“What Shall I Do?”: Paid Employment for Mormon Girls, 1927
Agnes Lovendahl Stewart
The introduction to this series is posted here.
IV. – The Musician
Utah has always been noted for its love of music. Probably nowhere else in this country will you find so general in interest in singing and in instrumental music of every kind. In almost every home you will find a piano, and usually other musical instruments as well. Several members of the family, often, will play or sing.
Music here is as free as the sweet mountain air. Some people complain about that – they want to see the musician better paid in money for his efforts. But this we will mention more in detail later.
Nowhere is there greater opportunity for young girls and boys to develop their musical talents. The cultural value of the music which we enjoy so abundantly is beyond price.
If a girl has talent for singing, where better to find expression for that talent than in her ward choir, or in the choruses, duets and quartettes which are organized in her Mutual work? It is a wonderful inspiration to listen to the contests each year or the musical organizations of the Mutuals from all parts of the Church. Ours is a heritage of culture of which we may be justly proud, for from the very beginning the arts of music and drama were given their special place of importance in the activities of our people.
In no other church with which I am familiar, is there so splendid an opportunity given young people for the free expression of their talents – an expression which is the first essential of growth and improvement.
There are also splendid opportunities here for training. The L.D.S. School of Music offers wonderful courses in every line, with the most excellent teachers obtaining and an environment of beauty. There are also a very great many private teachers where instruction may be obtained.
Without going further than Salt Lake City one may obtain musical training for teaching. But of course one with a genuine love of music will consider the task never finished, but will go on and on and on, studying ever for greater perfection, and attending conservatories in this country and abroad.
It would be splendid if we could follow the inclination of our talent without having to worry where the bread and butter were to come from, wouldn’t it? How gladly we would give of our talents free of charge! But in this work-a-day world, even the genius must earn his bread and butter, usually, so into each consideration of one’s ability must intrude the mundane thought of dollars and cents.
If I follow music as a profession, developing my talents, how will I make a living?
First of all comes teaching. Teachers of piano in Salt Lake City receive from 50c to $2.00 for lessons of one-half hour duration – a few even higher. Teachers of voice culture usually receive from $1.50 up. those who give instruction in other musical instruments receive ordinarily from 50c to $2.00 a lesson.
There is also some opportunity for teaching music in the public schools, particularly the junior and senior high schools and the universities and colleges. But such teaching requires a very wide and varied acquaintance with all kinds of instruments, a thorough knowledge of harmony, a good voice and a knowledge of voice training. And it requires also that delightful quality of personality which is called “leadership.” It means the ability to fill the boys and girls under your instruction with a thrilling love of music, to inspire them to work together in operas, glee clubs and community singing. Such a position calls for a master of all trades in music – a jack won’t do at all! – and besides a person with executive ability of no small order. The positions are few and the requirements many.
Those who play the popular instruments of today will find an opportunity to play in orchestras. Piano, violin, saxophone and drums are probably the four most popular instruments in the small dance orchestra.
Those who are members of the musician’s union receive $5 each for an evening’s playing at a dance, with the leader getting more, his payment varying according to what he asks, and his personal popularity among the dancers which makes his orchestra a drawing card.
Many play in orchestras at the ward dances who do not belong to the union. These ask various prices, usually lower than union rates. A great many find playing in these small orchestras an excellent way to gain self-confidence and ability when they are just beginning their musical career.
The orchestras at the summer resorts pay their members $75 a week or more, but these are usually composed entirely of men and boys.
The radio is only just in its infancy, and the opportunities it offers a musician are only beginning to be realized. Performers over the radio are usually paid, but no definite sum has been fixed.
Occasionally the theaters offer opportunity for a special musical offering, but such occasions are too rare to be depended upon for a living.
Gentile churches pay their singers, as they pay their preachers, but it is one of the fine ideals of our Church that those gifted of God with the wonderful talent of music, shall give that talent freely in His service, just as our speakers and missionaries and other workers give of their time and talents freely to promote His great work.
Utah has become famous for the splendid musical talent it has produced. Emma Lucy Gates Bowen, who has been so successful in opera and on the concert stage here and abroad; Margaret Romaine of the Metropolitan Opera Company, New York; Hazel Dawn, of musical comedy fame – these are only a few of whom we are very proud, who have gone to carry Utah’s culture and talent to the world.
World-wide fame, and tremendous success in music are hard to win. It is very rare that one ascends quickly to stardom as did Marian Talley. Usually many, many years of trying and discouraging study are required for even a small success.
But if the way is hard, the reward is correspondingly great – not in money, but in the glory of giving uplifting pleasure to all who listen, of making the world brighter and better for our presence, and of developing our own talents to their fullest extent.