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Why pay musicians?

To be honest, I was initially scratching my head with this title, because to me (as a pianist), it’s immediately obvious why we “should” pay musicians – it’s our work, our livelihood, it’s how we pay bills. Musicians are paid to write music for our favourite movies, they’re paid to play at weddings, funerals, to teach, and anything else you can think of.

What about performers? And, as I’m sure you all know I’m not talking about pop artists, since if you’re reading this, you’re on the website of a classical music charity. I’m talking about classical musicians. During the past few years, I have sadly seen multiple colleagues quit the profession and pursue another field, in order to secure a more stable income. And I applaud them for that! That’s not an easy choice to make, especially if it’s something to which you’ve dedicated your entire life. But it’s left me thinking about so many things – and compensating musicians is one of them. I won’t bore you with the usual “Imagine a life without music” sermon, because as effective as it may be, it’s been shared so much already. Instead, let me tell you a personal story that I haven’t yet talked about publicly. And you, the reader, can form your opinion on it one way or another.

Back in 2017, I played a two-piano concert with my husband. The program largely consisted of Benjamin Britten and Brahms. Both are masterpieces in the two-piano repertoire. We had decided to do this program a little bit last-minute, so there were a lot of late-night practice sessions and long rehearsals. Needless to say, for about 4 months I didn’t have much of a life outside the practice room. And when I wasn’t in the practice room or teaching or in a lecture somewhere, I was obsessively score-studying. We put the program together with some difficulty because it’s not easy to find a space with two pianos. But, we managed. Before we went on stage I was admittedly excited to perform these two works because I loved them so much, but also equally terrified because we hadn’t performed them anywhere else. And the first performance always feels uneasy to me. So we performed, and it went okay. I really enjoyed it, even though a small part of me was a tiny bit panicked the entire time. I felt the energy of the audience and it was incredibly rewarding! There were many special moments where you can feel everyone’s intense attention to the music. One of the audience members was a dear family friend. He had travelled for about an hour and a half just to hear our concert. Afterwards, we went out for dinner with him and my parents-in-law. It was a lovely evening. At the dinner, he shared something that’s always stayed with me. He told us that since his wife had passed away a few months prior, he had been in so much despair and sadness. She was his true companion and best friend of many, many years. A wonderful lady. The heaviness of his loss was unimaginable. He told us it was during our concert when, for the first time since she passed, he was able to feel a little bit of peace. A little bit of healing. Something that made his heart just a little less heavy. All of that just from the music. I will never forget that conversation. All those long hours of preparation were worth it to me, just for this alone. The power of music is incredible. Why pay musicians? So that we can make more of these moments occur. There is something magical that happens in a live concert, and we need to find ways to keep it going. It's important. There is a reason why all of the arts are so essential for us – it’s because they remind us of our humanity. Let’s work to make more of these memories for each other. ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Below you can see a short video from the concert:

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Petya - What a touching story. The Russo-Ukrainian war, ecomomic instability, cost of living escalation and the ongoing disruptions and challenges of the Pandemic - supporting people who make the lifelong commitment to practice and study involved in becoming a professional classical musician has never meant more than it does in these times where everyone seems to be suffering loss and stressed out about life more than than ever. Thank you so much for sharing this with us all.

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