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Music Career

( Originally Published Early 1900's )

Music is the international language which, irrespective of race differences, unites all nations. It appeals alike to the educated and uneducated and its scope is only appreciated when not only the musician but also the great audiences which gather to listen are considered. It is one of the oldest arts but also one that is ever new and it penetrates deeply into the complexities of modern emotional life, taking a firm hold on the human heart. The awakening of musical appreciation in an individual or in a nation not only aids in general culture but it betters social conditions. The folk music, which is an integral part of the life of most countries, unites and holds the people as no other bonds can. The power of music over man was especially demonstrated in the late war, for the men literally went to battle with songs on their lips. The melody and rhythm of the songs gave them courage and made them better soldiers. So music is not only an art of enjoyment; it is an art that helps the individual, whether he be musician or listener, and is a constant power in the molding both of the individual and of society.

Music is composed of melody, harmony and rhythm and, as an art, it means the organization of musical sounds into something definite, by design, and not by chance. All musicians must have a keen mental perception of tone, time and emphasis, and must have the ability to give to the listener the emotional impulse contained in the theme and to bring out the melody thus realizing the composer's intention.

The musician has a choice in the instruments he may use, and the field of work which he may enter is concerned with this choice. Music may be given expression through the human voice or through the use of musical instruments. The man who has a good voice and has the desire to sing should, by all means, use his voice rather than an instrument. He may have a tenor or a baritone voice—that is something which is predetermined for him—but the line of work which he will enter is a matter of choice. If his voice is an exceptional one, he may go into concert work or become an opera singer.

The man who does concert work provides an evening's entertainment either alone or with an assisting musician and, in order to sustain the interest of the audience for several hours, must be an artist of a high type.

The opera singer has the severest sort of competition with the best singers, not only of America but of foreign countries as well, for the opera represents the musical life of such countries as Italy, France and Germany. The opera singer must not only be a musician, but, if he wishes to succeed, must also be an actor. The parts which he has assigned to him will depend upon the compass of his voice, his ability and upon the opera being sung. If he knows several foreign languages, he will have a better opportunity to become a member of an opera company, such as the Metropolitan Grand Opera Company or the Chicago Grand Opera Company. He may find an opportunity, to sing with the chorus of the opera company, and then his rise will depend upon his native ability and his efforts. The singer must always study, for the opera field is a hard school, demanding always the exceptional man. Comic opera and musical comedy also offer opportunity for the singer who can act.

Aside from the concert and opera, the singer may appear alone or become a member of a small company that sings on the vaudeville stage. Such work demands acting as well as singing. The Chautauqua and Lyceum courses offer much the same field. The singer may also become a teacher, if he has a firm grounding in the technique of singing and the ability and patience to help others to acquire that same technique. There is a growing field for musicians to take charge of the entire musical program of schools, including concerts, chapel services, glee clubs and orchestras. In church work the choirmaster is really a teacher and a sound training is more to his advantage than real genius, and a knowledge of the qualities of voice is essential. The soloist in a church choir has permanent work that can well be combined with teaching.

The musician who uses a musical instrument has a wide field to choose from. The best instrumental musicians have some knowledge of the piano, whatever their later work may be. The man who becomes a pianist must have great mental and muscular coordination, he must have keen mental perception and he must also have the artistic ability to interpret the theme of whatever is being played. The pianist has his best opportunity in concert work or teaching. If he has exceptional powers he may enjoy the concert work, while if he is not able to do that he may play in an orchestra. While the church is the traditional place for the organist, few motion picture houses lack a pipe organ, and the organist who can play well and who can adapt his music to the pictures can fill such a position. Different instruments require different talent but, whatever instrument the musician uses, he must express his utmost feeling with it. Regular practice is an essential for the musician, and with it must come stated hours for exercise and rest. Music is an art that demands constant application, and the true musician can never relax his efforts.

The orchestra offers work to a multitude of musicians. The man who plays a cornet, violin or drum has open to him many places with orchestras. The better motion picture houses have orchestras, often of sixty or seventy pieces, that demand trained artists; and the man who has a clear sense of rhythm and time can find a position in this line of work. The conductor of the orchestra is its responsible head, and its success and reputation depend largely upon him. He must know the score, and bring out the melody and harmony with the baton as a symbol of his power. It devolves upon him to make the orchestra a unified whole, so the position is a responsible one and one that offers great advantages to the man who may start by playing in the orchestra, but who becomes capable, both by his personality and musical knowledge, of conducting it.

The teaching of music offers many advantages to the musician, for the field is ever widening. The love of music is so ingrained in us that an ever-growing number of children are given at least a few terms of lessons in music. This may result in only a deeper musical appreciation, but the teacher will find it worth while, even on that score. Teachers, whether of piano, violin, pipe organ or orchestral instruments, must have a thorough training in order to be successful. The teacher, concert singer or director may become a composer and, to become a composer, one must have an unusually fine sensibility to tone qualities, pitch, rhythm, harmonics and idealization of musical themes.

There is a growing demand for better trained musicians, and the training which is advocated should be coupled with a liberal education. It involves rigid mental discipline, and must have an intellectual background, a thorough knowledge of English, at least one modern language, preferably French or Italian, general history and some science. The musician must be capable from a musical standpoint, but he must also be broad in his interests and well grounded in his ideals. He must learn the language of music but he must have something with which to express that knowledge, and only persistent culture along broad lines will fit him for the task. He must study with a definite plan, schedule and under favorable conditions, if he is to become a good artist. He must have a thorough training in harmony, musical history, ear training, form, counterpoint, theory and composition besides his special work on whatever instrument he chooses. Mere talent will not carry him along, for a profitable understanding of the works he interprets cannot be gained from mere casual hearing but must come as a result of training in habits of observation, of analysis and of sympathy such as only systematic study can give. Physical training, with especial reference to breathing, is absolutely necessary.

When the student has graduated from a music school, he must continue his studies, if he desires to do concert or operatic work. This advanced work is usually done under competent private instruction in one of the large cities either in this country or abroad. At present, teachers in New York City are able to supply practically any want, and American teaching is proving very successful for the student who wants to work in this country. A year abroad, however, improves the diction, gives one a wider knowledge and is exceedingly valuable.

A great many musicians never attend a musical college and depend wholly upon private instruction. If the student has already acquired his grounding in English, languages, history and science, this is a very excellent method, but such instruction should be supplemented by attendance at lectures and programs, for all musical students need contact with the musical world in its length and breadth.

A musical training is exceedingly expensive, as tuition alone in the usual music schools amounts to from $350 to $1,000 a year. The four years in the average school can hardly be accomplished for less than $4,000 and the amount usually needed is much greater. Even in the state institutions there are fees in the music departments, although they are noticeably lower than those of the private schools of music. Private lessons usually range from $2 to $10 a half hour and some of the best recognized teachers charge even more. The training period for a musical career is from six to ten years and, even after this study, the practice and lessons must be continued indefinitely. It is a profession for the man who has the ability and the financial means to pursue it. It demands such perfect physical well being that it is essential for the student to work without financial worry. The man, however, who is unable to accomplish this, yet knows he is capable of becoming a good musician, can perhaps find an opening to play or sing while he is studying—such openings may be had in church choirs, student orchestras, choruses and the like.

Professional incomes have no standard. The musician is a musician not for what he can make out of his work but for what he can put into it. Only a few professional musicians are able to demand financial returns in any way commensurate with their ability and effort. So many who study music use it as an avocation that it has hurt the earning ability of the professional. Caruso could demand his price, but only after his ability had been proved, and there are many musicians now who make $20,000 to $100,000 a year. But these are in an exceedingly small minority. Orchestral positions pay from $200 to $1,000 a month and a competent director will receive an even higher salary. The musician who is in light opera or on the vaudeville stage usually works by the season and the length of the season may vary from twenty to thirty weeks. The salaries are from $100 a week upwards, depending upon the artist. The income of concert musicians depends upon their popularity and the number of concerts given, but the low mark for such work is about $200 a concert. Teachers in schools and colleges receive salaries ranging from $1,000 to $3,000 a year. Private teachers average from $2 to as high as $25 a half hour, so a great many musicians have turned to teaching not only from love of the work but also for monetary reasons.

The man who would be a musician must have an artistic temperament and the taste and genius for the work. He must have an auditory memory, for this musical memory is absolutely essential to his success. He needs a good physique, for the work is hard and the hours often long and tiresome; if he is a singer he must have good breath control for unless his vocal organs are in good condition the singer cannot do justice to his art. A good appearance on the platform or stage is especially necessary for the concert or opera singer. Sincerity and personality have been given by a great many musicians as the secret of all success; certainly they help a great deal. Happiness and cheerfulness, the ability to overcome despair, patience and a willingness not only to sacrifice pleasure for the sake of his music but to work steadily for long hours are all desirable qualities of the student musician. The true artist always has the joy of his art, which is his real reward; but all too often this reward is the only one.

The career of a musician demands long, arduous and expensive training, and a man may spend years on his work only to discover that elaborate technique has nothing behind it or that, even with real talent, he falls short of the level which brings success. But the prizes are great if he does win, for, if he is a concert or opera singer, a violinist or conductor of an orchestra, he is idolized by the public, he sees much of the world and has a good income. Most of the hundred thousand musicians in this country are not opera stars but, even so, music offers a real career to the man with talent for both music and work.


DICKINSON, EDWARD: "Music and the Higher Education," Charles Scribner's Sons, New York, 1915.

FARNSWORTH, CHARLES H.: "How to Study Music" (written in story form for younger readers), The Macmillan Co., New York, 1920.

HADDEN, J. CUTHBERT: "Modern Musicians," T. N. FOULIS, London and Edinburgh, 1914.

SINGLETON, ESTHER: "The Orchestra and Its Instruments," Symphony

Society of New York, Plimpton Press, Norwood, Mass., 1917. STANFORD and FORSYTH : "History of Music," The Macmillan Co., 1916. VAN VECHTEN, CARL: "Interpreters and Interpretation," Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1917.


The Etude, Theodore Presser Co., Philadelphia. Musical America, Musical America Co., New York. Musical Courier, Musical Courier Co., New York. Musical Leader, 618 McCormack Bldg., Chicago.

The Musician, Henderson Publishing Co., New York.

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