I have begun to re-think what I long felt was the difference between an amateur and a professional. I have now come to realize that in some respects you’d be hard-pressed telling one from the other.
For a long time, my definition of a professional performer was “one who performs for a living; making all their income from performing”. It was a convenient way of separating myself from some of the rank amateurs that were out there. I now, (finally) realize that this simplistic, narrow minded and reductionist definition was not only untrue, but unfair!
In the past, I believed that if you were rigorously trained, committed, organized, creative, and loved what you do, that you should eventually be able to make your living doing what it seemed you were meant to do. I foolishly believed that if you had to do other jobs to support your performing that you hadn’t “made it”. You can see how I would come to this way of thinking. I grew up watching “famous” performers on TV and in films, who made tons of dough – just doing what they did. And I strived for that level, and definition, of “success”.
But the reality is that the overwhelming majority of performers in this world have to supplement their income with other employment. And this does not necessarily make them any less committed; it might actually make them more committed. Amateurs have to get training, experience, build a client roster, market and promote themselves – all while putting in an 8-hour day at another job. And why do they put in all this extra work? Because, they love to perform.
The common use of the word, amateur, doesn’t help either. Webster defines amateur as: 1: one who engages in a pursuit, study, science, or sport as a pastime rather than as a profession. 2: one lacking in experience and competence in an art or science. Webster doesn’t get around to what I believe is the true meaning until the third entry - 3: devotee, admirer. The word amateur comes from the 16th century French, meaning “one who loves, lover". And interestingly enough, Webster’s definition of “Professional” has an interesting spin. “Professional” - participating for gain or livelihood in an activity or field of endeavor often engaged in by amateurs.
You can see why I have been confused for so long. But now I see the light. I have been honored to personally meet and worked with hundreds of performers who do not make their living in show business, but are exceptional, and even gifted performers, nonetheless. I guess I’m not too old to learn stuff, after all.