Cost of Music

Stan Getz playing Misty on a summer morning….. lovely. The music speaks to me in a way that words miss. The sound settles my spirit, inspires my heart and sooths my mind.  I recognize that it is odd to try to write about music but I wish people understood the beauty and mastery that it takes to be an accomplished musician. So often we take advantage of the musicians around us. We recognize that we cannot play but we somehow expect them to play “our favorite song”.  I once talked to a lady in the restroom who was so confused as to why a jazz piano player would not play the song she had ask him to play during a question and answer period with the artist. He is after all a jazz musician and everyone knows that song. Now, I know that piano player, in fact, he is my piano teacher and I assure you that he could have pulled up a chord chart and blown her mind. Just because he choose not to only reflects the fact that the flavor of the concert was not conducive to taking requests. Churches are the worst offenders when it comes to valuing their musicians, which totally baffles me. In many ways the musician is more essential to the act of worship than the pastor himself.

My best guess as to why this happens is that each of us feels as if we can play some form of music. We can sing or we think we can, perhaps we even took piano lessons as a child, so we can bang out a quick rendition of, Three Blind Mice. Maybe it is because we don’t think it costs anything for a musician to play. He after all, already has his instrument. I started taking Jazz piano four years  ago and I am just getting to the point where I could….if I choose to…..play about anything I chose. That is four years of a lesson every week and doesn’t count the years of piano I had as a child. The classical training I received in college and the more than a couple years, I spent on church worship teams. Has music cost me anything?  That would be a resounding YES!!

I started with a $2000 piano that my Mother bought for me, along with at least eight years of piano lessons, than off to college. I figure my parents donated $ 14,000 for beginning piano lessons when I was a child, and hours of listening to a beginning piano player. After turning 50, I was tired of my mediocre playing so I started back into lessons. I found that I needed to buy a better piano. One used eight foot Grand Piano $15,000, and finally, $24,600 out of pocket for the last four years of lessons. I don’t even know how to include my college tuition and the music classes I had in college, that amount would be added to my parents’ total. The total comes to at least $38,600 and I am by no means an accomplished musician. I can only imagine how much money, time, sweat and tears a really good musician has invested. It is said that it takes about 10,000 hours to master an instrument. If we even give a musician $3 dollars an hour for his/her time, to master an instrument that is another $30,000 dollars to add to our grand total. Now a musician has to practice for a specific concert….it is actually amazing that we have any musicians at all.

But as we all know, a true musician would do it for nothing, not because they don’t care about money but it takes passion and passion has no price. They love music and sharing music with others is their mission in this world. So yes, we can take advantage of musicians but should we?  I want to encourage each of us to take time to consider the passion, time and cost next time we hear a musician play for a wedding, church service, or even an outdoor summer concert.

Has music cost me anything? Yes and it has been worth every penny!

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