Amateur or … Duck?

As I was preparing to write this, I was looking for graphics for the word, “Amateur,” and the word “Dabbler.” I was able to find pictures of the former, but for the latter I found a picture of a … duck.

Amateur or Dabbler

A few weeks ago, I started working with an adult student whose husband had bought her a 4-pack of lessons for Christmas 2019 (pre-pandemic). Both of them are also friends of ours, and her husband is a professional musician as well. When I contacted her to set up lessons, she told me that she had felt a little nervous because she knew how I felt about dabblers.

And that made me feel like a terrible snob. And made re-examine what I mean and what I’m putting out there – and how it might discourage someone from taking lessons, or singing at all, for that matter.

Merriam-Webster defines an amateur as 

one who engages in a pursuit, study, science, or sport as a pastime rather than as a profession

The word “amateur” comes from the Latin “amatore”, meaning “lover.” On Quota, self-proclaimed amateur writer Dushka Zapata defined the word as “someone who does something for love rather than money” or “someone motivated by love rather than money.” That is something that is to be acclaimed and is often valued more than those who are doing something for a living. For example, as a professional church musician, I have had multiple people say to me, “You sing at church for money? You should be singing for the love of G-d!” (That’s a whole ‘nother blogpost.)

Synonyms for amateur include admirer, devotee, but also less positive ones such as dilettante, putterer, and, yes, dabbler.

But “amateur” is not what I mean when I say I don’t enjoy working with “dabblers.”

Again, turning to Merriam-Webster:

Definition of dabbler
Someone who is a lover of something, who pursues it, studies it,  engages with it, is not a dabbler. That is not a person who is approaching something because it’s a lark or something different to do. Dabblers are the people, for the most part, with whom I’ve worked in the past who have lost interest because they’re not fully invested. In fact, the definition for “dabbling” on Merriam-Webster refers to it as being “superficial” or “intermittent.”

I did not know that “dabbling” also means to feed in shallow water, either just below the surface, or occasionally going in headfirst, but never too deeply.

Mallard Pair Dabbling

Can a dabbler become a devotée? Of course. There are many things people “dabble in” before they decide what to focus on, whether it’s for a career choice or a hobby.

If you truly love to sing but don’t want to do it for a living, I say, more power to you because making a career from singing alone is extremely difficult. If you are devoted to singing, and want to learn how to do it better for your own sake and betterment, you are an amateur in the best possible sense. And those singers motivated for love of singing and expressing themselves through singing are the ones I want to work with.

So if you are considering voice lessons, and you know that you love singing and want to put the time in to develop your craft, and you don’t want to duck the responsibility involved (see what I did there?), don’t feel that there’s no place for you. Sing. Join a choir. Sing at parties with friends. Take lessons from someone who also loves the craft and wants to help you develop your skill.


And with that mind, if you are looking for a teacher, I have some openings
for the 2021-2022 term, starting September 7.
You can either commit to a 20-lesson “Busy Professional” Package,
a “Pick-4” Package, or drop-in from time to time.
Find out how to work with me


Published by Mezzoid Voice Studio

Christine Thomas-O'Meally, a mezzo soprano and voice teacher currently based in the Baltimore-DC area, has performed everything from the motets of J.S. Bach to the melodies of Irving Berlin to the minimalism of Philip Glass. As an opera singer and actress, she has appeared with companies such as Charm City Players, Spotlighters Theatre, Chicago Opera Theater, Opera Theater of Northern Virginia, Opera North, the Washington Savoyards, In Tandem Theatre, Windfall Theater, The Young Victorian Theater of Baltimore, and Skylight Opera Theatre. She created the role of The Woman in Red in Dominick Argento’s Dream of Valentino in its world premiere with the Washington Opera and Mary Pickersgill in O'er the Ramparts at its world premiere during the Bicentennial of Battle of Baltimore at the Community College of Baltimore County. Other roles include Mrs. Paroo in Music Man, Mother Abbess in Sound of Music, Dorabella in Cosi Fan Tutte, Marcellina in Le Nozze di Figaro, both Hansel and the Witch in Hansel & Gretel, and many roles in Gilbert & Sullivan operettas. Her performance as the Housekeeper in Man of La Mancha was honored with a WATCH award nomination. Ms. Thomas-O'Meally received an M.M. in vocal performance from the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore. She regularly attends master classes and workshops in both performance and vocal pedagogy, and is certified in all three Levels of Somatic Voicework™ The LoVetri Method. Her students have performed on national and international tours of Broadway productions, at prestigious conservatories, and in regional theater throughout the country.

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