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One Side of the Musical Situation.

In a certain city which is the most prominent on musical matters in its own section of the country, an examination of the roster of over twenty leading choirs, involving more than one hundred singers and players, shows that but thirty are professional musicians. Out of a certain forty organists in as many churches in this city, but sixteen are professional players. In the same city, this season, one thoroughly educated teacher of singing died from hunger and lack of care; and another, equally well-grounded, attempted to commit suicide because he could not get enough pupils to make a living for himself alone. This, in a city of about 175,000 inhabitants, a city that supports a symphony orchestra, grand opera at times, and that gives good audiences to hear visiting artists—for instance, 2900 people to hear Paderewski. It will easily be seen what deductions may be made from the above facts. And the conditions in this city are probably about the same in any city of its size in this country.

A few of these deductions may be put in the form of questions, as follows:

What is the use of a person’s fitting himself to do good work on the organ bench if such positions are given preferably to real estate dealers, bank clerks, merchants and young women who have but moderate musical education? The church authorities hold out no inducement to higher standards of work.

What is the use of a person’s trying to attain thoroughness and to put himself on a professional standing if he can get a church position more quickly by maintaining mediocrity in music and entering some other business?

Is it a strong incentive to thorough study to see the professional singer and teacher of singing relegated to the background and his pupils employed by the church officials at fair salaries?

Is the piano student inclined, by reading of the starvation of able teachers, or their attempted suicide, to give all the more attention to his study and to decide that music shall be his life-work?

Does he not find food for thought in the fact that it is the well educated musician that reaches poverty and not the quack?

In the face of these facts and the questions that come out of them it is easy to see certain things that the teacher must do, if he fulfils his entire mission to his pupils and to the musical world at large. Though it is not the purpose to dilate on these things here and now, as the ramifications of the subject will present themselves strongly to the thoughtful reader, certain matters may be stated for further consideration.

A teacher in any line of musical work should always say a good word for the betterment of the church music and the putting of it in the hands of professional people at reasonable salaries. He should impress on his pupils and such of their families as he comes in contact with, the fact that only thoroughly prepared musicians should enter the profession.

He should discourage the dabbling at teaching—which is practically the same as turning a young physician loose with a lot of drugs to try on people and to gain his experience by their results. He should do what he can to see that musical persons are put on music committees in churches. And last, but not least, he should impress his pupils with the idea that business ability is necessary in a musician as well as in other walks of life. If there is a reasonable degree of business ability, there will probably be no resort to the chloroform bottle.

And that man who can do as well or better in some other walk of life than in the musical, let him take it and not clog up the path of those who must of necessity stay in it. But when he is out, for his own self-respect and out of regard for the rights of those in the field, he will not reach back and underbid the struggling musician who wishes a reasonable payment for his musical work. Many a musician has seen his bread and butter taken away by some man who has an assured income from other sources, who can thus afford—financially—to do for half pay what he ought to have the manliness to let alone.

 

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