From Liandra Sy
Posted October 25, 2012 at 03:08 AM
College kind of changed that. So, I was a music major last year (Freshman year), and I was pretty excited and passionate about it (as I was in high school), but come Spring Semester, I started to dread practicing and violin. I kind of attributed this to my lazy personality. I usually procrastinate, and only occasionally have bouts of diligence and determination.
Even though in high school, I felt intimidated by the other more talented and younger students, they inspired me to work harder and made me think I can do it too. Well in college, I felt put off by everyone. I think I was subconsciously reminded by anyone in the music school that this may not be the right path for me, and occasional unsuccessful lessons made me think I would never be good enough no matter how hard I try. Even my violin teacher, who is great and really nice, sometimes had his moments where he would unintentionally say things which made me think I will NEVER improve (ie "why do you keep doing this?!" or "your intonation never has a center"). Please note I'm not saying he's mean and a bad teacher. I learned a lot from him, but I think the standard he had for my learning really backfired in a way that made feel I don't deserve to be in that standard to begin with.
So, this semester (beginning of my sophomore year), I switched my major to English. I love it. Yeah I'm not so passionate, but when I write about books I love, or even analyses on sociocultural topics, I get this rewarding, no-pressure feeling. Nothing in this field hangs on just ONE performance, and my improvement here just felt natural, whereas in music, I constantly felt like Sisyphus pushing up a boulder against all odds. Compared to being an English Major, being music major was just a dreadful, stressful life.
Now comes my real question, should I just quit?
I asked my violin teacher this, and (as expected) he was very disapproving of me quitting. He explained that if I quit, there's a very good chance that if I ever decide to come back, I won't be as free (ie college students have more free time than adults in the working world) to take it back up again, or as an adult, learning an instrument may no longer come as natural compared to now.
Even my friends said I shouldn't quit. Now is the only opportunity I will get to study with a great violinist and have the time for it.
But there's this nagging feeling that I don't want to do this anymore. I NEVER practice, so I feel like I'm wasting my teacher's time to begin with. And when I do, I don't get the results I expect in my lesson (I always find a way to mess it up). This past September, the back-to-school excitement motivated me to practice everyday for a good amount of time, but that has died off. Right now I feel like I'm wasting everyone's time and money by continuing. I feel like I could be doing other things to enjoy my time as a college student.
What do you guys think? The only reason why I'm so unsure is because of what my teacher said (I might regret it when I'm older). And there's also the fact that maybe I'm going through a slump and I'll find a way back. Thoughts? Your experience of quitting and not regretting?
Figure out what you liked about it in the past (sounds as though you've already started to do that...) and move back to that, but stay away from what you didn't like (sounds as though you've started on that as well). There are many ways to enjoy violin.
Your life can be a work of art- shape it so it's beautiful and enjoyable to you!
I quite because it wasn't what my friends were doing, and hence no longer fun. Now, it is the center of my social circle and has been since graduating college and getting my career off the ground.
Sounds like it became to competitive and not fun anymore for you. My vote (if I get one), don't quit, just put it in a different context.
Like you, I became an English major. Nice choice!
I continued my lessons at the university after switching majors, but after I quit playing in the orchestra I was eventually run out of the music department entirely. It turned out to be a mixed blessing, since all the reading and writing required of English majors takes up as much time - or more - as preparing for a life as a professional musician.
When I moved to a different city for graduate school, I didn't even take a violin with me. Now I'm finishing up a PhD in English and I have found a new appreciation for the violin. By the way, it turns out you don't go backwards for every day you don't practice. I play nearly as well as I did ten years ago, and in some ways I think I play more musically now.
I think I am able to enjoy it now because I became an English major: now that I can play for my own pleasure instead of for a grade, my fiddle has once again become a source of great joy for me.
A violinist is somebody who plays the violin, not somebody who takes lessons. You will always be able to play for fun, whether with friends in chamber groups or in a local amateur orchestra.
I don't know what your skill level is, but since it was sufficient for you to start college as a music major, it must be reasonably good. Why did you keep on doing it if you don't enjoy it?
Playing music with other people is a great joy. I've been doing it almost continuously for the past 64 years (except when I was in grad school - but I did practice even then).
You can take the threat out of it by dropping lessons, but it is a shame to do that when good teachers are so available to you. Is there a college orchestra you can join, just to keep you in the game?
One of my music partners is a retired doctor who studied violin seriously through high school and continued to play seriously until he finished his stint as an Air Force doctor and entered residency and medical practice. At that time he stopped playing and did not start again until he was 60 years old - in preparation for a musical retirement. It took him years of lessons to get going again, and even at 77 he is still improving, which gives me some indication of how good he must have been when he was younger and how much he lost by discontinuing for 30 years. We get together for weekly piano trios, where I am the cellist (will do that in about 4 hours this morning), and we both play 1st violin in a local conductor-less chamber orchestra 3 times a month.
Please find a way to keep your skills up, and a context in which you can enjoy it. There are plenty of opportunities to play with other people without it being a competition - or even as a competition you can win (even I was concertmaster of our local symphony orchestra for about 20 years).
As to music in general and violin in particular, you will see enough examples on this and other forums to make it clear that regardless of what you do or do not do with music, there is a piece of you, musical, that will always be there, and may - even must - surface at some point. If you take music as pleasure rather than obsession, you will nurture this part of you, I think, and find yourself inevitably drawn back.
1.)I loved violin back then because I felt classical music spoke to me (it still does), and I loved the idea that I can control my interpretation to suit what I am feeling.
2.) I barely got into the music program (really 2 violin professors wanted me out, but my teacher wanted me in because he said for someone who's been playing for 3 years at the time of my audition, I was really good). So I guess my skill level is adequate, but not amazing. In fact, I finished my high school years with the 1st movement of Bruch, just to give an example of how low my level was.
3.) A lot of you guys mention joining orchestra. Well, I HATE orchestra. That was one of the first things I wanted to get out of as a music major. Gradually, I started to hate the repertoire we played (over the top symphonies are hardly appealing to me). What exacerbated the situation was the snobby, competitiveness of orchestra. No offense, but this whole "yeah I'm 1st violin blah blah blah" pissed me off to no end. Yeah you can say I was jealous, but it just made me despise the whole atmosphere too.
4.) I continued lessons to keep an appearance for my mom. She would hate if I quit, so I'm just doing it for her. I guess I've already quit as you guys have said, so maybe I should just stop?
5.) Another secret as to why I quit: I sucked at ear training. I only passed ear training because of theory and the homeworks. But every time we were tested on sight singing and melodic/harmonic dictation, I would fail. My teacher for that class even felt that as a violinist, ear training should be the class that's telling me something's wrong. I took the hint and booked it.
Thank you again for all your warm responses :)
So, while I didn't quit for good (and maybe that's what the previous poster was talking about), I did take a break from the violin, which I found to be very beneficial. Music school wasn't for me either, for a variety of reasons, I think, but I toughed it out anyway for the degree.
For the original poster, I vote for quitting ... and you can always come back if you want. Don't hang onto something just because you fear you can never have it again. And don't do something that takes up as much of your time as the violin can if you feel it doesn't feed your soul. My 2 cents, fwiw.
And Lisa, I enjoyed reading your post; you put it all so well. Actually, I enjoyed reading everyone's comments. So interesting to hear others' perspectives.
"as an adult, learning an instrument may no longer come as natural compared to now"
….I would absolutely agree with your teacher on that. If you are able to stick with it and you choose to keep music in your life down the road, you'll really benefit from the skills you develop during this window. Of course if it doesn't make you happy, then walk away even if for just a while or scale back.
Have you done much group music other than your orchestra at school? Between orchestra and chamber music, my group music experiences are a great part of my life, I even get the occasional gig out of it, and I definitely regret that didn't work harder at the violin in my formative years.
"A lot of you guys mention joining orchestra … one of the first things I wanted to get out of as a music major. Gradually, I started to hate the repertoire we played (over the top symphonies are hardly appealing to me)."
This echoes my experience. As a preadolescent kid, I had the ambition to become a symphony player; but by 21, the heavy-duty symphonic training was getting on my nerves -- high decibel levels, long evening hours, lack of individual freedom and creativity, the snobby atmosphere you touched on. Since I now had more than enough semester hours in orchestra, I dropped it and gained more time for the recital and small chamber material I preferred.
Finding the right niche for music-making often involves this process of elimination -- pinpointing activities that are a drag on your musical life and then getting rid of them as soon as practical. You may find the music more enjoyable now -- with the pressures of being a music major off your shoulders -- time will tell.
Had to stoped for a reason, and when I listen to his videos now, he/she barely sounds and play better than a medium-good amateur student... as in every conservatory...
It is so sad... It traumatized me. I mean, if it happens to even...them. What about us mortals if we quit???
But if you really don't like it anymore, then it's an unesessary burden in your life...
If ever, though, you think you would like to do violin when you retire at 65 yo or so... well maybe to keep a little touch with it once in a while would not harm... Because your body will change over years and become as stiff as a tree :( Well, from what I've seen and heard.
Good luck... I have no doubt that the hardest part is saying bye to a beloved teacher... courage in either paths
Of course, I won't burn down bridges - specifically my violin - in case I get the urge to pick it up again next semester, or maybe in 20 years. I love being an English major, and I will go wherever that leads me. Music, on the other hand, should be fun as most of you said. So it's only right for me to quit for now and come back to it before it officially traumatizes me.
If it's worth anyone's time though, I am sad I won't be able to see my teacher every week. He's very funny and I learned a lot about life and violin thanks to him. I guess that's the price I pay for my individual happiness, huh?
Response to Jim Fellows: I don't know if it's just me, but your tone in that response is so emphatic I just had to give my answer to that. I don't know anyone who's glad they've quit permanently, but as this thread has shown, there have been many others who found joy in rediscovering it in a different time of their lives. I also know of other music majors in my school who now hate their instrument more than I do, but are still keeping at it for god know why. I don't want to be like them. I don't want to dread and regret practicing. Wasting time is the worst because you can never get it back. I don't want to look back 10 years from now and think "I could have been doing this if I hadn't locked myself in the school's practice room for 5 hours." Get my drift? So it's not such an obvious question to answer. Since this question is also VERY personal to me (despite being asked by numerous other violinists) it's important I get the advice I can get.
Thank you very much again. I appreciate how understanding and consoling you guys are.
/edit to answer another general question: Yes I am currently in a chamber music group. It's a little fun but I think I need a break from that as well.
I studied chemistry in college, and then in graduate school, and now my wife and I both are college chemistry professors. I have no regrets about that, obviously. But my violin sat in a box for 25 years. That was BAD. I justified it by making money as a pianist (accompanying music majors at recitals). I thought I didn't have TIME in college. Let me tell you something -- I have time NOW, I just finished practicing 75 minutes, and I really AM busy now. Back in college I didn't know what "busy" even meant.
Like you, I could have played in the college's orchestra, I was easily good enough for that (I did not go to a college with a competitive music program, they really needed violins). But I also did not like it, and I still don't. Orchestra just is not my thing really. I do enjoy chamber music however because the all the competitive crap (who's first chair, etc.) goes away.
Did I find joy in rediscovering the violin in my late 40s? Yes, it happened when my daughter started taking lessons. I hope she will not quit when she goes to college because I'm spending ca. $2000 a year on her lessons. I do feel a lot of frustration at what I missed out on all these years. I could have been happier, it's really that simple.
What I suggest you do is take the rest of the term off to give yourself a chance to cool off emotionally because I think you're kind of topsy turvy right now. Then, scale back your lessons to once every other week. Let your teacher know that your goals have changed -- you want to play and practice for maintenance of your skill, pure enjoyment, and maybe gradual growth if it works out. Ask for your teacher's help reorganizing your practice chart and selecting repertoire to meet this goal. Tell him/her you need it to be easy for a while. If (s)he doesn't understand, get a different teacher -- outside the college if necessary. Find the time to play, shoot for 5 hours a week.
An English major who loves what she is studying but also plays the violin nicely is a fine thing to be.
So (1) I wonder if you need to create performance opportunities that are fun. And (2) consider doing some slow, practice, really quietly, at roughly a piano dynamic level. Just really perfect something at a really slow tempo with a really beautiful sound. After you do that, you will always improve.
But I also recognize not everyone is me, so I hope your decision satisfies you. While I think that music is a wonderful thing, there are many wonderful things to do in life. English is a tremendous major. Communication is so important and a skill in writing will help you in your career, no matter what you do, and is enjoyable to boot. :)
I started to play again, that time, when I broke up with a very serious boyfriend and moved into my own apartment. I just needed a change and something new and creative to occupy myself and for some reason violin seemed like it. I played then for about 5 years, including in an orchestra, and then I quit again after my first child was born. That gap lasted another 8 years. I started again about 6 years ago and don't plan to quit again.
What those gaps have been really good for is resetting expectations. In college I was around some musical superstars, and it was much more depressing for me than inspiring to be around them. Somewhere I had gotten my priorities and goals totally turned around and it took at least 8 years for them to reorient. My current level of progress probably wouldn't look all that impressive to a conservatory teacher, but it's enough for me. And it has also really helped to join a laid back orchestra that is all volunteer and doesn't require auditions.
I may be a minority here, but I think the business about it being harder when you are an adult student is overblown. My memory is admittedly kind of non-standard. but my experience has been that while I can't find my car keys to save my life, every piece I've ever played, even 25 and 30 years ago, is right there, waiting to be dusted off. I can usually take that older muscle memory and build on it now, but it is nice to have that muscle memory. As for the rest of being a student, I'm much more disciplined and grounded, and willing to delay gratification than I was then. I don't regret quitting at all. But I'm also glad I came back when I was ready.
Also, your campus probably has free counseling / therapy (I mean with a real therapist). When I was thinking about changing my major and really really anguishing on it, therapy was a great place for me to clarify my thoughts on that and on other things. I can't emphasize enough how glad I am I started going. Something to consider.
Pardon. I just read that you have made a decision. Congrats. That's the hardest part, and to get there, you have probably thought about this a lot. I still think that music is a puzzle piece for every soul, but how that fits for you is part of your journey.
Liandra, be sure you tell your teacher this. Maybe you can still take some lessons with him, if not now, next year or so. As you said, don't burn bridges. He knows how brutal music schoool can be- he went himself- and make sure he knows how much you have enjoyed studying with him.
Violinist.com: some things are eternal. : )
I say this as someone who decided against majoring in music, worked as a software developer during the dot-com boom, became frustrated that what I did on a daily basis didn't really make a difference for anyone, and got back into playing through chamber music, and ended up in a new hybrid career teaching both subjects and helping young people overcome life challenges.
Quitting is such a drastic step after so much time and love investment. However, strongly you feel it now, give yourself the benefit of a pause so that you can be sure of our decision.
Are you studying classical violin? What about bluegrass or celtic, country or Tirolian folk music?
There are many forms of violin music that are fun and satisfying and not quite as arduous to practice as classical. Instead of quitting violin perhaps you could branch out and find a genre that fits your current lifestyle.
I didn’t get as far as you have in violin study but there are subtile things in my life that it influenced. Scientists have found that there are pathways through the brain that are created from the study of music and more so from the violin. Therefore all of the years of your practice are not in vain or wasted.
The playing of grace notes influenced me to modify computer commands that I used hundreds of thousands of times. The program, AutoCad, is a drawing program used for mechanical and architectural drawing. As it comes there are “aliases” using two keystrokes for written commands. But the two letters that they use for each command jump all over the key board. If I could hit two adjacent keys like playing a grace note, I would have only to find one location on the key board and use only one motion. Trivial, but it added speed. If I hadn’t played the fiddle, I would never have thought of it.
The only advice that I will give you; Don’t keep your bow in the case long term. Get a brad (tiny nail) and put it in the wall behind the door of a room that gets light every day. Hanging the bow outside of the case will keep the mites away that destroy bow hair in the dark.
Yes, I did come back to the violin after many years.
Violinist.com Editor Laurie Niles is in New York to cover the biennial event at The Juilliard School, including classes by Brian Lewis and Sarah Chang.
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