The WSCL Blog

News and information about WSCL's Classical Music Programming

Friday, November 1, 2013

Are you really a "concert pianist"?


Musical Food for thought.
Do we overuse the word "concert pianist" when we describe an artist?

Professor, pianist, composer Dr. Robert Greenberg wrote this article on our frequent misuse of the term "concert pianist" and has a fairly strict definition of when it is appropriate to use.  I came across this article about a month ago, and have been thinking about it ever since.   I don't always agree with Greenberg, who is nothing if not definite in his opinions, but he does push buttons that make us think about music... and that is really his goal.

article "The Lies We Tell" (who really is a "concert pianist")

By this definition, a concert musician whose income is partially derived from teaching is no longer a "concert pianist."  It raises many sticky questions.  Just one is the question of whether money and/or income  is the deciding factor in what is an essentially artistic title.

For years, actors have struggled with this kind of definition.  British actors say, "Professionals get paid." Period.  In America - esp. if you apply the standard of being able to make a living at it - this would mean that television actors, even tv commercial models, are professionals, but many long term (paid, union member) stage actors would not be considered professional.  Most stage actors, like many musicians, have to teach or have other related income sources.  And getting back to music... what about the concert pianist who tours with a big record deal in his/her youth, but then makes a living teaching at conservatory later in life... are they no longer concert artists?  The realities of artistic careers may not allow for definitions this unilateral.

Well, whether you agree with Greenberg's definition or not, it does get us thinking about the way we describe artists and perhaps overuse terms like virtuoso and genius in our superlative age.

Kara Dahl Russell (neither a virtuoso nor a "concert harpist")

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