One definition of an amateur is “a person who engages in a study, sport, or other activity for pleasure rather than for financial benefit or professional reasons.” I like that particular definition, for it reminds us that an amateur does what he does merely for the love of doing it, not for fame or fortune. However, it’s important not to automatically equate “amateur” with something “less than professional,” especially if by “professional” we mean “performance of the highest quality.” Amateur performances at their best include both passion and precision and can be of extremely high quality.
The Michael O’Neal Singers, a volunteer community choir (made up primarily of amateur vocalists), is an excellent example of amateurism at its highest level. The members of this group bring their love of choral music to each rehearsal and concert, but recognize that passion alone will not result in an exceptional performance. To achieve the exceptional, MOS members spend the necessary time to do the “nuts and bolts” work of learning their music, both in and out of rehearsal. They have learned there are no short cuts to achieving their best performances. That being said, they also know they must stay diligent to the task of note learning, for love alone will not provide excellence.
Still, when all is said and done, I believe that passion + precision = commitment, and that is amateurism at its best. Robert Shaw once said this about commitment: The point is that while the professional may lose some of his enjoyment and personal commitment to his work without necessarily impairing his craft to a dangerous degree, the amateur, if he loses his commitment and moment-to-moment enthusiasm and concentration is in danger of diminishing his abilities by fifty to seventy-five percent.
I’m thankful for singers who exhibit both passion and precision. From these “amateurs” we often hear some of our finest choral singing.
Filed under: Choral experiences