Have you thought about what the word " professional" actually means, and what it does to your body? Does this word make you feel more distant, rigid, and contracted, or does it open you up?
For me, conventional professionalism prevents human beings from meeting and deepening. It backfires with exhaustion and separation. It excludes the more unfavorable aspects of life and is therefore counter-productive.
I suppose the formation of professionalism was to help things run more smoothly and effectively. However, it has been overly misused and has become a cunning and convenient adult game based on fear and the laziness for developing critical thinking. Through the harsh label " unprofessional", one feels righteous and legitimate for accusing the others for not being the way one wants, without using the word "wrong." It is a way to avoid meeting unexpected situations in depth and giving the space for things that are out of control. Furthermore, it adds another layer of confusion on top of the already undesirable situation.
The superiority and inferiority are one of the the by-products of professionalism, and I have played both ways. I probably have hurt and judged many people unconsciously when I played the superior professional one, and I have been hurt very much by being labeled the "unprofessional" too. The label "unprofessional" gives very little space for the people to be met where they are, and it indicates that wherever they are is not acceptable. The entire mechanism is like being in the military: the "bad guys" are yelled at and not given any chance to speak up, while the " good guys" continue trying to look good, at the same time totally tuning out of the bad guys. Both good and bad guys are in surviving mode, interestingly enough.
So how can music transmit freely when the majority of people within a group are playing this black and white game, whether mentally, explicitly, or behind the back?
Watch and listen, and trust your instinct. Have you experienced a solo, ensemble or orchestra performance being played very skillfully, yet you didn't feel touched, and you could even sense an artificial " professionalism"- some kind of distance to music and artificial discipline? The musicians were probably doing their job extremely well. However, I am not satisfied only doing my job. I am not in a military, and I am not interested in only doing what I am told to. I am interested in letting music speak out and reach people. When the group energy is dominated by fear, the music does not reach out.
Yeah, rehearsals run very easily when everybody is prepared, happy, and has a good day, but have you had a really unlucky day or a period of time in which everything got out of control, and you couldn't logically explain why?
Open the Door, Instead of Slamming the Door.
I see that being corrected and challenged and vice versa is really part of life, so I am not talking about letting whatever happen during the process of making music. I only want to encourage you to be more present, precise, creative, and inviting with your verbal expression. For example, instead of thinking in your head or saying " that was unprofessional and unacceptable," say instead something constructive and helpful within the given situation. For example, one could say " how can I help you to get this all together? ", or " I actually really need your attention, because the time is pressed." In fact, there are many situations where having a gentle look of the person is already enough.
I am not really interested in being a perfect musician, but I am interested in being a fully dedicated musician embracing all aspect of myself, including my own weakness (not that I can do it totally now, but that is my life-time aim). So if I am very sick or terribly in pain, I am not gonna take tons of pain-killers to override my body just for the sake of looking professional. A long, healthy career awaits me; I don't need appear as if I am ALWAYS on top of things.
It can be scary and challenging to do so in this world, I must acknowledge.
The fear lies on that everything will fall apart if the professionalism is not played out, which I can understand. However, during the recent year I have experienced a few small ensembles/ projects in Denmark in which the love and joyous energy was just taking care everything, including both unfavorable part and favorable aspects. Very inspiring to have experienced that.
Professionalism can have many positive aspects too, yet it can be quiet misleading if one is not vigilant. I would encourage you to experiment with dropping that label just to see what happens.
The presence of a human being who is totally real and at ease is contagiously pleasant and large. That's the quality I am looking for.
I am still working on it.
Ying-Hsueh, 27-02-14 in Copenhagen