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Christopher Liao

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Published: May 14, 2009 at 11:41 PM [UTC]


From Dimitri Adamou
Posted on May 15, 2009 at 11:46 PM

I'm sure you can manage to do both study and violin playing.

But yes it is important to pick your priorities. Of course sometimes there is a case of the child teaching the parent.

Though, its not hard to put 1-2 hours a day aside to study, its like practicing the violin, its not hard to make time. (Though if you have demands of children, family, work, bills - differnet story)

To get to a position of doctor, you would need to learn alot, there are alot of great doctors who are also great violin players (I remember there being a medical orcehstra)

Of course if you are in the lower grades, the most important thing to learn is - keeping your ability to learn and if you can get into a good routine of study earlier; it will benefit you much much more in the long term. You dont NEED to study for insane hours, if you can manage a constant routine, even if 30 minutes of revision a day, it will work much better in the long run instead of cramming last day :)

It depends entirely on how you manage your time, from the moment you get home - what is the first thing you do?

Sometimes it takes alot of effort on your half. What your parents want for you isn't always what you want.

Alot of parents may force their children to overly study, alot of the times they snap in the end unfortunantely. My parents always kept telling me to study. I never really seriously focused on study till I was in my final year [well more like final month], and my results suprised them, of course it took so much effort and self whipping.

From Stephen Brivati
Posted on May 16, 2009 at 4:23 AM


there was an almost identical thread on this a while back. I think it was Brian Hong.  You might have to go bac quite a long way in the discusssions but it would be worth your while. Can anyone help?;)

This problem (?) is very prevalent ,  especvialy among Asian families .  There are no easy solutions but it might help to recognize that you are not alone.   In his latest book Arnold Steinheardt tells an anecdote of  violnist from a Jewish family with the opposite problem. He was press ganged into being a violinst, haad a very successful Carnegie Hall debut and immediatley handed hios violin back to his parents and said I have realized your dream of me becoming a violinst. Now I am off to be a lawyer.`  (Had he heard lawyer jokes i presume he might have thought twice...




From enion pelta
Posted on May 16, 2009 at 4:44 AM

you might point out to your folks, if you wish to bring it up, that nowadays having a more well-rounded education and something special like playing the violin improves your chances of getting into a good pre-med program. i attended a double-degree program at johns hopkins/peabody institute and knew several great players who were on the road to doctor-hood. It's not an easy path but it's not untravelled either  and it  sounds like you have the drive to go down it if you wish. good  luck!

From Dimitri Adamou
Posted on May 16, 2009 at 5:18 AM

Its funny how some people are good with things and they don't want to do it. I guess their just over it.

From al ku
Posted on May 16, 2009 at 10:33 AM

christopher, i think your situation is rather unique and possibly not as bad as others',,,

as buri mentioned, this is a very prevalent asian cultural syndrome, be a doctor and be a classical instrument prodigy,,,at the same time, in the same life time.  usually, kids pursuing both do not have the heart for either. some kids doing both actually like only one, usuallly not the one the parents have hand picked.  it sounds like you actually like both.  or at least at this level, you think you like and can handle both.

with the current unstable economy or the making of a new economy, many parents are more concerned about their kids' future, in particular, the stability of the kids' future and medicine may easily top that list. 

even though both disciplines take a lot of dedication and effort, i would like to point out a major difference.   just my opinion.

with classical music,  the timeline is more flexible.  schooling is very helpful but not mandatory.  you can break into the scene at any age, with any level of expertise, as long as there is a market for what you have to offer.  there is more of a talent factor built into the system, more of a luck factor as well.

with medicine, it is very structured. year after year basically starting high school, you need to demonstrate your ability to be consistently superior in a broad range of academic subjects.  a simple answer for that is hard work, not really talent.  for an average sized freshman class in college, on the first day of school, perhaps 700 out of 1000 kids declare their interests to be pre-med (699 are asians by the way:).  after the first semester, may be 500,  and the process of self elimination continues until your college senior year where if you can maintain a gpa of about 3.5 over the 4 years,  you have a chance and we are talking about 30 kids going into the application process.  if you don't, you have quite a bit of explanation to do.  about 10 years ago, i was talking with a dean of a med school and he said that they basically do not look at a file if the the gpa is not above certain level,  which translates into this:  every subject you take in college, from moment one, you have to be giving your 100-110%, from eco, to english 101 to organic chem, whether you are interested in the subject or not.  it is a marathon where you are expected to turn in good time for each segment, to be constantly, consistently sharp and reliable.  the desire to be helpful to the society may not come into the picture when you supposed to make life or death decision under stress with a clear, trained mind.  of course, there are exceptions.  i know of an award winning writer changing his course into medicine (he took some pre-med requirement courses offered in columbia in nyc).  i know of a carpenter graduating first in a med school class--his maturity is simply superior.  but most physicians i know, at least during their medical training years, have only one thing in mind and their other interests shelved, for the time being or forever.   sure playing the violin can be relaxing, but catching badly needed sleep can be even more relaxing.

i think keeping both interests alive is do-able, but eventually you will come to a crossroad:  are you going to be a physician full time and play violin on the side or are you going to be a full time violinist with side interest/career in medicine?  the former is actually not that rare, and the latter,,,i have never heard of. 

in terms of playing 2 yo violin strings in a well off setting, because you did not make the money, it is a good lesson right there.  you need to learn to be as frugal as you can be, particularly if your interest leans toward music.  2 yo violin strings that don't break are keepers! :)

From Terry Hsu
Posted on May 16, 2009 at 1:45 PM

Ironically, the other thread about asian pressures was about not practicing enough, whereas this thread is about practicing too much! ;)

However, I think the response is the same. It is important to be well-rounded regardless of what you do. Interacting with others is a key component to careers. In fact, the best measure of financial and career success is one's ability to adjust ones communication style to others. It's not education, IQ, etc. Two people with the same IQ can make a very different amount of money. Two people with the same education can make a very different amount of money. Just ask Joe the plumber and Bill Gates.

But as Al mentions, if your goal is to become a doctor, you do have to be consistently good at a wide range of subjects for a long time. This doesn't help you develop your ability to communicate to a broad variety of people, but does open the door to becoming a doctor.

You might argue that a little well-roundedness is not a bad thing to your parents and that the violin can be part of that. But doing well in school is part of being well-rounded too.

From Anne-Marie Proulx
Posted on May 16, 2009 at 2:03 PM

I have a sister that is currently studying med and she would never have the time to be a prodigie.  At high school, she played clarinet at a very high level (and it is easier than violin). At college she had to drop off.  But I am sure it is possible to do 10-15 min of music per day at college and + (more if you are very talented and can do the two).  Some really bright persons could maybe do the two while a little less bright person have to reduce very much at college and university. 

Also, I believe you really know if you are made for something or no at college.  If you are not made for your program, in college conyrarly to in high school, you can  maybe pass but would never have super grades even with 24 hours of work per day.  My own plans were pretty perturbed when I entered in college.  But it is something that forces you to know your strenghs and weaknesses.  So, if you are in high school, it is really hard to guess what will be exactly your futur in a few years.  Sitting between two chairs is never comfortable and many persons have to face this. But whatever you choose, you can do a little bit to quite a bit of the other thing too! 

Good luck!


From Christopher Liao
Posted on May 17, 2009 at 12:40 AM

When I posted this blog, I was at major crossroads... thank you everyone for giving your input--you guys really made me think! After much consideration, I have decided that I will aim for the medical field after all. I believe that it would be in my best interest as I have been aiming for that pretty much all my life. I feel that if I stop now, I'd be lying to my integrity and would later regret it otherwise. Of course, I will continue to play the violin but, of course, not as my main priority. And I'm sure I'm happy with my decision! After confronting with my parents about this matter, I think they understand now.

Thanks again! Thanks also to Ms. Niles for allowing this blog to be a top blog. :O

Until next time,


From Pauline Lerner
Posted on May 17, 2009 at 4:27 AM

Chris, I think you've made a very wise decision.  It's a matter of balancing the two alternatives in a way that satisfies you (and your parents, too, I hope).

BTW, welcome to  I look forward to hearing more from you.

From Karen Allendoerfer
Posted on May 17, 2009 at 12:00 PM

Christopher, I'm coming a little late to this discussion, but I wanted to add a perspective from someone a bit further down the road who was once at a similar crossroads.  I think you made a wise choice; in my case, I didn't go to medical school, but I did get a PhD in a medical specialty (Neuroscience) and I work (as a career) in biomedical research, not music.

My parents were also extremely frugal with me when it came to violin when I was growing up.  They were extremely frugal in general, which I have a better understanding of and sympathy for now that I'm a parent myself.  But it was frustrating and indeed discouraging at the time, when I (for example) couldn't afford to go to music camp, to take lessons from the best teacher in town, or to have a really good violin.  All of which were true of me, but not many of my peers, when I was a teen.  On the other hand, my parents clearly valued education and the life of the mind, and contributed to my getting a good education in Biology, at Princeton. 

It's impossible to really see this, now, but when you are on your own and can make your own choices about these things, it can be helpful to come from a background where you had to really understand the value of things and struggle for what you want to do and become.  Music can be a big part of your life whether you make it a career or not.

From Christopher Liao
Posted on May 17, 2009 at 6:10 PM

Wow, thank you for sharing your experiences!! They are all very enlightening.

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