The word “Professional” is like a rubber band that can be expanded everywhere on its meaning depending on what somebody would like to express, and quite often depending on what’s convenient, which in fact, in my opinion, is the most dangerous and toxic aspect.
When most of the people make use of the word “Professional”, they don’t have a really clear idea of what they are talking about, and they usually “just say it” because it sounds good.
The big problem with this is that if we don’t know what this word really means, so to assign it correctly to the rest of the people, it’s obvious that it will be even harder for us to “Behave ourselves as Professionals”.
Dictionaries are very clear with explaining the term, but despite this fact it seems that it is still misused, so what I’ll try to do on this occasion is to contextualize the real meaning and importance of professionalism itself within the context of bass playing, which I think is the most important aspect to discuss here.
There are three meanings for the word “Professional”, and obviously those can be applied to any activity, not only to bass playing.
The first meaning has to do with relating Professionalism strictly with an Academic Degree, so that would mean that you should not be entitled to call yourself a professional bassist if you did not study “Bass Playing” in a Music School that issued you a validated diploma certified by a formal institution from your country’s government through its regular channel, which is usually the Ministry of Education.
The second meaning has to do with a behavioral aspect and relating the word Professionalism with an attitude, with positive ethical values like Responsibility and Proficiency.
The third meaning has to do with the remunerative aspect, so that means that if you are being paid for playing bass that would imply that you are entitled to call yourself a Professional Bassist.
A very important philosophical question is the following:
Is it important or not to be a Professional Bassist?
My humble answer is that “it’s not”…. and this is because in my opinion “Being a Professional Bassist” doesn’t even mean that you love and enjoy music, and under any circumstance that you are necessarily a “Good Bassist”….
How is that?
Very simple…and I will answer this in the fewest words I can.
You can have a music/bass degree, being generously paid for what you do, and be proficient, meticulous and responsible in your activity, and anyway be a crappy bass player”!!!
So what I’m intending to do here is to demystify this word and bring it down to earth, because it’s not an absolute fact that being ‘professional’ guarantees that you will be any good.
That being said, we have to accept though that working hard to become a Professional Bassist exponentially increases your chances of being good…. so let’s bring it down to the original question again.
What does it take to really be a professional bassist?
In my opinion, being a Professional Bassist means that you are putting music and bass playing in the first place, mentally and emotionally, within your numerous activities so to assign the best of your efforts and your energies to that purpose. When you do this you are somehow guarantying maximum responsibility and proficiency on what you do… and that couldn’t be bad.
Secondly, when you are paid for what you do, this will mean that you are going to have to “take care of business” trying to provide the best service in exchange for the money you are receiving.
The money issue will imply and mean two very important things:
1) The more money you are offered would imply that is very possible that you are doing a good job.
2) The more money you are offered, the better the service you have to provide, so that will become a factor that will press your improving.
So as you can see, money and professionalism are indeed related.
3) Thirdly, having a music/bass degree from a serious music school means that you have studied a lot and also that this school and the teachers that taught you are somehow endorsing your knowledge and abilities, so I don’t see anything wrong with that.
4) Finally and resuming…. those three aspects/meanings of professionalism make a lot of sense to me, and I think that they can coexist perfectly in the context of a musician/bassist.
In my opinion, being able to achieve them can’t be bad, and not complying with any of them can’t be good… and I stress the fact that in any form you are guaranteed that you will be a great or a good bass player, even complying with all of these three aspects of professionalism….
That outcome has also to do with a myriad of intangible aspects, some of them psychological and some of them ethereal, like your musical soul and spirit, your empathy, assertiveness, “talent”, personal equilibrium, experience, wisdom, IQ, EQ, and thousand more aspects.
Eventually the “implacable final average” that will consider all of these aspects (the professionalism being just one of them), will tell you if you have become a good/great bassist or a bassist that is not, considering of course that every single opinion will be always relative, but the sum of them, with the inherent possible configuration of a tendency, will tend to absolutize the outcome.