If money was not an issue... how many projects/concerts would you have declined?

Edited: May 25, 2018, 7:24 AM · Hi, I am curious about how many of you would have declined musical projects or concerts that you didn't like, and I'm talking to you violinists that make a living exclusively out of playing the violin in a orchestra, band, group, quartet, etc...

Imagine money is not a problem for you at all, like you receive $2000 each month just because and that's more than enough money for you. How many concerts or projects have you done/collaborated because of the money and not because you found it musically attractive or fun?

For example, your orchestra is asked to play as background music to a pop artist that you think is really bad and the songs makes you cringe, or even you are bored to death to play the exact same classical pieces but you're in the orchestra and need to play the whole season...

How many concerts do you normally do "because of the money", wishing you could play these other pieces or in this other group of musicians?
Any examples?

Replies (8)

May 25, 2018, 8:15 AM · I will note that many people who play with professional groups are obliged to play whatever that group needs to play. It's part of the job, and people can like most of a job without liking every single concert that's part of that job.
May 25, 2018, 9:14 AM · To be professional means you do your best on a job needs to be done, whether it's something you like or not. Money matters but it can't be the sole reason for your decision whether to do it or not.
Edited: May 25, 2018, 9:23 AM · I used when I played professionally to refuse work if I needed the time off to re-coup or just did not want or need that particular date. When I was a permanent member of an orchestra and recording work was offered as an extra, on more than one occasion I would turn it down. (Two weeks of work everyday without a day off and an extra recording date tagged on at the end is too much in my opinion).

I was also once doing three session days over two or three weeks and was offered all night recording sessions! Total madness, and I did not do the sessions! It was quite a long time ago though.

May 25, 2018, 10:09 AM · That's pretty much why I gave up on my career on another instrument back in the day. As a freelancer, I could cobble together a meager living if I hustled a lot and took whatever gig came my way. But it was high pressure, low pay, and I rarely had fun playing the same schlock over and over. And since the only reason to deal with the high stress and low pay of being a professional musician is job satisfaction, it became blindingly obvious that I was better off doing something else for a living. So I didn't turn down gigs - I just found another career.

Now that I've taken up violin in my dotage, I only aspire to become an amateur (if I ever somehow produce a sound more pleasing than a feline vivisection).

Edited: May 25, 2018, 10:57 AM · I've never relied on playing to provide anything more than pocket money, but I went through a decade or two in which I would accept any paid gig I was offered (usually choral concerts on a single rehearsal). Now I've happily reached an age when I feel I can pick and choose. Do I enjoy the repertoire (my black list gets progressively longer but Elijah remains at the top)? Is the performance likely to be a decent one? Can I stand the conductor? Strangely invitations have now dried up considerably but I don't care!
Edited: May 26, 2018, 1:46 PM · I can provide my own perspective on this for sure.

For decades I took every job I could for the money. I didn't turn down anything that was feasible to do. I felt I needed the money to build up my retirement. And what did it lead to? A lot of long nights with me sitting grumpily at the stand watching the clock. But I felt like I couldn't turn down anything.

Imagine - I've played the ENTIRE Messiah five times in my life, twice with the conductor asking for period playing/ no vibrato. I wouldn't wish that on anyone more than once. It almost ruined my love of music.


I now no longer need to work.

So how has this changed how I approach paying gigs? Drastically. Since I no longer need the money I turn down almost everything. I focus almost exclusively on teaching now (my first love), with an occasional solo performance or chamber concert.

So, to answer your question - if money never had been an issue it would have massively affected how I chose my paying gigs. No doubt about it.

Edit - I decided to redact some of what I posted. I had second thoughts about putting that info on a public forum. Paranoia I guess.

May 27, 2018, 7:07 AM · I have a day job so I can refuse gigs. I just prefer certain groups, venues, and days of the week. I could play one or two gigs a week if I hustled but I play about two per month. That's a good rate for me. Played one last night at Mountain Lake Lodge (where "Dirty Dancing" was filmed). Jazz piano trio. Next gig is jazz violin at a local restaurant.
Edited: June 5, 2018, 5:05 AM · My 2nd teacher, Vladimir Graffman was friends with Heifetz. He once told me this story which happened in the early to mid '70's when Heifetz was retired from the stage: Graffman called Heifetz and at one point asked him "Jascha, why don't you play?"
"Oh, I play" replied the Great H., "WHAT I want, WHEN I want!"

To me, " 'tis a consumation devoutly to be wished"! Yesterday I played the 2nd of back-to-back recitals of the complete Vivaldi "Four Seasons". Despite the pressures, challenges and hard work, I regard that as me on a really good day.

Not too long ago, me on a bad day was playing a performance of Wagner's "Valkerie" - with just one on a part, 2 rehearsals - and lousy money, too!! As the only first violin I was effectively concertmaster on a rare occasion when I didn't want to be. I was subbing at the last moment for a friend(?) who chickened out, begged me to do it, sent me the music very late and still hasn't paid me all of the modest extra money that he promised me. It was a significant commute, too. I felt like I was thrown under a bus.

Then there have been the innumerable gigs, in-between the above extremes of satisfaction and dissatisfaction: orchestra, pop, weddings, good and bad conductors, commutes near and far, summer festivals. Tours, all sorts of adventures. Playing many times in Carnegie Hall and also in gymnasiums, doing a wedding proposal in a gondola in a lake in New York's Central Park - I kid you not! I'm happy to say that even in most less-than-stellar gigs, when I had the fiddle under my chin I almost always derived at least some satisfaction and pleasure.

But if I were to win a modest lottery, or an inheritance or a stipend of some sort along the lines of the OP's financial parameters, I'd continue to be as dedicated to the violin as ever - but I would focus mainly on solo and chamber music, and teaching a select number of serious, dedicated students. And as I recall posting some time back, were I to win a truly obscene amount of money (- even after taxes -) in a mega lottery, I'd acquire a collection of violins and bows like you wouldn't believe!


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