Career in the Microbio Sciences

Derek Oliver derek at
Tue Feb 15 14:15:59 EST 2000

Jim - I fully agree with the substance of your comments in this and your previous
post on this topic, a vvrey pertinent & balanced set of thoughts for any lurkers.
I'd just like to chime in a response to your disclaimed assertion below..

Jim Hu wrote:

> There are many other lower paying activities that can be substituted for
> baseball in the analogy - I just went to a concert/open discussion where
> guitarist Elliot Fisk mentioned that music conservatories are putting out
> musicians and training them as if they're all going to be soloists with the NY
> Philharmonic when there are 200 applicants for jobs like second tuba of the
> Tulsa symphony.  What fraction of actors/musicians/dancers make it?  What
> fraction of students who want to paint or sculpt for a living?  I would guess
> that  compared to Ph.D. scientists, the attrition, pay, benefits and future
> prospects are all worse (DISCLAIMER - this is based on no data at all).

I have had the luxury and enjoyment of making a lot of music - and some of it
semi-professionally. In music, like all careers, some skills are more in demand
than others, some require a greater degree of proficiency to be competetive than
others. For example, to be a successful professional concert pianist your
technique and musicianship needs to be a couple of orders of magnitude greater
than, say a violin player. I you talk in terms of orchestral rank & file
instrumentalists, there is another step of a few orders of magnitude down from a
violin player before you get to a viola player or a double bass player (I'm
sticking to the instruments I have played orchestrally). The basis for this is the
relative numbers of players, and the scope of the repertoire.

But one can make a "living" in the sense of doing odds and ends about the place -
and (for example) tenor voices are always in demand relative to other parts,
although few are soloists. Being paid to be in the chorus or the ranks of an
orchestra is not to be sneezed at, but like academia it is not something many get
to, nor is the pay comparable with some of the more exciting salaries that we read
about. I'd comment that the political instability of any area of the performing
arts both interpersonal and fundingwise is as precarious as anyhting I've seen  in


Dr. Derek R. Oliver  SPM Group
Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering,
University of Manitoba, Winnipeg

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