In High Praise of the Adult Amateur Musician

Lori Archer Sutherland

Lori Archer Sutherland earned a Bachelor of Music in Theory and Composition degree from the Ohio State University and a Master of Library and Information Science degree from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She composes, performs, and teaches clarinet. She plays bass clarinet with the Crystal Lake Community Band and the Woodstock City Band, clarinet with Winds Off the Lake Woodwind Quintet, and is the founder and organizer of the Knock on Wood Clarinet Choir, where she plays an even bigger clarinet. Check out her site and podcast at tonaldiversions.com

2 Responses

  1. Brian J Crow says:

    Wow, this is very similar to my story. I didn’t even pursue a music degree, instead opting for a liberal arts theology degree. My goal was to be able to play a few tunes on the organ for family at holidays and maybe fill in at church every now and again. I stopped taking lessons altogether in college because I chose not to devote the time. Little did I understand the shortage of trained organists in the church which would lead to me playing every Sunday. People are often confused when they ask me to accompany a choir, a soloist or an instrumentalist and I politely decline. “But, Brian, you sound so good every Sunday, surely you can play a wide ranging, arpeggio filled, piano technique piece with 16th notes and syncopation. Nope, just a slightly beyond amatuer organist who isn’t an American Guild of Organists member because I don’t fit in there and only recently bought a new pair of organ shoes because I’ve gotten brave enough to start relearning decent pedal technique. I am thankful and blessed to have the gifts that I do, enjoy listening to those who have more talent, and find music conferences intimidating and probably not for me. I’m going back to my two-octave handbell choir that is under the delusion that I am a good conductor in spite of my never taking a conducting class in college and simply mimicking the high school director’s hand motions.

    • Bravo to you for taking new steps! May you summon up the courage to do even more. (And thank you for introducing me to the concept of organ shoes. I had no idea such a thing existed! Makes perfect sense, though.)

      It’s hard to be in that chasm between being too old for one thing and not feeling like we’re good enough for the other. But I’m certain there are a LOT of us in here together (and I’d also wager it’s not just in music that this happens).

      And just maybe, by talking about it in the open, we can start to find ways to help each other create opportunities. And encourage others to take some of those big scary steps (to use your examples, joining the Guild or going to a conference) that help us stretch and grow.