I have a friend and former roommate who I used to do musical bookings for when he was a traveling musician in Europe. He has a Master’s degree from the New England Conservatory and I wonder at why he isn’t known by all because he is so incredibly talented. It was a joy of my life to listen to him practice hour after hour, day after day.
When I did his bookings, which most of the time were weddings, in between his symphony gigs, sometimes people would blanch at his rates. Back then, this was over 15 years ago, it was $600 for him to play a wedding ceremony. If the booking came from a referral, the price was no matter. If it came from someone “just looking for someone who can play trumpet” it came as a shock. I knew his value so I had no problem overcoming this unless someone truly could not afford the trappings they aspired to for their wedding.
Why am I telling this story? My friend, Jerry, gave the best justification I have ever heard for why art deserves remuneration. Many people who are not artistically inclined think of the arts as a quaint hobby rather than a serious livelihood but to create something that makes an impression, is lasting in a concrete or memorable way, takes training, tools and practice. Jerry pointed out, he may only play for half an hour at a wedding but he has to be there for two hours to set up, do the processional, a little music in between and then the recessional. He has to learn and practice the music beforehand. He has to make sure his trumpet is working correctly and if not, send it out for repair. He has to pay the student loans for both the Bachelor’s & Master’s degree that helped him perfect his art. He has to pay for his vehicle to get to and from the venue, at least twice, because there is almost always a practice with the organist which the public does not witness. There is his tux and the cleaning, the sheet music, insurance of various kinds…a laundry list of sundries no one would think twice about unless they were really thinking. Choosing to have art in ones’ life is not about simply paying for a material good or performance but about owning everything up to the present that it took to create that wonder, that beauty, that memorable experience and treasure.
There are people who do not want or need art and that is fine, although I feel sad for the richness they may lack in their lives. Those who do strive for it but cannot create it themselves should know it comes from nothing less than everything else of value. Similar to medicine, code writing, engineering, plumbing or any other profession you can name it requires the proper education, materials, tools, practice, aptitude and dedication. Nothing worth having comes free.