Discipline VS Devotion: What Makes Someone a Professional Musician?
By now, most people are familiar with Malcom Gladwell’s
rule, outlined in his book “Outliers”.
“when we look at any kind of cognitively complex field
— for example, playing chess, writing fiction
or being a neurosurgeon —
we find that you are unlikely to master
it unless you have practiced for 10,000 hours.
That’s 20 hours a week for 10 years.”
According to this theory, anyone,
regardless of natural talent,
can invest 10,000 hours into a craft and
“master” it (mastery here implies a certain level of skill that is well above average).
10,000 hours truly
is a lot of time but in all honesty,
just about anyone can put 10,000 hours
of practice into just about anything if they really want to do
it; in the end it boils down to time management.
Bearing this in mind,
there could very well could be plenty of
hobby musicians out there who are every bit as
technically proficient and who have devoted as
much if not more practice time as professional musicians.
So what is the difference?
As I mentioned in my 'Orange Twist' interview,
my first voice teacher posed me with an
interesting question at the very beginning of my studies:
"If you had to choose another career, what would it be?"
I thought about it and told her the truth,
"I have no Plan B; I'm going to be a singer."
I will never forget her response: "Good. We can proceed."
She was the first person to make me really think hard about
the lifestyle of a career musician.
Having a pretty voice and a love of singing is essential but not enough; you need to be tough,
resilient, totally dedicated, and work like crazy
to have a happy and successful career as a musician.
That conversation truly changed my life and over the years,
I have shared it with countless young singers.
In my opinion, there is no other path for
Sure, we may take odd jobs to pay the bills
but at the end of the day we define ourselves as musicians.
We go on stage, give our blood, sweat
and tears to perform because
it is who we are, not necessarily because it is fun.
Hobbies are chosen. A profession is a calling.
Music is more than just a passion for professionals.
It is not what we do with our spare time or for fun
on the weekend.
In fact, music is often no fun at all.
Our devotion to the technique and art form means even
listening to music or attending a concert
is true work; we hear the tiny details that could be better,
bigger, or more subtle.
We are in the audience studying, learning, analysing,
thinking of how we did it / could do it / will do it differently.
The time, discipline, and devotion
required to create something unique, true, and honest
is hard and challenging. It can bring us to our knees.
We travel long distances, sing long operas for little money.
We leave the party early because we have to sing the next day.
We schedule and invest in lessons and coachings not
for the joy of it,
but because we have to push ourselves further, to be better.
A professional goes beyond 10,000 hours of technical mastery.
Pavarotti said “People think I am disciplined.
It is not discipline. It is devotion. There is a great difference”.
I couldn’t agree more.
What do you think? What makes someone a professional musician?
Let us know in the comments section below!
Anne Wieben is a freelance operatic soprano, currently residing in Vienna, Austria. For more information, check out her HELLOSTAGE profile
or visit her website: www.annewieben.com!