Tuesday, January 03, 2006

What a Beautiful Suture

Today, while inhaling a cider at the local coffee establishment, I was unable to get my laptop to log on to their wifi. As a result, I was drawn into an argument/conversation between the several servers behind the counter. One of them was a jazz sax player and made this statement: "It takes more work and study to become a steadily gigging musician than it does to become a doctor." Uh oh...I hope not.

From what I understand, Stanley Drucker was appointed to the clarinet section of the New York Philharmonic when he was 19. (He celebrated his 50th season in 1997. You do the math.) Although I feel that Drucker is and has been one of the pillars of American clarinet playing, I hope that my doctor has more than a high school education before I turn my head and cough.

I don't want to discount the hours of practice and the early start many musicians get on their careers, but I'm afraid that this sax player had a bit of a problem with his statement. Every time a steadily gigging musician with an early start on their career (Mozart, Midori, Charlotte Church, etc.) was mentioned, they became "the exception." Was he looking for an average amount of practice/study time amongst all musicians? He's trying to quantify that which can't be quantified. What's his definition of a musician that's steadily gigging? Would it be a certain number of gigs per week? (Oops...There go some of our soloists. They suddenly don't count unless they're playing 4 gigs a week.) How about only classical musicians? (Oops...What about YoYo's Silk Road Project? How do you pigeonhole John Zorn?) His basic premise was flawed.

This pontificate in charge of caffeine had a statement that couldn't be proved wrong. We all learned in Jr. High School study of the Scientific Method that Theories that can't be proved wrong are fatally flawed.

This gentleman was, I believe, still a student over at the New England Conservatory and still trying to justify what we do as labor. As an alumnus of the same school, I'll be give him the benefit of the doubt and take it easy with my response:

Embrace the fact that you're taking part in an art (Yes...Even Jazz is an art.). Yes, we toil many hours a day until we get it right. Of course, we're the only ones able to quantify our success. Of course, as soon as we achieve success in our own minds, we jack the requirements higher. Our jobs are more about achieving evolution than achieving factory quotas. The number of hours spent in your practice room don't matter, the ability to set demanding goals and achieve them do. It's an ART. Stop trying to quantify the damned thing.

You're never going to be able to talk statistics about an artist's education (academic or otherwise) because you're going have an impossible time controlling variables. Every person is an exception.

Now, if you think that being a doctor can't be artistic and passionate, just wait until an unimaginative, uncaring dentist starts cleaning your teeth.