A thought on musician’s role in society


As working musician, I often think about our role in society. I never had offical education in music, instead I graduated from the medical school of Tokyo University, with B.S., license of nursing and public health nursing, and worked for the medical school hospital, wrote articles for psychiatric nursing text book, etc. When received job offer form a college of nursing as teaching faculty when I was 25, I doubt if this path is really what I want to take. So, in order to reset my established status in Japanese society,I moved to U.S. and restarted my life, that seemed to open chances for me to experience different possibilities of myself.

Being medical professional was very satisfying experience, since I could help people directly and physically. However, I found being musician is as meaningful (if not more) way of life as being in the position of helping people physically.

Here is my thought about musician’s role in society.

“A thought on musician’s role in society”

If we think music as a kind of entertainment business, it seems necessary for musicians to survive through demanding competition by stimulating consumer’s desire and greed especially in this modern capitalistic society based on free competitive market. However, I think musicians role in society is not providing services and/or items to provoke peoples desire to “want to have more”. Desire leads to craving, and the more we feed our desire, the more we crave. As a result we will never be satisfied with whatever we have and experience inner fulfillment.

The role of music in humanity seems to me providing listeners more ideal environment for realizing how miraculous it is to just “be here and now”, accepting how they are as they are now, and experiencing of sense of internal fulfillment.

If musicians try to make living by sincerely taking this role in society, conventional way of marketing and advertising can not be used, because they are designed to provoke desire for more, that is opposite from inner fulfillment with what they are now. Instead, we musicians can create music that make ourselves feel fulfillment and acceptance, put them out there and wait for people who are looking for music with the same purpose with which we are creating music, and can resonate with our music.

I don’t have desire to make a big money out of my music since the process of creating music is already rewarding me of experiencing of inner fulfillment, miracle of just being here and now and opportunities for personal growth. I think we desire for big money mostly when we feel that we are not rewarded by the activities themselves we are engaged. My business activity as musician is pretty much limited within the amount of money with which I can continue playing the role of musician in society, earning enough to keep up the activities that are useful for my growth as human being next few weeks.

I often play at restaurant/cafe where people don’t pay much attention for music. Under such a non-ideal circumstance for music performances, it is still meaningful for me to keep making effort for approaching the state of inner fulfillment, that may not mean much for customers. This kind of job is rather considered low class performance job since quality of music is not so important and most of what we play there is ignored anyway. However, I don’t consider this kind of job as “bad job” because I can still earn a little money that keeps me being musician, and it is not my business whether they use the impression of music I sincerely made effort for.

While I am playing at noisy restaurant and cafe, I often call up an image of mendicant buddhist priest standing at the corner of street. When I see them, I am reminded of the importance of pursuit for spiritual development above ordinary materialistic success. I often make an offering with gratitude and respect for someone who is seriously pursuing spiritual path, and wish for him to be able to continue the path. However, the amount of offering he can get doesn’t effect the quality of his internal work. I try not to change the quality of my effort to create music depending on the amount of money and/or attentions form audience, although those external factors effect internet state of mine and quality of music. As far as I am trying to keep my aim as ‘providing listeners more ideal environment for realizing how miraculous it is to just “be here and now”, accepting how they are as they are and experiencing of sense of fulfillment internally’, I have to accept whatever conditions I am under and find the way to feel fulfilled there.

If I were trying to be a good businessman by trying to expect accurately what can be wanted and sold in market and putting priority on creating what I can sell out there, the spiritual side of being musician, that I care most, would be ruined. I believe there is definite objective value on sharing the spiritual direction between musician and listeners through the music that is the result of the process of musician’s striving effort to experience inner fulfillment and can resonate listener’s spirit. I understand business people don’t pay much attention to this aspect of music, that can not be measured by money, however I want to cherish this as the most important and meaningful aspect of music.


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  1. Pingback: The Busy Harpist’s Checklist « Harpmastery

  2. Motoshi: I am 62 and have been taking pedal harp lessons for the last three years and my progress, in my mind, has been very slow- I’m appreciative of playing the harp for my enjoyment and for no other reason- I don’t think I’m at the point yet where I could perform but occasionally, someone will be at my house and I’ll play something that I’m learning and they will tell me that they enjoy it. This gives me some satisfaction.

    On the other hand, I have been playing the saxophone for forty years and have played in a lot of situations like you described, where no one was listening or the music was there as a backdrop. Sometimes, I was happy to see people dancing to the music and having a good time. Other times, maybe I met someone’s eyes who was listening. That “one” person was all I needed to “validate” what I was doing. Music is a tough career, not only financially. We are expected to be in good shape, physically, mentally and to have something new to say when we perform. In some ways this is a tough thing; to maintain this upward path your whole life. On the other hand, the very act of being a musician and surviving in this world makes you a strong individual. I also teach and this also gives me gratification knowing I am passing on my knowledge to a younger generation and hopefully someone will take the torch and blaze their own path! Therefore, there are many rewards to a career in music, not just the financial ones!

  3. Thank you for your blog. I like this sentence:

    “The role of music in humanity seems to me providing listeners more ideal environment for realizing how miraculous it is to just “be here and now, accepting how they are as they are now, and experiencing of sense of internal fulfillment”.

    It’s a good quote 🙂

  4. balfour-knight on

    Thanks to Biagio, I was able to find and read this blog from Jan. 2014. Thank you, everyone! This is a great way to remind all of us what music is really all about!

  5. diana-rowan on

    Great article! I love how you see music as a devotion and bring your best to every situation. Even if people aren’t paying specific attention during background music gigs, I believe our music is totally key to them relaxing and going into their higher selves, thereby have a much better connection 🙂 Butterfly effect 🙂

  6. Jennifer L Hill on

    I’m 62 & will be buying a harp this Summer. It will be interesting to see how the arthritis & I interact with the harp, but I’ve wanted to do this my whole adult life.
    I’m not interested in performing, unless I become good enough to play w the local community orchestra or take my harp to the nursing home.
    I sang publicly with our college choir & loved it, but fell into a deep depression for many years. I want to develop that center & confidence lost. To feed my soul.

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