Sunday musings...

What is this thing called professional? Or for that matter, amateur?

There are many differing views, thus the debate. Many believe professional means getting paid for your services. I think that is just part of story...

Professional to me means someone who has attained a certain level of knowledge in his/her craft and artistry and can perform at that level with consistency and accuracy. And oh, wouldn't it be nice to be paid.

Amateur is not up to par yet. It's okay. The "still learning the basics" phase. Haven't had the polishing, practice, and is still a little rough around the edges.

Professionals distinguish themselves through DOING. And in the doing, they ACHIEVE a level which they never drop under.

After watching Miss America last night - which I haven't done for years - it became clear to me that these young women are professionals...professional pageant girls. Their "talents" - amateur at best, sad at worse. Again, amateur in showing what they cannot do yet...which no professional would do - and not realizing the difference.

What can singers learn from this? Singers - YOU out there. Those of you pursuing VOICE in some form of the business whether to have a career or not.

Developing into a professional singer is not your "talent". A professional doesn't just "happen". A professional is willing to invest, sacrifice and do whatever it takes to pour him/herself into one's craft and knowledge and develop it to an ongoing level that can summoned at will and never allowed to drop from.

I had a young person tell me at a music theatre workshop "I have over 500 musical soundtracks and I know the music to all of them - I'm going to be a professional". A professional what? What kind of ears are you listening with? What kind of knowledge do you base your listening on? What are you truly hearing?

Just because you listen doesn't mean you hear.

Just because you say you want to, doesn't mean you can.

Just because you think it so, doesn't make it real.

If everyone is a professional then no one is. If everyone is an artist then no one is.

Our business is full of amateurs who believe they are professionals. Loving something or even being passionate about it doesn't make you a professional. Professional means time, structure, development, commitment, on SO MANY LEVELS to create a craft and artistry that is reliable and true.

Perhaps you are an amateur with great potential. Then I say, realize that potential!!! Do whatever it takes to find it all and claim it all, if that is what you want to do.

I go back to the Miss America pageant - these girls are professionals - they have committed time, structure, money et al, to the craft of being a pageant girl! They are professional pageant girls! Their "talents" however are amateur - due to the nature of their commitment. They learn an arrangement, a song, an aria not particularly well in technical demand, stylistic demand or linguistic demand, find a 90 second track to perform it to and do it. That does not a professional make! It is simply a contestant jumping the hoops.

SO - I come back to the business of singing - be it music theatre or opera or classical.
Will you be the amateur who jumps the hoops to get through the degree/the program? Or will you be something else?

Professionals rise to a further level no matter their talent-base. They recognize what they have and develop it fully. They never stop learning, studying, discovering!

This is a mind-set and way of living one's artistic life. I have seen so many who, after completing a degree, think they are fine and never study again. Never re-new, never re-fresh, never re-plenish.

This is ignorance and fear that is often unconscious. Yet, it is the spirit of the amateur. The amateur IS ignorant/unknowing by the nature of the word!

Perhaps it is recognizing and claiming the SPIRIT of what these words represent.

To an amateur spirit it will always be good enough.

To a professional spirit it will always want to find more.

To an amateur spirit, you are as good as you want to be.

To a professional spirit, you are only as good as your last performance.

To an amateur spirit, the end of the path is desired.

To a professional spirit, the journey of the path is rejoiced.

To an amateur spirit, knowing you need help/guidance is frightening.

To a professional spirit, seeking guidance and knowing when you need help is crucial and welcome.

Can you be an amateur is experience with a professional spirit? yes indeed.
And also, can you be a working professional with an amateur mentality? yes indeed.

Which one has more to say? Which one will outlive the other?

Which one can lead and which one will end up following?

If you are still an amateur - dare yourself to commit to becoming a professional - as an artist. If you don't, then don't pretend. Don't pretend to hide. The irony is you really won't be. You might be able to hide amongst the other amateurs, but if you sit down beside a true professional, you will be revealed immediately.

Professionalism embraces, develops, explores, asks hard questions, finds the journey no matter how uncomfortable, works hard, doesn't expect a handout, is willing to sacrifice, to commit, in order to discover and uncover truth, and in turn, present it with authenticity and without apology or excuse.

If we embrace the SPIRIT of what we say we ARE we have a much better chance of BEING!

Susan Eichhorn Young covers all things voice—strong and sophisticated singing and speaking. 

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