Unique Learning Situation Questions

Edited: November 10, 2017, 5:07 PM · Hello, I am new to this forum and joined partly due to my strong interest in the violin but primarily seeking advice from experienced individuals in a particular issue. Although I'm not positive I would Imagine im somewhat of an unorthodox case when it comes to someone learning the violin but the readers of this post can perhaps shed some light on that. This will be a very lengthy story but I'll try to get to the point as soon as possible. At any rate, here is my personal dilemma.

I've been extremely fascinated with music in general my entire life. I come from a very musical family possessing great talent on both sides. I dabbled with a vast array of different instruments in my childhood, playing everything from my grandmothers baby grand piano to my uncles guitar, accordions, Irish flutes, and everything in between. The thing is I never had a single lesson, not even informally with my family or anything. I simply picked up instruments and learned to play them fairly well within a matter of minutes. I didn't have a clue how to read music or know anything in regards to music theory or classical technique. I don't know how I'm able to do this but I always could, it's like a gift I have or something.

I was about seven years old when my cousin started playing the viola for middle school and I thought it was really awesome but wanted to be a bit different so I decided I wanted to learn the violin. I talked my parents into renting me a violin from the local music store and began to play around with it. Within minutes I managed to teach myself basic songs and was playing relatively fast Irish fiddle tunes within a week. I wanted some sort of direction to help me learn better and it just so happened that my martial arts instructor at the time played the violin in high school and played professionally at weddings and such. He offered to give me lessons for really cheap and so I did. I took a half hour lesson once a week from him for a few months off and on. I learned to sight read but young me quickly became bored with the classical music I was playing and instead wanted to play Charlie Daniels songs and the like . After maybe 3 months or so my schedule became too busy with school and other things so I had to stop violin lessons any which wasn't a huge deal as I was somewhat disinterested at that point but I still played casually on my own for pleasure.

My uncle has a locally popular band that plays traditional Celtic music and I began to play more and more with them at family gatherings and even played with them on stage on occasion. I kept this sort of casual playing (taking out the fiddle every once in awhile when I feel like playing) for a number of years.

Fast forward a few years and my cousin talked me into joining the orchestra freshman year at the local public high school. It had a really reputable music program and was particularly well known for its strings department. I began to take lessons by the man who ran the entire program, taught the strings classes, conducted the orchestra, etc. as it was a requirement of his. He listened to me play and began to devote special attention to developing my skill, often focusing on me over other students. With some corrections to my technique and a few lessons on music theory and reading I was able to sight read intermediate to slightly advanced pieces with relative ease and surpassed many of the seniors who had been taking lessons their whole lives in the orchestra. He said I had the potential to be the best violinist to ever come through the school system and that I would be first chair , as well as do great in competitions, etc.
I loved the orchestra and thoroughly enjoyed playing with so many people as that was something new to me. Well about halfway through my freshman year I ended up transferring to a small Catholic school for other reasons and had to leave behind the strings program and everything associated with it (All State, our local orchestra, etc). My new school had virtually nothing whatsoever in the way of a music program and although I really wished I could stay at the school with the strings program it wasn't possible at the time, so I just went on with my academic career and sort of forgot about it in time. I still played for leisure and messed around with a variety of instruments but never seriously attempted to better my skill since I left the program.

Now I am 18 and a freshman in college and as I've grow older I now greatly appreciate the complexities of classical music and the playing and theory associated with it. I would love nothing more than to become a skilled and possibly world class violinist and/or play professionally in an orchestra. I would 100% be willing to put in the time and hard work inevitably necessary to do so IF it's even within the realm of possibility. Obviously it's very late in life compared to others and an overwhelming majority if not all of the candidates for Juilliard and other such schools were first chair in Allstate or similar programs and have even played with real orchestras. I obviously did not have this same opportunity to gain this practical experience. My question to any professional violinists on this forum is do you think it would even be remotely possible for me to be accepted to a school like Juilliard after I earn my BSA if I devoted an excessive amount of time to attain the level necessary? I'm perfectly willing to pay for extensive private lessons and practice obsessively for as long as it takes so it's not a question of whether I'm willing or not rather if it's even remotely possible. Or am I simply out of luck for starting too late in the game?

I do have the advantage of having a lot of natural talent and a pretty solid foundation in technique so it's not like I'm starting from scratch. I can still read music and play songs and scales very fast without thinking about it and still play for fun on a regular basis. I am obsessed with music and instruments and would love to realistically pursue this dream of a career doing what I love but I want to know if it's even worth devoting time, money, and effort to do so first, all circumstances considered. Any input is greatly appreciated.
Thanks, Jacob.

Replies (9)

November 10, 2017, 1:54 PM · Something I forgot to mention is that I play by ear and have perfect pitch. I'm very precise with tones, rhythms, etc. I can also hear a sequence of notes or excerpt from a song and play it back which is primarily how I learned various songs in the first place. Often I find myself playing new songs I've never thought to play before almost perfectly the first try, not even knowing I could play them at all. I know I'm not at all trying to brag about my abilities but merely telling it how it is so as to get the best advice possible.
November 10, 2017, 2:36 PM · Yes, "talent" does exist! Amazing awareness plus the physical means to realise one's dreams with ease.

For a musical career however, the talented must work just as much as anyone else; although far more of their practice-hours will be truly productive than those of lesser mortals.

Edited: November 10, 2017, 7:15 PM · OP: You might want to go back and put in some paragraph breaks. Your original post was 1,136 words and 6,217 characters, counting spaces. A lot of readers won't bother to read it. I did read it -- but first had to copy and paste it to MS Word and break it up into seven (7) paragraphs. EDIT: OP has fixed -- thanks.

There's no reason you can't become a formidable player with talent, good instruction, and good practice habits. Even so, be sure you have something else to earn a living at. The odds are against you when it comes to a musical career -- as plenty of graduates who have been reading music a lot longer than you -- and performing at much higher levels -- can tell you.

I was a kid beginner in violin myself, with the dream of becoming a professional symphony player. I completed a degree program in performance and played a couple of seasons in the CSO's training school, starting in my late teens. By 21, though, I could see that I didn't want to do orchestra anymore. Indeed, the whole music business, from what I could see of it from a safe distance, began to turn me off. I continue to practice and play regularly, but I have no regrets about my decision to ditch the musical career aspirations. I enjoy the music a lot more now as a serious amateur.

I'm not saying that this is what will happen with you. I'm not you, and you're not me. At 18 y/o, I felt, in some regards, much the way you do now -- in fact, I feel sort of like I'm reading part of my own diary. But now that I've been out of school and self-supporting for a while -- and have a longer perspective on life -- I feel it's only right to offer a few words of caution.

November 10, 2017, 3:15 PM · Have you located a teacher who can help you achieve your goals?

At least where we live, finding a violin teacher who 1) is a good fit and 2) can successfully guide students up to top conservatory audition level is extremely challenging.

If you haven't found the right teacher yet who believes in you, I'd start from there.

November 10, 2017, 4:47 PM · I did not read it. Too tired.
November 10, 2017, 5:00 PM · Thanks for the input guys, as I said much appreciated. Sorry about the super long run-on paragraph I'm not sure why it posted like that. I actually did separate it into paragraphs initially. Maybe it's because I posted it from a mobile device. I'll go back and try to fix it.

To answer your question no I have not found a proper instructor yet but I haven't looked very hard yet either because I'm still decididing if it's something I want to seriously pursue and spend hard earned and currently very limited money on. I tried to contact my former instructor from the high school I mentioned but he ignored me. I think since I don't benefit his image or make the school look good anymore he doesn't care. He was a great teacher but not a very nice guy lol.

Edited: November 10, 2017, 5:27 PM · I am not pro, so I can't advise you on how to get to Juliard and becoming a pro violin player starting at 18. All I can say is that this is a bit of a gamble if you wish to make a decent living one day. If I were your parent, I'd tell you to go to university and learn a trade (e.g. accounting) that can assure you a lifetime of steady wage earning, and pursue violin on the side. If you dedicate 10 years of your life that is necessary to becoming a pro musician at this point, you'll be 28 and a newbie in what is traditionally a low wage earning trade. By the time you get to be established enough to earn a decent living, you'll be closing on 40. It sounds like you've got talent, but talent alone isn't enough. You'll need to dedicate time. Certainly you aren't so old that pro-level performance cannot be achieved, but where will you be financially in your life when you get there,... but I am not your parent so you can take this advice for what it's worth!
November 10, 2017, 5:32 PM · My suggestions: find a qualified teacher and start taking weekly lessons now. I am 100% positive you have numerous bad habits that will need to be unlearned before you can learn the violin up to any sort of intermediate, let alone advanced, level. And go do a Youtube search on Juilliard prep (or pre-college) senior violin recitals for a reality check. Those are some very accomplished 17- and 18-year-olds, and not all of them will necessarily be accepted at Juilliard.
Edited: November 10, 2017, 9:26 PM · I think it'd be useful to see a video of your playing, preferably the most advanced classical piece you can. Just a minute would be sufficient, shot with a smartphone; it doesn't need to be high-quality, but it should fully show both of your arms.

That would provide readers a better idea of how you play now, and what you would need to do, and the likelihood of accomplishing those things.


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