Music – Work or Play

jcbahamas7aMusic: Work or Play?
By Professor Joan Cartwright
[March 25, 2016] Most musicians begin their careers at four or five years old and continue until they die. Does the term play effect people’s thinking about what musicians really do? Does the action of playing music mean that musicians do not work?

In my 40-year career as a vocalist and songwriter, I have run into stone walls getting to the next level. I started singing at a theater in Jamaica, New York, at the age of four. By eight, I was a headliner in the annual Bernice Johnson Dance Recital. Mother doted on my Shirley Temple curls and my outfits of shiny tinsel and crinoline-lined, lacy dresses, not to mention the ballet, tap, and interpretive costumes my parents paid for.

I studied piano with a woman whose name is long forgotten. But her stern face never encouraged me to learn. I was 27 when I met Gerald Price, the musician whose demeanor catalyzed my growth as a vocalist, pianist, and composer. My harp teacher, Caliope Proios, with whom I studied for two years, listened to my life stories as she showed me the difficulties of changing pedals and string fingering.

In the seventies, my formal education involved music, but I dueled my B.A. with Communications, a new department, separate from English. Television production fell under this banner, with radio, journalism, marketing and advertising, while The Medium is the Message (1964) by Marshall McLuhan led me to do everything to get the message out that I am a musician and I have something to say.

For the first 10 years of my career, I was paid to do what I love – sing. But I was told that singing for free at benefits was good ‘for exposure’ by a singer friend. However, I decided that we would get more exposure standing on a corner, taking our tops off than performing at benefits. Finally, I told people, “I can do it, but I cannot ask musicians to work for free.”

After all, I worked (or played) with grown men and women who had children to feed and bills to pay. Every doctor and lawyer has pro bono cases in their filing cabinet that comprise less than 10% of their case load. But a musician, who plays for a living, is invited to perform at benefits at the ratio of three benefits to one gig. This had to stop and I was the only one who could stop it.

In 1990, I traveled overseas to sing in Switzerland, where I was treated with dignity. Europeans do not see musicians as people who play. Music is work. So, I was paid well and given lots of respect. When I returned to the States, in 1996, people treated me better than before I took the step across the big pond. I determined that musicians must leave the comfort of their homeland in order to be appreciated at home.

Ten years later, I had completed a five-month tour of Asia, and people in Atlanta, who never thought of me as a professional before, seemed to take me more seriously. In China, I worked at two clubs, where I did not make as much money as I did in 1990. Musicians’ pay always reduces, while the cost of living rises. That is ridiculous. People think musicians do not pay bills. After all, they spend their lives playing instead of working like other people.

The truth is that musicians do the job that doctors and lawyers cannot do. In one hour, musicians heal hundreds, even thousands of people. The right song keeps a couple from divorcing or pushes them to see that they are not right for each other, saving thousands of dollars of legal deliberation.

Music permeates the planet, bringing joy to all who hear it. People enjoy a concert more than they do a hospital stay or sitting in law office. Yet, they will pay doctors and lawyers extortionate fees and squint, when they get a high quote for a band of four or five adults to perform at a wedding or office party, where they will be enjoying themselves because of the music!

I am befuddled at what people will pay for and what they want to get for free. Learning music is not free. You pay for lessons. You pay with your time to practice. You continue to learn more music. You must stay in front of the pack in order to be seen, heard, and appreciated. Producing music is not free. Studio time is extremely costly. Paying musicians to perform your music is expensive, even if they are your friends. Mixing and mastering music is expensive (up to $100 per song). Duplicating CDs, producing videos, and marketing music runs into the thousands. But getting paid for a gig can be the hardest part of a musician’s job.

Finally, unlike most professionals, there is little in the way of retirement or insurance funding for musicians, who do not belong to the Musician’s Union, which few musicians either can or will afford. Musicians give joy to others throughout their lives and, unless they have a hit song or record, they have very little income to fall back on in their old age. Most die destitute, leaving little inheritance for their spouse and offspring.

It is uncanny. What brings people the most pleasure, rarely sustains those who create it. But the beat goes on and, somehow, musicians find venues where they can keep the music

playing. (918 words)

References

 

McLuhan, M. (1964). The medium is the message. Understanding media: The extensions of man. Retrieved from http://web.mit.edu/allanmc/www/mcluhan.mediummessage.pdf

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Diva Joan Cartwright is an internationally-known vocalist, composer, and author of 11 books. She holds a BA in Music/Communications from LaSalle U, in Philadelphia, PA; an MA in Communications from FAU, in Boca Raton, FL; and is a doctoral candidate for a DBA in Business Marketing online at Northcentral University, in Prescott Valley, AZ. Since 1997, Joan has been the CEO of FYI Communications, Inc. and, since 2007, her non-profit, Women in Jazz South Florida, Inc. with 304 members promotes women musicians, globally. In 2016, WIJSF released its 6th CD of the music of women composers. Joan hosts an online radio show, MUSICWOMAN, featuring women composers at www.blogtalkradio.com/musicwoman. Joan’s personal CDs are Feelin’ Good (1995) and In Pursuit of a Melody (2005). She owns MJTV Network with her daughter Mimi Johnson and she is actor in the sitcoms Last Man and The Siblings produced at www.mjtvnetwork.info. In 2014, Joan was honored in Atlanta, GA, as the first Lady Jazz Master. In 2016, she was honored as one of the Top 25 Women of Color in Business and Leadership by Legacy Magazine. She has two children (Michael Serrano and Mimi Johnson), five grandchildren, and three great grandchildren. She is retired from music performance and resides in Sunrise, Florida. Currently, Joan is a professor of Speech Communications as Southeastern College in West Palm Beach, Florida.

 

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Blues Women: First Civil Rights Workers

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The African voice inspired instrumentalists.  Vocalese was a dialogue between vocalists and instruments.  Each person had an individual sound and instrumentalists imitated the voice’s cries, growls, moans, slurs, whispers, shouts and wails.  Blues was the element of American subculture created by enslaved Africans, singing European music.  Considered crude by classical listeners, Blues liberated singers from precise pitch and calculated rhythms of European music.  Black singers emerged from Spirituals and Blues to develop Jazz.  Their free-spirited songs delivered messages of liberation, signaling to Africans in America that they could be free.  Blues women were the first civil rights workers because their songs symbolized liberty in its rawest form by tapping into the human spirit.  Angela Davis recounted Marx and Engles’ observation that art as “a form of social consciousness [awakens] . . . those affected by it to . . . transform their oppressive environments” (Davis, 1999).  Blues were popularized by Gertrude “Ma” Rainey (Columbus, GA, September, 1882 – December 22, 1939), The Mother of the Blues (Cartwright, 2008, p. 9).  A spokesperson for black people, she was a hero to them.  She recorded hundreds of songs on Paramount, putting that recording company on the map.  The most popular Blues singers established a rapport and rhetoric with the crowd.  Ma Rainey took Bessie Smith under her wing and Blues tradition developed as one followed another.
amazing_musicwomen_softcover

This book Amazing Musicwomen has lots of information about Billie HolidayElla FitzgeraldDinah WashingtonMarian McPartland, Peggy Lee, Toshiko AkiyoshiAlberta Hunter, Bessie Smith, Ethel Waters, and other Musicwomen. Musicwoman Radio and Musicwoman Magazine tell the stories of Amazing Musicwomenwho paved the way for vocalists, song stylists, singers, composers, and instrumentalists. Their songs are from The American Song Book that includes original songs like Alberta Hunter’s “Downhearted Blues”, “Handy Man”, and “Rough & Ready Man” plus songs of Broadway composers of the early 1900s, Duke Ellington, Billie Strayhorn, Hoagy Carmichael, Johnny Mercer, Cole Porter, Rodgers & Hammerstein, Fats Waller, and Broadway composers Michel LeGrande, Stevie Wonder, Burt Bacharach and Isaac Hayes. [NOTE, after Alberta Hunter, the absence of women composers. Who were they? Does anybody know?] OK, Barbra Streisand, Carol King, Carly Simon, Roberta Flack, and who else? www.lulu.com/spotlight/divajc

Buy the book

Buy the download

References

Cartwright, J. (2008).  Amazing Musicwomen.  FYI Communications, Inc.

Davis, A.Y. (1999).  Blues legacies and black feminism. New York: Random House.

©2014 Joan Cartwright, M.A.

END PATRIARCHY NOW: MESSAGES IN WOMEN’S MUSIC

newmembers-wijsf13WAKE UP WOMEN. Understand how you are controlled!

The main issue is that women who are not musicians do not consider this an important cause. It is very important because society gets its messages from cultural producers and, if women’s music is not being heard and received, then society-at-large is losing all the way around. While women in other professions make 75 cents to the dollar that a man makes, women musicians only make 64 cents. GET IT? This is how the patriarchy continues – by blocking the messages in women’s music. WAKE UP WOMEN. Understand how you are controlled.

Help us to promote the music of women composers and musicians, who are terribly marginalized in the $27.5 billion music industry.

Did you know that, although women pay 53% of the taxes on Earth, only 1-5% of public funding goes to women musicians and their musical projects?

This is UNACCEPTABLE and it is the MAIN reason why society is off kilter because the messages in women’s music are not being heard by the masses that thrive on disturbingly violent video games, TV, film, and cable programming, loud and womanizing popular music, and overall patriarchal ideas.

If we as women do not promote our endeavors, who will? Join us in our mission to promote women musicians, globally, www.wijsf.com/mission.htm – www.wijsf.com/join.htm –

WAKE UP WOMEN. Understand how you are controlled!

This article discusses why women will not support each other in an effort to end patriarchy.

http://www.angelfire.com/ok/4equity/m2.html