Wednesday, July 23, 2008


Having read a blog entry by LS, I have some thoughts I need to get off my chest.

I think making music for enjoyment is very very different from doing a job (in the music industry). It used to sound like an ideal job, playing an instrument of choice (in my case, the guitar of course) and getting paid for it. 何乐而不为?

But in reality, things may not be so rosy (and simple). The fact is – unless you run your own music business (ie. You are your own boss) – you are being paid by somebody to a job = you are an employee. Your employer (be it a person or a organization) would expect you to fulfill certain KPIs; that is what they are paying you for in the first place. Miss or fail to achieve those KPIs? Out you go…

I’ll give an example, something which I witnessed firsthand…

GENUS used to have a passionate, devoted conductor, who incidentally is also the founder of the group. He’d spend hours and hours formulating plans for the next Genus concert, thinking of ways to make the performance successful. He’d arrange scores for the orchestra and for the small groups. He’d come up with money from his own pocket to fund the group for props needed for some of the more ‘exotic’ encore items. For years, he’d pay for the scores which the orchestra used in concert performances. Sure, he was paid an allowance ( I wouldn’t even call it a salary, since this is obviously a part-time thingie, and the amount is really not a whole lot), but basically he went way beyond what he was paid to do.
All these he did out of love of the group that he’d set up years ago, and the passion he had for the classical guitar.

After years of dedicated work, and for all his contribution and passion in the guitar music, he was shown the door. He was deemed to be not what the management wanted for a conductor. In other words, he couldn’t meet the KPIs, in their opinion.

In came a new highly qualified conductor (after a slew of mistake made by the management… but let’s not go into that), who on paper have what it takes to bring the club to a “higher level” and meet all the new KPIs set out by the management (which functions like a true corporate machine these day, linking group performances to gauge ROI and all). Being the professional and accomplished musician that he is, he makes sure that GENUS performs up to certain standards. Yet, one simply cannot expect him to do anything beyond his written agreement (contract) with the CFA management. He is paid to conduct GENUS, and to lead the group musically – period.

Compose a song for GENUS? Arrange some new stuff for GENUS? Forget it - 门儿都没!

What about my position, as a paid tutor for the group? To be brutally honest, I have completely given up doing any arranging for GENUS. For one thing, the management doesn’t give a damn. Worse still, who knows if they’ll later turn around and say that the music played by the group is sub-standard due partly to the arrangement quality!
Then, looking at how little the undergraduates themselves value our contribution (hell, we don’t even get a group T-shirt these days) to the group, I have decided that to put in any extra effort is a complete waste of time and effort. We don’t even get enough members to form a decent section for our weekly rehearsals these days!

我心想:算了吧! I am paid to teach technique (and conduct Sectional trainings) to the GENUS members (at least to those who bother to turn up) so that’s what I’d do. Whatever else I do is not necessarily appreciated by them anyway…

Some days, I face this internal 'struggle' trying to reconcile my role as a tutor (paid to do a job) and as an Alumni member of GENUS. I keep telling myself "heck lah..just do what you're paid to do. Dont be a fool and do something that is really 吃力不讨好". But as a long-time Alumni of the group, I'd really hate to see the group going downhill and eventually breaking-up completely. It's like having split personality! hahaha..

Anyway, just as LS has decided to put in his time and energy into improving Expose, I am channeling my time (and hope) into Guitaresque. We are not paid to run these group, but it is something we are passionate about, and that keeps us going.

So when LS says he envy his friend who left his teaching job to do music – as a job; I think: don't be too envious. Wait till those KPIs (set by the employers) kick-in… they are the sure poison that’d slowly (but surely) drain away the passion till there is none left.


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