The Official Blog of

Friday, January 4, 2013

Christmas Without Music?

Are you enjoying live music this Christmas?  Does a string quartet play in your church at midnight on Christmas Eve or have you attended a Messiah or Nutcracker performance?   If so, consider thanking your local performing arts organizations with a financial contribution.

Let me explain why. Many people in the United States only experience live music performed by highly trained classical musicians during the holiday season.  Many never set foot in a concert hall during the rest of the year, if at all.  I suspect that many take for granted that the music they love and the musical traditions they share their family will be available year after year. What would the season be like without performances of the Messiah, Nutcracker and Christmas carols at Christmas Eve services in churches?  Does the average American realize that without the local symphonies, music schools and other performing arts institutions, none of this holiday music would exist?
Let me explain.  Professional musicians could not possibly exist on the income they make from performing just for Christmas events.  Musicians have families, mortgages and other financial obligations just like everyone.  (And their training cost a fortune.*) If they could not sustain themselves as musicians year round, then they would be forced to seek employment in other fields.  Being a professional musician is very much like being a professional athlete.  A musician must stay in shape in order to maintain their level of expertise and skill.  I can't imagine many musicians would maintain a regular practice schedule on top of a full time job in an outside field, for the little bit of money that could be made during the Christmas season.  Serious financial stability comes from the year round work musicians have with symphonies and as music teachers.
So this season, as you enjoy a midnight church service, a Nutcracker, a Messiah, please give consideration to making a financial contribution to your local music institutions so that musicians can maintain year round employment and will be able to remain in the profession.  Otherwise, Christmas Eve may truly become "the day the music died."

P.S. Just a note on what it takes to become a highly skilled professional classical musician.  Take your average violinist.  They started lessons at the age of 5 or 6.  By the time they are 18 years old, on average, a parent has invested at least $60,000 to $100,000 (private lessons, instrument, summer camps, orchestra, accompanists, etc.)  in their child's musical training.  And that figure is just a minimum for a student who has even a glimmer of hope of being accepted into a major university of conservatory in order to earn a Bachelor of Music degree.  (Note:  most musicians do not stop with a Bachelor's degree, most have Master's and many have Doctorates.)  Add in at least 6 years of college level training, and literally 30,000-40,000 hours of practicing by the age of 20.  So what you see on Christmas Eve is a result of an enormous amount of "backend" work and expense.
 About the author:   Phyllis Freeman is the principal viola of the Maryland Symphony Orchestra and a section viola with the National Philharmonic.  She is also the director of the Maryland Talent Education Center and the CEO of  Visit her profile at

No comments:

Post a Comment