Covid-19, Orchestra, Practicing, Teaching, Uncategorized

Changing the Narrative: Play or Work

Should musicians rethink language we employ when speaking about our daily lives, especially during layoffs? Is there a disconnect from what we do vs. what others THINK we do?

Apparently, from questions I received during the Covid shutdown, the answer is yes:

—do you love your time off with your family?

—what do you do now that you are not working?

—must be nice to have a break, right?

The last question came from a friend working in a music non-profit in another city! That some in our industry do not understand is sad, but not so unusual.

We must patiently help others comprehend the true nature of our work. Two simple words work against us: practice and play. These two words must be replaced by one simple word: work!

Look at dictionary definitions.

Play‘ is characterized in as: activity for enjoyment and recreation rather than a serious or practical purpose. It is something done without purpose; it’s an extra-curricular sport; something frivolous! The word ‘practice’ in Webster is explained: to perform or work at repeatedly so as to become proficient. Better. But not good enough.

Now look at the word ‘work’:

Webster defines ‘work’ as: to perform work or fulfill duties regularly for wages or salary .

AHA! That is what we do! And this is the word we must use!

If someone asks if I practiced today, I say “No. But I did work today.

If someone says it must be nice to have time off, I say: “I don’t. I spend three to four hours daily working directly with repertoire, scales and studies. In addition I spend time in score study/listening and 30+ minutes working on reeds. I am working on producing teaching materials for my students, and I am on the internet to create programs for an after-school music group called HEAL. Because of Covid I am also learning new computer programs for teaching via Zoom. In total I spend 8-10 hours a day working, just the same as you do!” I say this with a smile, and in a kind way.

We musicians have trouble thinking of what we do as important. But it is important. So use the word ‘work’ when describing what you do. If nothing else, it will lead to enjoyable conversations!

1 thought on “Changing the Narrative: Play or Work”

  1. Lovely post, Diana. And I would add: of course you would gladly work in your salaried orchestral job at this time, if kept safe (such as outdoors).

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