Jon Silpayamanant playing with his Balkan Band, Kermes, at St. Nicholas Serbian Orthodox Church in Indianapolis

“Yarustovsky belongs to a society which believes that the artist is a potent ethical force and that his responsibilities to society take precedence over considerations of personal fancy.  To us, the implications of that belief seem dangerous; to Yarustovsky, the danger lies in ignoring the implications.”  –Richard F. French

This is something I often get to talk about especially with young budding classically trained musicians.  In a climate where there is less dominance by any particular musical style, what we also find is a diversity of venues and shows for live performance.

Some of this may not be surprising for musicians that frequent these kinds of events, but obviously for classical musicians the idea of performing outside of a concert hall, church, or recital hall can be a bit daunting.  At the same time, due to changing musical environment (as well as the increasingly huge pool of musicians being churned out at music schools) it’s almost inevitable that a classically trained musician (or non-classically trained musician, for that matter) will find him or herself in a ‘non-standard’ environment or in an environment that musicians wouldn’t normally encounter.

I think that one of the effects of being in a digital information world is that traditional media and industries such as radio and record label no longer have the hegemonic power they once held.  I can get on the internet and find audio or videos of a Bhangra performance, or J-pop, or Sudanese Hip-Hop, or Shaabi.

Jon playing with multi-Grammy Award winner, Ray Price, in Conroe, Texas.

The wealth of the musical world is literally an embarrassment of riches and there’s far less reason to have our tastes shaped by the local, regional, or even national media outlets.

This is good for those who don’t much care for Euro-American pop music or Western Classical music (especially immigrants) but makes things a bit tricky for [mainstream] musicians trying to make a living doing music.  Concert halls and clubs will now have touring artists from other countries and traditions regularly or, if a local musician is playing music from a non-mainstream American tradition, then he or she also has many more opportunities.  Not only is there the normal competition from other mainstream musicians; but with a shrinking marketplace of live performing venues and events for mainstream music, as well as a growing population of non-mainstream musicians (both immigrant and non-immigrants) the idea of being able to sustain a musical career just became a bit more difficult for the former, while becoming [just a bit easier] for the latter.

I believe this is a good thing, as I talked about in the post about last weekend, I was able to play a show and go to a show the next night, which, pound for pound, had far more variety on it than I would have otherwise have found in clubs 20, 10, or even 5 years ago.  Live music and dance that originated from over a dozen countries, all performed by local (to Louisville) immigrants or non-immigrants who just happen to prefer performing music from another culture to the normal mainstream fare.  This weekend will be the same.  Tonight I’ll see one of the local Flamenco groups (four musicians, four dancers); tomorrow I’ll be performing a benefit with musicians playing music from the Silk Road and a Thai dancer; and to cap it off on Sunday, I’ll be recording with my local Arabic Band for an upcoming show.

And this is something I really believe in and fully support.  As I’ve mentioned in the past about my own personal mission statement, the quote at the beginning of this post completely fulfills that stance.  Fortunately, my personal fancy also happens to fall in line with the musical and dance communities I want to support and see flourish.  And if my activities as a musician can help make immigrants feel more comfortable performing their own arts, as well as show a wider public that there is just as much to enjoy outside of their normative tastes, then I will have stuck true to my mission.  There’s just way too much beauty in the world to let it be crowded out by a slowly dying mainstream taste!

3 thoughts on “Way too many performing opportunities if you think outside the box

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