[Dixielandjazz] What Is A Professional

Stephen Barbone barbonestreet at earthlink.net
Thu Mar 6 22:47:26 PST 2003

IMO, If music is primarily how you make your living, you are a
professional musician. However, having said that, we then only have two
"professionals" in our current band of out of six. Both guitarist and
trombonist always made their entire monetary incomes from music. No
second jobs. Our second call trumpet also made his living entirely from
music for just under 60 years. And our former cornetist was a 100% music
professional. He passed away last year.

Bass? He was always a tailor and clothes maker too. Earned more over the
past 55 years that way then from music. Yet he recorded with Clifford
Brown, Mel Torme, Charlie Ventura, Chubby Checker and others. He also
gigged with Billie Holiday, Kai Winding, J.J. Johnson, Buddy Rich, Max
Roach, Ben Webster, Lester Lanin, Meyer Davis, Emory Davis and a whole
bunch more. What should we call him?

Other band members have similar experience and credits. Me? Gigged from
1950 to 1963 in NYC as a jazz musician and member of AFM Local 802. Put
myself through College and Law School doing it averaging 4 nights a
week. Gigged with Coleman Hawkins, Roy Eldridge, Gene Schroeder, Yank
Lawson, Bob Haggart, Pee Wee Irwin etc., etc., etc. (Even Monk once and
Bechet for 3 days in Paris)

Quit music in 1962, because jazz was very slow and I did not want to
just play music, I wanted to play jazz or nothing. Took a full time day
gig. Did not play again at all till 1992 when retiring from day gig.
Paid my dues all over again at open mike sessions, rotten gigs, etc., to
get chops and syncopation back, then formed my band and started to
market it.

Now do 160 jazz gigs a year. Primary income for last 4 years is from
jazz music. Did not re-join the union. Is that amateur or professional?

Perhaps it really doesn't matter? Our gigs are high priced, well over
scale, and we are one of the busiest jazz bands of any category and
certainly the busiest "hot" jazz band on the East Coast of the USA. We
have a call list of professional jazz musicians in our territory (from
Washington DC to New York City) who want to play with us and the
audience classifies us as professionals so who are we to argue?

Steve Barbone

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