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Speaking The Unspeakable; A slip of the tongue helps maintain vigilance.

The Teton Valley in Jackson Wyoming is my summer home. Playing in the Grand Teton Music Festival is something I look forward to each summer. Some of the finest orchestra musicians across the country collaborate in excellent concerts and exciting hiking. Musicians compare jobs, past seasons, and catch up on who is doing what and recent trends throughout the field.

As orchestras make hurtful cuts, the summer offers a way to lick wounds and try to gather strength to continue in the fall. More often than not, these conversations move toward the overarching topic of whether or not musicians will continue to be paid a fair wage and why so many board members think we’re all doing something we love and why should we get paid for that.
Because of this, I never thought similar words would ever come out of my mouth, but during one of my morning exercise walks past a field of cows, I spoke the unspeakable. My walking partner and I paused briefly to watch two cowboys hop up on their horses to begin moving the herd over to the next field. The early morning weather was perfectly calm, the cowboys were dressed in the expected hats and slickers, they rode beautiful horses while talking to each other, and their trustworthy dog bobbed up and down in the lush green brush as they made their way to the cows.
And that’s when I said it.

“I want to do that. How hard can it be anyway? Besides it looks like so much fun. I can’t believe they get paid to do something that fun! I wonder if I could go do it for free?”

As soon as the words escaped my mouth I was horrified, but instantly realized how easy it is for a layperson to jump to any conclusions like the one in this cartoon.

So as I prepared for the concert this week, I figured it would be a good time to redirect attention to an old article I wrote a couple years back. It seems relevant now, more than ever.

3 Responses to Speaking The Unspeakable; A slip of the tongue helps maintain vigilance.

  1. Kati Guerra from St. Louis, MO writes: August 2, 2010 at 11:01 am #

    Working cattle is one of the most labor intensive things a person can do for a living and therefore not at all easy, as you correctly reflected. The seemingly joyous dogs you witnessed racing across the pastures can be easily killed by an 1800 lb cow with a kick to the head. Working cattle in a pen or corral is especially dangerous and all cattle are tagged, innoculated, neutered (males), et al, in a pen at one time or another. (It is also a particularly cruel enterprise toward the cattle!) While there are casualites associated with performing a musical instrument in an orchestra, nothing comes close to the bodily danger a farmer or cattleman experiences on any day of the year!

  2. Janis writes: August 2, 2010 at 11:02 am #

    Sometimes I think this is a class thing. People who like to think of themselves as upper-crust or who have been raised without deprivation of any kind always have this kernel of King Louis in them, where they think that the jesters should simply be bowled over at the honor of performing for the King, and that should be enough to fill their bellies. Put a pipefitter in that audience, and it would never occur to him that the people sawing and blowing away on stage are doing anything but earning a living, however much they may enjoy it. Music is fun, but so is paying your rent.

  3. James Leroy Wilson from Independent Country writes: August 3, 2010 at 11:02 am #

    Great column!

    We’ve grown accustomed to the idea that a “job” is a necessary evil that provides a paycheck that allows you to do the things you love to do after-hours. Those who actually love their job are considered “lucky,” as if they should feel guilty about it.

    People who love their work should be admired and emulated, not envied.

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