Choosing to be a musician

2nd August 2011 | Daily Life, Musings, Travel | 2 comments

The chapel, Ambialet PrioryAn interesting conversation at lunch today about choosing music as a career despite the misgivings of one’s parents. Everyone at the summer school had had some form of The Conversation about whether music was an acceptable profession. Many recalled that they were strongly encouraged in their musical endeavours right up to the point where they said they wanted to become a musician, when suddenly the encouragement turned to parental alarm. Some people had defied their parents’ wishes and enrolled in full-time music courses. Others had been prevailed upon to choose something ‘more secure’, and had resigned themselves to keeping music as a hobby. And it wasn’t only the parents unfamiliar with the music world who worried about music as a career: one person’s parents were actually musicians themselves, and were especially keen to spare their child the insecurity they’d had to live with.

When we compared notes it transpired that, as usual, the grass is greener on the other side of the street. Some who pursued music against all the odds now found themselves looking with yearning at the lives of those who had become architects or doctors. The doctors, in turn, yearned to immerse themselves instead in the search for artistic beauty and truth, and thought the musicians were lucky to be able to spend hours in contemplation of the right tempo and expression for this or that. Yet the architects and doctors were also happy they hadn’t had their feelings about music spoiled by the need to earn money from it. I have had this discussion hundreds of times without ever coming to any enduring conclusions.


  1. Steve Zade

    Here’s what Leonard Bernstein says about his father’s reaction to the news that his son would become a musician: “He thought that I should be a successful and stable businessman, by taking over the business that he had laboured so hard to build. He would have been equally happy had I decided to become a rabbi, because somone always takes care of a rabbi – nobody’s going to let a rabbi starve. But a musician? A kletzmer? He was out of his mind. He fought it tooth and nail”( source: “Music Talks” by Helen Epstein)

  2. Rob4

    Musicians don’t have to take the 7.58am from Surbiton every morning.


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