Pursuing a career.....or not?

November 6, 2006 at 06:29 AM · Hey,

Im having diffiulty, in deciding whether to pursue music as a career or not.

Im 17 tomorrow, and starting mendelssohn in e minor, although i do progress very quickly, Ive just done vivaldi spring fairly quickly, and my teacher regularly says Im progressing much faster than she expected. But, realisticly (sp!), is there any chance i'll be able to make it as a professional violinist?????(aside from teaching, cos I could do that on the side)

My parents don't want me to, they think I should be a doctor, and i think I would like that too, the problem is, I think I might always look back wondering what if?? what if i had done music?? Should I just admit now that I will only ever play for fun???? (or as part of a wedding quartet/as a teacher etc.) and just concentrate on getting into medicine in college??

Please advise me as best you can

Replies (8)

November 6, 2006 at 06:30 AM · Do both--and stick with both. You will have to neglect violin some in med school, but not completely. If you haven't chosen a professional music career at this point, or if it hasn't been painted on you since about six or seven, then be smart about your choices--financially.

Violin is too cool if you're advancing as you say, to disregard because you want to, or feel a need to do something else or make some mutually exclusive decision. It's called time-sharing, and most successful people do this. Many are better at one or the other, and often, their avocation (violin in your case) nicely colors their success in their vocations. Trust me, music will help in college professionally, personally and socially.

It scares me a little when people encounter a love for an instrument and set limits or expectations based on something they really only have limited control over. By the time you're a sophmore in college, you may want to be an engineer!. Music is a constant in many people's lives--a grounding, calming, enriching and personal influence that comes through mastery of an instrument. And, it effects everything you will do in the future, so project your efforts with violin as a constant in your life, and good luck choosing 'a' vocation.

I'm an engineer by vocation, and a whole list of things by avocation. I know of a lawyer who was most famous for his rendition of "The Swan" on cello. I personally would be selfish enough to stick with violin simply because it will have a trickle down very positive effect on so many other areas of your life.


November 6, 2006 at 10:13 AM · Slainte Grainne,

was in a way different, but pretty similar with me: I wanted to become a programmer, but my parents planned to configure me as a violinist. Unfortunately my nerves were really bad, so I studied both violin and computer science. After passing both exams, I worked a time in orchestras, but I stopped due to several injuries in my wrist (classical psychosomatic case of a wrist knocking the mind out). Now I'm a lucky programmer, playing violin means really a LOT for me. :)

You're in a perfect situation to choose! You love the violin, so you gonna practise with enough passion (you do practise enough, don't you?!), use the coming 2 years to figure out: play as often in public as you can, interview as many professionals as you can about their daily routine (maybe daily life of an orchestra musician isn't that great as you might think. 40 times of Tosca can become pretty much of Groundhog Day), join courses etc...

It's definitely the safer variant to become a doctor, but if you really feel the need to play the violin professionally, your nerves & health are great, then it's maybe the variant to become a sad doctor. 2 years is a long time to find out - if you still feel insecure then, just study both for a time.

Even if you concentrate in medicine, you will have almost all chances to realize all you want to do on your violin without studying it (chamber music, good gigs, getting tuition etc.). Coming home as a violin-playing doctor after a long day is a great perspective: there's this little issue in the Bach a-minor-fugue waiting for you, you were thinking of the whole day...

... and happy birthday!!

November 6, 2006 at 01:57 PM · My suggestion for you is to pick a college with a good music program, and GREAT(can't stres this anymore) teachers. Having a good violin teacher will help you progress a lot more technically/musically, and you'll gain confidence this way. and don't worry about not being able to play certain pieces because it's the quality of piece that counts way more. That's what being an artist is all about... Visit as many colleges as possible, and pursue your dreams. It's not too late!

November 6, 2006 at 02:12 PM · imo, if you are a decent student and willing to work hard and compassionate about helping others, medicine may be a more predictable career.

if you go into medicine, nothing really stops you from playing violin seriously except time management.

if you go into music, you may have to practice medicine without a license:)

if you check out university leveled orchestra, you will see quite a few physician players.

many 17 yos have no ideas what to do with their lives,,you have 2 choices, so consider that a good headache:)

no matter what you do, try to be true to your heart. money without meaning is boring,,,

November 6, 2006 at 02:55 PM · You make the decision to be a professional. You have to devote your life to it. You can't be a professional and be a doctor or a lawyer at the same time. I'm not saying there's anything wrong with playing and having a different profession, but in order to be a professional violinist (or violist as in my case) you have to devote your life to it.

November 6, 2006 at 03:45 PM · I agree with Amanda. I was in your shoes at the age of 16 and was torn between medicine, engineering, and music! I even applied for a double degree program that incorporates pre med and music. I didn't get in, and this was one of the best things that could have happened to me, looking back. I needed that time to be a serious student of violin and I would noit have as solid a grounding if I didn't put in all those hours before.

Also, I could have pursued a career in electrical engineering, since I was accepted into University of Michigan engineering department. I decided against it, because although I was very good at math, it wasn't my passion.

Also, I'd like to dispel the myth that one can "teach on the side". Violin teachers are (or should be) very professional people who have the future of their students in their hands. Teaching is an art, as much as it is a profession, and being a good teacher (like a good doctor) is important for personal satisfaction.


November 6, 2006 at 03:54 PM · A passion for both medicine and music can often be found in the same individual. One of my personal heroes is Alexander Borodin, physician and composer, whom I learned about after playing the first violin part to one of his symphonies several years ago in a University Orchestra:


The world has changed a lot since Borodin's time, and much for the better. But one area in which I'm not sure it has improved is in the expectations for musicians. My impression is that it is no longer really possible to pursue both music and something else at a high professional level, and I think that with those rising expectations something has been both gained and lost.

I never really considered being a professional violinist today because of lifestyle and temperament issues. I think I'm just a generalist by nature; I enjoy music but I don't want to make it my life and I don't have the single-minded focus (on *anything*) that seems to be necessary to succeed (and, more importantly, to be happy) in today's professional music business. So I didn't face this choice. I went to graduate school and got a PhD in neuroscience, and I've never regretted that.

There are more opportunties in amateur music than you might think. For example:


November 6, 2006 at 04:39 PM · You have some difficult decisions to make at this point. The first thing you should do is consult your teacher and get a sense of how s/he views your likelihood of becoming a professional (you do not say exactly what you want to do, other than not teaching full-time, so you need to make that clear). If you want to give it a shot, you would be well-advised to choose a college with good violin performance program and pre-med programs. Then, when you are about to graduate, you can revisit the issue. There is little point in foreclosing any option unless you do not have a realistic possibility of becoming a professional violinist (whatever that means to you).

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