In praise of amateurs - Mike praise of amateurs Soapbox KEYNOTES Amateurs are allowed to be enthusiastic, to show their love of what they’re doing. ProfessionalAuthors: Doris SchattschneiderAffiliation: Moravian College

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  • and trumpeters who have modelled their facial expressions on Val Kilmers Iceman character in Top Gun. The best mix of amateur and professional is the youth orchestra full of young musicians who have all the technique and yet still retain their enthusiasm. In a group like

    the Australian Youth Orchestra the kids are doing it because they love it theyre not being paid (in fact they have to pay to be in it) and the final performance is a never-to-be-repeated experience. Never again will that group of musicians play that music with that conductor in that place and time. Its like when Lake Eyre fills up unique, unusual, exciting and worth driving many miles to see.

    Sometimes the doing of it is more important than the brilliance of the end result. As Norm used to say: Amateur performance be in it!

    W e use the word amateur mostly in a derogatory sense, to refer to someone who isnt very good. Sure, we dont want amateur surgeons, but in the arts being an amateur can be a good thing. It means doing something for love, rather than money. We all start off as amateurs, even the best performers among us. We play and sing and perform at school for the sheer joy of it and the togetherness it brings. Apart from fighting in a war, theres nothing that brings people closer to together like performing as one.

    It is almost a clich for films and TV shows to use amateur performers as the basis for comedy, because lets face it they can be very funny. When I first saw the film Waiting for Guffman I roared with laughter about the antics of the town of Blaine (stool capital of the USA) and their home-grown musical directed by the sibilant thespian Corky St Clair. The second time I saw the film I stopped laughing and realised what Corky had done was valid and wonderful. He had galvanised the town. He had created something where there had been nothing before, and he did it on his own terms.

    I had a very inspiring teacher in primary school, who went on, like Corky (without the sibilance), to inspire the whole town of Mudgee.

    SEPTEMBER 2010 13

    WORDSGUY NOBLECARTOONMIKE SPARROW

    He arrived in the main street and decided in a kind of madness to set up an opera company to perform Cavalleria Rusticana and Pagliacci, with the old ABC Sinfonia providing the orchestral accompaniment and locals taking the major roles and providing the chorus. The town came alive in pancake and greasepaint and for a brief moment Italian opera flourished in country NSW.

    I love watching amateur productions of musicals. Because the performers all have other jobs this is their chance to shine and they make the most of it, even when the staging goes wrong. I saw one production of The PajamaGame where the female star of theshow fell in the pit, then climbed out, adjusted her hair bun and went on as if nothing had happened. So many big musical productions are now run by the technical department; its refreshing when no technology exists to draw focus from the humans on stage. I dont think a scene change has ever moved me emotionally, but a good song sung honestly can tear at the heartstrings.

    Amateurs are allowed to be enthusiastic, to show their love of what theyre doing, but in contrast the professional musician can sometimes be too cool for school. Cool clarinets, viola players with icicles hanging off their brows

    You dont have to be a professional to get a kick out of music. In fact, says Guy Noble, it can sometimes help if youre not.

    In praise of amateurs

    Soapbox

    KEYNOTES

    Amateurs are allowed to be enthusiastic, to show their love of what theyre doing. Professional musicians are often too cool for school.