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Natasha Marsalli

A V.com Lurker Materializes: After College

February 28, 2013 at 4:12 PM

Well, fellow V.commers, I have returned, after a four year hiatus from blogging. I've never really abandoned V.com, I've just resorted to the occasional lurking instead of actively contributing. When I started blogging here, I had only just discovered how much I loved playing. It was my first year of high school, I had a new teacher who was nothing short of a perfect fit for me, and I was just getting involved in a youth orchestra that would change my life. I started winning competitions all throughout the region, and ended up soloing three times with the Naples Philharmonic. When I wasn't subtlety (or not…) flirting with the clarinetist in the back of the youth orchestra, I loved logging on and sharing my success stories with the world in my over-dramatic high school way (by the way, that clarinetist? He's my husband now.)

Then college came. College was a mess for me. I was awarded a hefty academic scholarship and a very generous musical scholarship from my high school youth orchestra, and I had a year's worth of college credits since I had dual-enrolled in math and science classes through high school. Long story short, after the university making false promises, I ended up at Case Western Reserve University. Five days before I left, they took away a substantial amount of financial aid because I had "too much." Two weeks after classes began, they decided to refuse my transfer credits, even though I had emails where I had been told they would be accepted. Apparently the person who wrote those emails didn't have the authority to make such promises.

My one year in Cleveland was both stressful and amazing; in those two semesters, I took forty college credits, something like twenty four classes. About half of those (music theory, eurythmics, chamber music, lessons, etc.) were at the Cleveland Institute of Music. Those classes formed me as a musician more than any classes I would ever take again. But, on the whole, the situation was not a good fit for me. I made fantastic grades, in spite of getting swine flu and spending a month with pneumonia during the spring, but I felt like I fell between the cracks of being a "Conservatory kid" and a "CWRU kid." Furthermore, my private teacher and I were not a good fit, although we got along very well and I made good progress. At the end of the year, I decided I couldn't justify the hefty price tag.

I spent a year in limbo, taking classes at the university I had dual-enrolled at and studying with my teacher from high school. I don't regret that year at all. Ave Maria University has a small but excellent music program, centered around sacred music studies. I had some incredibly powerful musical experiences there, including singing the Durufle Requiem at a Latin High Mass and playing chamber music with one of the most amazing musicians I have ever encountered.

After running the audition circuit (again), I ended up at The Florida State University. I spent two years and a half years there, completing a B.M. in Violin and a B.M.E. in Instrumental Education. All of the faculty and staff there were amazing and bent over backwards to give me the best and most affordable education I could get. I did two full years (summers included) of coursework and a semester of student teaching through FSU and graduated just this last December with both degrees summa cum laude.

After six years of undergrad, I was more than burned out. My private teacher advised that I not apply for graduate school, and instead prepare on my own to take orchestra auditions. Right now I am working as a freelance violinist in the Southeast region. I live in Tallahassee, but I teach and perform throughout the Florida Panhandle and parts of Georgia and Alabama as well. I feel like there are huge amounts of musicians in my situation: a Bachelor's degree, but not good enough to win a really orchestra job yet. It's a difficult choice: do you go on to grad school? Take a non-music job? As I make my own discoveries about living the freelance lifestyle, I have decided to resume blogging at V.com so I can pass what I learn to other violinists in the same boat (and hopefully get some advice from the veterans along the way!)


From Terez Mertes
Posted on February 28, 2013 at 7:13 PM
Welcome back to the blogosphere, and it's fun to hear the details of the past four years!
From Nate Robinson
Posted on February 28, 2013 at 11:37 PM
Welcome back FB friend. :) I think you're doing the right thing. School in my opinion, in most instances, after a certain point is a waste of time (and money if you don't get a substantial scholarship). So many of my musical friends with graduate degrees are in a lot of debt. It will take some of them years to pay their loans off. I know a guy who's an excellent violinist that got into a big 5 orchestra who never finished a Bachelor's program and I know some people with DMA's who can't get out of 1st position. So I don't think school in the long run makes people into greater players. Just my opinion. :)
From Corwin Slack
Posted on March 1, 2013 at 2:02 PM
I have a very talented friend who blew off a Masters degree after finishing most of the program. It is many years later and there are many opportunities that required "the credential" that have passed him by. He is no less of a musician, but unless you get a lucky break, there will always be those who measure you by your credentials. But Nate's advice is good: don't pay too much for it.
From Tom Holzman
Posted on March 1, 2013 at 9:47 PM
Corwin and Nate's responses are interesting. I am not a professional musician, so I do not have that much insight. However, I agree with them that you should not spend too much on further education. Ultimately, you have to decide what you want. It sounds from your post as if you want an orchestral position. I am not clear how a Masters would help achieve that goal. I am also not clear what opportunities a Masters would open up for you that you do not have now. These are the sorts of question you need to ask yourself and others. I am sure that experienced v.commers have opinions they would share.
From Scott Slapin
Posted on March 2, 2013 at 7:20 PM
I've been "approached" a few times... the head of a search committee at a university is looking for a viola professor... I've learned to mention right off the bat that I don't have a Master's degree, and that is the end of the discussion.

Outside of academia, though, I can't imagine what a Master's degree might be useful for. I finished my Bachelor's degree when I was 18 and simply didn't have the money to continue (even with some nice scholarship offers.) Knowing a few people with outrageous debt, I'm glad I didn't stay on for the Master's, even if that did close doors to me in academia.

My suspicion anyway is soon even a Master's won't be enough, you'll need a Doctorate. And as Nate Robinson posted earlier on this thread, while it may get you a teaching gig, it's still no proof that you can get out of first position ;)

From Laurie Niles
Posted on March 3, 2013 at 10:02 PM
I'm pretty sure that if you want to teach at a university level, you need a doctorate; I feel like that's been the case as long as I can remember. That said, I don't think that's necessarily true for teaching at a secondary private school or something.

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