February 28, 2013 at 4:12 PMWell, fellow V.commers, I have returned, after a four year hiatus from blogging. I've never really abandoned V.com, I've just resorted to the occasional lurking instead of actively contributing. When I started blogging here, I had only just discovered how much I loved playing. It was my first year of high school, I had a new teacher who was nothing short of a perfect fit for me, and I was just getting involved in a youth orchestra that would change my life. I started winning competitions all throughout the region, and ended up soloing three times with the Naples Philharmonic. When I wasn't subtlety (or not…) flirting with the clarinetist in the back of the youth orchestra, I loved logging on and sharing my success stories with the world in my over-dramatic high school way (by the way, that clarinetist? He's my husband now.)
My one year in Cleveland was both stressful and amazing; in those two semesters, I took forty college credits, something like twenty four classes. About half of those (music theory, eurythmics, chamber music, lessons, etc.) were at the Cleveland Institute of Music. Those classes formed me as a musician more than any classes I would ever take again. But, on the whole, the situation was not a good fit for me. I made fantastic grades, in spite of getting swine flu and spending a month with pneumonia during the spring, but I felt like I fell between the cracks of being a "Conservatory kid" and a "CWRU kid." Furthermore, my private teacher and I were not a good fit, although we got along very well and I made good progress. At the end of the year, I decided I couldn't justify the hefty price tag.
I spent a year in limbo, taking classes at the university I had dual-enrolled at and studying with my teacher from high school. I don't regret that year at all. Ave Maria University has a small but excellent music program, centered around sacred music studies. I had some incredibly powerful musical experiences there, including singing the Durufle Requiem at a Latin High Mass and playing chamber music with one of the most amazing musicians I have ever encountered.
After running the audition circuit (again), I ended up at The Florida State University. I spent two years and a half years there, completing a B.M. in Violin and a B.M.E. in Instrumental Education. All of the faculty and staff there were amazing and bent over backwards to give me the best and most affordable education I could get. I did two full years (summers included) of coursework and a semester of student teaching through FSU and graduated just this last December with both degrees summa cum laude.
After six years of undergrad, I was more than burned out. My private teacher advised that I not apply for graduate school, and instead prepare on my own to take orchestra auditions. Right now I am working as a freelance violinist in the Southeast region. I live in Tallahassee, but I teach and perform throughout the Florida Panhandle and parts of Georgia and Alabama as well. I feel like there are huge amounts of musicians in my situation: a Bachelor's degree, but not good enough to win a really orchestra job yet. It's a difficult choice: do you go on to grad school? Take a non-music job? As I make my own discoveries about living the freelance lifestyle, I have decided to resume blogging at V.com so I can pass what I learn to other violinists in the same boat (and hopefully get some advice from the veterans along the way!)
Outside of academia, though, I can't imagine what a Master's degree might be useful for. I finished my Bachelor's degree when I was 18 and simply didn't have the money to continue (even with some nice scholarship offers.) Knowing a few people with outrageous debt, I'm glad I didn't stay on for the Master's, even if that did close doors to me in academia.
My suspicion anyway is soon even a Master's won't be enough, you'll need a Doctorate. And as Nate Robinson posted earlier on this thread, while it may get you a teaching gig, it's still no proof that you can get out of first position ;)
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