Musicians are multi-skilled

Over on Twitter this week this government advert on a skills and training website started doing the rounds:

Musicians, and others who work in the arts, are, justifiably, feeling extremely anxious, undervalued and largely ignored by government at a time when the arts sector in general is in a perilous position due to the UK government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic (and yes, it is government response which has caused the current situation, not the virus: viruses don’t make policy.).

This insensitive, ill-thought advert, which actually originates from 2019, comes just a week after Chancellor Rishi Sunak inferred that working in the arts is not “viable” (for which read: “not a proper job”, thus ignoring the huge contribution the arts makes to the UK economy). He later attemped to clarify what he had actually said by offering some emollient words to theose who work in the arts – and Oliver Dowden, the Culture Secretary (who reminds me of Blinky Ben from tv political comedy The Thick of It) apologised for the “crass” advert. I note that this advert, together with others of the same style, have now all been pulled from the website in question.

Ever since I became more involved with the UK classical music scene, via this blog and my work with professional musicians, I have sensed an attitude that persists in the UK in particular that working in the arts is some kind of “hobby job”, rather than a “proper” profession. I think this comes, in part, from the perception that many of us who work in the arts love what we do, and thus we are not “serious” about our work.

This couldn’t be further from the truth. The many musicians I know, as friends and colleagues, and others who work in the industry, are incredibly committed, serious and, above all, professional people; that we enjoy our work is a bonus, but it does not mean that our work is not viable, nor has value.

The trouble is, for those outside the profession and, it would seem, politicians, creative people like musicians or artists or writers don’t always display outward productivity – the fruits of their labours may not be immediately visible and as a result there is a societal attitude which suggests these people are “lazy”, “unproductive”, or “don’t contribute to society”.

So to counter the suggestion that we are not viable, that we need to “reskill”, here are just some of the very important skills which musicians possess:

Well-organised

Self-starting

Self-motivated

Self-determined

Good time-managers

Adaptable

Flexible

Collaborative

Team players

Hard-working

Resilient

Mental toughness

Physically dextrous with fine and large motor skills

Highly developed memorisation skills

Able to take initiative

Thinking creatively/thinking on their feet

Goal setting/achieving

Used to working to very high standards

Able to cope with stress

Imaginative

Persevering

Determined

Empathetic

Good listeners

Able to cope with failure/setbacks

Diligent

Patient

Able to concentrate for long periods of time

Detail-oriented

Intuitive

Analytical

Entrepreneurial

Pattern recognition skills

Lateral thinking

And let’s not forget all the others in the creative industries:

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