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 What is a "pro musician?"
Author: Fuzzy 
Date:   2024-01-15 20:32

Growing up, I always figured a "pro musician" was someone whose income derived solely from duties surrounding the profession of playing music.

However, as I aged, I realized this definition didn't really fit what I saw. Too many of my favorite jazz "pros" - the folks whose records I learned from - had other jobs, and played off-hours.

Rather like actors moving to NYC to act...a job was used to support the profession...yet the level of professionalism wasn't in question.

So - I've come to believe that while my initial definition of a "pro musician" isn't wrong, it isn't really inclusive of what a "pro musician" might actually be.

In the world of sports, the line to cross used to be: if you received payment for your sport (even once), you were considered a professional. (I remember a time when - at least in the US - such a payment could keep one out of the Olympics.)

I'm curious how other folks here define "pro musician."


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 Re: What is a "pro musician?"
Author: Hurstfarm 
Date:   2024-01-15 22:08

Sadly when it comes to work, the difference between a professional musician and an amateur one, is that the latter usually earns more money…

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 Re: What is a "pro musician?"
Author: lydian 
Date:   2024-01-15 22:44

I’d say your definition is still close. Few pros these days make a living just playing, but that’s still the main focus of their work life. An amateur like me, who only gigs on weekends, is lucky to make $3k a year playing but has a full time day job in another field to make a living. Pro musicians tend to have music related side gigs like lessons, composition and studio work and are able to dedicate more time to perfecting their skills.

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 Re: What is a
Author: Tom H 
Date:   2024-01-15 23:30

I got into a long debate on the ScubaBoard forum with other divers regarding the definition of a professional diver-- salvage diver? Instructor? Part time? Then it progressed to what a "professional" doing anything is? Are doctors and lawyers professionals and plumbers not? What about teachers-- it's called a profession but certainly not the same pay as a doctor or pro basketball player. Then there is "professionalism"-- a term used to denote someone doing something with a high level of diligence. So, my definition was simple-- a pro musician is someone who gets paid to play gigs, as opposed to someone who plays without being paid. The job(s) doesn't have to be full time, but it can be. But, I believe a professional poker player is generally considered to be one whose sole income is from that.

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Post Edited (2024-01-15 23:32)

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 Re: What is a "pro musician?"
Author: ruben 
Date:   2024-01-16 00:46

I consider myself a freelance musician: in other words, I'm expected to play for free. ha! ha! But when I am asked to pay in order to be allowed to play; I find that a bit much.


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 Re: What is a "pro musician?"
Author: lydian 
Date:   2024-01-16 00:47

Yeah, I think "professionalism" has to factor in somewhere. Even though I get paid for most of my gigs, I have nowhere near the level of professionalism of some of the pros I play with.

There's also a grey area in terms of pay. I'm in a couple of community bands where the band organization gets paid, but the players don't, only the conductor. The rest of the proceeds go to buying charts and other materials. Keeps the players from having to pay dues as well, which, in itself could be considered compensation. On the other hand, I play with many very high level musicians who teach for a living but take the occasional paying gig. They have the professionalism of a pro, but their profession is education. I wouldn't consider either of the above pro musicians despite technically fulfilling the paid gig requirement. If you ask them what they do for a living, they say music professor or band director, not pro musician.

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 Re: What is a
Author: Dan Shusta 
Date:   2024-01-16 21:26

For your perusal:

What exactly is a PRO musician?

What Does It Mean to Be a Professional Musician?

Definition Of a Professional Musician: 10 Habits To Help You Become a Better Pro

The Professional Musician

How To Become A Professional Musician in 2024, The Steps Needed

Post Edited (2024-01-16 23:36)

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 Re: What is a "pro musician?"
Author: Julian ibiza 
Date:   2024-01-17 02:06

The only professional clarinetist I know who has muddled through earning only from playing, is Leslie Craven. I asked him how that was done ( well in my mind it's on a par with scaling Mount Everest in your underpants)and in response he told me his life story. A lot of it sounded pretty touch and go, and reading between the lines it sounded like the story of a " One trick pony "...... but one who grew up in a council flat in a rough part of London, where he spent several years having to fight off the local gang, who would jump him at the bus stop because they knew he was going to study music...... something they saw as being a disgrace to the neighborhood male image. Hence his pursuit of music was somewhat bound with the fact that his father also had him doing boxing( Not a couple of extracurricular activities one would image complimentary). I'm glad that from those shakey beginnings, he has managed to finally retire reasonably comfortably in a cottage in a beautiful area of Wales after a life of offering music to the word. I asked him if he thought his life had been glamorous, to which he snorted with laughter.

" I traveled the whole word and saw only the inside of halls." He chuckled wryly.

All in all it's probably better to be that professional musician with some other job on the side.

Julian Griffiths
Tel. 34 696 798 853

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 Re: What is a "pro musician?"
Author: Dan Shusta 
Date:   2024-01-17 03:05


Thank you for sharing the life story of Leslie Craven. It appears that even though he's retired, he's basically doing what Tom Ridenour is doing now. (MO)

https://www.lesliecraven.co.uk/ (Old website)

https://www.theclarinetcompany.com/ (New website showing his entire product line.)

I think it's wonderful that Les gives generous discounts on everything to NHS workers.

I like the way Les sound proofs or reduces the sound of his clarinet while playing in what looks like a bedroom. I need something like that because I live in a house full of people and somebody is always sleeping. I wonder how effective it is and if we have anything comparable to that on this side of the pond.

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