I don’t remember ever hearing any one call music and money twin sisters. They are so seldom seen together that one would suspect no affinity between them; yet we know they are very fond of each other betimes. Wealth always receives a warm welcome in the household of music, and music generally receives an invitation to share the festivities in the palace of wealth, yet they are not often found serving the same master. We may visit the homes of music when we will, and in many of them find that poverty has just gone, or is expected to be the next to knock. Poverty we know has its abode in all the professions and vocations in life, though it seldom visits the homes of industry, tact and economy, yet, like the wandering gypsy that it is, it continually and persistently injects its evil and misery into the homes of the indolent, ignorant, and impractical, especially the latter, and for some reason it seems to show a predilection for pitching its tents among the devotees of music.
Why is it thus? Must music in order to be in the companionship of angels in the next world, have poverty for its constant companion in this? Was this the design of Him who said unto all men, “By the sweat of the brow shalt thou earn thy bread?” Or were these amendments, intended to accompany this command, that have reached the nations of the earth only in an unwritten form? For we find plenty of musicians who are diligent and intelligent, but not practical. Aye, there is the difficulty. Musicianship and practicability are so rarely combined in the same individual that it has become the exception and not the rule.
We all like money; we all need it, and it is our duty to make enough of it to keep off the assaults of poverty. “Poverty is a condition which no man should accept unless it is forced upon him as an inexorable necessity, or as the alternative of dishonor.” Every man should make provision for old age.
The man who fails to make a living in a profession, is in the wrong profession, or what is worse, lacks practical ability. From this remark the victims of sudden misfortune are perhaps the only ones entitled to exception. No musician can live inside of music and obtain practical wisdom. If a man wishes to be an exquisite musician, and be a cipher in every other respect, I would say to that man shut yourself up in music; draw a curtain between you and the outside world, learn not the value of a dollar, whether it is in the form of real estate, dry goods or food for your table, nor of the laws of trade or government, but apply yourself to music and all that is musical, and you will soon be so exquisitely cultivated as to be good for nothing except to be kept in a show case, with the richness of music in one hand and the barrenness of poverty in the other, as a specimen of what the most approved system of musical education can do.
A very high education, unless it be practical, as well as classical or scientific, too often unfits a man for contest with his fellows. “It rifles the cannon till the strength of the metal is gone.” It gives edge and splendor to a man, but draws out all his temper. “Talent,” says a writer, “knows what to do, tact knows how to do it; talent makes a man respectful, tact will make him respected; talent is wealth, tact is ready money.” For all the practical purposes of life tact carries it against talent, ten to one. Then I would say get education, get a broad, musical culture, but with all thy getting, get practical understanding—I mean the ability that will enable one to make a vigorous fight in the necessary conflicts of life. Of Beethoven we read that he was so ignorant of finance that he knew not enough to cut the coupon from a bond to raise a little money, instead of selling the entire instrument. He was so unpractical that, when 37 years old, he sent a friend 300 florins to buy linen for some shirts and half a dozen pocket handkerchiefs; and about the same time, when he had a little more money than usual, he paid his tailor 300 florins in advance.
That poverty makes fuel for genius I cannot believe. The gleam of Beethoven’s genius lights the world, but I believe its flashes would have been even more brilliant had the dark gloom of poverty been lifted from the last sad scenes of his life. There is no good reason why musicians should be poor managers; but many of them are. There are musicians in this country who spend too much time with the grace notes and forget the dangers of the promissory notes. To be a good manager is to be practical and successful. Bad management and impracticability sleep under the same roof, and poverty is their legitimate offspring.
The theoretical worth of a dollar is a small thing to learn, but how many of us know its practical value? Money we must have, and we go into the world and purchase it with our brain and muscle. I hold that it is the duty of musicians to make money, in spite of the whims and traditions that the world may entertain against it. To do this we should make every dollar purchase more than we paid for it. There are many ways of doing this. A dollar may be made to purchase more than its cost in food and clothing for the body, nourishment for the mind, strength for the muscle, wholesome amusement and Christian charity. I hold that no man can do this without some practical ability, which comes to no man who lives solely inside of his profession; neither does it go within the walls of any college that advertises to make the man. No man can learn to make money unless he puts himself occasionally in the current of business life.
After saying all this, I wish it distinctly understood that I am in favor of a broad and liberal education, and by this I mean an education that develops the practical along with the theoretical side of a man. The education that gives a man edge and splendor alone, makes a razor of him in appearance, but not in fact; without practicability he has no temper, and when he comes in contact with life and runs against the rock, the blade is broken, and he retires a victim of the illusion that books and the study room make the man. Then in closing I would say to musicians and others, don’t shut yourselves up like oysters in your profession, but reach out and touch the pulse of the world about you, and its thrill will give you life and usefulness.—W. T. Giffe, in Home Music Journal.Etude Magazine. April, 1895