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By J.S. VAN CLEVE

 
We all know them. There is the religious hobbyist, who, having caught a glimpse of one of the myriad flashes of God's infinite light from some pinnacle of thought, goes about insisting upon throwing this glint into the eyes of everyone by means of a little fragment of broken looking-glass which he calls his conscience. The hobbyist in politics can always set the vast and complex machinery of the great world right by just one little twist of the screw-driver of his little device, and all who are indifferent or skeptical must be classed as interested and mercenary hypocrites.
 
But art is not free from the hobbyist and the crank. Possibly, the art of music is rather more fully supplied with this annoying element than any other field. The hobbyist is to the specialist what the patent- medicine vender is to the genuine expert. A man may devote himself to tuberculosis, to bubonic plague, to the vocal organs, or to the teeth even, and not lose caste; on the contrary, he gains in respect; but he who assumes to cure all manner of diseases and all manner of infirmities with some mysterious cure-all never commands the respect of the wise.
 
Now what of the hobbyist in music who comes at you, not merely with a cheerful confidence in his power to do something for you which will be the just equivalent for your money, but who asserts that he is the only one, and that a certain little device of his own discovery or invented by himself will work like a talisman? Are there such men in the profession of music-teaching? Not so many, fortunately, as we sometimes think; but, nevertheless, far too many for the good of the world and for the good repute of the profession. Here, for example, is a singing teacher who actually claims that after hard study for twenty-five years he has worked out the only real and scientific theory of the voice ever known, and claims that no voice-trainer ever worked otherwise than in the dark by instinct. One such, who is now in my mind, is really a capable man, and up to a certain point does good to his pupils (and I think that he is persuaded in his own mind that his claim is no fake, but a veritable gospel). His rivals, of course, ridicule his pretensions, and allow him no merit whatsoever, and so run very dangerously near to the edge of hobbyism themselves.
 
The elements which make up hobbyism are good things; it is only the chemical union of them which does mischief. To speak after the manner of the chemist, the hobby is a close union of precious thought with intense enthusiasm, and both these are good; but when mixed in dangerous proportions, they become a deadly compound. A dangerous acid, if separated into component elements, may be as harmless as milk. In all this hobbyism, however, the chemical compound consists, to speak more strictly, of three elements, viz.: precious knowledge, intense enthusiasm, and virulent self-conceit. It is the element of selfhood, or arrogance, of narrowness in the hobby-rider's nature which makes what he does offensive and dangerous.
 
But how is hobbyism to be cured? Has it an antidote? Most certainly. To the teacher I should say: Go religiously and regularly to the State and National Associations of musicians, and you will be assuredly cured of hobbyism, or else so exposed and advertised as a hobbyist that you will become harmless; while to the pupil I would say: Attend all the performances of the students that you can, and particularly those given by pupils of some other teacher than your own; and especially make it a part of your musical religion to support, by purchasing tickets, the recitals of visiting artists, by listening with all your ears and heart and mind to what they have to tell you.
 
 
 
 
 
Whoever loses himself in trivalities must pay penance to his nobler nature; but the one who seeks such things designedly is fortunate, since he has nothing for which to repent.—Wagner.

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