An interesting question which could be debated. I won’t mention any names, but recently a Latin/Jazz/Funk band leader I played a couple gigs with told me he thought so.
That statement didn’t sit well with me and after playing 5 more gigs with 3 different bands, teaching several private lessons and mixing a piano/vocal demo for a client, I got to thinking more about this.
I looked up the idiom ‘A DIME A DOZEN’ and found several similar definitions: “something so common that its value is little or nothing”, “easy to come by, next to worthless”, “cheap, easily replaced, not valuable”.
I guess some people might think that there are so many musicians around that it is easy to replace them. If that is true, then perhaps carpenters, doctors, firemen, etc are also a dime a dozen?
What I thought of is this: how much training, education and experience do musicians have? How does that compare to other professions?
In my case, I started piano lessons when I was 5 years old. I had 7 teachers over the next 25 years. And I went to Berklee College of Music. I had 2 teachers on cello and 2 on trombone over a 10 years period. Throughout my schooldays I had several orchestra and band directors teach me as well.
I also have 35 years of on-the-job training which means playing gigs, rehearsals, recording sessions, etc. A rough estimate of all this would be 50,000 hours. Additionally, I’ve had the pleasure of teaching over 30,000 private lessons to students from 2 to 80 years old. I know many musicians who have similar backgrounds.
All this tends to make me think that musicians are not “something so common that its value is little or nothing”. But there are other factors. What about musicians that don’t have all that training and experience?
Friendship and professionalism play a big part and are, in my opinion, vital in a group of musicians. Certainly if someone has these things, they would be valuable even if they lacked years of education.
All the best bands I’ve ever been in had these attributes. I’ve observed that musicians play better when there is a good vibe in the band. Often guys get called for gigs just because they have a good attitude.
I believe, as has been said many times before, “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”. One musician could sound great and be well-received by a particular audience but a different audience wouldn’t dig them. Does that mean anything regarding their value?
I often encourage my students by saying, “Keep in mind that there will always be someone better than you, but there are also musicians that are not as good as you.”
“There are millions and millions of people who can’t play at all and who look up to anyone who can. You are important and so is your music.”
So, you decide: Are musicians a dime a dozen?