Archive for March, 2006

Recently there was a great thread about calling oneself a “composer.” It started with Randy Nordschow’s thread on NewMusicBox, with its inflammatory assertion that “¦ “it’s time to face the fact that, yes, maybe we really aren’t composers.” He also states that if you aren’t making the bulk of your income from composing, you are really a “hobbyist.” This was cause for some great discussion as well as soul searching for many readers of NewMusicBox and Sequenza21. One term in Randy’s post that some readers really balked at was “hobbyist.”

Whenever there is an attempt to label me, or what I do, I usually shrug. Any word would only label a part of who I am, and many times the word can only be a useful description in limited circumstances. I’m on record as saying I call myself “musician,” a term I find more flexible, than composer, performer, or teacher. While I didn’t become as enraged as some over the word “hobbyist” (I’ve certainly been called worse!) I did notice that something didn’t feel right about it. While a good argument could be made for the term, it just didn’t feel accurate. While I never could gather words that concisely explain why, I did manage to come up with an analogy that is perhaps useful.

If someone doesn’t make their living in Buddhism, can they really be a Buddhist, or is Buddhism merely their hobby?

Hats off to Randy, for a great conversation starter!

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I just returned from a workshop for young guitarists at the Omaha Conservatory of Music. Guitarist Peter Vonk recently started the program, and invited me to come back to Nebraska and teach the workshops. It was a great experience, due in part to many of those participating being former students of mine. Most of the students were technically solid and some well beyond. It’s great to be able to work with kids on musicality. It’s really fun to give the ideas and the technical tools for expression, but even more fun to let them try their own ideas.

While in the airport, on standby (I was emailed the wrong departing time by the conservatory), I caught some CNN with the sound off. I saw a cheerleader being carted off a basketball court strapped to an ambulance bed. Her arms were still frantically doing some sort of hand jive that I assume was a cheer. Now, I imagine that this was a news story about how she was injured by falling from a human pyramid, or wiped out by an out-of-bounds player but still had the courage to keep cheering. But with the sound off, I couldn’t help but wonder if a cheerleader droid hadn’t short-circuited, prompting its removal from the premises. Her movements were so convulsive– more animtron-like than courageous. I was reminded of the toys in the Nutcracker, being carried off while still fulfilling a set of directives already set in motion. It was disturbing.

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