Hold on, now. By ‘prostiflute’ I am not talking about mixing prostitution from the red-light area of your favourite city with being a flute player (now that would be a highly fascinating blog topic, no doubt).
To be a ‘prostiflute’ (which by the way is not my term,* but is oh so fitting, no?) is to use your flute abilities in a way that does not normally deserve respect in a traditional career sense, especially in order to get money. It’s about doing work as a musician—but not in the way you had intended, or ‘trained’ to be.
Still not sure? You can ask yourself ‘If my musical colleagues knew I was doing this job would I feel shame (or even slightly embarrassed) for them to see me do it?’ If the answer is yes, congratulations–you’ve identified your own prostiflute scenario. Here’s some I’ve heard in my time:
Real- life example 1
My pal Chrissy once described that she was hired to pretend to play flute while wearing a full-body black leotard in a modern theatre piece while executing a very rigorous ballet routine.
Real- life Example 2
Another colleague, a well-known orchestral flautist, recently related that his latest cash cow was directing a Titanic themed ‘My Heart Will Go On’ musical extravaganza in Malaysia.
Real-life Example 3
Keith, a NYC flute player was hired to play in General Hospital (an American day-time soap) while dressed as an elf for a Christmas party scene (yes, green knee-highs and a pointy hat, too).
My own random prostiflute scenarios were worth it for just the cash alone—even when my ego whined that’s not what a flute player who has three performance degrees, a respectable CV, and a reputation to uphold should have to resort to, dang-it! (But we all have bills to pay, no?)
–I once drove 236 miles in order to perform a solo version of ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’ in a Scottish Castle while a bride gracefully walked down the aisle. Ok, no biggie. But this was the ego-kicker: That certain 4 minute solo is all she wanted. A zesty ‘Arrival of the Queen of Sheba’? Some languid Pachelbel? Some lush ‘Ave Maria’ to follow? Nope. The rest of the ceremony she’d arranged for some pre-recorded synthesiser music to be used, followed by a not so in tune kilted bagpiper who was also her cousin (ouch).
–After I got my Master’s Degree in flute performance I needed work pronto. The only regular teaching work I could find at the time was giving recorder lessons to 400 kids primary school kids a week—30 at a time. Mind you, I had never ‘seriously’ played recorder in my life.
–After I finished my PhD an agent contacted me from Bombay: Would I like to earn a chunk of cash while performing Bollywood music on my flute for mostly Indian audiences while wearing copious amounts of gold costume jewellery and also some nice fancy dresses, too? (Sure!)
Here’s why there is no shame about being a prostiflute: Taking work outside what is deemed as a ‘real’ flute job has made me step up my musical game in ways that a traditional art-music concert hall performance wasn’t ever going to require. Not that I knew that at that time.
–Playing ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’ for the Scottish bride meant unlike a ‘real’ recital I didn’t have a full hour or to win over the audience—literally it was 4 minutes of fluting and sayonara. Every note, and every second counted because that literally was it.
–Leading a group of thirty tiny Glaswegians with plastic recorders in their hot little hands was no small obstacle, folks. Teaching all those 8 year-olds their B-A-G and C’s each week meant that I really had to refine my teaching skills big style. I had to learn to communicate musical concepts in plain (and inspiring) language, using the most highly entertaining explanations I could evoke.
–Performing Bollywood music as a soloist in over 40 concerts gave me a chance to translate Hindi vocal melodies onto a western flute, and to entertain huge crowds in sometimes rather unique concert settings (read: a palace in Jodhpur). Oh, and I became an expert at avoiding malaria-toting mosquitoes and having a sweaty back while hitting high notes.
Before you sign the contract, here’s the most important thing I can share about being a prostiflute: You have to be the one in control of the terms and have the last word of what you are willing to do. For example, if you’re a devout vegan. I am sure no amount of money would get you to play background music at a pork pie launch party for a meat company.
My own simple rule of thumb? If the job makes me feel slimy or icky, or goes against my own moral boundaries than it’s a no-go (thank you, Father Time because that lesson took a while).
Appearing in a film set on an Indian beach while wearing a bikini and playing my flute in a ‘female band’? Not for me, thank you (yes, that was a real request).
But posing for a Bollywood entertainment calendar that was distributed in India? Sure! I loved being December (see left).
Given the work is a) not offensive to your personal morals and b) it’s worth your time in exchange for the cash, there’s no doubt that the job could be musical gold just waiting to be reaped.
One last tip: You must realise that what you consider to be ‘prostiflution’ is another person’s ‘real’ career. Treat the work with respect, be honoured you were asked, and give it all you got. You never know where it might lead. And if nothing else? Think about the money and the great dinner-party story you’ll have acquired.
So now it’s over to you. What has been your greatest prostiflution story? What did you learn from that experience? Where have you drawn the line? Share in the comment box below so we can all admire your guts.
* Thanks to my conversations with flautist P.E. Davies, who is the founder of the little word gem.
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