I was just watching and listening to a video of a very talented group of young(ish) musicians playing in a conductor-less group. I ended up having to just listen and not watch.


Nearly every musician was beating time with his or her instrument. It was so very distracting. I understand the need to keep time. I understand wanting to count carefully when there is no conductor to help with the pulse, but to pretty much pound out every beat is, for me, a distraction and also starts to make one lose the horizontal line of the work.

When I only listened it wasn’t quite so bad, but I could still sense they were beating that pulse out much of the time.

Maybe it’s just my problem. I wonder.

Side note: I love watching younger (and when I write “younger” now I am mostly referring to forty or below) musicians at work. It’s also difficult for me, though: it makes me feel quite old, and perhaps a bit obsolete. That’s especially the case when a group implies they have the answer to what is frequently called the death of classical music. (Key phrases: “break down the barriers”, “collaborative”, “for the people” and one they don’t frequently use but I will “will pay for tips”.) Unfortunately most of these groups that tout the answer aren’t making a living wage off of their frequently wonderful and well-played music making. So perhaps they have the answer to the death of classical music but they might, as well, be bringing on the death of classical music as a profession.

I wonder.

I don’t mean to be snarky here. I just worry that if you give something away for free or nearly free you are telling the world — or at least the current audience — that the value of your work is worth next to nothing or even nothing at all, aside from applause.


  1. There’s a study that concluded that people place more value on things they’ve paid even just a little bit of money for over the same exact thing obtained for free. I read twitter comments that indicate a parent refuses to pay for a lesson because of some lame gripe, and the teacher allows it. People should not be sheepish about demanding that they be compensated for their services. Professional musicians, regardless of their age, need to unapologetically demand payment for their services. You’re absolutely right — the death of classical music, especially music at a fine level, will happen if we are not good stewards of our product. If the Kardashians can be millionaires just for existing, certainly classical musicians can expect, no, demand a living wage in exchange for fine training and niche expertise.

  2. Thank you very much for your comment, “JRS”. Much appreciated!