Music is a universal language. No matter what country you live in or what regional culture you are a part of, music is a way to communicate, express feelings, and signal calls to action all over the world. With music being such a universal concept, elitism in music makes for a totally bizarre and unacceptable practice.
This attitude is particularly prevalent in classical music, along with other more obscure genres. Music students as young as kindergarten will brag to one another about the cost of their instruments or lessons, and down other children who had to purchase less expensive instruments or borrow one from their school. This attitude – taught to young musicians from a very early age – persists well into adulthood, and even musicians who go on to successful careers in music still adopt a “adults versus children” attitude toward their peers, who may have not had access to more expensive instruments or training.
Among professionals, musicians are not chosen for their roles based on the quality of their instrument; they are chosen on the basis of ability and attitude, as with almost any other career. But rather than respecting the hard work of their peers – who very often had to work far harder to get where they are in the face of financial hardship – the opposite is very often true.
But elitism doesn't stop with classism. Elitism can be based on a number of other things, such as how extensive another musician's repertoire is, how wide a range of music they listen to, and their personal taste in music. Elitist musicians don't often stop to consider how exposure to the arts varies wildly from person to person, depending on background and culture, access to technology, and personal aesthetic. One of the most common forms of elitism is denouncing others for enjoying music that is considered highly accessible, like pop or minimalist composition.
The problem with this attitude is not that it's wrong to enjoy more obscure forms of music, or music that's inherently complex; the problem is with denouncing more traditional or accessible forms of music as being unworthy of the listener's time because it's “easy.” Musicians who throw proverbial stones at artists who enjoy or perform more accessible forms of music not only remove themselves from music they may genuinely enjoy (whether or not they admit it), but also dismiss the skills and hard work of musicians who choose to perform more accessible material.
Music as a universal art is meant to include anyone that wants to participate in it or perform it, and subsequently, elitism in music denotes a very particular kind of ego-stroking that has no place in any professional context. The idea that a musician who is well-off and can afford access to the best quality instruments in training - and whose musical taste is hallmarked by obscurity and complexity - is somehow better than other artists in light of these concepts is, frankly, ludicrous. Music as a field is not advanced by egotism or bullying – it is advanced by inclusion, mutual respect, and joint creativity.
So before sneering at a musician who pulls out a used instrument rather than a brand-new one, or tells you that they enjoy Britney Spears or Fall Out Boy, ask yourself, and your fellow musicians: “Does this serve our craft or our development as artists?” You will always find, regardless of context, that the answer is a resounding “No.”