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#2080722 - 05/11/13 10:08 AM The fine line between amateur and professional  
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I came across an interesting article abour Rupert Egerton-Smith, a successful amateur pianist, and thought that at least some PW folks may be interested. I never listened to the pianist so, caveat emptor. But the critic who penned this short story seems very enthusiastic. Perhaps some competition afficionados might have met him on the road?



Are amateur musicians lesser artists than professionals? Not this one

By Michael White / Last updated: May 10th, 2013
The Telegraph



Looking at the world in monochrome as people tend to, there’s a terrible temptation to suppose that, in whatever walk of life, professional means good and amateur means bad. Sometimes, of course, it’s an entirely fair assumption: would I want my triple bypass done by a self-taught enthusiast? Perhaps not. And I think I’d give a miss to any Tristan und Isolde with the leads drawn from the local Methodist chorale.
But that said, music harbours far more top-class amateurs worth listening to than most of us – especially critics – think. The Holst Singers are amateur and one of the very best choral groups in this country, more than able to hold their own against the BBC Singers or the Monteverdi Choir. A few years ago I came across a superb pianist called Will Galton who, rather than play the international circuit as he could have done, had chosen to teach maths in a Hampstead prep school – giving the odd concert on the side. And I’ve recently come into contact with someone else in that kind of position.
His name is Rupert Egerton-Smith. He works for a London law firm. But in 2009 he won both the 1st Prize and the Audience Prize at something called the International Concours des Grands Amateurs in Paris. And he’s about as Grand an Amateur as you could hope to find.
A few months ago he issued a recital CD of Chopin, Rachmaninov, Ravel and other things (see www.garatrecords.com) and it’s impressive. The sound quality you might question – I find it spongy – and the Chopin is frenetic. But the sheer technical accomplishment in Ravel’s Gaspard de la Nuit (one of the hardest scores in solo keyboard literature) is stunning and the real strength of the disc. By coincidence I heard it in the same week I’d been listening to a Melodya release of old, remastered tapes that have Ravel playing the Sonatine and other things quite ropily. Egerton-Smith could wipe the floor with him as a performer.
He happens to be playing the Ravel G Major concerto this weekend – May 11th, 7.30pm – at St Peter’s, Notting Hill with the Kensington Chamber Orchestra (also amateurs). And next week he goes off to America to play Carnegie Hall (or at least, the Weill Hall downstairs) as part of his prize for winning another competition: the Bradshaw & Buono International, which describes itself as for amateurs ‘seriously interested in pursuing a professional career’. So it maybe that Egerton-Smith’s status is about to change. I don’t know. All I know is that, as things stand, he has a day job. Not in music. And however you describe him, he’s worth hearing.

Last edited by Andromaque; 05/11/13 10:14 AM.
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#2080751 - 05/11/13 11:00 AM Re: The fine line between amateur and professional [Re: Andromaque]  
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Yes -- met and heard him at the Boston amateur competition. He got 2nd prize there (which I thought was right). Indeed I'd say that he's one of the (relatively few) people at these events that we could say is perhaps 'as good as a professional' which in general gets said a little more than it should. smile

#2080760 - 05/11/13 11:18 AM Re: The fine line between amateur and professional [Re: Andromaque]  
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I only found a little information about Egerton-Smith's background so I couldn't determine how long he studied music and how seriously until he took his 10 year break. Apparently he studied until the age of 20 so he might have the equivalent of a piano performance major background. So whether he is really an amateur is IMO open to debate but this has been discussed many times at PW.

Many, perhaps the huge majority, of the amateurs who win the biggest amateur competitions remind me of some chess grandmasters who at one point decide to give up a professional chess career for a steadier and more lucrative career outside of chess. For example, in the U.S. Grandmasters Michael Wilder and Patrick Wolf come to mind. I don't think many would think of them as "amateurs" if they decided to show up for some local weekend tournament.

Last edited by pianoloverus; 05/11/13 03:41 PM.
#2080885 - 05/11/13 02:56 PM Re: The fine line between amateur and professional [Re: pianoloverus]  
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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
I only found a little information about Egerton-Smith's background so I couldn't determine how long he studied music and how seriously until he took his 10 year break. Apparently he studied until the age of 20 so he might have the equivalent of a piano performance major background. So whether he is really an amateur is IMO open to debate but this has been discussed many times at PW....

He's among the very most polished of any of the people who've been in the amateur competitions, polished in a way that belies "amateur" in any usual sense and which I think can't happen (almost absolutely can't) without having had professional-like training, and having had it a lot and early. Still, I like the presence of some such people in these events although we could argue it doesn't make much theoretical sense smile and I agree with your chess analogy.

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#2080927 - 05/11/13 04:37 PM Re: The fine line between amateur and professional [Re: Andromaque]  
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The word "amateur" means that the person is not being paid for the work. That's all. It does not mean that the person lacks superior training (although often that is the case).


#2080947 - 05/11/13 05:11 PM Re: The fine line between amateur and professional [Re: Overexposed]  
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Originally Posted by Ann in Kentucky
The word "amateur" means that the person is not being paid for the work. That's all. It does not mean that the person lacks superior training (although often that is the case).
But the real question occurs when someone is not presently getting paid but has either gotten paid in the past or received extensive training (like a piano performance degree).

#2080951 - 05/11/13 05:18 PM Re: The fine line between amateur and professional [Re: Overexposed]  
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Originally Posted by Ann in Kentucky
The word "amateur" means that the person is not being paid for the work. That's all. It does not mean that the person lacks superior training (although often that is the case).
It's not only that, I'm afraid Ann!

As a professional composer I'm forced to compose what people expect me to (my clients in the computer games industry). Under THEIR deadline, THEIR thoughts, THEIR aesthetics, THEIR timing, etc. An amateur won't have to do this.

Similarly a professional pianist will get called (by his agent) to play something he doesn't truly enjoy, at a place he doesn't like, on a date that is his birthday or anything like that, and he won't be able to say no. An amateur can say no (and rightfully so, btw)...

The technique and ability is the tip of an iceberg in terms of what's different between an amateur and a pro.

#2080969 - 05/11/13 05:50 PM Re: The fine line between amateur and professional [Re: Andromaque]  
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I imagine that most people who do really well at these top amateur competitions have had very serious training at some point in their life, many at top conservatories and schools of music. The number of DIY pianists who succeed at these events is probably vanishingly small.

#2080970 - 05/11/13 05:55 PM Re: The fine line between amateur and professional [Re: pianoloverus]  
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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Originally Posted by Ann in Kentucky
The word "amateur" means that the person is not being paid for the work. That's all. It does not mean that the person lacks superior training (although often that is the case).
But the real question occurs when someone is not presently getting paid but has either gotten paid in the past or received extensive training (like a piano performance degree).


I suppose if it's a competition, the organizers will have to define what they mean by "amateur".

I think the article is pointing out that many people with a day job outside of music, are excellent musicians. In other words, we could stand to broaden our view of what an amateur musician is.

#2080974 - 05/11/13 06:01 PM Re: The fine line between amateur and professional [Re: Nikolas]  
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Originally Posted by Nikolas
Originally Posted by Ann in Kentucky
The word "amateur" means that the person is not being paid for the work. That's all. It does not mean that the person lacks superior training (although often that is the case).
It's not only that, I'm afraid Ann!

As a professional composer I'm forced to compose what people expect me to (my clients in the computer games industry). Under THEIR deadline, THEIR thoughts, THEIR aesthetics, THEIR timing, etc. An amateur won't have to do this.

Similarly a professional pianist will get called (by his agent) to play something he doesn't truly enjoy, at a place he doesn't like, on a date that is his birthday or anything like that, and he won't be able to say no. An amateur can say no (and rightfully so, btw)...

The technique and ability is the tip of an iceberg in terms of what's different between an amateur and a pro.


Hi Nikolas,
I think you're describing how working as a professional differs from performing as an amateur. The amateur is performing for the love of it and has the benefit of relying on a day job outside of music, so can turn down any offer that doesn't sound like something fun. A professional generally doesn't have the freedom to do this.

#2080976 - 05/11/13 06:04 PM Re: The fine line between amateur and professional [Re: Mark_C]  
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According to my dictionary, 'amateur' can have two meanings: someone unskilled, or someone who "performs a sport or activity as a pastime rather than as a profession". Or, for the love of it (my definition grin).

I'm never regretted not making music my profession. A healthy dose of reality check also kept me away from making chess or photography my career, though unlike with music (- I did get offered payment for a few 'gigs', but I never accepted), I did make a little money from them. But that was also probably the reason why I never lost my interest in them, and, especially in the case of music, even increased my commitment in recent years, to what I'd call my hobbies.

There are some things that you can make a comfortable living from, yet don't have to be much good at, but classical music isn't one of them. Unlike other kinds of music.........


"I don't play accurately - anyone can play accurately - but I play with wonderful expression. As far as the piano is concerned, sentiment is my forte. I keep science for Life."
#2080978 - 05/11/13 06:10 PM Re: The fine line between amateur and professional [Re: bennevis]  
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Originally Posted by bennevis

There are some things that you can make a comfortable living from, yet don't have to be much good at [...]


You sure?

#2080982 - 05/11/13 06:13 PM Re: The fine line between amateur and professional [Re: JoelW]  
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Originally Posted by JoelW
Originally Posted by bennevis

There are some things that you can make a comfortable living from, yet don't have to be much good at [...]


You sure?


Positive.

I'm a one-person proof of that...... wink


"I don't play accurately - anyone can play accurately - but I play with wonderful expression. As far as the piano is concerned, sentiment is my forte. I keep science for Life."
#2080992 - 05/11/13 06:38 PM Re: The fine line between amateur and professional [Re: pianoloverus]  
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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Originally Posted by Ann in Kentucky
The word "amateur" means that the person is not being paid for the work. That's all. It does not mean that the person lacks superior training (although often that is the case).
But the real question occurs when someone is not presently getting paid but has either gotten paid in the past or received extensive training (like a piano performance degree).


Gotten paid for doing what exactly????? As for performance degrees, are you referring to an undergrad degree in performance from "Podunk" College, or a DMA from Eastman??? grin

If you go by the "paid in the past" and "performance degree" rationale, the performance degree and four years of piano teaching I did 40 years ago at a small liberal arts college would make me a "professional" - despite doing something else "professionally" for another 35 years and essentially playing the piano as a hobby off and on during that time. At this point in my life I don't pretend to be a professional (who am I kidding - right???) - but consider myself an amateur who took advantage of a couple of years of good early training. Most folks who hear me play today would probably agree. ha

Just saying the professional/amateur thing isn't all that black and white.




Last edited by carey; 05/11/13 06:39 PM.

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#2080996 - 05/11/13 06:49 PM Re: The fine line between amateur and professional [Re: bennevis]  
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Originally Posted by bennevis
According to my dictionary, 'amateur' can have two meanings: someone unskilled, or someone who "performs a sport or activity as a pastime rather than as a profession". Or, for the love of it (my definition grin).

I just checked another online dictionary, and it says the same thing.
However, I believe that the second definition (someone who performs an activity as a pastime rather than a profession) is better, because those in the first category (the unskilled ones) also fall in that category. Because if they are unskilled, probably no one asks them to perform. So if they do it, they do it because they want do. For the love of it.

And I believe that someone with a day job that has nothing to do with music, who occasionally accepts to play music on a party or wedding, possibly even for money, is still an amateur.

So to go back to the original post: If Rupert Egerton-Smith does not earn his money with music but as a lawyer, he is an amateur. He may be performing at professional level; but IMO he will only become a professional if he decides to quit his job and live from what he earns with his music.
Which personally I would not recommend for anyone.


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#2081020 - 05/11/13 07:39 PM Re: The fine line between amateur and professional [Re: Carey]  
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Originally Posted by carey
Originally Posted by pianoloverus
]But the real question occurs when someone is not presently getting paid but has either gotten paid in the past or received extensive training (like a piano performance degree).
As for performance degrees, are you referring to an undergrad degree in performance from "Podunk" College, or a DMA from Eastman???
Neither. I didn't mean to imply every degree was equal in determining amateur status or that there was even a clear cutoff about what degree would make someone non amateur in my view.
Originally Posted by carey
Gotten paid for doing what exactly?????
Musical performance. This doesn't mean I think accompanying a high school musical is equal to playing at Carnegie Hall.

Originally Posted by carey
If you go by the "paid in the past" and "performance degree" rationale, the performance degree and four years of piano teaching I did 40 years ago at a small liberal arts college would make me a "professional" - despite doing something else "professionally" for another 35 years and essentially playing the piano as a hobby off and on during that time.
Again I was just raising the point that some competitors in amateur competitions have relatively recent professional level training and some got that training at very prestigious institutions.

The article quoted in the OP adopts the usual amazed observation that someone who has a non music day job can be a terrific pianist. But in reality many or even most in that category who win the best amateur competitions have had relatively recent and/or extensive professional level training at one point in their life. So for many of these pianists, I'd say it's not changing our concept of what amateur means but is more the realization that these pianists are not amateurs.

Originally Posted by carey
Just saying the professional/amateur thing isn't all that black and white.
I agree.




Last edited by pianoloverus; 05/11/13 07:40 PM.
#2081031 - 05/11/13 08:22 PM Re: The fine line between amateur and professional [Re: pianoloverus]  
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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Originally Posted by carey
Originally Posted by pianoloverus
]But the real question occurs when someone is not presently getting paid but has either gotten paid in the past or received extensive training (like a piano performance degree).
As for performance degrees, are you referring to an undergrad degree in performance from "Podunk" College, or a DMA from Eastman???
Neither. I didn't mean to imply every degree was equal in determining amateur status or that there was even a clear cutoff about what degree would make someone non amateur in my view.
Originally Posted by carey
Gotten paid for doing what exactly?????
Musical performance. This doesn't mean I think accompanying a high school musical is equal to playing at Carnegie Hall.

Originally Posted by carey
If you go by the "paid in the past" and "performance degree" rationale, the performance degree and four years of piano teaching I did 40 years ago at a small liberal arts college would make me a "professional" - despite doing something else "professionally" for another 35 years and essentially playing the piano as a hobby off and on during that time.
Again I was just raising the point that some competitors in amateur competitions have relatively recent professional level training and some got that training at very prestigious institutions.

The article quoted in the OP adopts the usual amazed observation that someone who has a non music day job can be a terrific pianist. But in reality many or even most in that category who win the best amateur competitions have had relatively recent and/or extensive professional level training at one point in their life. So for many of these pianists, I'd say it's not changing our concept of what amateur means but is more the realization that these pianists are not amateurs.

Originally Posted by carey
Just saying the professional/amateur thing isn't all that black and white.
I agree.

Seems we're on the same page. thumb


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#2081032 - 05/11/13 08:28 PM Re: The fine line between amateur and professional [Re: Andromaque]  
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That depends on the size of the screen. For some people, your post could be on the next page ...

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#2081039 - 05/11/13 08:37 PM Re: The fine line between amateur and professional [Re: Piano*Dad]  
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Originally Posted by Piano*Dad
That depends on the size of the screen. For some people, your post could be on the next page ...

[Linked Image]


Good point !! grin


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#2081062 - 05/11/13 09:40 PM Re: The fine line between amateur and professional [Re: Andromaque]  
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The definition discussion has been exhausted around here. How about we flip the question aorund.
The article that I posted captured my attention long enough that I read and shared it. Yet, I was not intrigued enough to check out the guy's playing, though I noticed that he has several pieces on You Tube. The honest reason is the fact that he is billed as an amateur. It is not that I never listen to amateurs or that doing so would be "beneath me". It is simply that the label implies - to me- less refined playing and with a very busy life, I frankly would not spend time or money on amateur concerts. Having said that, I have at times listened to amateurs and enjoyed their playing. but it would seem that I maintain a prejudice against them. So, how about you? excluding performance by family and friends, do you attend amateur concerts? do you check out amateur recordings on You Tube?

PS. I know that many people on PW play well. This is not a comment on anyone in particular.

#2081097 - 05/11/13 11:24 PM Re: The fine line between amateur and professional [Re: bennevis]  
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Originally Posted by bennevis
Originally Posted by JoelW
Originally Posted by bennevis

There are some things that you can make a comfortable living from, yet don't have to be much good at [...]


You sure?


Positive.

I'm a one-person proof of that...... wink


Sample size too small, invalid conclusion.

#2081122 - 05/12/13 12:34 AM Re: The fine line between amateur and professional [Re: pianoloverus]  
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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
But in reality many or even most in that category who win the best amateur competitions have had relatively recent and/or extensive professional level training at one point in their life. So for many of these pianists, I'd say it's not changing our concept of what amateur means but is more the realization that these pianists are not amateurs.


Being professionally trained doesn't make you a professional. That would make any college grad a professional in whatever field they studied. Technically, it would make a high school algebra student, a professional mathematician, since his instructor is a professional. It seems you would like to arbitrarily define the word professional as anyone that you can't tell apart from an expert.

#2081211 - 05/12/13 06:15 AM Re: The fine line between amateur and professional [Re: Andromaque]  
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I am listening to Rachmaninoff 2 first movement on his site (http://www.rupertegertonsmith.com) as I type this and I really enjoy listening to it. Not bad, not bad at all. Very fine playing indeed.

#2081219 - 05/12/13 07:01 AM Re: The fine line between amateur and professional [Re: Damon]  
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Originally Posted by Damon
Originally Posted by pianoloverus
But in reality many or even most in that category who win the best amateur competitions have had relatively recent and/or extensive professional level training at one point in their life. So for many of these pianists, I'd say it's not changing our concept of what amateur means but is more the realization that these pianists are not amateurs.


Being professionally trained doesn't make you a professional. That would make any college grad a professional in whatever field they studied. Technically, it would make a high school algebra student, a professional mathematician, since his instructor is a professional. It seems you would like to arbitrarily define the word professional as anyone that you can't tell apart from an expert.
By professional level training I mean the type of training a professional would have received. e.g., the same training as a piano performance major.

#2081266 - 05/12/13 09:05 AM Re: The fine line between amateur and professional [Re: Andromaque]  
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Originally Posted by Andromaque
The definition discussion has been exhausted around here. How about we flip the question aorund.
The article that I posted captured my attention long enough that I read and shared it. Yet, I was not intrigued enough to check out the guy's playing, though I noticed that he has several pieces on You Tube. The honest reason is the fact that he is billed as an amateur. It is not that I never listen to amateurs or that doing so would be "beneath me". It is simply that the label implies - to me- less refined playing

But this means that definition of "amateur" is important. Because you are apparently using a definition in the sense that amateur is less skilled; not in the sense that amateur means: Not professional full-time performer.

Originally Posted by Andromaque
So, how about you? excluding performance by family and friends, do you attend amateur concerts? do you check out amateur recordings on You Tube?

Sometimes I attend amateur concerts. Rarely; but then I also attend professional concerts rarely.
When I watch a piece of music on YouTube, it's mostly because of the composition, not because of the interpretation. So whether it's an amateur or professional performing is not that important to me.


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#2081394 - 05/12/13 01:39 PM Re: The fine line between amateur and professional [Re: patH]  
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Originally Posted by patH
But this means that definition of "amateur" is important. Because you are apparently using a definition in the sense that amateur is less skilled; not in the sense that amateur means: Not professional full-time performer.



Of course it is meant to be that way. An amateur is an amateur. Both skill wise and performance wise.

#2081401 - 05/12/13 02:00 PM Re: The fine line between amateur and professional [Re: Hakki]  
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Originally Posted by Hakki
Originally Posted by patH
But this means that definition of "amateur" is important. Because you are apparently using a definition in the sense that amateur is less skilled; not in the sense that amateur means: Not professional full-time performer.



Of course it is meant to be that way. An amateur is an amateur. Both skill wise and performance wise.


Using skill as a quantifier regarding amatuer or professional status is not possible. Skill is not digital - you have skill, you don't have skill. It is described by a continuum, and there can be no clear cut transition from amateur to professional by that measure. Try another definition.

#2081405 - 05/12/13 02:06 PM Re: The fine line between amateur and professional [Re: Andromaque]  
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I prefer the terms 'avocation' and 'vocation' to describe my interests/jobs. It eliminates the slightly pejorative quality of the terms amateur and professional.

#2081412 - 05/12/13 02:27 PM Re: The fine line between amateur and professional [Re: Mwm]  
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Originally Posted by Mwm
I prefer the terms 'avocation' and 'vocation' to describe my interests/jobs. It eliminates the slightly pejorative quality of the terms amateur and professional.


No you don't understand. There is a hidden disdainful meaning too when the term amateur is used in the field of performing arts. That is why these competitions are using words such as outstanding, etc. for their competition names or when defining an amateur in their rules. It is simply to attract those who had a professional training in the past and who would be offended by the term amateur otherwise.

#2081413 - 05/12/13 02:31 PM Re: The fine line between amateur and professional [Re: Andromaque]  
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Brendel became a "professional" - despite his amateurish origins.

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