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Thread: The true meaning of "amateur"...

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    Mano-a-Mando John McGann's Avatar
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    Default The true meaning of "amateur"...

    The true meaning of "amateur" is a lover- someone who loves something. It has taken on this strange other meaning: "non-professional", but even worse, "unskillful".

    There are very few full time professional mandolinists, relative to the number of mandolinists in the world, many of whom play very well. I really dislike the dividing line of "amateur/professional", especially in music, where there are many highly paid entertainers who aren't much as players. There are plenty of highly skilled "non-professionals".

    I know it's obvious, but in the true sense of the word, we are all "amateurs"!

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  2. #2
    Destroyer of Mandolins
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    Default Re: The true meaning of "amateur"...

    I think the last time this came up it was a debate on the meaning of 'professional'. Went on for several pages before Ted locked 'er down, as I recall. The problem stems from the original premise: the 'true' meaning of the word. Both amateur and professional have their original meanings, but they have also developed additional definitions over time, all of which are legitimate, 'true' definitions.

    Sometimes we use 'amateur' to describe a 'hobbyist', as we often use 'professional' when we really mean 'celebrity'.
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    Moderator JEStanek's Avatar
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    Default Re: The true meaning of "amateur"...

    I always assume proffesional means it is a source of income, either full or part time and amateur means you don't derive income, full or part time from it. It doesn't imply skill to me or demean the enjoyment I get from either group. I know TONS of "professionals" who hate their jobs. I also know plenty of people who overthing the labels they apply to themselves and others.

    Me, I'm an amateur, and a lover of many things, even my profession.

    Jamie
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    Registered User Paul Cowham's Avatar
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    Default Re: The true meaning of "amateur"...

    Thanks for this John, I completely agree with your sentiments.

    To my mind amateur is someone who does it for fun and a professional is someone who does it to earn a living (and I suppose semi professional is someone who earns money from it but isn't their main source of income).

    This doesn't mean that all pro's are "better" than all amateurs, but if someone is making a living from it then it's probably safe to assume that they know their stuff. Like you say though, the word amateur can be used to imply that someone isn't very good when there is no reason for this to be the case.

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    Registered User Malcolm G.'s Avatar
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    Default Re: The true meaning of "amateur"...

    How about this - and it applies to any and all endeavors - if you make your living from it (and only "it") you're professional.

    Nothing to do with ability.

    Ya beat me to it, Jamie and Paul.
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    Registered User Randi Gormley's Avatar
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    Default Re: The true meaning of "amateur"...

    I don't know if you can isolate any particular word from its context, especially its emotional context. I know it drives me nuts when someone tries to argue a point by saying "the dictionary defines X as ....." when the question is subtext/context or common usage. That being said, I'd love to hear the story behind what prompted this post. I was having a discussion last night with my husband over whether amateur players are more true to "folk" roots than professionals and your post title caught my eye!
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    Registered User 8ch(pl)'s Avatar
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    Default Re: The true meaning of "amateur"...

    In French there is no negative conotation to the word Amateur. The French word Debutant is used for newcomer, or to suggest a lack of skill.

    An amateur is one who does something because he loves to do so, not because he is not proficient.

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    Destroyer of Mandolins
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    Default Re: The true meaning of "amateur"...

    Quote Originally Posted by Randi Gormley View Post
    ...when someone tries to argue a point by saying "the dictionary defines X as ....." when the question is subtext/context or common usage...
    Ever notice how often someone will use that argument having never actually looked the word up to find it has multiple meanings?? That drives me nuts too.
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    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: The true meaning of "amateur"...

    I have been invited to play a gig about an hour and a half away. They are paying about $40.00 for each of us, which is not worth the trip when looked at reasonably. Of course we are going to take the gig. Heck I have driven an hour and a half just to jam. And will again.

    So "amateur" means that you love it so much you would do it for free.
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    Destroyer of Mandolins
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    Default Re: The true meaning of "amateur"...

    A laudably phlegmatic attitude, Jeff.
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    Registered User William Smith's Avatar
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    Default Re: The true meaning of "amateur"...

    Me pickin after a 12 pack!!!!!!

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    Registered User John Rosett's Avatar
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    Default Re: The true meaning of "amateur"...

    The money I make from playing music is a significant part of my income, but I wouldn't do it if I didn't love it. If asked, I just say that I'm a musician.
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    Registered User mandobassman's Avatar
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    Default Re: The true meaning of "amateur"...

    This is an interesting topic and one I'm sure will never have a solid resolution. I have a full time job that does not involve music. I also play in two bands that work about 3-4 times per month combined. One of the members of one band is a full time professional musician. His entire income comes from performing, doing music seminars, on-line teaching, studio recording, and he has his own studio. The rest of us have other jobs. However, I still consider the rest of us professionals. It has nothing to do with skill level, but we are working bands that get paid for each show we do. Although it is not my main source of income, I still consider myself to be a part-time professional musician.
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    Registered User foldedpath's Avatar
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    Default Re: The true meaning of "amateur"...

    Clearly, someone who gets all their income from music is a professional musician, but I also think of that word as describing an attitude to what you're doing, whether you make most of your income from music, or just play a few minimal paid gigs here and there.

    Do you show up on time for rehearsals and gigs? Do you rehearse the set list, so you're not letting down the other band members? Do you have a friendly attitude and try to keep things running smoothly, regardless of any glitches at a gig?

    All of those are things I think of as being "professional." I've known some people who made a good income from music but lacked that attitude towards the work. And I've known other people who barely break even on gas money and strings, who do have that attitude.

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    Mano-a-Mando John McGann's Avatar
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    Default Re: The true meaning of "amateur"...

    I am sad to report that there are well paid professional musicians out there who do not particularly love music; or have rather narrow definitions of what constitutes "music".

    I guess my reason for this thread is to celebrate the fact that music has such an important part in our lives- which absolutely transcends cash value. Cherish your connections as a fan and as a player. I think it makes us happier and healthier than we'd be otherwise!

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    Default Re: The true meaning of "amateur"...

    Usage determines meaning. Most people use the word amateur to mean somebody who isn't skilled at what they're doing. Oh, the dictionary gives that as one of the definitions ...

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    garded
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    Default Re: The true meaning of "amateur"...

    Great points all, but as usual John and FP resonate where I'm at. Especially the point FP said about professional attitude. Performance has always been my bane, so I've just naturally had to work hard at overcoming the fear associated with it by over working everything. So working hard on all the other aspects of it has put me at odds with many a band. While all they wanted to do was "play" and have "fun", I was sweating the kickoffs, endings, arrangements, sound equipment and live execution of all the above.

    Ultimately they saw the point that being professional doesn't have to be bad. And the thing that has totally killed the music in me that I rely on to inspire me, is to play with people who just don't care. Those can be pro's that are burned out, and it's just about getting paid, those that think the finer points of music are unnecessary, like tuning and timing.

    I love the idea of amateur zest, with professional attitude.

  18. #18

    Default Re: The true meaning of "amateur"...

    You might be thinking of dilettante, 8ch(pl)

    Folk music (indeed, all music) is an interesting concept when you think about things in these terms. Of course it implies many things about societies and cultures, and how they value music. In Western culture, we typically defer to specialists--whom we may generally agree deserve compensation for their services--while families, friends, and neighbors play music for leisure and perhaps other social function such as local ceremonies and celebrations, etc. Sadly but not surprisingly, local DIY music has become devalued in our society. I think when folks relenquished these ritualized activites--music and art-making--into the hands of "outisiders" complicated matters. Even among friends, i think it conveys respect to compensate in some special or commemorative way those who are designated to render the discrete functions, like music for the dance or ceremony. But symphony orchestras, etc., broadens the discussion into concepts of "high art" and "low art," etc.
    Last edited by catmandu2; Oct-05-2011 at 10:56am.

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    Default Re: The true meaning of "amateur"...

    I think I should be paid to stay amateur.

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    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: The true meaning of "amateur"...

    Distinction between "amateur" and "professional" became a major issue around sports, when the Olympics were closed to "professional" athletes. There were "amateurs" from the Soviet bloc, e.g., who were paid full-time wages for playing sports, but were technically "public employees" of one sort or another, with non-sports job titles. And there were many American "amateurs" who were being given full scholarships, including room, board, and tuition, as "college students," but actually were being compensated for athletic performance. Others had their "expenses" underwritten to the extent that they were being fully supported.

    I would say that if you get paid to play music, that makes you a professional. Whether it's your major source of support or not. I've never relied on my music to support me (thank God!), but I surely do consider myself professional, since I have been performing for pay for 40 years.

    "Professional attitude" (reliability, competence, etc.) is a whole 'nother thing, IMHO. There are plenty of amateurs who have that attitude, and, unfortunately, a fair number of "pros" who don't.
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    Registered User Fran's Avatar
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    Default Re: The true meaning of "amateur"...

    Good writing, Allen! I fully agree with you.
    "People will be more impressed with your playing than the price of your instrument."

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    Default Re: The true meaning of "amateur"...

    I guess "professional" would mean that you make your living at it. Semi-professional could mean that you are 1st and foremost a musician but you find it necessary to do some other type of work to supplement your income. An amateur I guess is someone that doesn't get paid. Another way to look at it might be to say that if a musician plays/records publicly as a performer as opposed to woodshedding and jamming or noodling around the camp fire that that could be considered professional--- and hang the money, what's money have to do with it anyway?

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    Better late than never walt33's Avatar
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    Default Re: The true meaning of "amateur"...

    Quote Originally Posted by 8ch(pl) View Post
    The French word Debutant is used for newcomer, or to suggest a lack of skill.
    It also means "beginner" in terms of levels of accomplishment (debutant, interme'diaire, avance'). Unfortunately, in American English usage anyway, "amateur" has also come to infer a level of accomplishment.

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    String-Bending Heretic mandocrucian's Avatar
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    Default Re: The true meaning of "amateur"...

    There is "Music" and then there is the "Music Business" which are two completely different things which happen to overlap to varying degrees. The terms amatuer and professional can mean different things depending on the context of "music" vs. "music business".

    A "professional" (in the music biz) can range from being a "high-level musician" down to being a half-step above "non-musician". It also encompasses the original "artiste" on one end to the total hack/prostitute on the other. Balance the beach ball on your dome onstage and slap your flippers together on command and get tossed a fish...you're a "professional". (What do you call an "artiste" without a gig?...... A "genius-in-despair". more-or-less according to R.Crumb!)

    The usage of "pro" and "amatuer" is too often determined by the ego of the person using it in order to put themself in the best light, or to put someone else down. (Yeah, sport...you're playing in dive-bars 4 nights a week (hoo-ray), but that old geezer you are calling an "amatuer" used to play for Hank Thompson before he got sick of the road and quit.)

    "Can you really play your instrument(s)?" is a totally different question from "Are you gigging/playing out, and how often?"

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    Default Re: The true meaning of "amateur"...

    Brother Dave Gardner sez " A professional is a Cat What Greases His Own Automobile." Good enough for me!!!
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