The term "musical professionalism" is used not only for written academic European music, but also for world oral traditions and is primarily related to the level of skill and social status of the performers.
In the context of Ukrainian traditional culture, there are three groups of professional musicians:
1) Wandering minstrels known as "kobzari" and "lirnyky" (lute "kobza" and hurdy-gurdy players) who, by the mid-20th century, formed professional organizations with their own hierarchy and rules. Their repertoire mainly consisted of epic songs of historical, religious, or moralistic nature.
2) Musicians-shepherds, primarily playing wind instruments, for whom music was an integral part of their pastoral activities, often performing signaling melodies.
3) So-called "trojisti muzyky", musicians who formed ensembles to provide music for wedding ceremonies, dances, and other events.
The kobzari and lirnyky's musical culture has mostly lost its direct oral transmission and exists today mainly in reconstructed forms. Equally, with the evolution of their profession, musicians-shepherds moved to the status of amateur performers. Therefore, ensemble musicians remained the only professional folk musicians who represent the current state of development of Ukrainian traditional instrumental music.
The criteria of folklore professionalism depend on the specifics and needs of certain environments. Despite this, there are several attempts to define universal signs of traditional professionalism. But criteria of professionalism, which are suitable for ones cultures, are not quite suitable for others and change not only in space, but also in time.
Based on the predecessors' experience, as well as numerous own field studies, the author defines the following criteria for the Ukrainian professional folk ensemble musicians. These include: natural talent, elements of the educational process, perfect mastery of one or more instruments, the ability to make or fix them, publicity and payment for the playing, mandatory participation in rituals and entertainment of their environment, knowledge of their repertoire, constant performing practice and improvement, professional terminology, high competition between musicians, association in instrumental (wedding) bands.
So, each group of folk performers had its own standards of professionalism. Folk professional musicians are the creators, bearers, masters, innovators, and "promoters" of instrumental culture, gifted and vibrant personalities who shape the future of their tradition.
Keywords: folk instrumental music, professional folk musicians, "trojisti muzyky", criteria for traditional musical professionalism.