumpet video online my son/trumpet student will ask me if the player is a "professional." I usually deflect the question and stress that amateur vs professional is about whether someone plays for money, and that there are many non-professionals who are outstanding players and many professional players who are relatively mediocre musicians.

  10. #10
    Piano User
    Join Date
    Jan 2007

    Re: The Amateur/Professional Divide

    I guess by definition if you get paid to play you're a professional(pay in chickens probably doesn't count), but in my opinion professionalism implies a certain excellence at what you do, not only in performance,but in attitude. I think you have to have "Class" to be a true professional.

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