Versatility...what does it mean anyway?
Like many others, I often describe myself as a versatile musician in my bio and any write-ups or resumés I have. BUT, in an age of creativity, side-hustle culture and portfolio careers, what does versatility mean anyway?...
I guess the reason why I describe myself as a versatile violinist is to perhaps differentiate myself from the preconceived norms. Since the violin as an instrument is almost synonymous with Western Art Music - indeed the violin's core repertoire has been documented for centuries within the "classical" music genre - it is easy place it in a one-dimensional box. By pointing out my versatility, I'm saying to potential clients, collaborators and other musicians that I'm not only open to non-conventional styles but I really enjoy taking the time to explore playing different genres and doing outside-of-the-box things with my instrument. Whilst professionally, I don't play lots of instruments, I do many different things just using my skills as violinist and musician. In the age of technology and of course in a post-COVID world, many musicians have expanded their skillsets in to producing, video-making, etc. thus become more versatile and multi-faceted artists all round.
In my career so far, I've played in a variety of musical settings:
classical - including period instrument playing to 21st century compositions
folk & folk-fusion
singer-songwriter originals & using my voice to accompany playing even though I'm not a singer!
gospel/church music - with influences from the West African and Caribbean diaspora.
In terms of my wider career, I think my versatility is exemplified in the content of my portfolio career which consists of education work, a variety of performing work and consultancy/advocacy work. I enjoy having different experiences across the music sector as an educator in both grass roots and private settings; being a board member and giving talks when doing advocacy work etc in addition to being a post-graduate student and early-career musician. Each of my different roles within the music industry inform each other. For me, having a portfolio career demands versatility but also creates more opportunities to diverse my skillset.
In a future blog post, I'll explain in more detail how my portfolio career practically looks in a week.
If you're a musician, comment on how you'd describe yourself. Do you like describing yourself as versatile and what does that look like in your day-to-day life as a musician?