Do I have a chance at becoming a professional violinist?

January 30, 2018, 12:11 PM · Hello!

I'm a senior in high school, and am going to college next year, but I won't be majoring in music. I want to be a violinist in a professional orchestra someday, and I'm wondering if there's much chance of that ever happening.

I've played violin for about 11 years, and right now I'm working on the third movement of Bach's Concerto in A minor. I'm playing in two youth orchestras, and I'm the concertmaster of one of them. I'm going to join a chamber group very soon. I practice about 2 hours per day.

Please give me your honest opinion! Thanks for reading!

Replies (123)

Edited: January 30, 2018, 12:30 PM · If you're not going to major in music during your undergrad years, where would you intend to get professional training in violin performance? Are you hoping that you'd directly audition to an MM program once you finish your bachelor's in some other subject? What's that other subject (i.e., how demanding) and how many hours a day would you expect to devote to practice during your undergrad years, and what musical opportunities are available to you as a non-major, including availability of a great teacher?

Also, how recently did you start practicing for 2 hours a day? How long have you had private lessons? (Gist of my question: Why are you only at Bach A minor level after 11 years of playing?)

January 30, 2018, 12:39 PM · Based on your self description, I think you are very unlikely to be competitive for a professional orchestra job, especially if you're not going to major in violin performance. And honestly if you did say that you wanted to major in performance, I would advise against it. You are very far behind.

If you would like to hear what others your age are doing, go to youtube and look up Juilliard pre-college senior recitals (or any other conservatory with a prep department--I think Peabody has one, I'm sure others do as well).

Keep working hard and enjoying the violin. Music can be a rich and rewarding part of your life without it being your career. Often I read comments from some of the very proficient amateur players on v dot com and think to myself that they are having more fun than I am, much of the time. I love what I do but every job has some tedium to it and music is no different.

January 30, 2018, 1:01 PM · To answer Mary's question on why the OP is still at Bach A Minor after 11 years, I think it has a lot to do with study skills, mentality, and the teacher. I also agree with Mary Ellen that your chances of becoming a professional orchestral player are tiny, though it would be helpful to know where you live so we can give more relevant information. If you take private lessons during your undergrad degree and make good progress with what practice time you have, you may have a little hope.
Edited: January 30, 2018, 1:12 PM · Perhaps think about those you would be competing against for those coveted orchestral positions.

You would be up against violinists who have been studying most likely since they were in kindergarten or before, have attended demanding pre-college programs that include private lessons and classes in music theory, ear training/dictation, chamber music, orchestra, solo recitals, juries, master classes -- while often practicing many more than two hours per day. Some even home schooled to enable even more practice. In the summers, they've attended music camps/festivals.

They then prepared for, auditioned, and attended music schools/conservatories, where they practiced even more hours per day. Many went on to graduate schools where they studied even more.

They devote what many outside of the profession would regard as absolutely insane amounts of time to mastering the intricacies of short orchestral excerpts – they’ve done this in their private lessons (to an extent), in orchestral excerpt classes, and in private coaching – for years.

They have made sacrifices -- large and small. They have been grappling with the physical and mental demands of their chosen path for many years. Some have been injured. Some have had their technique broken down and built back from scratch. Some have had positive, nurturing teachers. Others have had to overcome more emotionally and psychologically challenging instruction. They have, except for a precious few, had more failures than successes on the audition circuit.

Quite simply, the most committed have devoted their lives to preparing for a possible career in music – and for most of them, even with all of that training, commitment, accomplishment, and determination, it’s still a question mark whether even they will achieve it.

It’s wonderful that you’re playing the violin, and I hope it continues to remain a valuable part of your life in college and beyond.

January 30, 2018, 1:10 PM · Trust me when I say that you don't want to be a professional orchestral musician.
January 30, 2018, 1:15 PM · The other reason I ask about "why 11 years of playing and only Bach A minor" is I'm wondering if those factors are also going to be a holdback in becoming a more competent amateur, not just a barrier to becoming a pro.

I'm obviously thumbs-up on "become a skilled amateur, enjoy your non-music life, play to the extent that you love it", but the more skilled you are, the more opportunities you have. There's an interesting question here as to how much time Elena wants to devote to acquiring that skill if she's not going to have a shot at being a pro.

January 30, 2018, 1:17 PM · What Sean says is largely true, but I won't 100% agree due to differences in regional circumstances. Even I find the amount of time serious music students spend on practice to be quite insane, unless your workload is humongous.
January 30, 2018, 3:08 PM · Re "go to youtube and look up Juilliard pre-college senior recitals" - I just did that. It seems they only take female violinists. ;-)
January 30, 2018, 5:17 PM · I don't think so. I guess there's just more females going for it.
Edited: January 30, 2018, 5:57 PM · Ease up, please! She’s not asking to be a professional classical soloist.

Maybe find a place to (double) major in music instead. Transfer schools later if needed. It will not be Juilliard, but that’s okay. Find a good teacher, get a job to pay for lessons. And learn what to practice, practice longer hours and more repetoire. The more ensemble experience that you can get, the better.

Maybe it’s different these days, but I have friends who didn’t excel until late due to lack of teachers or money, or other circumstances. Some of them ended up at good music schools, and teach or conduct along with playing professionally. There’s always a need for good music teachers, conductors, second violins, and violists (sacrilege!)

A few were lucky to end up at excellent local music schools through youth orchestra programs. Have you talked with your youth orchestra conductors about what to do?

Yes, there are kids that have been playing before they could read but not everyone has that advantage.

It all depends on motivation.

January 30, 2018, 6:32 PM · Note that the OP says they're a senior and seems to indicate that they've chosen a college, which means it's probably too late to decide to apply as a double major. Furthermore, a quick Google search indicates which college the OP has chosen -- a fine academic institution, but it's someplace that does not offer a violin performance program, located in a city that, to my knowledge, does not have a full-time professional symphony. (An acquaintance of mine is a violinist in that symphony, and commutes in for approximately one concert a month, and AFAIK many of the other violinists are in that same situation, which may mean relatively few high-quality private violin teachers there.) Moreover, I don't believe there's another university in that city that offers BM degrees, which also limits instructor options.

Jane, I'm guessing that you're not familiar with modern professional orchestral employment practices, where second violinists are generally not worse than first violinists; most orchestras simply audition for "section violin" positions and there's frequently no difference in pay, and therefore little if any difference in the competition to get a position. Similarly, the days when second-rate violinists could win professional viola positions instead are pretty much over. Competition for violist openings is also very fierce.

Note that the OP has been playing for 11 years -- probably since the age of 6 or so. That is not even vaguely a late beginning. To start at that young age and still be at an early-intermediate level at the end of high school, should be considered a significant concern. It is also not a level that is viable for entrance into a BM violin performance program, even at a not-great school. The OP's chosen college suggests that they're an academically strong student, and it almost certainly doesn't make sense for them to choose an academically fourth-rate program in order to attempt to double-major with a highly marginal performance program. They're hugely behind where they should be for that amount of time learning the violin, but presumably have a bright future in some other career.

Edited: January 30, 2018, 8:04 PM · If what Lydia said about where the OP is going to college is true, then what the OP needs to do is go there, knock her primary major out of the park, and audition for whatever orchestra they might have, try to practice an hour a day and find a way to get a lesson every few weeks.

It can be hard to assess all of the "hidden" opportunities in a college town. Even if it's in an out-of-the-way location, there can often still be a pretty good Suzuki program (or two) with excellent teachers who do not necessarily play in the local freeway philharmonic, and who likewise might have no university affiliation. What are they doing there, then? They're teaching the children of professors to play the violin, and they're doing it night and day. Where I live is such a place. And if you're playing the Bach A Minor, then you still have plenty to learn in a good-quality Suzuki program.

Edited: January 30, 2018, 8:49 PM · "Maybe it’s different these days, but I have friends who didn’t excel until late due to lack of teachers or money, or other circumstances. Some of them ended up at good music schools, and teach or conduct along with playing professionally. There’s always a need for good music teachers, conductors, second violins, and violists (sacrilege!)"

It's different these days. Actually it was different 30+ years ago when I was on the audition circuit. It has been a long, long, long time since a marginal player could hope to find a home in the second violins. Second violinists are every bit as professional as first violinists, and every one can put together a Tchaikovsky or Sibelius concerto. Lydia's comments are spot on.

You would not believe how well one must play in order to get a section position in a third-tier orchestra.

Edited: January 30, 2018, 8:59 PM · Another option could be non-classical violin. Elena, do you have interest in other genres? Non-classical violin is not nearly as technically demanding as classical violin, and lower-level players can easily get a career in it. I do agree that 2nd violinists in pro orchestras are just about as proficient as 1st violinists. However, it may still be possible for 2nd-rate violists (depends on level) to get good jobs in regions where good violists are scarce. Competition really varies from region to region. I think there's a lot of region-specific factors here. I would like to know where the OP is from and a bit about the regional violin circumstances in that area, so I can better assess the situation.
"You would not believe how well one must play in order to get a section position in a third-tier orchestra." I think this highly varies from region to region. Depending on where you live, 2nd-rate players may have some hope.
Edited: January 30, 2018, 9:07 PM · "I do agree that 2nd violinists in pro orchestras are just about as proficient as 1st violinists."

There is no "just" about it. Second violinists in pro orchestras are AS PROFICIENT as firsts. I can't believe I have to say this.

""You would not believe how well one must play in order to get a section position in a third-tier orchestra." I think this highly varies from region to region. Depending on where you live, 2nd-rate players may have some hope."

Not if they want to earn a living in the United States. Orchestra openings are advertised in the union paper (U.S. and Canada) and these days online as well. People come from all over to attend auditions.

January 30, 2018, 9:40 PM · The OP (who appears to live in the US and intends to attend college in the US) has said they want to be "a violinist in a professional orchestra". That doesn't suggest that what they want to do is go play in a rock band (or some other non-classical genre). It's like telling someone who is asking "can I be a neurosurgeon" that they might consider a career as a veterinary tech instead.'s Scott Cole is a great example of just how thoroughly you must train and how well you have to play, in order to earn a living as a professional symphony violinist in a rural area -- and he's a freelancer, not someone with a full-time orchestra job. Click on his bio for the site. (He's said plenty about the hardships of the life on this site, too.)

Edited: January 31, 2018, 12:01 AM · Thanks for pointing it all out. I did refer to other countries outside of Canada and the US. How do you know Elena comes from the US? Are you inferring by the statement "senior in high school" that she's from the US? I'm thinking it could apply to other countries as well. I don't see any other evidence of that in her post. I kind of threw the non-classical idea out there, just in case it might attract some interest because I had the idea that OP might be passionate about another genre of music, which she might not know would work well on the violin and give opportunities.
January 31, 2018, 1:04 PM · Thank you everyone for your replies!

I am indeed living in the U.S., and am planning to go to St. John's College (in Santa Fe, NM) in the fall. When I made this choice, I realised that it would jeopardize my dream, but I really am in love with St. John's, and want to go there. I plan to audition for the Santa Fe Symphony while there (presumably this is the orchestra Lydia meant).

After college, my plan is to audition for a Master's of Music program, but I don't know if that will work out. If it doesn't, then I'll try to get a second Bachelor's. Since I'm going to college two years early, I can finish a second Bachelor's degree at 24. This seems young enough to me, but I don't really know.

I really only like playing classical music, and have been doing so since I was 5, with different private teachers all along.
To answer the question of why I, after 11 years of playing, am only on Bach's Concerto in A minor, it's because I used to be terrible at practicing. I wouldn't use a metronome, and I would always play things faster than I was really able to, and ignore the mistakes. I also would just play through pieces, and not work on specific sections. Now, with a better teacher and more self-awareness, I practice much better, and I've seen a lot of improvement in the past few years.

I'd like to add that I'm also learning the first movements of Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto in E minor and Mozart's 4th Violin Concerto. I am learning these on my own, which is why I didn't mention them previously.

I know that it's possible to play violin in a good amateur orchestra while doing something else for work, but I'm afraid that I wouldn't have as much time as I'd like to devote to violin if I also had a full-time job.

Does this further information change anything, or do you still think I have little to no chance?

January 31, 2018, 1:52 PM · Honestly, I wouldn't tackle that kind of repertoire outside of formal instruction, at your stage. Learn these things badly and you are going to have a heck of a time learning them properly when you're actually ready for them; your brain will remember the bad way. These are important works; it's really better not to learn them incorrectly now.

You have zero chance of winning a Santa Fe Symphony audition while you're in college. The audition attracts violinists from across the US who commute in during concert weeks. (I know there will be someone who now posts, "Follow your dreams! You can do anything!" but I don't think there's any path from "Bach A minor" to "winning a symphony position" in 4 years, even if you were to do nothing but practice and study multiple times a week with a top-notch teacher during those 4 years.)

Your post implies you're currently 16, which means that you started playing the violin at 5. Even if you've only been serious for a couple of years, you're still at an early intermediate level, which isn't great progress even in that context. To a very significant degree, you haven't yet hit repertoire difficult enough that you really understand what it's like to play the violin at an advanced level (and the type of work required), and you definitely haven't encountered the kind of repertoire and pressure you'd be under as a professional orchestral musician. In other words, you don't really know if you'd genuinely enjoy being a pro symphony violinist.

Your likelihood of becoming a professional full-time symphony violinist is vanishingly small. If you are certain that music is THE most important thing in your life, AND you would still be happy if you ended up, say, teaching Twinkle to beginners for a living rather than performing for a living, then I suggest you skip going to St John's, take a gap year during which you practice for a minimum of 4 hours a day and take lessons multiple times a week, and prepare for auditions, choosing a school where there's a good teacher of the basics who can help you reach an advanced level by the time you finish a bachelor of music degree. After that, you'll probably go the MM/DMA/artist certificate route, for more time. Chances are you end up teaching Twinklers instead regardless, but basically, if you want any hope of performing for a living, you can't afford to spend the next four years in an environment where you're not totally immersed in the violin, even though you're starting college early.

You have to ask yourself *what* you like about this "devotion" to violin -- and whether or not the things that you enjoy doing bear any resemblance to what it'd be like to play for a living.

Edited: January 31, 2018, 2:05 PM · The above information is extremely helpful in giving you region-appropriate advice. In your case, I would say that Mary Ellen and Lydia are 100% correct. When I said "2nd-rate players may have hope", I assumed that it may be possible depending on where you live. Looking at your location, it's not really a possibility. Your reason for reaching a lowish level falls into my reason of "study skills". What will you study at St. John's next year? Depending on personal circumstances, you can try and find time to play violin. Your chances of becoming a pro orchestra player are, unfortunately, tiny. Also, would a public-school teaching degree interest you (e.g BME)? If you really want to play well, please find a good teacher, and try your absolute best whatever it takes (not necessarily 4 hours minimum of practice per day depending on your personal mentality, workload size and study skills). If you're playing overly difficult repertoire just for fun and if you're just a hobbyist only wanting to enjoy yourselves, it can be okay. If you're going the serious study route, I agree with Lydia on not trying such difficult repertoire so early.
January 31, 2018, 2:16 PM · OP, you will have more time to study the violin itself by NOT being in a pro orchestra than you would if you WERE in a pro orchestra. Once people are pros, they pretty much spend all their time just preparing fresh orchestral music every week, rather than focusing on improving their own playing. They're not really "studying" music as much as they are trying to prepare new orchestra repertoire in time for the next concert, and oftentimes many players actually LOSE technical proficiency after they've joined an orchestra since they're not able to spend any time/energy focusing on themselves.

With that said - given your situation - becoming a violin teacher makes the most sense since it will still immerse you in music to an extent, while still allowing you enough energy to practice on your own. You will be able to learn the pieces you WANT to learn while also making an income (and probably a better income than you would in orchestra). Whereas to make an income in a pro orchestra means dedicating 100% of your time and energy just learning new, pretty boring repertoire each week (no offense to orchestra music, but until you're playing it WITH the orchestra, it's pretty boring).

Also keep in mind what a "professional" means. It means you HAVE to do the thing. And as soon as something is no longer a choice, it immediately becomes less free and enjoyable.

The thing that makes the most sense is getting income from something separate, and then spending your free time and energy practicing and joining a very good non-profit or low-profit orchestra. If your concern is not having the time to practice with a "regular" job, then don't get a "regular" job. Teaching, for example, has allowed me (at this point) to only work 3 days per week and still make a decent income. I use the remaining 4 days in each week to do what I want, which is mainly musical recording/composition rather than practice.

And all of that lecture had nothing to even do with your chances of being able to get an orchestra position. I want you to imagine, for a moment, how good a touring soloist had to be in the 1930s. Well, every violin player in a modern major symphony, including the ones in the back of the section, can probably play better than the solo touring player in the 1930s (obviously I'm excluding very famous players like Oistrakh and so on). Let that sink in for a moment, and you will get an idea of how difficult achieving an orchestral position is.

I remember when a flute position opened up in the SF symphony, I heard that 200 flute players applied for the position (all immensely qualified and good players with conservatory degrees), and only 50 were even allowed to audition. Of those 50, of course only 1 got the job. So if you think you're good enough to go against 200 of the best players you can imagine - all of whom probably need the job more than you - and even get into the 50 people who were allowed to audition, then you might have a chance.

Looking back, I'm actually very glad I never fully pursued an orchestral career. I am much happier than if I had.

Edited: January 31, 2018, 2:31 PM · Lydia is exactly right on every point. I particularly agree with her advice not to try learning Mendelssohn or Mozart on your own. You will inevitably learn such pieces with major errors which will be nearly impossible to fix later.

Please do not try to audition for the Santa Fe Symphony while you are in college. It's a serious professional orchestra. You would not be invited to audition there even if you submitted a resume. Here is a link to the musicians of the Santa Fe Symphony. Click on violins, and then click on any individual bio. You will see very quickly that none of these musicians are college students or anything close to it. Many are experienced musicians with degrees in violin performance. Even those who did not attend conservatory have years of experience playing at a high level.

I appreciate your passion. Really, I do. I think you do not know what you do not know. If you want to know what the best high school student orchestras sound like, go to youtube and look up any Texas TMEA All-State Symphony (the top all-state orchestra here) performance. Those kids are playing at a very high level, and not all of them would even get into top conservatories if they tried to (many go on to success in other fields). None would be considered for a professional orchestra audition. Those are the top high school players in ONE STATE, and not even a state that is anywhere near NYC, Chicago, or LA.

St John's is a great school. Go, learn as much as you can, practice when you can and take lessons from the best teacher around. Find another career path you love. Be successful in your field, play in the best amateur orchestra you can get into, maybe form a quartet. I think you will find that a far more satisfying life than trying to piece together a living of freeway philharmonics and private students, a difficult way to support oneself for which you would have to work tremendously hard over the next several years even to have the possibility of qualifying for.

January 31, 2018, 2:51 PM · Eric Williams wrote:
" I want you to imagine, for a moment, how good a touring soloist had to be in the 1930s. Well, every violin player in a modern major symphony, including the ones in the back of the section, can probably play better than the solo touring player in the 1930s (obviously I'm excluding very famous players like Oistrakh and so on). Let that sink in for a moment, and you will get an idea of how difficult achieving an orchestral position is."

Yup. The skill and talent and training level needed to get into a major orchestra these days is almost beyond belief! But these are the people the OP will be competing with in orchestra auditions.

I frequently run across freaking good players, who still haven't landed such a position.

Edited: January 31, 2018, 3:11 PM · Fascinatingly, the very first person's bio on that page is a violinist who has a full-time day job as a scientist at Sandia: BIO LINK - His bio even indicates he's an adult returnee, but it's also obvious that he played at a high level as a child.

I'm guessing that he works flexible hours and/or gets to freely spend PTO on days when there are rehearsals.

January 31, 2018, 3:14 PM · I would bet that nearly all SFSO rehearsals are at night.
January 31, 2018, 5:56 PM · He performed the Beethoven concerto with the Caltech-Occidental orchestra back in the day...
January 31, 2018, 5:57 PM · Thanks again!

I'm set on going to St. John's, and I've already accepted their offer. I'll be getting a B.A. in Liberal Arts (they have a set curriculum). I'll practice as much as I possibly can while there.

Also, if there was any confusion, I currently live near Boston (MA), not in Santa Fe.

I still haven't been convinced to give up on playing violin professionally. I certainly wouldn't mind teaching - I love kids, and really enjoy teaching them.

However, suppose I decided not to try to get a job in an orchestra, and instead to teach - do you think I'd have enough time and energy to play in a good amateur orchestra?
I ask this because my teacher, Angela Leidig (, used to play in concerts, but hasn't for a while, and now seems too busy to.

January 31, 2018, 7:11 PM · I think it depends on how successful you are as a teacher, and how much money you want to make. More hours teaching means more income. More hours teaching also means fewer hours to do anything else, whether it's performing, practicing on your own, spending time with your family, enjoying other hobbies, etc. Your teacher's life-experience is pretty typical, I think.

I think professionals also often have a different relationship with performing, compared to amateurs, as well. Most amateurs are happy to have "good enough" performances; they don't feel obliged for the performances to be flawless, and there's no professional penalty if a performance doesn't go as well as hoped. Some professionals think they are "above" playing in an unpaid orchestra, or are afraid that it will affect their reputation if they do so. So you have to decide where you are on the spectrum of that.

January 31, 2018, 7:43 PM · "Some professionals think they are "above" playing in an unpaid orchestra, or are afraid that it will affect their reputation if they do so."

Members of the Musicians Union, which virtually all professional orchestra players are, do not play in orchestras for free. It isn't a question of being "above" doing something. It is a question of putting a consistent value on one's time.

I play for free at my mother's assisted living center, and occasionally at my own church. That's it.

January 31, 2018, 8:12 PM · I'd suggest getting some tutor experience in which you assist ensembles or people unable to study with professionals for life reasons if you're interested in teaching, and also observe some lessons. It can be good practice. I'm just curious. What about orchestra/ensemble work in the film/TV industry? Depending on the music, the music is classical in style, though not technically considered classical when looking at when it was written. You could also play in an amateur orchestra (not earning anything) while working other jobs if scheduling permits.
January 31, 2018, 8:19 PM · Recording work (film/TV) is, if anything, perhaps harder to break into than professional orchestras. Those people not only have to be able to play at a very high level, they have to be able to sightread at a very high level. It is not a backup plan.
January 31, 2018, 8:57 PM · Though at least in the cities i've lived in, many private teachers also hold union membership (to take advantage of the insurance deals, get gig notices, etc.), even if they don't perform professionally other than perhaps some weddings, and some of those teachers do play in community orchestras. I've also run into some number of players in community orchestras who are union freelancers but who also play with one or more community groups in order to learn more repertoire (if they're young) or to play 1st violin for a change rather than 2nd (or vice versa).

I had a teacher who was an LA studio musician for most of her career. It requires fantastic sight-reading skills, and it's exceptionally hard to break into these days, and many gigs have become non-union (i.e., don't pay a decent wage). You need to be both a superb player, and a flawless sight-reader, plus it helps to be well-networked.

January 31, 2018, 9:16 PM · @Mary or Lydia, I don’t know why playing for movies requires excellent sight-reading skills, could someone explain?
January 31, 2018, 9:24 PM · Thanks for telling us about film/TV work. Why is it even harder to get into film/TV work than professional orchestras? I'm thinking that the film/TV industry is growing due to technological advances, though recorded music and non-orchestral instruments are commonly used instead of orchestral ones.
Edited: January 31, 2018, 10:00 PM · It's because there's often basically no rehearsal opportunity in a recording situation, or any ability to prepare in advance. You sit down. You get the music. Then they record. The first take might effectively be the "rehearsal" but it's still expected to be near-perfect. It takes a particular set of skills to be able to do that. (Look up Bruce Dukov, if you want a good example of a successful studio violinist.)

Synthesized music is replacing orchestras in many cases, reducing the overall number of orchestral jobs. Even when "real" musicians are used for film/TV scores, it's very rarely a full orchestra.

Edited: January 31, 2018, 10:34 PM · To answer both Will and Ella:

Time is money in the recording industry, and musicians do not have the luxury of endless rehearsals to get something right. It needs to be right the first time. And you cannot make a mistake in a recording. What might be excused or not even noticed in a live performance becomes increasingly obvious and irritating when heard over and over in recorded music. For the same reason, musicians must play *absolutely* in tune.

Breaking into film/TV work requires superb chops, impeccable rhythm and intonation, near-miraculous sight-reading ability, and introductions to the right people.

For Lydia, AFM locals vary in how assiduously they enforce the rules. But the rules are the same everywhere.

January 31, 2018, 10:49 PM · Thank you all for the wonderful replies. I hope this is okay, but why don't studio musicians not get the parts to practice at home in advance?
Edited: January 31, 2018, 11:29 PM · I have the same question as Ella, I wondered why musicians can’t get the sheet music to practice in advance, before the recording. I’m curious as to whether the reasons have anything to do with copyright and trade secrets (i.e. no parts of the movie should be released before it finished and gets distributed, including the soundtracks, etc.)
Edited: February 1, 2018, 12:07 AM ·

From the article: "Incidentally, when working with an orchestra recording film scores, you don’t often have the chance to examine and practice the music before you see it. Therefore, sight-reading skills are a must. At that level of a professional music career, you should already be a very strong sight music reader, but you should also know that on-the-spot changes in the score are a normal occurrence. The music that orchestra members play varies according to the film, so you might play scary, creepy music one day and romantic music the next. Moreover, in a single film you may be required to play a host of different musical styles."

Aside from on-the-spot changes to the score, I can't imagine the logistical nightmare involved in trying to distribute parts to dozens of musicians in advance. The orchestra librarian is a fulltime job in a symphony orchestra, and that's with music that is already in print. Getting practice parts before every recording gig would add enormous time, trouble, and expense for little gain. Much cheaper just to hire musicians who can read music on the first run-through.

Edited: February 1, 2018, 1:24 AM · Hi Mary, thank you very much for this interesting and eye-opening aspect of orchestral jobs in filming. I thought that they could just attach a total score and send via one single email to every musician ... obviously things aren’t as simple as that.
February 1, 2018, 5:51 AM · It's very interesting to hear about recording for films! I had never thought of how the music in films gets recorded.

As to amateur orchestras, I understand that they're not as motivated as professional ones, which is why I'd be hesitant to join one. Both of the youth orchestras I'm in right now cost to join, but in one of them, it seems like hardly anyone practices. We always get it together right before our performances, but barely, and I wish that people would practice so that we could be working on the music, and not just making sure everyone is playing the right notes at the right time.
I had thought that perhaps this was mostly because we're middle and high schoolers, and that adults wouldn't do this. So, in your (collective) experience, do even adults in amateur orchestras tend to let their practicing slide?

Edited: February 1, 2018, 6:05 AM · i know 3 violinists who are some of the most in demand musicians in hollywood for film work (solo violin in dunkirk, batman vs superman, etc...). One graduated from Colburn, one from Berklee, the other actually gave up violin for a few years in her mid to late teens!

They re certainly talented musicians but so are many others; i would say that their big break was connections; being at the right place, at the right time! they all live in LA

anyway to the op, it s too bad you only want to do classical, because there s a world of opportunities outside of classical that are significantly less demanding! at any rate, at your age, worry about that career options later, focus on enjoying the music, continue taking lessons with good teachers, and practice hard.

i would say though, since it s quite obvious that you are unaware of what really is out there and what real expectations are, try to check out some of the well known summer music camps out there to see what the levels are really like for,yourself. the goal is not to feel intimidated but to become realistic and also to be inspired. you ll also most likely forge important friendships which can help with your career if you become a violin teacher!

February 1, 2018, 6:34 AM · Thanks! I've looked at Tanglewood (and others) and I know I'm not ready for them.
February 1, 2018, 8:11 AM · Hey Elena - I'm an adult returner here (amateur). I actually wrote a long post, but decided to keep it simpler:

Look at what the audition requirements for a decent Bachelor's program. Can you reasonably fulfill them - in the sense that you can play those works extremely well, with a sense of "ease" and "collectedness", with technical know-how and musicality? If that is not a possibility, then you will spend a ton of time trying to play catchup with those who have been at this level for a good period of time, and in a way always playing catchup.

You might be better served with an amateur orchestra (there is no shame in being an amateur!!!), and a different full-time job that allows you the time to play your violin as much as possible - thereby pursuing it for the love of it.

Life doesn't have to be all or nothing, pro/make money with it or "why bother".

February 1, 2018, 8:28 AM · Thanks, Pamela!

It would be helpful if you could give an example of a "decent" place, so I can find their requirements. If you mean somewhere like Indiana State, then their requirements are very general, so I'm not really sure whether I fulfill them.

I am interested in many different jobs, which is one reason that I decided to go to St. John's, as I won't have to pick a major. My only concern is that I won't have enough time for violin if I don't end up doing it professionally. Certainly I will always play violin, even if I'm not able to do it for my work.

Edited: February 1, 2018, 8:52 AM · Typical audition requirements for a credible BM program in violin performance are: the first or last movement of a major concerto (Bach a minor is not a major concerto), one movement or two contrasting movements of unaccompanied Bach, and a showpiece.

Here are the requirements from Baylor University: Violin undergraduate audition requirements:

• First or last movement of a standard concerto including cadenza if applicable, memorized

• Movement of unaccompanied Bach, memorized

• Short virtuosic piece or etude

And here are the requirements from the University of Wisconsin: Your audition should include two or three contrasting movements, or compositions, such as a slow and
fast movement, representing the candidate's technical and musical ability. The candidate is strongly
encouraged to include in these choices a movement of a standard concerto, and (with the exception of
bassists) a movement of solo unaccompanied Bach.

I deliberately chose two schools that have credible programs but that are not as competitive as Juilliard, Rice, Indiana, Oberlin, etc. Between the two, Baylor's program is stronger than Wisconsin's and you can see that reflected in the different audition requirements.

The top and near-top programs will require a prescreen audition video before inviting selected applicants to a live audition.

February 1, 2018, 8:51 AM · Adults in community orchestras are there because they want to be there (as opposed to it being mandated by their parents), but you'll encounter a wide range of skill and dedication. Not everyone practices the music (or does it prior to pre-performance panic), and not everyone that practices will be at a technical level that allows them to master the music. That's especially true if the orchestra tends to play music that's ambitious for people's skill level.

I do think that there's a certain minimum level of quality that an ensemble needs to be able to play at, and personal degree of technical command attained, in order for playing in that ensemble to be enjoyable, but that the amount varies for different people. There are other factors, like the conductor's skills and ability to run a rehearsal, that also influence how much fun an orchestra turns out to be.

In larger cities, which may have many community orchestras, players often "shop around" a bit for the right fit -- conductor, repertoire, technical fit with the other players, convenient time and place, social fit with the other players, alignment with the organization's style, etc.

I think to enjoy music as an amateur, one has to become comfortable with imperfection. You will play imperfectly, especially in performance. (Pros play imperfectly, too, but they beat themselves up for it much more.) Your fellow musicians will play imperfectly. Sometimes these imperfections may collide into "glorious" near train-wrecks and you will pull off miraculous rescues and not de-rail. You have to find your joy in the music, rather than the perfection of its execution.

February 1, 2018, 8:56 AM · To add to Mary Ellen's comments:

A "major concerto" or "standard concerto" would be one drawn from the common professional concert-hall repertoire. That would be Bruch No. 1, Mendelssohn, Saint-Saens 3, Khachaturian, etc. at a minimum level of difficulty. Sometimes "Romantic" is specified so you can't pick Mozart 3/4/5.

A "showpiece"/"virtuosic piece" in this context is usually Sarasate, Wieniawski, Paganini, Ysaye, or similar composer.

Edited: February 1, 2018, 8:58 AM · I tell even my very best students, those for whom conservatory admission is a realistic aspiration, that they should only go into professional music if they can't imagine themselves being happy doing anything else in life.

For purposes of comparison, here is what my top high school students are studying right now: Saint-Saens #3 (sophomore); Wieniawski #2 (sophomore); Bruch g minor (one sophomore and one senior). Among those students, only two would really have a shot at getting into conservatory and only one of them actually wants to.

February 1, 2018, 8:59 AM · Elena - you do not have to do something for work (professionally) to make it a priority in your life. If it is a priority, you will ensure that you have time to play.

Listen, I was in similar shoes once upon a time, I went to a college where I did something else, and I did stop playing for a time (because that's what life does: throws other priorities in your path). BUT I returned to playing and I'm happier than ever. In a way I wish I never stopped, BUT I also do not regret anything that I have done with my life in terms of my experiences. (Also, I'm a much better player and practicer now than I was before I stopped, and I have an amazing teacher. I play every day unless I don't feel well, and even then I wish I could be playing/practicing. Life has a way of keeping the things you love in your orbit for you - if YOU make it happen.)

Life is a journey and a learning experience, and you don't need to (nor can you) hold everything at the same time.

Indiana asks for the first movement of a major concerto (with cadenza if it has one) and two contrasting movements of the Bach S&Ps. That is no small feat with the Bach alone.

Here's an old thread for this: and ...

I'd also youtube prescreening videos for further information - as has already been stated.

February 1, 2018, 9:03 AM · "Indiana asks for the first movement of a major concerto (with cadenza if it has one) and two contrasting movements of the Bach S&Ps. That is no small feat with the Bach alone."

Yes, and a prescreen recording must be submitted first. You can only audition for Indiana if you pass the prescreen.

February 1, 2018, 9:15 AM · THere is also one thing that wasn't mentioned if I'm not mistaken. Going to music school does not necessarily mean you major in performance! There are lots of other fun programs like theory, composition, musicology, etc... You can still benefit from private lessons and maybe even some sort of ensemble but the admission requirements will be much less demanding!

But as someone said already, do it only if you can't think of doing anything else!

February 1, 2018, 9:17 AM · Alright - then I'm certainly not ready for any of these schools (which, to be honest, is what I expected).

I'll try to end up in a place with a good amateur orchestra that I can play in.

Thank you, everyone, for your advice!

February 1, 2018, 10:18 AM · Elena, never forget that there are many more musicians in amateur orchestras and other ensembles enjoying making music and bringing that enjoyment to others than there are professionals.
February 1, 2018, 10:45 AM · Everyone has made excellent points here. Do keep in mind that you're inclined to do whatever it takes to do what you love. In other words, if you're passionate about something, you'll most likely find the time for it.
Edited: February 1, 2018, 11:01 AM · Hey Elena!

I learned a pretty sloppy technique growing up and practiced here and there throughout college, but with essentially no teacher from 15 to 23 or so, until I finally put myself "on track" and started studying with a teacher, and am slowly climbing the ladder to get my playing closer to how I would like to sound. Progress is slow, but it happens with practice, consistency and good instruction.

Something I would recommend to myself at the end of high school would have been to just find a teacher that can give me a lesson per week and keep me growing a bit technically and commit to 1.5 or so hours daily. This would have put me in a much better position to continue after school. I studied engineering, and while it seemed hard at the time, I could have replaced my time playing video games or watching tv with practice, and not really dipped into my social life.

Anyway, this is all particular to my life, but what I'm getting at is that if you can commit to some sort of minimum practice schedule through college, you will come out on the other side much stronger in your playing than if you give it up for school or just kind of mess around once in a while. I'm 30, and work a 9 to 5, but I can still consistently practice at least 3 hours per day, so depending on your other commitments, you can keep getting better.

If you can keep the mental-health and time management part up in college, see if you can find a good private teacher in the area of your college, and keep your practice strong during that time, because 4 years of consistency adds up big, and it's often frustrating to come back from really long breaks in your playing.

And I don't want to discourage you from orchestra (there are a lot of good skills to be gained from playing in an orchestra), but I found that playing ingrained a lot of bad habits (not having individual instruction at the time), so don't depend on orchestra to grow you technically if you aren't being really careful with your practice. It seems like it's less harsh on your technique if you are starting at a really strong technical level.

February 1, 2018, 2:10 PM · And for further comparison, the type of repertoire that Mary Ellen's top high schoolers are studying, is what my teacher's middle-school students are playing -- and they are, for the most part, not aiming for music careers.

That comparison matters even if you're aiming to be an amateur, because that will be the kind of playing level you encounter among the best amateurs. The more affluent the area, the more often you'll run into amateurs who could have gone to conservatory and didn't (or that did go and then switched careers).

(Area affluence is a demographic issue -- it's more often where people who had private lessons as a kid end up settling. Go to a less wealthy area and you'll find more community orchestras made up of enthusiasts whose parents couldn't afford to get them private lessons, and who learned in public-school orchestra programs.)

You definitely want to improve to a higher level; I'm not sure you're really aware of the gap between where you are, and the level of many players who will go on to being happy amateurs post-college. The Bach A minor is a marginal playing level to really have a good range of opportunities as an amateur. Not all average-quality community orchestras would accept a player at that level into second violins (and you wouldn't have the technique to play most violin 1 parts). And it's adequate for simple quartets but not really enough for more sophisticated ones, which limits your chamber-music possibilities.

February 2, 2018, 3:14 PM · The real question is why we keep having these threads. Why are online strangers a better source than your teacher? Why people always ask online instead of talking about it with their instructor that likely has known them for years?

And since the questions are repeated, the very same long answers are repeated as well. While I admire the patients of some users, it is pretty much the same that has been said many times before.

Love you all though, be happy.

@Elena Loomis

Cheer up girl. Next time I'm the US I'll invite you to a snsd concert. SNSD can help you all.

February 2, 2018, 4:35 PM · Not all students have a teacher who is all that knowledgeable themselves about what is required to make it in professional music. These questions don't bewilder me as much as the "what should I play next" questions.
February 2, 2018, 5:15 PM · That question, I think, comes from teachers who leaves the choice of the next repertoire semi-open-ended. I've asked that question myself. :-)
February 2, 2018, 5:33 PM · I'm fine with the what do I play next question so long as you're an adult who is not pursuing a professional orchestral position.
February 2, 2018, 6:01 PM · ”Why are online strangers a better source than your teacher? ”

To get a second (and third) opinion.

February 2, 2018, 9:24 PM · Also, not all teachers are willing to have the tough, often disappointing discussion with their students about how slim the odds really are.
Edited: February 3, 2018, 3:05 AM · I’ve just come back to this and wow! And we blame the current generation for not trying!?!?

There are posters here that are quite talented, perform at a high professional levels, went to the top music schools in the country. The prescreens, etc., relate to those. Their level of teaching and comments also reflect that.

That said, the OP says she would like to play in a professional orchestra *some day*, not one of the top orchestras in the country, not be a soloist, nor does it say right now. Maybe we differ on our meaning of professional orchestra. Professional means to me that you get paid - she says nothing of full time. Also, how much would the advice change if she had another 2-3 years or longer before entering a music program?


It sounds like you are the age of sophomores, possibly freshman, and that you must be quite bright to be graduating so soon. You also don’t sound certain of what you want to to, something that is very normal for someone your age.

If you really want to do music, have you thought of delaying graduation and waiting two, three, or even four more years to start college? Each year you wait gives you more time to develop as a musician.

Going to college this early also has other challenges, socially, and age wise. You won’t legally be an adult until you are halfway into college.

If you are willing to devote those years to catching up, then being young and waiting could work well to your advantage. In those years, do you think you could find in yourself to practice 5-6 hours a day or more?

Talk to your teacher. They will change their pace and approach to teaching or direct you to a different teacher if you plan to intensify your learning. Can you afford frequent lessons with the best teacher you can find? There are teachers who are h can accelerate your learning.

Have you looked at better youth orchestras that feed music schools? competitive music camps? Competitions?

It sounds like you kind of, sort of, want to use your college years to do this instead, but it doesn’t quite work that way. Also, a Bachelors is needed to get into a Masters program.

I think the suggestions to teach and consider other genres and studio orchestras are great ones.

Yes, you are late coming into the game. Yes, chances are slimmer and tougher. But not all high school seniors collegebound for music play Bruch. No, they don’t end up at Juilliard or U of Indiana, but they are going somewhere. And with time and dedication you might surprise those here.

I think my opinion may differ somewhat because I’m seeing and have seen kids disadvantaged in their pre-college music education excel, even if it is in a (much) less competitive but still professional means.

February 3, 2018, 2:58 AM · Any teacher who can't have that conversation should not be teaching anyone who aspires to go pro.

"I'm teaching myself Mendelssohn." There is no good way to say this, except that this statement proves beyond any doubt that you are living in the world of fantasy.

If you can transfer to the Annapolis campus after a couple of years, there are some real good violin teachers around there.

February 3, 2018, 3:11 AM · Since you have a teacher, why are you trying to learn Mendelssohn on your own?
Bad habits are really hard to undo.
February 3, 2018, 8:20 AM · I went to college at 15. It's not really that big a deal socially. And the OP's choice of college is, AFAIK, the opposite of a party school. :-)

If a player doesn't have the chops necessary to enter a professional orchestra fairly soon after finishing their training (which may be 10 years after high school graduation, assuming a DMA and such), the likelihood that they'll improve to that level later in life is fairly slim. Peak practice hours are when the player is younger and has nothing much they're responsible for beyond training, not after they graduate and need to earn a living.

Getting into a pro orchestra isn't like what it used to be. The regional orchestras that I subbed for 20+ years ago, now have dauntingly high audition requirements, and the bios of the current generation of players generally demonstrate that they have far more training, often with better-known teachers, than the pros of years past. In my current city, there's a clear stratification of orchestra-player bios depending on what era a player joined the orchestra and got tenure -- and the new players don't just come from this metro area, but commute in from out of town, even when the per-service pay is barely at union minimums. If you haven't tried your hand at an audition recently, and don't have friends who have, I would respectfully suggest that you may be unaware of just how much standards have changed.

I mean yes, maybe the OP eventually gets into an orchestra that pays "gas money" (which around here will maybe buy you a margarita at a fancy hotel bar), and can mentally earn a sticker that says "I got paid, yay!", but doing that kind of gig only qualifies you as a professional violinist if your goal is bragging rights (and who really cares?), not income, even supplemental income. (The reason they call it gas money is that it's basically compensation for the gas expended getting to and from the gig.)

Sure, kids who aren't strong players can go on to successful careers in public school music-education, have busy Suzuki studios, or build successful music-therapy practices, or the like. But those aren't performing careers, even if they, say, play some weddings on the weekends. They aren't the careers usually envisioned by people who say they want to go on to be performers.

You don't need a bachelor's in music in order to enter an MM program, though you do need some kind of undergrad degree. You can follow any bachelor's with an MM, even to a school like Juilliard, if you are able to pass the audition. But that's the path followed by kids who are exceptionally accomplished in high school, decide they don't want to perform for a living, and then change their minds after completing their undergrad in another subject -- not the kids who just aren't ready to audition at the end of high school.

Part of the OP's problem is that they are not late to the game, given they started at 5 and have been playing 11 years. This is slow advancement even over the 3-year period that the OP cites as more serious with better teaching. Starting from scratch, dedicated teenaged late starters, to judge from this other posters on this forum, often surpass this level in under 3 years.

February 3, 2018, 8:48 AM · "If a player doesn't have the chops necessary to enter a professional orchestra fairly soon after finishing their training (which may be 10 years after high school graduation, assuming a DMA and such"

Most musicians don't get a DMA. Although at the same time the country still has too many DMA factories like SUNY Stonybrook and other large programs pumping them out without regard for the college teaching market...

In my experience, I'd say that kids that show professional promise tend to do so at about the age of 15/16. This is the age by which a student of this calibre would be cable of performing a Romantic concerto well and by memory. Especially noticeable about these students their ability to perform from memory under pressure, and their sound quality. This is the age by which a beautiful vibrato starts to solidify, and by when they have a good spicatto.

If we take a hypothetical master's student working up Don Juan for auditions, I think the successful ones were fully capable of doing it much earlier with good guidance: by the age of 16. Yes, people do bloom at later ages, or in conservatory. But their odds of making it are lower.

"The real question is why we keep having these threads. Why are online strangers a better source than your teacher? Why people always ask online instead of talking about it with their instructor that likely has known them for years?"

Because in many, if not most cases, the information they can get here is BETTER than that they will find from their private teachers, no matter how long they have studied with them. Teachers are not interchangeable commodities, and from what I've seen, only a small fraction have the resources to train a student properly to get to a conservatory or beyond. There are no standards for teaching, and too many simply hang out a shingle and say "I'm a teacher." They don't teach any basic theory, don't know what a good grip is, and don't give their students a systematic method for improvement. And they charge way too much to parents that don't know any better.

February 3, 2018, 10:41 AM · Paul, OP's teacher is a Suzuki teacher who seems to mostly work with younger kids. I bet she's really good at what she does but she's almost certainly not prepping kids from start to finish for music careers--not in Boston, where there are so many big deal teachers to be had. But there are really good teachers who chicken out of that conversation too. I remember a guy at Duke who was decent but not great. My teacher (who didn't work with him) thought it unfortunate that his teacher didn't give him the straight scoop about his chances to win an orchestra gig...or maybe he was told and didn't listen. He'd probably met people who weren't as solid who had won professional jobs once upon a time and let their skills lapse. As Lydia points out, the standards keep going up. Anyway, he took his Paganini on the road for a couple of years, failed to get any jobs, and decided that he hated teaching Suzuki and living on 15k a year while auditioning on a borrowed instrument. He went and got an MBA (because he went to Duke and did a double major) and sailed off into banking, never to look back. One could argue that he will never have to wonder what could have been. One could also argue that this experience soured for him what could have been a lovely lifelong hobby.
February 3, 2018, 10:49 AM · If I had a student who was working on the Bach a minor, and I found out that that student was teaching him or herself Mendelssohn, we would be having a serious conversation.

The problem with working on big pieces when one is not ready for them is not just that that particular big piece is going to sound bad. It's that bad habits become entrenched and affect the student's ability to play other big pieces well later also.

February 3, 2018, 12:15 PM · Scott, I've noticed a DMA listed for many younger pros in the local freeway philharmonics, who are joining the Suzuki faculty of the local community music programs, and so forth. My guess is that these folks got a DMA not because they are hoping for university teaching jobs, but because they needed more years of training -- some of them also list an artist's certificate in addition to the BM/MM/DMA, for instance, which also suggests extension of the training years -- and that's the easiest way to do it while being able to earn a stipend. (This is true of the DMA candidates that I know personally, as well.) Do you think that's mostly a regional phenomenon?

Also, to Mary Ellen's point: I often find that when I go back to old repertoire, I revert to the habits that I had back then -- good or bad. My current teacher believes that in general, when you learn repertoire, and then pull it out again eventually, it's hard to play it significantly better than when you first learned it years past, because you have to break all the patterns you set way back when. A previous teacher of mine had a similar belief -- he didn't want to start students on the professional concert-hall repertoire at all until he felt they were solidly ready for it, so that it was approached with an already-mature technique. So by fooling around with stuff that you're not ready to play, but actually need to play well in the future, you're really damaging your ability to play it well in the future.

Edited: February 3, 2018, 12:31 PM · OP is in the Boston area and is going to a well known great-book -type private college... that says to me she is economically well off and in an area with many good teachers. She is 16 and has been playing for 11 years. She has a teacher but is teaching herself advanced rep.

May I suggest her teacher is the problem?

February 3, 2018, 1:11 PM · "My guess is that these folks got a DMA not because they are hoping for university teaching jobs, but because they needed more years of training -- some of them also list an artist's certificate in addition to the BM/MM/DMA, for instance, which also suggests extension of the training years -- and that's the easiest way to do it while being able to earn a stipend. (This is true of the DMA candidates that I know personally, as well.) Do you think that's mostly a regional phenomenon?"

I think it is. Off the top of my head I can think of only three of my colleagues who have DMAs. There might be one or two more that I don't know about. Most of us have MM's; a few have only bachelors'.

You know what DMA stands for, right? Doesn't Mean Anything.

I would be a little concerned about someone who wasn't ready to take auditions after six years of conservatory training (four undergrad years and a two-year masters'). I do agree that going for a DMA can be a rent-free (so to speak) way to keep taking lessons. It isn't a secret that tenure-track university teaching jobs are woefully hard to come by.

Edited: February 4, 2018, 9:18 AM · Is the OP the type to seek and follow good advice? She’s here... she had the guts to ask a very tough question, and the courage to suffer the answers she’s gotten here.

Isn’t this a better place to ask the question then of her teacher? She has answers from people who love violin from a vast array of experiences and different walks of life.

Dave, Kate, good question, could it be the teacher? One year with a great teacher can be be worth five with a mediocre one (or unconnected one.)

We can’t assume that she’s well off by the the college she’s chosen. Perhaps she’s gotten a lot of scholarships (she’s obviously bright) and qualified for financial aid.

Again, IMO, taking advantage of two, maybe three more years of high school music instruction will improve chances for success a lot, (not arguing what success looks like.) it’s not just playing, it’s the technique, ensemble playing, music theory, artistic development, etc. The experience from three to four summers of music camp and at a place like Tanglewood or Interlochen is significant, four to six semesters of youth orchestras, and 100 to 200+ weekly music lessons, not to mention the thousands of hours of practice and rehearsals.

Last summer, I had the privilege to hear some kids play at the Hope Lodge from a Boston Youth Symphony program that were in a music development program for the less privileged. (Whoops, I used privilege twice...) One of the BYS cellists had received an instrument as a senior in HS after completing four years in BYS, to continue at a music conservatory. They played well together, but I was surprised that their level of playing (including the violinists) was equivocal or less than in my experience as a youth, especially after hearing how much more competitive it has gotten for youths. I’ve been wondering if it is because learning classical instruments has become less accessible in the US. In recent years so many schools cut out music entirely from their cirriculum, and the Suzuki programs in my area, once very visible, have diminished (I realize internationally it continues to grow.) There is also the tremendous decline in the popularity of classical music and the thresholds for entry into composing and performing digital music are so much lower. Are we at the end of a multi-generation bubble in classical youth music in the US?

Also, I really dislike the disparaging and discouraging commentary I read on, that make out like the violin is only reserved for some secret elite class. It’s prompted me to quit reading here quite often but then am drawn back by funny videos by luthiers and the like.

Edited: February 4, 2018, 9:56 AM · Jane, I agree the comments here, when it comes to teenagers, are harsh and discouraging (but well intended). What is interesting is the generous pass some (not all ) are willing to give teachers. I once raised the issue of minimum teaching qualification for private teachers and got really hammered : )
Edited: February 4, 2018, 10:15 AM · "Also, I really dislike the disparaging and discouraging commentary I read on, that make out like the violin is only reserved for some secret elite class. It’s prompted me to quit reading here quite often but then am drawn back by funny videos by luthiers and the like. "

This is right. No wonder we always see the same people posting.
That's why we're alone.

"I once raised the issue of minimum teaching qualification for private teachers and got really hammered : ) "
Now I have to read that thread.

February 4, 2018, 12:14 PM · One might argue that, at least in the US, the sheer expense of playing the violin, especially serious pre-professional training, effectively make high levels of accomplishment something reserved for the upper middle class. This has become especially true now that public-school music programs are increasingly stripped of their funding, or eliminated altogether, thus severely harming a route by which actual middle-class and less-privileged children normally begin to play a string instrument. To some degree, private organizations modeled on things like El Sistema have tried to fill the gap, but these programs only reach a very small percentage of the children in the US. While there are scholarships for the less-privileged, and some teachers may teach lessons at reduced fees for talented kids who can't otherwise afford lessons, these efforts only reach a small percentage of the students who would otherwise be capable of high levels of accomplishment.

But as part of the Race to Nowhere sort of competition for college entrance, many ambitious parents put their children into private music lessons. In major metro areas, I suspect that more children than ever before are in private violin lessons. Indeed, there are plenty of people who make a full-time living in private teaching of kids.

You'll note that most posters here are proponents of people pursuing music in adulthood as a hobby. It's important not to view being an amateur as lesser. It is simply different than playing professionally. Amateurs don't love music any less than pros do, and I would probably argue that many amateurs retain a deeper love of music throughout their life than they might have had they gone pro. For the bright, academically accomplished teenagers here, pursuing a violin career when they're currently marginal players, represents what is potentially an enormous opportunity cost.

February 4, 2018, 1:02 PM · Hi, I think it is not easy even for average violin performance graduate to find a position in orchestra or to be signed in recording company. In my country (Italia) many students graduated from conservatory also faced with the problem of finding a relevant job in field of music, even those students who graduated from well-known Santa Cecilia or G.Verdi, many of them still struggling in making their lives in providing private lessons, but that not help much, because there are fewer people learning instrument than before, also there are too many conservatories, those people especially young kids who want to learn violin will go to local conservatories, and as a result of low birth rate, for a private teacher it is hard to get sufficient students. There are some conservatories provide violin courses for adults, but in Italy it is very different from US because today not so many adults interested in violin, either classical music. I’ve been in conservatory for nine years and got a diploma, but then after 19 I altered my mind and went to one of top universities in my country, once semi-professional even professional career has become a hobby, which makes me feel relieved...
I am very interested in that in the US the most privileged universities have requirement in instruments in admission, sounds attractive, maybe OP can make use of this opportunity to be admitted to one of top schools.
February 4, 2018, 2:33 PM · Jane, if you want the OP to pursue a nearly impossible career choice and waste many years doing so, feel free.

And if she wants to do that, I promise you she's gonna do it anyways. The responses here might seem harsh to you, but they're true. And the truth is harsh sometimes.

Clearly you don't realize how difficult making money in classical music actually is. That's why many have recommended that if she wants to make money, teaching is a better option than performing in an orchestra.

Many of the people responding here are actual professionals, or at least closely tied into the professional music world. So they're just giving their honest assessment.

Now, that's not to say that it's an IMPOSSIBLE task for the OP to pursue this, but rather that it's a ~nearly~ impossible one.

I do wish we'd start calling high-level amateurs something else. "amateur" unfortunately has a negative connotation to it. "Maybe semi-pros?" I think of people that play at weddings and other low-level events as "semi-pros," since they're still good enough to make some money doing it. Of course, community orchestra players don't make money, so we can't really call them semi-pros. I just think we need to coin another term to avoid future hurt feelings.

February 4, 2018, 2:59 PM · Again, thank you to everyone for your replies!

Erik, I'd like to say that I have no problem with the word "amateur," only with how it's sometimes used. In the case of violin, the word really just means someone who's not a professional violinist, but sometimes it's used to mean someone that's pursuing violin lackadaisically. If you use the word clearly intending the former sense, I don't think you'd be likely to hurt someone's feelings (at least not mine). But if you're still concerned, maybe you could use "non-professional"?

February 4, 2018, 3:38 PM · Some community orchestras concentrate exclusively on raising money for charity, which actually can be very satisfying.

Last week, one of the community orchestras I play in raised £1100 in charity donations at the end of a free concert in a local church (Sibelius "Finlandia", Grieg's Norwegian Dances, and Tchaikovsky Sym Nr2). The orchestra almost never needs to bring in external soloists - we have them in house: the CM (a retired pro who performed the Bruch last year some 30+ years after previously studying it at college), the principal cellist (a pupil of a pupil of Casals), half a dozen other concerto-level musicians from brass and woodwind, and not forgetting our young and inspirational conductor who last year performed a Mozart piano concerto at very short notice when the booked soloist was unexpectedly unavailable.

Edited: February 4, 2018, 3:55 PM · I suggest someone who is pursuing violin (or other artistic skill) lackadaisically should be termed a "dilettante" rather than an "amateur". "Amateurs" in centuries gone by were often of a very high standard indeed, but they were usually upper-class (even royalty) so they had the time and wherewithal to study to the highest level with the best teachers.

The definition of dilettante in the OED includes the phrase, "generally applied more or less depreciatively to one who interests himself in an art or science merely as a pastime and without serious aim or study".

February 4, 2018, 3:58 PM · No, you. cannot become a professional symphony violinist when you are in your late teens playing Bach A minor.

This is an auto generated response.

February 4, 2018, 4:23 PM · There is a difference between being harsh and being honest.

It is no kindness to dishonestly give someone false hope.

There have been teenagers who have posted similar queries here who have received far more encouraging answers based on their histories and video performances. Even in those cases, anyone familiar with the realities of the professional audition circuit is likely to feel compelled to temper their enthusiasm.

February 4, 2018, 4:29 PM · It strikes me that what many of these questions (from a long parade of teenagers on have in common, is a lack of practical understanding of what a young adult's life looks like, topped off by a lack of knowledge of what the lives of different sorts of professional musicians look like.

Some of these questions are effectively rooted in, "Violin is important to me and I want to keep playing, what do I have to do to make that part of my life post-high-school?"

I remember really concerned about that myself when I was finishing high school, and I actually made a serious mistake -- if I'd wanted to keep playing seriously without a huge amount of inconvenience to get lessons, I'd have been better off choosing a different university than I had. (On the plus side, because I'd already done a lot of gigging for a few years, I had a solid idea of what it was like to play for a living, which also helped me know that even though I loved that sort of playing, I didn't want that lifestyle -- what is great money for a teenager is a hardscrabble existence for an adult.)

I think even teachers of students who aren't good candidates for conservatory should be talking to those students about their post-high-school plans, and what they can do to support their desire to play later on -- including explaining community orchestras, chamber music opportunities, etc. Plus, they can help students think through college music opportunities -- and where they might think about going that would support their desire to play. (That might not involve going to a school with a heavy orchestra commitment to play with skilled students, for instance, but rather a place that has a mix of skills in a casual weekly rehearsal. And one has to ask about the availability of suitable teachers, too -- a school that has a great program and terrific teachers, but pushes non-majors to grad students, may be a bad fit for someone who wants to play seriously but not major/minor in music.)

Also, every kid who wants to play in the future should finish high school with two contrasting solo excerpts, well-learned (and thus easily re-learned), that they can use for all-purpose audition needs in the future.

February 4, 2018, 5:40 PM · I actually agree with Ms. Goree in this-only get into music if you can't imagine yourself doing anything else. There's no "successful career" warranty even if you are really good, as most auditioners are really good+++ as well. I see it more as a "calling" than a career-a way of life, rich or poor.

That said, while it's good to know what's likely and highly unlikely, music degrees are useful in my view, and I do not hold the pessimistic view that they are all but useless unless you started at 3 and gave a 24 Caprice recital at 9.

Just don't believe it will be an easy road ahead. Violin playing is disciplined, "hard" work, and "music business" is seldom "fair". Enjoy your Life Path, whatever you choose to do.

(Perhaps obvious, but worth mentioning that the "lesser" prospects of a degree without a pro orchestra job are often acceptable to some vs the alternatives of doing something else with their lives.)

Edited: February 6, 2018, 6:32 AM · At school the advice I was given by the principal when I was seriously considering going to music college was that it was and always will be an uncertain career, and I'd be better off considering science in view my deep interest in the sciences, keeping music as a hobby. There are plenty of amateur orchestras around who would be glad of me as a cellist, he pointed out.

I'm glad I acted on that advice. Since I retired from my career as a patent attorney (for which a science/engineering degree is essential) music has been my main activity. Learning the violin after retirement to a decent amateur orchestral standard has surely helped stop the old grey cells from completely atrophying, as well as giving me a further direction in orchestral playing. And they always want violinists!

February 5, 2018, 7:53 AM · A lot of built-in mechanism is already there that would make it impossible for a 18-year mediocre violinist to somehow get admitted into a top music school. There are so many who are ever ready to tell our children, in a thousand different ways, that they are not good enough. Do we need to join that chorus?
February 5, 2018, 7:54 AM · I'll add +1 to the "better to be a happy amateur" point of view.

I learned the Bruch concerto in sixth form (US translation = junior and senior years of high school). It was clear to everyone, most importantly myself and my teacher, that I while I was playing at a level where I could theoretically have auditioned for conservatoires and they wouldn't have laughed at me, I was some distance behind the best of my peers in youth orchestras, and much as I liked the violin I'd do better sticking to an academic education.

I suspect I had far more fun practicing Bruch in my breaktimes for fun, than I would have done if I'd known I was practicing it for an audition...

February 5, 2018, 8:54 AM · "I actually agree with Ms. Goree in this-only get into music if you can't imagine yourself doing anything else. "

But is that still a good enough reason to do anything--because you can't imagine something else? Perhaps that's simply a lack of imagination. Many teens can't imagine the careers that are out there, which is one reason people go to college: to see what is out there and spark the imagination.

You don't go into music because you can't imagine anything else. You go into it because you love the repertoire, you love the lifestyle, you love performing, and you're good at it.

February 5, 2018, 9:01 AM · "You don't go into music because you can't imagine anything else. You go into it because you love the repertoire, you love the lifestyle, you love performing, and you're good at it."

I believe what I said was, "If you can't imagine yourself *being happy* doing anything else." That's what I tell my students. Apologies if I left out the critical two words from my post above.

February 5, 2018, 9:02 AM · David, the problem is not those kids getting rejected from a top music school. The problem is those kids getting into a fourth-rate music school, and passing up a first-rate academic institution in order to chase an unlikely dream.

Any kid who is facing that choice needs the most realistic assessment of their future paths that can be provided. It's not a kindness to let them walk into that blind.

Edited: February 5, 2018, 9:05 AM · "A lot of built-in mechanism is already there that would make it impossible for a 18-year mediocre violinist to somehow get admitted into a top music school. There are so many who are ever ready to tell our children, in a thousand different ways, that they are not good enough. Do we need to join that chorus?"

The built-in mechanisms only kick in after the student has invested a great deal of time and money in efforts to get into schools for which that student was never a realistic prospect. Telling a student that such and such school, or such and such career, is not in his or her future, is not telling the student that he or she isn't good enough. It is setting the student free from a fantasy to pursue other goals at which the student has a much greater chance to succeed.

Editing to add that I also agree with Lydia's post immediately above.

February 5, 2018, 9:23 AM · I still agree with the "being happy" part. Sorry it was omitted. Some people can't be "helped into common sense", and it's not my job to force them see things the way I do.

"Good" is subjective to each individual's circumstances and goals (not talking morally, of course.)

February 5, 2018, 10:00 AM · I think Lydia's earlier point about helping students manage the transition from high school to self-managed continual learning and lifelong musical satisfaction is profound--and I agree that in an ideal world it would be an essential part of the student-teacher dialogue from early high school on. I didn't know adult amateurs when I was in middle school and high school. I did know a lot of professional violinists of varying caliber. It really didn't occur to me that there were other possibilities and for me, giving up on the idea of playing professionally was tantamount to saying that I'd stop learning and improving once I left home. It seems so obvious in hindsight that there are better options, especially for the strong student who loves music--but I think I would have really benefited from a mindset adjustment. How many people ask kids what their hobbies will be when they grow up?
February 5, 2018, 10:29 AM · If your inclination right now is to practice very hard and play the violin, then just turn on the steam and see where it takes you. If you have been playing since age five, you likely have a good foundation, and a program of consistent and focused practice over time can do quite a lot, especially if you come to the table with talent. Find the best teacher possible, and yes, set some big goals. That is how we find ourselves. If it doesn't land you where expected, it will still likely give you the needed perspective and knowledge to find your next step. Being a professional orchestral musician is not the only path forward for a violinist, there are other ways to incorporate music into your life and even into your profession. Getting good at playing the violin is never a bad idea!
Edited: February 5, 2018, 12:00 PM · “the problem is not those kids getting rejected from a top music school. The problem is those kids getting into a fourth-rate music school, and passing up a first-rate academic institution in order to chase an unlikely dream.”

I agree. But I would give more credits to kids today. It is hard to imagine a kid who got into an Ivy League school would give it up for a fourth rate music school. That said, the OP has decided to go to a college with a great-books curriculum! Is it really a great choice from the point of view of making a six-figure salary post graduation?

My point is perhaps we can focus on advices on violin playing and leave career choices to their parents and teachers.

February 5, 2018, 12:00 PM · The issue Lydia mentions is compounded by "fourth-rate music schools" accepting students whom they know they clearly will not be able to propel into any kind of reasonable career after four years, but taking them simply because they can pay the tuition.
February 5, 2018, 12:15 PM · I'll point out that this thread exists specifically because the OP asked for career advice.

I think the people I know from the OP's chosen school (albeit Annapolis campus) primarily went on to law school afterwards, so if the OP follows that route, six figures is probably in their future. :-)

More to the point, bright hard-working kids can succeed doing just about anything, including passions not discovered until their college years. But generally colleges have to be chosen before that point, and violin is something that doesn't lend itself to later-in-life accomplishment if one wants to be a professional.

February 5, 2018, 9:12 PM · "The issue Lydia mentions is compounded by "fourth-rate music schools" accepting students whom they know they clearly will not be able to propel into any kind of reasonable career after four years, but taking them simply because they can pay the tuition."

Don't kid yourself--this also happens at 1st, 2nd, and 3rd tier schools as well. That's the trap that's set for the "pretty good" string player: so often recruited for the school and its needs, and the teachers, but not for the needs of the string player.

How would a "pretty good" 18-year-old know if they were being hustled into the system? It's quite hard for them to. I think the best idea for serious teens is to apply to an elite summer school like Meadowmount or some such place. If they don't get in or get no scholarship that's one signal. If they end up going, they can see who their competition is. That can be very enlightening.

Or depressing. Depending on your expectations and sense of self-worth (should it depend on your ability to play your instrument)...

February 5, 2018, 10:09 PM · "My point is perhaps we can focus on advices on violin playing and leave career choices to their parents and teachers."

The OP was specifically asking for career advice, as are 100% of the other posts that elicit these sorts of threads. I really don't think it's fair to slap people's hands for answering the question that was asked.

February 5, 2018, 11:47 PM · Lydia and Mary Ellen, you are quite right. I forgot the original question : ) My bad!
February 6, 2018, 3:45 AM · Side question: what Ivy League universities (and other elite institutions outside of these, like MIT, Caltex, Stanford and below) consider playing musical instruments to be a strong advantage in admission into their non-academic postgrad research programs? Genuinely wondered , since this doesn’t mean that much among universities in Australia where I live.
February 6, 2018, 5:18 AM · Universities pump out plenty of non-competitive STEM graduates too. Question -- what does it mean when you have a STEM graduate and you look at their transcript and you see a GPA of 3.0? It means they got a C for every A. Now look more closely. Don't be surprised if the A's are in humanities "core" courses and the C's are in math.

I agree with Scott that many high schoolers have absolute no idea of the broad range of careers available to them. How would they? They know what their parents do, what the parents of a few of their friends do, and the know the careers they see on TV: Doctors, lawyers, and business executives.

Edited: February 6, 2018, 6:05 AM · In my opinion at least the market has plenty of jobs for STEM graduates, competitive or not. STEM and humanities together lay the foundation for a well-functioning society. It’s safer to be a non-competitive STEM graduate than a non-competitive musician. And as I understood from posts, in the sphere of music itself it’s safer to be a non-competitive non-violinist musician than a non-competitive violinist.

In a given country the number of Nobel laureates can be higher than virtuosi. Simply because 99% of the population studied Nobel subjects compared to 1% playing any instrument and 0.1% playing violins.

It’s quite normal that some people let their parents choose a career for them, even truer for professional violinists who started playing at 3-6 years of age.

February 6, 2018, 6:22 AM · I would not say that it's safer to be a non-violinist than a violinist in music, if one is non-competitive. An argument could be made that a weaker player on the violin still has the option of private teaching and weddings, depending on personality and location. It's actually not unheard of for a popular teacher to be a marginal player, and the same is true among wedding musicians. On the other hand there are not too many people who want a tuba at their wedding, and I doubt that the market for tuba lessons is quite as deep as that for violin instruction.

It is also true that a four year degree is a four year degree, and at the end of the day the student is not worse off with a degree in music than with a degree in, say, English literature or art history. A performance degree has a narrower scope than a BA in music, but the real problem is a very bright student who chooses to go to a third or fourth rate music school in lieu of a first rate academic institution. There is an opportunity cost. There is also an opportunity cost to the fruitless hours cooped up in a practice room when the student could be exploring other interests.

I am not saying there is no point to a marginal player continuing to study and practice! But one or two hours a day are much more conducive to a successful career in another field and a happy life as an amateur player than are four or five hours a day with little to no hope at the end of anything beyond an exhausting life of lessons and brides.

I think the posters suggesting that what the young people are really asking is if it is possible to keep the violin as part of their life after high school make an excellent point and perhaps we should emphasize this more.

February 6, 2018, 9:06 AM · "An exhausting life of lessons" may be an option that makes someone truly Happy-especially when nothing else will.

I strongly oppose this internet article stupidity which declares "the top ten worst degrees", in which English literature & Music usually ranks high, or makes such a deplorable cut. Being bright and intelligent doesn't mean that such type of students should pursue the "best" degrees. It's not just about what society wants. If someone wants to "throw away" their life at a "hopeless career", but is happy in doing so, why is this such a problem? Because society "does not approve" of such a "talent waste"? What about THEM, the individuals?

(I do not mean to argue, so if I make someone angry (which is not the intent), just ignore my post and continue debating among yourselves.)

Believe me, I am against the delusional arrogance of some who think a music career is easily within their grasps. That was not what I was addressing above, nor do I approve of such "false dreaming". However, there's space for lower ambitions AND happiness other than a pro orchestra career OR a "normal job", and music degrees can be worthwhile for some, even in a few of these "bad, 4th rate" schools.

(Also agree with Mr. Cole that accepting "hopeless" students happens at all school levels. Thing is, it may still be valuable for that particular "bad/hopeless" student, even if most can't make any rhyme or reason out of it.)

February 6, 2018, 9:08 AM · Also please keep in mind that college plus expenses is an unforgiving $60,000 + a year for certain schools, including many of those “top tier” schools. For a young person, especially one going into the arts, taking student and parent loans for this this makes zero sense. The main ingredients for success are high ability, commitment to practice,a good teacher and also a lot of imagination - the ability to see a different path forward and to make your own work. The 20th century is over. I agree that getting a well paid full-time job with benefits in a orchestra is not possible for almost anyone, simply because those positions are extremely scarce - almost a fiction. Start your own, with a new model - you will need a different kind of education for that. Btw Lindsey Stirling was a BYU film major and argue all you want, she is an extraordinarily successful professional violinist.
February 6, 2018, 9:27 AM · Also, I see that Elena actually does have a lot of early experience playing in orchestras. So pursue the opportunities that you find for yourself, but know that being an orchestra musician professionally is usually a part-time, low-pay proposition.
Edited: February 6, 2018, 10:08 AM · "I doubt that the market for tuba lessons is quite as deep as that for violin instruction."

Over here it is common (though not universal) with wind instruments that a single teacher teaches all instruments in a family, at least to beginners. For example you could teach brass (trumpet, trombone, tuba, French horn) or single-reed instruments (saxophone family and clarinet).

When I started on the violin it came as a surprise that violin and cello are taught by different teachers. (And viola is never advertised. :) )

Regarding competition for classical orchestras: flautists probably have a harder time, since there are many of them and only a few seats per orchestra, unlike with violin/viola.

February 6, 2018, 10:16 AM · Flute is very much like violin in that it is an extraordinarily competitive instrument when trying to find an orchestra job, but a popular instrument when one is seeking private students and weddings. In the U.S., I believe there are more military band spots open for flautists than there are for violinists (fun fact: the largest single employer of classical musicians in the United States is the U.S. military).

I do know of people teaching both violin and cello privately. With perhaps the very very rare exception, they shouldn't. Usually these are people whose primary instrument is one or the other (and that is the one they should stick to teaching privately in my opinion) but who have completed a music education degree with additional training intended to qualify a school orchestra teacher to teach class beginners on all string instruments. I can almost always pick out a young cello student whose private teacher is really a violinist.

February 6, 2018, 11:03 AM · Mary, that's interesting what you said about the U.S. military being the largest single employer of classical musicians. It could be much the same in the UK from what I've heard. My cello teacher came from a large family of Eastern European musicians who were refugees in the UK early in the last century and had a formative influence on his musicianship. At the outbreak of WW2 he was drafted into the RAF and immediately into the RAF School of Music where he had a first class music education (not just his words). Incidentally, in the military schools of music over here you're taught wind or brass instruments if you play stringed instruments. At the end of the War my cello teacher was head-hunted by the BBC and offered a chair as deputy principal in the cello section of the BBC SO. He turned down the offer and they upgraded it to section principal. He still turned it down! I found out many years later that after several years in a military band/orchestra he was fed up with its regimentation and so turned to freelance, at which he was very successful for the rest of his long life.

Arthur's freelance work included playing cello in the BBC Concert Orchestra during the years after the War when it was located in Bristol, teaching (which according to his philosophy should produce musicians rather than examination fodder), running his own successful dance and trad jazz bands (he learnt the clarinet and sax in the RAF), conducting a major youth orchestra in the region until he retired, conducting other orchestras, deputising as violist or cellist in visiting professional orchestras, Secretary of the local branch of the MU (nothing to do with the previous item, I'm sure), soloist and recitalist, and composer.

So that's what a life in music can sometimes be like outside a full-time career in a professional orchestra.

February 6, 2018, 11:37 AM · "people teaching both violin and cello privately. With perhaps the very very rare exception, they shouldn't."

I hope that the retired violin-cello teacher in this forum is one of those exceptions.

"I can almost always pick out a young cello student whose private teacher is really a violinist."

There is a possibility of conformation bias in such statements. You may not have enough statistics on cellists who do not have technique issues despite being taught by a violinist.

February 6, 2018, 3:18 PM · In my late 'teens my last piano teacher was a college gold medallist in violin, cello and piano. She taught all three and was one of the few in the area who could take a student in any of those instruments to a professional standard.
February 6, 2018, 4:46 PM · "In my opinion at least the market has plenty of jobs for STEM graduates..."

From what I've read that is a fiction--there is a limited market for all these students that have been pushed into STEM subjects.

February 6, 2018, 6:44 PM · Scott, given the millions of H1-B workers in this country how could there not be a severe shortage of STEM jobs? :-)

The thing that strikes me most in these discussions about how difficult it is to win an audition with an orchestra is how serious the oversupply of highly skilled classical musicians must be. It makes me sad.

February 6, 2018, 7:12 PM · There are plenty of jobs for STEM graduates, but mostly for engineers, especially software developers. It's hard to get, say, a "biology" job -- you can go from an undergrad bio degree to working as a lab tech, for instance, but those jobs are poorly paid.
Edited: February 6, 2018, 7:26 PM · Those who talk loudly about the so called shortage of STEM workers and the need for H1B visa are basically following a corporate strategy of creating an over supply of low-wage and high skill labor force.

There is absolutely no shortage when it comes to the Science and Math part of STEM. There is a shortage regarding the Technology and Engineering part of STEM given the wage corporate America is willing to pay; Hence, those millions of H1B workers.

Scott Cole was spot on!

Edited: February 6, 2018, 8:07 PM · A military music career will easily pay twice as much if not more (with benefits and a good pension) than the average civilian orchestra player and provide ample time to freelance on the side. The down side, not too many (0 in Canada other than guitar and bass) strings players needed.
Edited: February 7, 2018, 2:37 AM · *Those who talk loudly about the so-called shortage of stem workers and the need for H1B visa are basically following a corporate strategy of creating an oversupply of low wage and high skilled labour force*

In a discussion I would definitely avoid venturing absolutist thinking and overgeneralisation on an entire class of people and institutions (I would get roasted for sure David :)). But speaking of ‘cutting down wages’, I would think America faces the tougher problem of profit-seeking companies moving their factories (and labs & high tech to some extent) outside of the country and into cheaper regions, than of hiring overseas workers to work within the American states. I’m editing to add, from a public policy perspective, these two issues are intertwined, in the sense that a drastic elimination of one (say, a drastic limitation of overseas workers into the states) leads to the worsening of the other (corporations being more adamant to outsource/move operations overseas). I’m not talking about just labour-intensive employment, and I’m not even touching the issue of imported goods yet.

My main point was simply that it’s safer for an average person to follow the route of academic careers than the path of professional musicians. It’s just a broad generalisation and of course, things can be different here and there should we dig up further, but it isn’t an absolute necessity given what’s being discussed.

Thank Mary Ellen for pointing out a misinformed detail in my earlier post (a non-competitive violinist isn’t having a worse career prospect than a non-competitive non-violinist).

February 7, 2018, 7:06 AM · Oh boy, these posts always get a lot of comments!

I'm only just starting college myself so I won't pretend to be an expert, but I have been around professional musicians for a long time now, so will offer my 2 cents for what it's worth.

I don't know how accurate it is for OP to compare herself to Juilliard pre-college kids unless she intends to go to Juilliard. Even in this industry they are exceptional.

However, for me the main issue is that you don't want to major in performance. People who intend to become professional violinists are obsessed with playing (more than 2 hours a day) and would love to study music full-time.

Ultimately music is not a "maybe someday", it's something that really has to happen from a young age and become intensive by your teen years or college at the latest.

February 7, 2018, 7:51 AM · Many of the kids that are in Juilliard Pre-College won't actually get into Juilliard itself for college -- and a significant percentage of them won't go into music at all. That's why it's a useful comparison -- the pre-college prep kids are good examples of well-trained students. Regardless of whether they go on to Juilliard or to other good (first or second tier) conservatories, those students will be the eventual competitors for jobs -- and some of them will eventually show up in community orchestras and whatnot.
February 7, 2018, 8:32 AM · "I don't know how accurate it is for OP to compare herself to Juilliard pre-college kids unless she intends to go to Juilliard. Even in this industry they are exceptional."

That's why I say go to where you can hear them, often at summer programs like Meadowmount where they gather.

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