Watch Out! I'm Kinda Ticked Off! (10/21/2013)
Yup, I was on the road again, and delighted that Dunkin Donuts coffee tastes good and kept me awake. (This coming from an avowed tea drinker!) I pulled into Atlanta Sunday night/Monday morning about a quarter-to-one.
And was promptly awakened early with the pounding of hammers and the voices of the work crew re-siding our condo’s. Now, I was gone four days. The foreman knew I was going to be gone four days. They were scheduled to start on my unit BEFORE I left town. And when did they start?? The day I got back. Murphy of Law’s fame is laughing hysterically someplace.
Meanwhile, something popped up in the last couple of days that has got me on my “high horse” or “soap box” or whatever.
If an individual, a company, a hotel playing host, a group doing a fund-raiser, a wedding planner planning a reception – whatever – hired a pianist, a DJ, a jazz combo, a singer, a violinist, whatever - those musicians would be paid.
WHY ARE THE THEATRE ORGANISTS SO OFTEN EXPECTED TO PLAY FOR NOTHING?
I fully understand the nature of our organization. I completely understand our need to promote the instrument we love.
But I took lessons for ten years. There are theatre organists who have their degrees in music. Doctoral degrees in some instance. Just like the ones that play the violin, the piano, and WAY MORE than the DJ who hauls in his glorified boom box.
Why is it that it is OK to take the organist for granted? It happens all the time.
I had the privilege of playing a chapter meeting for the Manasota chapter in Sarasota, and that chapter is generous. Noting this is a chapter meeting, NOT an open-to-the-public concert, there was a small fee involved, and it was fine. And this is the case for most of our chapters. My complaint is not there.
But earlier today, I was notified that a group is looking for a theatre organist, and they want a volunteer.
WE ARE PROFESSIONAL MUSICIANS!!
And let me add, that the best of us are the finest keyboard musicians in the world.
There is NO ONE ON EARTH that can produce what Simon Gledhill, Jelani Eddington, Richard Hills, Donna Parker, Jonas Nordwall, Walt Strony, Charlie Balogh, Lew Williams, Ron Rhode, Jim Riggs, Clark Wilson and the list goes on and on and on…can produce at the keyboard.
Beyond that, fine musicians like Len Beyersdorfer in Eastern Massachusetts and dozens of others play wonderful theatre organ as “walk-in” music for audiences who have paid $60 or $80 or would you believe $300 a ticket for a performance by some performer…and are often either paid very little or are asked to do it “for the love of the organ.”
While I am all for the “love of the organ,” I am all for acknowledging the immense talents of our best players, and wondering why – so often – there is budgeted money for everything except the organist.
Again…cocktail party in the lobby? Need a pianist? $250 - no problem.
Pre-show music on the mighty theatre organ? Well, of course, you’ll volunteer won’t you?
At times, we are our own worst enemies. Our love for the music and instrument has moved us to present it to the public in any way possible…including far too often for free.
What we have done in some circles is put a value on our instrument, and a value on our providers of the music of that instrument. What value?? Zero. Nada. Zilch. Nothing. It’s value is FAR beyond that.
Touring classical organists get fees of $2500, $3000 and more.
Their theatre organ counterparts, the best of whom can play rings around many of our classical players (who cannot handle “second touch” very well but wish they had it!!!!), can barely get half.
Yeah, yeah, yeah…supply and demand. I understand.
But “perform for free?” or, “Sorry, there’s no money in the budget? I thought you wanted to expose the organ to the public, and you want to be paid?”
After a while, it gets insulting.
I am all for exposure of the instrument and the art form. I am all for supporting our chapters and our “sister” organizations who provide great programs on great instruments.
But it is time for an attitude adjustment for those who think the organists should be volunteering. These are the finest musicians in the world, and they deserve proper compensation when asked to perform.
OK – the rant’s over.
I DID play at Grace Baptist Church Sunday afternoon, and had a wonderful time. I am reminded what an absolutely fantastic instrument that Wurlitzer is.
A good crowd of over 60 was there for the chapter meeting, which included an invitation for some from Central Florida Chapter to attend.
Following the meeting, there was a very good, very frank discussion with the Manasota chapter board members about their concerts (attendance is still strong), membership (declining slowly – what do to?), and the future of that wonderful organ with the church leadership undergoing some changes.
Manasota chapter president John Fischer walked away with three good ideas to pursue that might be helpful, and I walked away with one major task that could help all of our chapters. More on that soon. First, I gotta raise the money!!
If my rant above kicks up some dust or rubs somebody the wrong way, so be it. It doesn’t change my growing frustration about how what our best musicians do gets too often taken for granted. Til next week…and I promise, NO RANT!