This conversation is closed.

As a society why are we so disparaging of amateurs? Amateur musicians, artists, cooks etc.

I think that we can use enthusiasts to guide and help beginners in a much more open and flexible way. Children who are starting out on a musical instrument can sometimes feel intimidated by a professional but to see an amateur musician play purely for the joy of it and make mistakes and not be perfect could be very helpful to them. Has anyone experienced this and could this collaboration be helpful?

  • May 11 2014: People who truly are experts or reasonable individuals never disparage amateurs. There are 2 cases when this happens:

    1. Amateurs make the jump to professional. i.e. an amateur chef opens a restaurant or a musician applies for a position at a world renown orchestra. In both cases, people have the right to criticize because they are being paid for their expertise.

    2. When the people doing the criticizing are not reasonable nor experts.
    • May 12 2014: There is a third case: When amateurs get puffed up and egotistical, making all kinds of claims that they cannot back up with real results. I see that a lot in the sciences, where some yoyo who sort of once kind of almost half-heartedly skimmed through a biology texbook once in his life considers himself qualified to pontificate on every aspect of a disease, or somebody decides that, since she once minded a child on the autism spectrum, she's an expert in diagnosing who is or isn't "really autistic". Such people deserve enormous derision, scorn, and perhaps a public flogging.
      • May 12 2014: Agreed. They think their opinions are better than anyone. I have also seen some professionals who thought this. I believe the classic was the Medical establishment disparaging Pasteur about bacteria causing illness and that they were spreading it.
      • thumb
        May 16 2014: Just Love your post! Bravo.
        I think in our age most of authentic, hardworking, talented scholars are pushed away by startups with some superficial training in the field but loud promotionable "ideas". Sorry that the "professional judges" are as stupid and self-confident as the startups themsleves.. Public opinion is not really public-made opinion - it's based on popular media "opinion".

        The old mentality in scientific thinking does not help to keep up with new evidence, this looks not only comical but tragic (just like in the age of Pasteur). However, it's very encouraging to know that my close friends in the fields of experimental physics and biochemistry clearly see that that recycling mentality must change. This scenario is happening periodically in history of sciences, arts, music and philosophy..
  • thumb
    May 9 2014: i don't think society disparages beginners or hobbyists at all.

    if someone has poor skills, then it is okay to say so. they can always practice more. they can still indulge their passion and they will become better.

    live music is great - as a beginner, i made mistakes (still do) in front of people. at first, it's horrifying but I quickly learnt to get over it, have a laugh and keep going. the funny thing is, unless it's glaringly obvious, most people don't notice and even fewer care.

    i don;t know of anyone who plays an instrument who didn't learn by watching 'non-professionals'. i certainly didn't learn guitar by going to watch top-level bands and guitarists. i did the old trial and error - best way to learn.
    • May 12 2014: I learned to play violin by taking lessons from professionals. I learned biochemistry/molecular biology the same way. My heart was in biochemistry/molecular biology, so that's where I ended up. As for the silly notion that trial and error is the best way to learn, I would shoot anyone who tried to teach laboratory safety by "trial and error" and have anyone who tried to learn it that way sent for mental evaluation. There is no room for "trial and error" with some of the substances I have worked with. An "error" on such a trial can very easily mean death.

      When it's hundreds of children at a time as my responsibility as a laboratory coordinator (I'm old enough to see undergraduates as "children"), I will not permit "trial and error" when learning laboratory safety.
      • thumb
        May 12 2014: there are lots of ways to learn, Bryan and it's pretty obvious to most people that learning guitar or songwriting is a completely different kettle of fish than mixing potions in a lab.

        hhhmmm...wonder how the first scientists learnt their craft..?
        • May 12 2014: The first scientists died a lot, actually, very often from exposures that we would never permit in the present day--in other words, they learned lab safety VERY BADLY. Mercury poisoning was the norm for alchemists, for example. Marie Curie from radiation poisoning due to UNNECESSARY exposure to radiation. This is why "trial and error" is now realized to be a VERY STUPID WAY to teach laboratory safety. You stated that "trial and error" is the "best way to learn", without qualification. I merely provided counter-examples that quite handily disproved the naive claim that it's the "best way to learn".
      • thumb
        May 13 2014: i can only assume you believe that modern science practice owes nothing to the trial and error method.

        oh, and congratulations on being deliberately obtuse, Bryan. it makes for scintillating discussion..
        • thumb
          May 13 2014: :o)

          'deliberately obtuse'

          Scott, thank you very much for this beautiful expression for English amateurs all around the world like me.

          I like it!
        • May 13 2014: No, that is NOT what I assume. I argue against the lame-brained contention that trial and error is the "best way to learn", which is WHAT YOU HAVE CLAIMED.

          You: Trial and error is the best way to learn.
          Me: No, it isn't, here are counter-examples where it is NOT the best way.
          You: You are saying that trial and error has made no contribution at all.
          Me: Stop being dishonest.
        • thumb
          May 16 2014: Trial and Error is the only method for pioneers. No-mistakes but ready-to-go patterns is the method for the blind and deaf followers. But someone has to deliver the old tradition to new geniuses, we need 'deliberately obtuse' to deliver these traditions and rules from one generation to another.
      • thumb
        May 13 2014: @ Bryan:

        'I would shoot anyone who tried to teach laboratory safety by "trial and error" and have anyone who tried to learn it that way sent for mental evaluation'

        And where do you sent people who shoot other people in laboratories, or elsewhere?
        • May 13 2014: You give them medals if they're doing it to save lives.
      • thumb
        May 13 2014: Have you been growing up in North Korea or what made you that radical? :o)

        Sorry folks in North Korea, I am just using a highly shallow and western stereotype here to be able to keep up with Bryan ...
        • May 14 2014: Ever had a chemical burn? Anyone who would actually use "trial and error" to teach laboratory safety to undergraduates is advocating pouring acid on children. It's that simple. Only someone desperately in need of removal from the gene pool would advocate using "trial and error" to teach laboratory safety. WHY DO YOU FAVOR USING TRIAL AND ERROR TO TEACH LABORATORY SAFETY?
      • thumb
        May 14 2014: I would sue any chemistry teacher for negligence in your given scenario, as I would sue you for murder.

        The method of 'trial and error' does by no means propose to ignore already gained knowledge. And I don't know what makes you even think that.

        But the reason why we know today what we know in chemistry and all other disciplines was gained by a lot of trials and a lot of errors ever since.

        The risks in encountering new phenomena in science, for instance, usually comes when our given knowledge fails to draw valid conclusions from it.

        I think it is very cheap to say today, in hindsight, that the lab safety of Marie Curie was run very badly. She was a brilliant scientist and I am very certain, that she incorporated all her knowledge in physics and chemistry in her personal safety while conducting her experiments.

        At that time, nobody just knew, that radiation energy was able to mutate the human DNA, because the concept of DNA was just about to be discovered around her time. Radiation caused diseases were completely unknown.

        So I honestly don't know if your complains about Scott's comment are serious, which would mean you are not using common sense, or if you like to play the smartass, which was equally shallow to me.

        What I do know is, that I would not wish any children to have a lab instructor who would kill another being on his own terms instead of using civilized ways to solve a conflict.
        • May 15 2014: So, you are 100% happy and thrilled with a lab instructor who tells children "figure out lab safety entirely for yourself." Nice to know that you will NEVER run a laboratory.
      • thumb
        May 15 2014: quote: 'I would sue any chemistry teacher for negligence in your given scenario ...'

        Is this your understanding of '100% happiness'? Are you reading what I write to you?

        btw. I did run laboratories and anyone survived nicely.
  • thumb
    May 9 2014: I agree with Greg - please add more time. This could prove to be an interesting discussion.

    I too think the freedom to make mistakes is important, because it forms the bedrock of creativity. I expect that kind of freedom is more likely to be under the tutelage of a passionate amateur than, say, a jaded professional, who may be practicing his/her craft perhaps for the wrong reasons. Children learn more from heartfelt passion than they do by rote. Also, learning should be more about the 'how', having first learned the the basics of 'what' in art. Then there has to be the critical point where a teacher has to know where to let go in order to let the child's own creativity flourish into their own artistic passion.

    In mature art forms, there is no such thing a right or wrong. One person's revulsion is another's beauty.
  • thumb
    May 8 2014: you might want to add more time to this, click edit and add more time, right now you have 18 hours.

    I don't know if you're correct entirely, Ishani. Many times people are very encouraging to children who are setting out to learn to do something. I haven't been to a piano recital with children, have you? I imagine the children make mistakes sometimes, I would guess the audience is very tolerant, do you think I'm wrong?
  • thumb
    May 13 2014: There is a great difference between making mistakes in our professional/artistic performance and some amateur trying to imitate professionals.

    My friend who was a young musician once was jamming with the old, super advanced "cats". He was so nervous that he could not help but played some wrong notes... The old musician who played next to him whispered "Hey kid, stop shacking - we do not make mistakes - it's Jazz!"

    I learned a great deal from that evening - in Jazz the wrong note means Challange, therefore, we have to create new
    ways to make it sound like it is meant to be - by inventing new harmony and even developing a various melody for that note/sound, and we must do all that without missing the groove! Our success " depends on our talent, good skills and training. That is how we often discover something new! It is very rewarding.

    I took this as my lesson for my life, "there are no mistakes" - it is Life, just find new harmonious ways out of your troubles.

    Here is a little special treat for you - lots of improvisation and inspiration but not for money :

    Vera Nova
    • thumb
      May 14 2014: Is that you singing, Vera?

      Congratulations and many thanks for sharing!

      Just a view other artists I know managed to transfer me where this song of yours lead me too. Kate Bush, Secret Garden, Humpe & Humpe (probably unknown in the US), Loreena McKennitt and Sarah McLachlan.

      Quite a nice place to be at, so thank you very much indeed!
      • thumb
        May 14 2014: Am I so glad you like it :) Yes, I sang it and actually composed and arranged the whole balad, played all synthesizers and "sang" the "chorale" parts on the background (improvised the whole stuff). I was lucky to play with a couple of those worldclass musicians who were very interested in my unusual music and played almost for free.. they were excited to be involved in something new, something they never heard before. (The leadguitar is old Grant Geissman, and the drums by M. Jackson's drummer, and I was for sure blessed by the legendary guitar player Eric Gale..he was going to produce my music himself but was already deadly ill...)

        Well, public does not know about my music. A couple of days ago I published a few songs on youtube.. I can defenately survive without any public and will stay happy without its opinions.

        Here is a couple of old classic Swing Era songs (old jazz/blues) just for you:)

        • thumb
          May 14 2014: May I be your groupie?


          I do not faint, nor scream nor stalk and never ask for autographs - pinky promise!

          But seriously, you shouldn't be on TED when you could be - should be - on tour singing for the world!

          You talked about those 'super advanced cats', and I liked this expression very much, but there are only a view cats which can sing, and even less than a view cats that can smile. And most of those who do smile, vanish!

          You smile in your voice, Vera, while singing in unique yet wonderfully familiar ways!

          I am glad to be able to say this, because we haven't resolved our hypothetical framework yet of being the only two people on this planet, which brings me into the advantageous position not being counted as part of any 'public' but just me, thus, my opinion has to care about your survival as well as your level of happiness!


          The good thing is that I don't have to fake my deep respect for your talent in singing, because there is no need for it.

          It may well be that you 'survive without any public' yet I can assure you, that most of the public looks pretty pale already.

          So as a loyal groupie I have done the best I could on Youtube to push you towards the opening page to turn your tunes run viral. :o)

          Could you imagine yourself to become a famous singer? Would it match your interest to work with similar advanced cats and tomcats for joy and for a living, for a while or two?

          To me it would be nice to imagine your talent in good and professional company!

          So once again I will put on my imaginary hat and trench-coat to stare over the edge of my half-empty whiskey glass into thick layers of cigarette smoke at the bar at the end of the universe while the jukebox plays your smiles ... just for me! :o)

          Thank you!
      • thumb
        May 14 2014: Lejan, you're a dear soul. I'm just surviving "human civilization" because i did not choose to be born here.. Some years ago when I just started to do some "gigs"or shows, the clubs/ restaurants complained that the customers always stopped eating/ordering while I was singing because they just stared at me..they pinched or grabbed me after my show to make sure that I'm "real". In those recording studious they tried to make me sound like someone else and make my music sound as some wellknown fake.. the photographers chased me but only to "adjust" me to their magazine's standards, the art publisher pushed me to paint what he thought could be easily sold..the list was endless. Professionals were not ready for me, but I was probably the most successful in terms of being noticed among successful musicians, artists, actors I knew. I was only "famous" for refusing any offered "deals". I've met a few outstanding people who were asking me the same quuestion - what's wrong with you? you're a megastar,but no one knows. I'm too real for that showbiz, I'm not made to please the audience - too much of an introvert . I could not compromise under any circumstances, the most flattering offers made me ill. I was bitter for years hating myself. I'm now very sure that I did not miss a thing. Sinse I was very young I was a little wonderer, an authentic little philosopher. I'm coming back to my tiny philosophicall self. I have survived as my self just by being quiet - it's a "miracle".

        P.S. This is fantastic that you believe some people would enjoy my performance from "another existence".. without any promotional "campaign" I'm working on my whole musical right now - having one great sound engineer and a couple of musicians, the rest is my work. Will be happy to let you know when it's done.
        Thank you for your kindness I do not have much of it.
        • thumb

          Lejan .

          • +1
          May 14 2014: I didn't choose to be born here either, or when I did, I can't remember it anymore, yet it sounds somehow hard when I hear you saying it. Don't you like to be here, to be alive? I thought you do, thats why I put you on the list of volunteers for the cleaning up after the party ... :o)

          The rest of your comment I understand, totally, as you are a musician, not a product, but 'showbiz' as industrialized complex around music got nothing to do with the idea of music, at least in my simple understanding.

          By a chain of coincidences I once landed in a Jam Session of people who met to share their joy for music, together. They brought their instruments, a view beer, talked a bit, played a bit, jammed a bit, and it became my personal understanding what music is about. One of those calm moments of joyful insight. Many of those musicians seemed to be introverts, but that didn't matter.

          To be 'on tour' singing for the world doesn't mean anymore to be physically out there, although I have to admit that just for curiosity reasons I would have visited your concert in Germany and since I heard you smiling, because since and thanks to the Internet, the music industrial complex is loosing its grip on the individual artist.

          Many musicians are finding new ways to produce and to market their music in their very own ways, and this on all levels of talents, from amateurs to 'Mega-Star' as you modestly described yourself on youtube already ... :o)

          No pinching, no marketing strings attached! Just you and your team of Vera's little helpers.

          So once again I am trying to seed the idea in your mind to take a closer look at what crowd funding platforms could do for you, your ideas and your dreams.

          Especially on music, kickstarter is currently hosting 29,260 projects, which you can find right here:

          My brother who is more and deeper into music than I am just recently told me, that in Germany a trend has settled, ...
        • thumb
          May 14 2014: ... that people are very much willing to pay 99 Euro cent (1,36 Dollar) to download a song from the Internet instead of downloading them illegally. And many indication arise, that the multitude in available music recovers from the egalitarianism of the music industrial complex.

          And the good news to you is, Vera, you don't need to sing in German to make more than just me to be your virtual groupie in central Europe! :o)

          So please do let all of us know, here on TED and elsewhere, when your musical is done and where we can either back it as crowd funder or buy it as musical enthusiasts.

          I assume you got to need at least a view bucks to be able to regain your land to start your other project over again. :o)

          If you need any assistance in cover design, desktop publishing or digital arts later, let me know and yes, this offer comes in the same currency than the music you offered here: 'not for money'.

          And if you are using MIDI files and in need for some synthetic strings, I may be able to help out too, as just recently I started to experiment with an incredibly realistic sounding software plug-in, which left me speechless since what is digitally possible today.

          LA Scoring Strings Demos

        • thumb

          Lejan .

          • +1
          May 14 2014: Especially uploaded for you, my very first trial on this software:

          You can borrow my virtual hat and trench-coat, of course ... :o)
      • thumb
        May 15 2014: Lejan, what kind of software (machinery) have you used ? Did you perform the lovely string piece by yourself, just like very happy Vivaldi ? This time you're guilty of doing it great.

        You can borrow my virtual hat and trench-coat, of course ... :o) Please guide me with this.

        To make sure that we are in tune with the Topic - it's extremelly helpful these days for someone who cannot hire a whole orchestra or some very pricy musicians to create his own music even a new style--- to use sensative technology in stead. I mean, sometimes I feel that my keybords are like the most sensative musicians under my fingers.

        When we do something innovative we are not amateur though we have to make mistakes- we are pioneers.. All innovators of all sorts in arts and music were a little sloppy, not perfect, the followers could be much more smooth technically but the very pioneer remains authentic forever.

        Oh well, music is my life no matter what I do or where I am.

        P.S. "a Megastar" is Eric Gale's idea. My non-profit org secretary comes to check on our non-profit bills and stuff and plays with my computer once in a while. I showed her my new youtube "events" and she "participated" sending her comments to the public, that is why it looks liike they're mine. She thinks that I'm more an idiot that a megastar, because she says I sould be a billionaire by now and start building for everyone a greenhouse, as I have promised.
        • thumb
          May 15 2014: .


          - iMac computer 3,4 GHz Intel Core i7
          - Mac OS X Version 10.7.5 (Lion)


          - Ableton Live 9 Intro from Ableton (Midi Composer/Recording Studio Software)

          - Kontakt 5 Player from Native Instruments (Sample Library / Midi interface)

          - LA Scoring Strings 1.0 (Sample Library)

          All the software is also available for Windows computers and the Kontakt 5 Player is compatible with many other Midi Composer/Recording Studio Software as well.

          LA Scoring Strings is available in version 2.5 now which is even more advanced than version 1.0.

          To be continued ...
        • thumb
          May 15 2014: We are 'in tune with the Topic' from my side since 1975 when I was 6 and watching my father soldering his DIY electrical organ at our kitchen table ... :o)

          And although I was not allowed to touch anything, being known in our family as the one who breaks stuff, I was all exited and couldn't wait for him to finish, which took precisely 2.5793 billion child years.

          At that age I didn't like classical music I was exposed too, yet I always loved strings and piano for their beautiful sounds. And this organ promised both of those instruments alongside many others. Yet when it finally was finished and playing, I was quite disappointed, because only flutes and the spinett kept their promise to some degree but no other instrument did.

          Strings sounded like 'bumblebees on speed' and the piano like ... like something I don't know what ... :o)

          In my mid twenties I tried again and got myself a synthesizer and a good midi keyboard which at that time already used sample based sound synthesis and thereby came much closer to both originals. But a lot of realism was still missing.

          Then and by chance I was once able to play on a concert grand from Steinway, which spoiled my former expectations for simulations to infinite levels and to get one of those originals kept itself stubbornly out of my budget I was willing to spent on this just hobby.

          I can play the piano and was considered highly talented by my teacher who was a retired concert pianist, yet she never understood my motivation and bored me to death meanwhile I caused her hair to loose even more pigmentation.

          I am no musician, never was, but I love to experiment with sound and instruments. It is boring to me to play music other people composed and leave this to the talented people, which then I adore and deeply enjoy. I just do my own 'noise' which seems to want to come out in irregular waves every now and then.
        • thumb

          Lejan .

          • +1
          May 15 2014: In 2012 I started to experiment again with music on computers and the first time ever I found a Steinway sound library which my ears couldn't tell apart anymore from an original one.

          The technology has become that advanced, and the processing power that cheap, that even piano string-resonance can be computed in real-time. Like to play in the Scala of Milano? No problem, just load her 'echo-characteristic' in a convolution reverb plug-in and you'll have it.

          Amazing! Put it on surround sound, close your eyes and you hear from a totally different location.

          Then I stumbled across LA scoring strings and was hooked again. To my ears and knowledge the most realistic sounding software available at the moment.

          And even though I would like to take credits of being guilty, I can't, because the only thing I did in the sample I uploaded for you was some minor MIDI editing, because the file I downloaded from the Internet was a single blob of notes and not separated in single instrument tracks.

          Free MIDI files often come without 'dynamics' information attached and so was the one I found and I expected Vivaldi to sound as if cooked for 48 hours in an endless see of boredom in my first trial. Yet, it didn't and this is what thrilled me and left me smiling in awe at that day.

          The plug-in itself comes with a bazillion possibilities for fine-tuning on its own, of which I didn't touch a single one.

          So all I did was to copy the same MIDI file multiple times and erased in each copy certain notes of which I only assumed they did not belong to a specific string ensemble within the whole orchestral setup. By this I was able to assign to each of those separated pattern a certain variation of string samples, to add a broader variety to it. That was all and done in less than 30 minutes, with me still at the beginning of understanding how the plug-in works.
          The overall speed I changed as well a bit, because it didn't sound right the way it was, by which Vivaldi would probably kill me. :)
        • thumb
          May 15 2014: Wow, you really got me going on this topic ... sorry for that! :o)

          I am undecided if I would or should agree with your secretary about you, but I am certain that none of our views matter in relation to your love to music.

          As an outsider and from what you told me about you, I was just counting 1 + 1 and that it could become 2, thats all and not important if you choice makes it another value which is of value to you.

          I really like your view on pioneers! Because only by this rule I was able to work in research.:o)

          The 'virtual hat and trench-coat' you'll find right-hand side right behind the little counter in the wardrobe of 'the bar at the end of the universe' where I left it for you. You cant miss it, neither the wardrobe nor the bar in your imagination. The location is also clear - at the end of the universe, THIS universe, to be precise - and you'll find it also.

          My greetings to Joe, the bartender, if he is on duty if you get there ... ;o)

          I like your idea about greenhouses, do you have a specific concept in mind?

          Personally I love those:

          Based on the fantastic concept of geodesic domes by Richard Buckminster Fuller. Elegant, resource efficient, highly stable and easier to build than one would think... :o)

          Potatoes to me please ... ;o)
        • thumb
          May 15 2014: Ah, see, I forget to mention that I don't have a MIDI keyboard at the moment, which I lend to a friend whose daughter is having piano lessons and which is reason why I used another persons MIDI file and not my own creations to experiment with, because I can not 'play' on a virtual computer keyboard nor can I compose anything but drum pattern with the mouse.

          If I would be able to compete against Vivaldi even with full equipment? I don't think so ... :o)

          Yet here is someone knowing what he is doing in terms of composing for stings as well as how to use the software for it ...

      • thumb
        May 15 2014: Vivaldi's "work seems to have been written in haste: the string parts are simple, the music of the first three movements is repeated in the next three, and not all the text is set." ( from Wikipedia) I suppose he'd not kill you for your experimental version of his style:)

        "He died during the night of 27/28 July 1741, aged 63,[42] of "internal infection", in a house owned by the widow of a Viennese saddlemaker. On 28 July he was buried in a simple grave in a burial ground that was owned by the public hospital fund. Vivaldi's funeral took place at St. Stephen's music was performed on that occasion. The cost of his funeral with a 'Kleingeläut' was 19 Gulden 45 Kreuzer which was rather expensive for the lowest class of burials." "Johann Sebastian Bach was deeply influenced by Vivaldi's concertos and arias.. " It's a terribly written article but a couple of spots do make sense.

        Vivaldi's work was asleep till early 20thCentury.

        Human-made fashions take over human minds and taste for some months, and sometimes for centuries, in philosophy- for millennia. More comments below..
      • thumb
        May 15 2014: Lejan, would you like to start a new thread or something? There is no Reply link under your latest comments..

        I have some thoughts regarding tech help in music and other media. When you listen to a real orchestra you can recognize the conductor. When you listen to a piano or violin you recognoze a musician. This unique charachter that tech devices may only sample from great performance or instruments or voice, is getting repeated over and over again for a "new" artificial "masterpiece" in recording studios... public would not even know where those sounds have been stolen from

        Once upon a time this young musician made me laugh to death! when he made-up a song in rap style - "He stole this tune and he looped it and he looped it - and it's so stuopid, stuopid.. (stupid)"

        It was his super description of a contemporary music-making process..

        Just want to say - No Danger for an original live person who is Able to perform music in his/her own vivid way/harmoniously / rhythmically ..I hope I make some sense.

        I'll try to find you in the corner of that universe. But you better create one on your own - it would be easier to find and visit you.
    • thumb
      May 14 2014: Lovely music and voice.
      • thumb
        May 15 2014: What did you like, Fritzie? You did not say.
        • thumb
          May 15 2014: Not being a musician myself, I don't have the language to describe to a musician what I like in her voice. I like a melodic, is it called lyrical(?) voice. Your voice has an interesting combination of strength and restraint.

          I like the sort of voice that can fit with jazz standards.

          I experiment with the hammered dulcimer and a tonal drum, both of which have sounds I love but I cannot describe to you why, because the impact is emotional rather than analytical. I like to leave some things that way.
      • thumb
        May 15 2014: Fritzie, you might not even guess how right you are - to be "analytical" or technical in music is like trying to slice the wind with some knife.
        I'm grateful for your thoughtful comment "Your voice has an interest combination of strength and restraint." No one could say this so plainly and so clearly as you did - and yes, it is my forever "golden rule" the most invincible strength is brewing from grace and majestic Calmness. I remember reading Stanislavski An Actor Prepares , he is telling us - screaming is your failure to act, any loud scream is your worst weakness. (unfortunately all our postmodern culture is based on screaming, whoever screams louder gets all the attention)

        You do have very perceptive ears, Fritzie. Thank you:)
        • thumb
          May 15 2014: I don't believe that screaming is very effective other than as a disruption, with the exception that some people do prefer it in vocal music. I also think people tune out people who talk excessively.

          I conjecture that some of us have a different sensitivity of ears, of eyes, and even of taste buds. There could be a genetic basis, but also our leanings are probably affected by how noisy our baseline environment is.

          For example, I went to a gallery show yesterday in which the featured artist was an outstanding colorist. I found her work extremely striking and well composed, but I could not hang such work in my home. It would be too bright for my eyes. I know your college training is in fine art, so you probably know what I mean when I say I lean to the colors of the Spanish still life (like Melendez).

          In food some people favor the very spicy, some the very bland, and some in between.
    • thumb

      Lejan .

      • +1
      May 16 2014: It makes me feel sorry at times for posthumous recognized talent when earlier appreciation could have made for less troubled times for those people. May this be because of changing fashions you mentioned, general public awareness, or simply because an individual is way ahead of its time.

      At the same time I am against hype and personalized cultism around talent, as to my understanding this isn't helpful to talent either. So I am lucky not to be endangered by both extremes. :o)

      On creativity, inspiration and who 'steals' from whom, however, we could open a separate thread all on itself and with a multitude in views, believes and interpretations.

      In my understanding creativity and talent only reveals what is already there and just hidden in front of us and to our perception. If our concept of infinity is true, of which I think it is, at least in mathematical terms, then there is nothing we can do or create which conceptional essence wasn't there before.

      However, if this was true, it doesn't seem to take away our joy and pleasure within the process of revealing, which is good and just the way the human nature has evolved. 'Being first' seems to remain of high importance to many of us ever since, even in fields where we can never be certain ... :o)

      This is why I am highly against the very modern idea of 'intellectual property' which is nothing but a shallow incarnation of this childish urge.

      No you can't think that, because I thought that before you ... no mental trespassing here anymore ... lol

      Hopefully just a temporary fashion ... :o)
  • thumb
    May 12 2014: Hi Ishani,
    I do not observe that as a society, we are disparaging of amateurs in any field. Unfortunately, there are people who try to undermine self confidence and self esteem, belittle, deprecate, reproach and discredit others in our world. There are individuals in all walks of life who encourage and support others, and there are some who do not. I do not perceive it to be unique to either professionals or amateurs.
  • thumb
    May 10 2014: The term amateur may be a big part of the issue.

    An amateur typically engages in an activity for fun or love of it (for those who had latin I'm sure we all remember amo, amas, amat, amamus, amatis, amant) rather than for financial gain. It is looked at as a hobby versus a profession. Some look at the old olympic definition - someone who has never made money at the sport.

    But another definition is someone who is inexperienced or unskilled at the activity. That may be equated by many as someone who is not that good at the activity.

    If you enjoy cooking, playing an instrument, participating in a sport, etc. why classify yourself as an amateur? Do we do this in order to say don't expect too much? Or I could be better but I'm just learning?

    I don't make money reading or running but I enjoy both and don't call myself an amateur reader or runner.
    • May 13 2014: The "old olympic definition" is, by the way, part and parcel of an extremely elitist model of society. Amateurs were deemed to be morally superior by virtue of the fact they did not have to dirty themselves by "earning" money. They were nobility or gentry. Thus, by birth, they were superior and didn't have to work for a living, like those smelly "professionals". Indeed, the attitude was so pervasive at the beginning of the 20th century that the British army had a hard time convincing their officers that they had to undergo physical training.
  • thumb
    Jun 2 2014: You have to know the difference between an amateur and a mediocre. Mediocres try to get the response due to professionals from their poor performance. Some amateurs might know a lot about the process it takes to make an artist.
    It does take process to turn a good artist to a great one; but only few people are patient.
  • May 20 2014: As someone with a top-tier conservatory education, I have the exact opposite opinion. I think our society is OBSESSED with amateurism. Most of the musicians on popular radio are amateurs. Many celebrities are amateur actors. People get their news from amateur internet writers. The truth is our society is so incredibly weighed down by amateurism that most people are unable to even recognize what it is to be truly expert at something.
    • thumb
      May 20 2014: I hadn't thought of this until your post, Benjamin, but I suppose the extreme popularity of talent shows on television in which people are identified who are still amateur but have promise may support your case of the pleasure people take in amateurs aspiring to greatness or, at least, to popularity.

      I think too that there is widespread distaste for expertise in many settings and that a lack of understanding of what expertise or scholarship is interferes with people's developing their full potential. It is a great advantage, I think, to be able to recognize and learn from talent around you rather than trying to get rid of or denigrate those who in some area are truly much better or think and work in a way one doesn't understand.

      In some areas both experts and novices can bring something fresh. It would be constructive, I think, for people to appreciate what each brings.
  • thumb

    Gord G

    • +1
    May 14 2014: I think amateur verses accomplished is a subjective continuum of quality. One defines the other yet there isn't a definitive point of separation. (professional is a monetary distinction that doesn't directly correlate with quality of expression).

    I believe when there's a subjective devision, there's an inclination to diminish others to prove a superior position . After all, quality is an ephemeral cultural perspective, where as criticism is constructed from certified rhetoric.

    The paradox is, great expression requires independent thinking that lives in the moment while the separation between amateur and accomplished is a distinction mired in retrospective authority.
  • May 9 2014: The reason I ask this question is that I have personal experience of this, from my own childhood and a project I have been working with for a few years. I know there could be a tension created between professional teachers and unqualified assistants as teachers may feel they are being 'replaced' by amateurs because of budget cuts in schools. I also see that children quite often want to play perfectly straight away and don't realise the commitment and hard work it takes to be as good as someone they see performing professionally. In my experience, I have found that adult volunteers who are amateur musicians helping children who are beginners can be a rewarding time for ALL participants.

    As I have children who are learning piano, I have been to see them perform and they are lucky to be at a school where this is encouraged (without expecting perfection) so that they can feel what it is like to play in front of an audience and likewise my children come to see the amateur orchestra I perform with. When I was growing up and learning to play piano and violin, my parents who could read music as singers but not play an instrument, instilled a deep love of music of all kinds in me, even though they had to rely on teachers to help me to improve (apart from making sure I practiced of course!) Many people learn an instrument as a child/young adult but give it up when 'real life' takes over (or they lack the confidence to make music their profession) but want to get back into it at some point in their lives - these are the enthusiasts I think could help those (children or adults) who are just starting out on the journey.
    • May 11 2014: Ishani,

      Let me slightly disagree with you. True professional teachers, in my experience, want as much help as they can get and welcome as much help as they can get.
  • May 8 2014: Could it be that they're the kinds of people who think they can get meaningful answers to such a deep question within a mere 24 hours?
  • Jun 6 2014: Society may be disparaging of amateurs due to the disparity between where we (and they) think they COULD be someday and where they are now... particularly in instances where present inexperience could contribute to actual embarrassment or loss for the individuals around them. This could be a symptom of a society focused (perhaps necessarily) upon achievement as a means merely to STAY WHERE ONE IS; sure, that person could be an expert SOMEDAY, but for now they are, unfortunately, a liability.

    The solution could lie in placing societal premium upon the process of skill development as an investment in one's fellow humans; understanding that EVERYONE must necessarily move through amateur status on their way to awesomeness can help mitigate that liability effect. The question will be: can people living within the context of a world of scarcity AFFORD that kind of understanding?
  • thumb
    Jun 6 2014: Are we? Show like The Voice and X-Factor use the non professional to create engaging television, much like college sports has always done.
  • thumb
    May 27 2014: Honestly I think that society as a whole is much less disparaging of amateurs than during previous decades. In fact, many social scientists have argued that the influx of amateurs have actually challenged the traditional business practices of the past. In particular, social scientist Clay Shirky coined this phenomenon as "mass amateurization," where technology has made it easier for individuals to develop their talents as a musicians, artists, journalists, photographers, programmers, web developers, or a host of other professions. Not only that, but this technology has made it practically effortless for individuals to collaborate and distribute their work. (Check out Clay Shirky's TED talk for more info on this phenomenon:

    As for why some of us might still be disparaging of amateurs, there are a wide range of reasons, most stemming from the downsides of "mass amateurization." For starters, there generally isn't much quality control (YouTube being a prime example of this). While this lack of quality control might be a good thing, the problem is that there can be too much content to sift through, not to mention that this content might not even be original or reliable (this is especially the case with web journalism). There is also a threat to traditional institutions (business, academic, etc.), particularly in the journalism, computer science, and photography fields.

    Don't get me wrong, I think that the infrastructure of these traditional institutions need to be redesigned. However, the true cost of this aforementioned threat is unemployment - traditional institutions are collapsing or significantly downsizing rather than evolving.
  • May 24 2014: I think the same as what Scott Armstrong thinks. I was very suprised on the rate of negative comments against amateurs. When we started out we were all amateurs. If you talk young people in being afraid of doing something wrong they will not be able to be independent and yes that may be a little off topic but it connects. Just because a person has spent more time on this earth does not mean that they are wiser or more fit to do their job. It is sad to see that in our society how it exists today not more young people more amateurs have higher positions for example in politics.
  • thumb
    May 24 2014: Hi Ishani,

    Everyone at the top of the company started somewhere. I do not personally know of anyone who got in their Bentley and drove to their high rise office and performed their job as CEO of a fortune 500 company on the Monday following their High School graduation. This is not to say is has never been done, but I have never seen it.

    So, even those that do not admit it, started an an amateur. Even those singers or dancers who were discovered through their U Tube video or on a competition show, were very likely practicing day and night and singing karaoke at the corner coffee house for many years. So there is a wide definition of "amateur".

    To prove my point...At the age of 1 we were are amateur walkers, at 2, we are all amateur speakers and at the age of 4, we are all amateur writers. We need to carry that mindset with us, knowing that the first step may be a flop and the first words may sound silly, but we continued anyway. We need to teach out children that they should try lots of things to find what interests them and then cheer them on to follow that dream.

    I like your attitude of doing our best to eliminate any intimidation so that children can feel that anything is worth a shot.

    My mom has a saying....."The only job where you start at the top is a grave digger".
  • thumb
    May 22 2014: Fostering opportunity and growth among those who see something as a hobby or a love of a talent for the pure experience of enjoyment is where happiness at it simplest can be found. The idea that professional focus and critique of hobbyists and amateurs as a negative is of concern. Professionals should seek to foster growth in the interest of their profession and embrace the excitement of raw talent or simply amateur interest in their craft. Supporting those with interest in your area of expertise is how your profession or area of talent will grow, learn and evolve.
  • May 16 2014: Who is the true judge of greatness? The experts themselves or the general public in their thousands and millions?
    • May 20 2014: @ Ishani O'Connor

      Thank you for launching this discussion and for your most recent questions: "Who is the judge of greatness? The experts themselves or the general public...?"

      If created with passion (versus technicality) music, art, cuisine, etc., are all forms of artistic expression. It is within that artist's own being whether or not they seek validation from disciplined experts or mainstream society.

      For whom was the art created?

      For a genuinely "Great" artist (musician, chef, etc.) the reply is effortless: "Myself"

      We bring our dreams to fruition to quiet our souls.

      When an artist's creativity is derived from deep within AND he or she has the technique to actualize what was merely a whisper in a dream the day before, words such as "Greatness" are hurled at them from fastidious scholars and unlearned persons, alike.
      • thumb
        May 20 2014: Well said Julie!

        Anyone who creates with passion and love for what s/he is doing, recognizes and appreciates the process and intent in him/herself.

        If one is creating something only to please or be recognized by others, the project usually is not as "GREAT", as when one truly loves the process, because we bring our energy to everything we do. Creating can be a cycle.....we bring our energy to the creation, and the process gives us least that is how I feel when creating something:>)

        This question....."As a society why are we so disparaging of amateurs?".....assumes that we ARE disparaging of amateurs, which I do not agree with.

        The important piece for me, is HOW we create....HOW we appreciate and recognize our creativity....HOW we share the gift of our talent with others, and I do not like separating armatures and professionals in a way that suggests one or the other functions in a certain way all the time.
    • thumb
      May 22 2014: Greatness is in the eye of the beholder. Is fame an indication of greatness? It often is a question of why someone becomes famous and for what reasons. So lets think of it in ideals terms. If someone is famous for the right reasons and is respected by all without any known flaws, will they been known for their greatness or will they be known for other more popularized ideals? Greatness can only be a label of an act that then defines who a person is. If that act of greatness is something like an invention that changes the world for the better, like a medical advancement for the cure for a common disease, the label holds true. But then help define famous, because most people could not name person whose life accomplishments lead to the curing or substantial advancement in the treatment of a disease.
  • thumb
    May 16 2014: Americans and society in general are a bung of Amateur because we do enough to know or to do something not enough to be great or to be a professional at something.
  • thumb
    May 15 2014: Vivaldi's "work seems to have been written in haste: the string parts are simple, the music of the first three movements is repeated in the next three, and not all the text is set." ( from Wikipedia) I supporse he'd not kill you for your experimental version of his style:)

    "He died during the night of 27/28 July 1741, aged 63,[42] of "internal infection", in a house owned by the widow of a Viennese saddlemaker. On 28 July he was buried in a simple grave in a burial ground that was owned by the public hospital fund. Vivaldi's funeral took place at St. Stephen's music was performed on that occasion. The cost of his funeral with a 'Kleingeläut' was 19 Gulden 45 Kreuzer which was rather expensive for the lowest class of burials." "Johann Sebastian Bach was deeply influenced by Vivaldi's concertos and arias.. "

    It's a terribly written article but a couple of spots do make sense. Vivaldi's work was asleep till early 20thCentury.

    Human-made fashions take over human minds and taste for some months, and sometimes for centuries, but in philosophy- for millennia. More comments below..
  • May 15 2014: i think it's because as a society we place more trust and faith into people with experience and who are seen as being perfect, even if they are not. children are especially vulnerable to this as they live in a world where everybody seems to know everything about whatever they've chosen, and nobody ever makes a mistake and doesn't make a joke out of it in public. this is a way to avoid awkwardness and embarrassment for the mistake-makers but makes children think that making mistakes makes them and what they're doing a joke, so they are less likely to want to attempt a new hobby/interest.
  • May 14 2014: I just found the following quote in an academic paper from 1989:

    "The amateur arts are a 'recreational' activity that serves to recreate the ability of a worker to do his or her job, or a 'leisure' activity that serves to 'self-actualize' a citizen's creative potential, thereby permitting a fuller appreciation of life. The dominant organizational form of production is the unpaid individual and the voluntary association."

    I suppose I was trying to understand why we make this distinction? A lot of artists would not call themselves artists i.e. musicians, actors, writers, painters necessarily labelling themselves and in my estimation, once you do, you no longer have the freedom to practice your imagination.

    I think amateur is only a label and if we derive pleasure and eventually a living of some kind from our art then surely the distinction is no longer helpful? I certainly don't believe however that artists cannot be professional in the same way scientists are as we are all striving to be the best at what we do (and do it safely!!).
    • thumb
      May 16 2014: Ishani - it is a lot of confusion between professional and amateur these days..
      I personally knew musicians who were recording with a very big pop-star - she was already famous at that time - musicians were laughing and some were very irritated because she could not sing in tune and they had to repeate the same stuff over and over again, for days, just to get her do it right..

      Is she amateur, or professional, because she is so popular and sells her music in millions?

      These noblemen were not professionals, but could become perfect professionals: Young George III learned to play the harpsichord and the flute skillfully, and had an interest in art and architecture. George III was very talented and loved learning.

      Baron Henry Brougham Brougham and Vaux - 1856 - ‎was
      very gifted - with a retentive memory, with a ready wit — endowed with an exquisite ear for music . We can find outastanding scientists among "amateur" noblemen, or even monks, who could not be called "professionals" because of their social position..
      • May 16 2014: That's a very good point, well made. There are plenty of pop musicians out there posing as professional even though their delivery is not as good as most amateurs but are given a lot of 'help' technically in the studio etc. and then the musicians who support them are very good because they have to be the true professionals and this has become convention, it seems so unfair! And yet there are plenty of people who we probably all personally know who are brilliant at what they do but because of fashion, media, marketability never see the light of day. I am waiting for the true internet revolution when those who wait in the shadows get their chance.
  • Dave M

    • 0
    May 14 2014: This topic is entirely subjective to many a given "profession" and those who practice it. Wrestlers for instance who compete under the guidelines of FILA or the NCAA - here in the USA - are classified as amateurs. These men and women may win national and world titles but are still labeled as "amateur" wrestlers. Those who are considered to be "professional" wrestlers are first and foremost actors with athletic ability, they must role play and entertain or they don't collect wages. Much of this amateurism seeds from past Olympics when athletes were not allowed to compete for prize money, according to the rules; unless of course they were communists and taken care of by the party and stipend and promoted according to individual success rates. Top Soviet and red Chinese "amateur" athletes lived the ultimate 1% lifestyle as compared to their comrades.

    I could run through a peck of professions and elaborate until the world seemed like a fair place to coexist peacefully, where nobody gets paid and the pursuit of excellence is no longer a virtue that feeds esteem and spirit
  • thumb
    May 14 2014: Well, public does not know about my music, I do not advertise, and do not play for mooney - but no one can compete with what I'm doing - its unique . A couple of days ago I published a few songs on youtube.. I can defenately survive without any public and will stay happy without its opinions.

    Here is a couple of old classic Swing Era songs (old jazz/blues) one of my favorite styles (I sing with worlclass musicians).
  • thumb
    May 13 2014: Very sorry, that the majority of people these days have a drastically low measurments for estimating "professionalism" or talent. Want to be professional? Just beat your drums, strike the strings of your guitar, and scream from the bottom of your stomach, do not forget to jump and jump and jump !! - now you're good to be called professional these days.

    YES, Ishani, the untalented, the stupid and the over-confident take over places that belong to those who deserve public admiration and respect. Those rare talents are not amateur because they do not play for money... these talents are much above those who are professional and play for money.

    Here is another angle to your post.

    I do not see any point in defending amateur musicians or artists who know that they are amateur and they are still learning by making mistakes. Some may become super talents above proffesionalism which is very limited and conservative in many ways.
  • thumb
    May 12 2014: We live in the age of cultural ignorance that is getting promoted and SOLD as "Modern Cuture" "new" "innovative" "modern" "smart" whatever they say about it to the poorly educated masses.. it's all "ok" for promoters as soon as it helps sell that Glorified Garbage. Who cares about skills, traditions, or craftsmanship or uniqueness if anyone loves what anyone can do it?

    This is our pop-culture, the culture of the majority, or "democratic" culture when everyone is equal - whether one is badly untalented and amateur, or a rare genius, because for the masses it would be impossible to see any difference.

    Popstars, writers, artists, journalists, politicians and wellknown millionaires or billionaires are demostrating cultural poverty and lack of basic knowledge as their own achivements ... this is our age.

    I guess it is a Style or Fashion to be amateur.. . The amateurish tricks and mistakes, when one cannot do any better, might seem like someone has some "skills" after all, however, after many repetitions.

    There is a grand difference between students who are doing their best and learn to become skillful polishing their talents and lots of popstars who often do not have much of a clue of what they are really doing in sense of values.. (I'm not talking about money)

    No wonder -- the majority prefer to see a guy or a girl who is "just like me"! while refined culture that requires years of perfection and development is impossible any longer.

    Well, thank you for publishing this topic.
  • May 11 2014: Is it that we are disparaging of amateurs, or just intolerant of less than perfection?

    With our constant IV feeding of media, if you are interested in something that an amateur might try, like sports, music, or any of the arts, then chances are you have seen a professional accomplish the same task, and that would become your metric for comparison. The urge to demonstrate your ability to distinguish the difference between a perfect and less than perfect performance independent of the expense to others,or how it might discourage someone who needs just a little encouragement to get to the next level, is hard for the young and inexperienced to resist. I think Mr. Uejio is right on the money. This type of ridicule, in any form is rarely given by people that have walked the path to becoming a professional or a leader in any art or science.

    An amateur is doing something the love because they enjoy doing it. While the assumption that they want to be the best, or do the best, is probably valid, they will usually enjoy just trying to do their best. The judgements about how good their best is relative to the best of others, and their concern about achieving some mark set by another person relative to the enjoyment they get from just participating is a subjective assumption. We are also making an assumption about the effect disparaging comments have on amateurs. Not all are effected the same by disparaging comments.

    Anyone can be critical. It takes some skill, caring an wisdom to know when and how to offer criticism as encouragement. Parents and Grandparents usually learn how to do this effectively with time and are driven by love. Teaches and mentors do it because they are driven by the desire to help others and push forward the art.

    Everyone has a right to an opinion. Everyone should be free to voice their opinions. However, words can be used to build and support dreams or tear them apart. We should choose our words carefully, and exercise silence when in doubt.
    • thumb
      May 11 2014: I believe you and Wayne identify something important. "This type of ridicule, in any form is rarely given by people that have walked the path to becoming a professional or a leader in any art or science." The exception might be that people across the spectrum of expertise may roll their eyes at someone who continuously "hypes" himself, perhaps the more so if the person doing the hyping seems amateur in his area of effort. Experts were probably pretty much accepting of, say, Richard Feynman, who was something of a braggart but with the brilliance/accomplishments to support his claims than they might someone whose self-promotion seems quite out of line with the quality or inventiveness of his work or thought.

      I don't know whether there is more popular disdain for amateurs than there is popular disdain for scholars and intellectuals.
      • May 11 2014: This may also open the discussion out to something else. Is there such a thing as 'pure talent'? Are those who are naturally gifted more admirable because of their lack of tutoring as if this is the ultimate in human endeavour therefore almost invalidating those professionals or experienced practitioners? If someone is born with the ability to beat the rest, run faster, play better, sing with an angelic tone does this 'purity' make them more valuable?
        • thumb
          May 11 2014: Well. pose to yourself these examples. Which do you personally find more admirable or valuable, the person who tells you he is so gifted he could have been a great physicist or a great composer or the person who actually *is* a great physicist or composer but makes no such claim?
        • thumb
          May 12 2014: Good point Fritzie!
          I think a person's attitude and perception of him/herself and how that is projected to others may be an important factor regarding how s/he is perceived by others.

          I believe what can be valuable, is HOW the one who is naturally talented, or the one with studied talent projects him/'herself. I perceive it to be more valuable/beneficial, when a person can share knowledge and talent in a way that encourages and supports others. It is not necessary to challenge someone's self esteem, belittle, deprecate or discredit another person.