Where were you at 16 years of age?

April 7, 2007 at 02:39 AM · The other day my sister received an acceptance letter from Vassar, her top-choice college. It was then that I realized that I only had two years left before college myself.

This led to thinking about the future. Do I want to pursue violin as a full-time job? It's too early to say for me, but what about you?

So my questions for everyone are, Where were you when you were 16 years old? Did you practice a lot? Were you already touring the country? What pieces were you working on? etc. etc.

Replies (38)

April 7, 2007 at 04:44 AM · Yes, I was already touring the country at 16. Although as a runaway, not a violinist. Unless I wanted to teach, I personally wouldn't consider trying to make a living with a violin unless I honestly and literally thought I was among the best couple of dozen in the world. Otherwise, for me, it's just too iffy, inflexible, etc., to take seriously. Speaking of players, not teachers.

April 7, 2007 at 04:55 AM · I was washing dishes at a steak house. I had no idea that I'd wind up a violin teacher!

April 7, 2007 at 05:00 AM · I was a birthday hostess at Showbiz Pizza Place, actually. I was also in two youth orchestras, taking the weekly private lessons, wearing braces, taking high school very seriously.

April 7, 2007 at 06:03 AM · At 16, I had just recently stopped playing in pursuit of boys instead. However at 14 I was in a university orchestra and also playing Teleman concertos for viola, practicing about 30 minutes a night when my parents made me do it.

Today, I'm in the engineering field spending 3 out of 5 weekday nights playing in a community orchestra, private lessons, and an ensemble. I now practice about an hour a night on my "nights off" during the week, and about a dozen over the weekend. Much more than I ever did when I was young.

April 7, 2007 at 07:38 AM · I was in Shanghai, PR China, taking private weekly lessons and practicing 4-5 hours/day with a horribly made student violin, but I didn’t care and I always had a lot of audience. I was really hoping to be a professional violinist so that I could escape the fate of being sent to the countryside by the communist government to be ‘re-educated.” All the sheet music I used (Kayser, Mazas, Kreutzer, Sevcik, all the scales, sonatas and concerti, etc) were note-by-note hand copied by myself because that was the only way most of us those days could get our hands on them. It was actually a very good way studying the music. I even hand-copied a couple of method books and a lot of violin-making articles. Since I also love drawing and painting as long as I can remember, I did some really cool copying of photos and drawings in those books, including some portraits of the great composers. (I wish I had kept at least some of them.) When you don’t have photo-copyer, no TV or much of anything else, copying books by hand wasn't as crazy as it sounds but actually can be very rewarding. Also, western music, especially those written without a descriptive titles but only with what seem to some people to be extremely abstract names such as ‘concerto no.3 in G major’ were frequently viewed as politically incorrect to be heard playing, I would use a mute all the time when practicing those pieces.

In school, I was playing violin solo the the 1st violinist in a small ‘chamber’ group consisting 2 violins, one cello, 2 Erhu, 1 Pipa, and 1 accordion. Our chamber group toured factories and villages to spread the revolutionary musical education and that was a lot of fun. And of course, there were boys we could only have platonic relationship with.

I’m sure most violinists lived through the 70s and early 80s in mainland China would tell you the similar story as this.

April 7, 2007 at 09:49 AM · I was in 10th grade. I may have been 16, but the black and white photo in the Tulsa Tribune made me look more like 12. I don't even remember why I got in the newspaper. Was it All-State Orchestra? State Solo and Ensemble? I don't know, but I do remember that I played Polish Dance for the photographer. My grandma took colored pencils to the article, rosied my cheeks and lips, and stuck it to her fridge until it turned yellow.

When I was 16, I was ready to be famous someday, one way or another. Destiny was calling. I'm twice 16 now, and I haven't yet gotten rid of the notion. Some day, some day...

April 7, 2007 at 11:38 AM · I was a Junior in HS, and I had a joint enrollment in the two best public schools in Louisville: The J. Graham Brown School for academics, and The Youth Performing Arts School for orchestra. Boy, I was so lucky!

I was working on the Lalo Symphonie Espagnole, Bach E major partita, Kruetzer and "hard" Dont etudes, and various Flesch and Sevcik scales. I think I practiced about 2-3 hours a day.

All I wanted was an orchestra job. And an end to the Cold War.

April 7, 2007 at 12:36 PM · I graduated from high school at 16. My senior year I was "associate concertmistress" (no choice about being "associate concertmaster"--this was the dark ages anyway) of the orchestra in high school and in the Greater Buffalo Youth Orchestra. I was on the swim team and they had morning practice, so at least for the fall season, I wasn't getting up and practicing violin in the morning before orchestra rehearsal. But I may have started again after swimming was over. My high school was pretty competitive and I got too caught up in college admissions frenzy. I was more focused on that than on violin. I practiced about 30-60 minutes a day, anything over an hour was a big achievement. I may have outgrown my private teacher at that point but was too busy/distracted/whatever to do anything about it.

But then I graduated, deferred my admission to Princeton, and took a year off. My father was teaching in Berlin and I went to live there for a year where I ended up studying violin more seriously than I expected to. It was a little silly--they wouldn't let me into the German-American high school because I had already graduated, even thought I was only 16. You had to be 18 to study at the Goethe Institute. I took some classes at the local German high school but my German language skills weren't that good, especially at the start.

But I did find a good violin teacher who really opened up my eyes and ears. I looked forward to my lesson each week and, for the first time, practiced every day, usually for 2-3 hours a day in morning and evening chunks. I was learning the Saent-Saens Introduction and Rondo Cappricioso and the Brahms sonata in G major.

I also played in a school orchestra where I first heard the Anton Stamitz concerto in D major for viola--and loved it. I was 17 by then . . .

I still remember violin as the best part of that year I spent in Berlin. And it was probably my best violin year as well, at least to date.

April 7, 2007 at 05:18 PM · Thanks for all the responses-I guess I should add this as part of my question: What do you do now?

April 7, 2007 at 05:39 PM · Laura, since I knew everything at sixteen, then it is only natural that now I know considerably less.

April 7, 2007 at 06:22 PM · At sixteen I was on the very edge of breaking into the Big Time and being the greatest violinist anyone had ever heard, where conductors would fight over me and major European capitals would make it a civic holiday whenever I showed up in town to give my world-beating performances of Brahms and Bartok.

Now at almost eighteen and with a new teacher, and conservatory looming on the horizon, I'm just barely scrambling out of the pit of hopeless sloppiness and mediocrity. (I look at what I thought I was when I was sixteen and all I can say is....."yeah, RIGHT". *groan.*)

April 7, 2007 at 06:32 PM · Yixi, I just read yours--I must say, WOW.

April 7, 2007 at 08:07 PM · When I was 16, I was casually playing the violin in youth orchestras and stuff, i think i had started some solo Bach and was playing some Kreutzer and stuff, and probably none of it very well. I was very focused on doing well in school because i was really expecting to go into either mathematics, sciences, or some kind of engineering instead of music.

6 years later, I'm about to graduate from a conservatory with a BM degree, and I'm going to start working on a Master's in Violin at the University of MD next year. I've also got a steady performing gig with an orchestra. Had you asked me 6 years ago, this is not at all what I thought I would be doing!

April 7, 2007 at 08:23 PM · When I was 16....I had just decided, after a 2 year period of going a little crazy (which forced me to have to switch from violin to viola), to take music seriously again. I had just gotten back from my first tour of Europe with a youth orchestra and had also just gotten into the viola section of the top tier youth orchestra in my area. I was taking weekly private lessons at the conservatory in a nearby big city, and was part of a weekly chamber music program. I was starting to do freelance string quartet with other members of my youth orchestra. (It's fun to reminisce!)

I started looking into conservatories which had affiliations with liberal arts schools to prepare for a college tour, and figuring out what I wanted to study in addition to music, and started enrolling in AP classes and summer school to get my transcript looking impressive.

My best advice to you is to figure out what your true musical or other loves are...really think on it, and do the work you need to do to point yourself in that direction. If you can't figure it out yet, think about taking some time...work hard, finish high school and don't be afraid to take a year off to explore your music and yourself.

April 8, 2007 at 12:28 AM · Hmm. I was playing Vivaldi G min, Polish Dance and just started 3 8va scales. I thought that I'd never make it in violin....and sometimes I still wonder that. :-P I'm graduating with a BA in music and plan having my own Suzuki studio a year and a half from now.

April 8, 2007 at 03:11 AM · My 16th year probably influenced what I do now more than anything! I spent my 16th birthday at Tanglewood where I was in the BUTI Quartet program working 6-8 hours a day on string quartets with Norman Fischer. I already knew I loved playing in quartets, but until that summer I didn't know it was what I HAD to do. After Tanglewood I entered the Eastman School as a student of Donald Weilerstein. I met the other violinist in my quartet the first day of college. I spent the first two months of that year playing open strings. Then I graduated to Preludium & Allegro and Sevcik Op. 8. It was a great year.

Now I play in the Cypress String Quartet. I still practice open Strings & Sevcik Op. 8. :)

April 8, 2007 at 03:21 AM · I got seriously into quartet playing when I was 16 too. :) Not at any big program, just with some friends, but we got pretty good--went to the Fischoff, anyway. Now quartet playing is my absolute favorite thing to do. :)

April 8, 2007 at 03:33 AM · in my recollection I was working on Glazunov Concerto, Sinding Suite, maybe Wieniawski Scherzo Tarentelle. The requirement of my teacher, Josef Gingold was minimum 2.5 hrs of practice per day. This meant that I did not take advanced math courses in high school, or AP classes which didn't exist back then in my public school. Violin was my life, and much to my siblings disgust, I did not have to wash dishes or do household chores since I could plead that I would rather practice the violin. If you have talent, then I think the key is to spend as much time as possible practicing. I am now professor of violin at Baylor university.

April 8, 2007 at 03:26 AM · At 16 I got my first job, playing 2nd violin in the Tucson Symphony. I had to join the Musicians Union, and was able to borrow a set of tails that had been donated to the TSO (there was a tag in the coat "Warsaw, 1932"). The first concert had Jean Casadesus as soloist. I was making the amazing amount of $27 per service... about $9 an hour. What a dream come true.

April 8, 2007 at 08:23 AM · Hello,

at the age of 16 I began to realize some things, I was taking just lessons and following masterclasses and became consertmaster of 2 youth orchestras, I also began to write and play for several professors in Belgium.

the most important is to dream if you want to become a violinist and make sacrifices for youre dream on the other hand be realistic and realise you will have to teach...I do also like this because I'm still student

good luck

April 8, 2007 at 01:17 PM · Well I AM 16 and this is what I am into. Right now in lessons I am mainly working on etudes and such. 3 ovtave scales and octave double stop scales (where the notes are played in octaves for 2 octaves, I guess that doesn't make too much sense lol). I was recently named Concertmaster of my schools pit orchestra and played 3 performances as such. I am a first violinist in the Finger Lakes Symphony Orchestra And also volunteer and do some solo work at the VA.

So far this year (well since last April) I have been in about 60 performances...

And I thought I was behind lol.

April 8, 2007 at 05:31 PM · At 16 I was a junior in high school, playing electric guitar and bass in rock and country bands. I was still 20 years away from picking up the violin. I eventually got a bachelors in theory, masters in guitar. I started fiddling when I quit a touring band and found myself home alone with no students, no gigs, but lots of time on my hands. In over 15 years I've had 3 or 4 years of good classical violin/viola instruction. Now I teach guitar, bass, mandolin and fiddle. I play classical violin, viola and guitar at weddings and the odd chamber concert. I wish I'd started violin a lot sooner.

Emily, did you know Liza Landers in Tulsa?

April 9, 2007 at 03:49 AM · Mike, the name doesn't ring a bell at the moment.

April 9, 2007 at 11:22 AM · Interesting reading all the responses!

15-16 was when things really started moving and changing for me. It was the year my parents split up, which meant that I spent as much time out of the house as possible - at our local music school practicing! I skipped grade 10 and spread my last two years of high school over three, so I had more time to concentrate on what I was interested in, and to take more interesting courses. At 16, I did my first full-length recital (and was so nervous I forgot my solo Bach and had to go get the music!) and went to my first proper summer courses. I also discovered string quartets that year, started gigging, began playing in the university orchestra, and became a principal player in our youth orchestra.

And what am I doing now? Auditions, auditions and more auditions! I've got two degrees, have moved to Germany and currently sub with a couple of radio orchestras. Still looking for that quartet...

April 9, 2007 at 10:00 PM · I'm also 16 at the moment (and a sophomore), and i really have no idea what i want to do in college. probably not violin, but you never know. i just aim for an hour and a half of practice five days a week. i'm also trying to get ready for solo and ensemble and youth symphony auditions. i work on some three octave scales, and lots of intonation.

April 10, 2007 at 06:23 PM · When I was 16...

I had only been playing the violin for a little over 4 years. I was 4th chair 1st violin in my school orchestra. I was the violist in a youth quartet (the only one brave enough to play viola). We played at parties and weddings. I worked as a cashier at Burlington Coat Factory. I had just gotten a nice violin, a copy of a 1813 Johann Baptiste Schweitzer that was made in the mid 1800's. I had no intentions on playing the violin professionally and was going to college to be a dermatologist. I was playing mild stuff for solos, like Accolay and Summer and Winter from the Four Seasons. If someone had told me then in 1999 that 8 years later I would be consummed by the violin completely and teaching 30+ private students along with weddings and such, I would have told them that they were crazy. Just goes to show that you life or plans can change dramatically almost overnight.

Emily, don't worry, one day you will be famous. I will too...

April 10, 2007 at 07:00 PM · Thankfully, I am too old to remember.

April 10, 2007 at 10:01 PM · Hope, you certainly live up to your namesake! :) (I always thought I was aptly named, as well.)

Laura, if you want to know what we're up to now, you can check our bios. You can also dig into my blog archives, if you have some idle time. i'm a teacher and I play in a symphony.

April 10, 2007 at 10:41 PM · I was playing violin a lot and taking flying lessons. Started that at 14. When I graduated from High School and went to college, partially paid for by playing in the Tulsa Philharmonic, my Father, a Symphony Conductor and Concert Organist asked me whether I was going to fly or play violin for a living? When I said I love playing, but I'm going to fly, he looked very relieved and said, "thank God." LOL.

April 11, 2007 at 04:09 PM · Entered a very competitive studio and atmosphere, soloed with orchestra for the 2nd time, decided *not* to skip senior year of high school to go to conservatory early (chose to graduate and go to a "proper university" instead... my high school, an intense all-girls college prep school, majorly whetted my academic apetite), went to ENCORE and performed in the chapel for the first time, concertmaster of 3 youth orchestras in LA, parents mandated that I cut back (which I did the following year).

In hindsight, I probably would have had an easier time of practicing and pursuing music had I gone to conservatory a year early... but had I done that, I would probably have had a major "grass-is-greener" syndrome, missing out on all the wonders a university affords -- cool classes and an interesting, diverse peer group (which allowed me to meet my husband and make a few dear lifelong friends outside of music... priceless!). I ended up spending my junior year at the Paris Conservatory so I could practice more and see how I took to the conservatory environment, so I could make an informed choice for graduate school. Life has tons of paths... choose wisely but regret nothing! :)

April 11, 2007 at 06:08 PM · You invited responses from casual violinists, so here you are...

I was not playing violin at 16 (didn't start until age 25ish when I discovered Turkish music, another story) but was preparing to go to university to study my obsession at that time - physics - while in my spare time I took every job available to fund my music collection. That meant waitressing, washing dishes, being a receptionist and chambermaid, but I hit the jackpot when I got a factory job - overtime! My childhood dream of becoming an astronaut was fulfilled in a sense, because I went on to use my degree to build satellite instruments, and as that clean room wasn't 100% efficient some of my DNA did get into space.

Although I am more than two decades older than them, I am probably about the same level of your average 16 year old who has stuck with the violin (assuming they are at pre-recital level). Last year I entered a competition playing against two teenagers - one in a ballgown, the other dressed as a punk, while I was in my straight-from-work smart/casual technical project manager outfit. I came third out of three, but they gave me a badge for being a grown up (really!), and I was actually pleased with my mark.

Playing the vioin is my recreation, not my job, and I wouldn't even consider joining an orchestra that had late evening rehearsals, and didn't provide tea and cakes during the half time break.

April 11, 2007 at 08:48 PM · Wow, you entered a competition? I'm impressed! Good for you, you're brave!

April 12, 2007 at 12:07 PM · No, not brave, just masochistic. Anyway these daft ventures do put other so-called stressful tasks into perspective.

April 13, 2007 at 07:12 AM · Well when I was 16 I had been playing violin for 1 year and 3 months and I beleive I was playing bach concerto No. 1 in A minor (not very well mind you) Now I am 18 and advanced enough to get accepted into Indaina University. DON'T EVER LET SOMEONE TELL YOU YOU HAVE TO START WHEN YOU ARE A CHILD. If you want it you can do it. I truly believe that now.

April 13, 2007 at 11:51 AM · Hi. I think at 16 my interest in violin was fading (ugh how I regret that...) I think I was in the middle of Bruch (I started playing ~ age 6), and I dunno, I guess high school made me ease up on the practicing. Yeah, at that point I was pretty sure I didn't want to go to a conservatory and was focusing on college admissions and such... I really regret stopping, and I eventually picked it up again at two years later, but man did I skills decline. Right now I'm a sophomore at Columbia (was thinkign about Columbia-Julliard which was why I applied in the first place, but i think I want to go wall street route now instead heheh and I'm nowhere near good enough to get into julliard anymore lol =D), and I still practice when I have the time (maybe a couple times a week), but how I wish I hadn't stopped those years! Yesterday night I had the pleasure to see Lisa Batiashvili perform shosty violin concerto with the NYP ($80 tickets -> 12 for students hellz yea!) and was thinking if i had studied hardcore until now (I'm almost 20), I might be able to learn the Shostakovich concerto. As the rate i'm going at, I don't think I'll attempt it for a while.

Yeah so long story short, I think ~16 is when high school/college things get intense, but just remember to keep practicing because you might regret it in a couple of years!

April 13, 2007 at 04:53 PM · Forgot to mention; when I was 16 I was also playing quartets at a Physisist house in Stamford, Ct., Dr. Ludwig Pollak, a few times a week. Never took my violin there. Why? This guy, then in his 80's, had a closet literally full of old Italian violins and violas. Reach in for a case and you might get an Amati, a 1600's Strad, a family Guarneri, and so on. All authenticated my Moenig. My two favoriteswere theAmita,such a beautifulsofter sweet sound, and a violin that William Moennig said was "made in Stradiveri's shop." So who made it? Their best guess was a little bit of everyone in that shop had a hand in it. I appreciate what I played on a lot more now than then. Oh, to be 16 again......

April 13, 2007 at 06:34 PM · 16? I was a junior in high school, and I think I cared more about boys than anything else! But I had been playing violin since I was 9, and had a wonderful teacher (who still influences me to this day) who showed me how to really love the violin. I hadn't decided to major in it yet, but I really loved playing (the MOST important part of making it your livelihood).

Most of my friends played an instrument also... so I think that helped foster everything. I was in my local youth orchestra, went to All-State every year... Yes, I guess you could say I was deeply involved!!

Now, I'm 31. I have a dual degree in Music Ed. and Performance. I used to teach in the public schools, I now teach privately and gig what seems like constantly!

Just remember, you have to really love it, or you'll end up HATING it! Good luck!

April 15, 2007 at 05:30 AM · at 16, my violin teacher (who had motivated me to actually start practicing) dropped her entire studio. i stopped practicing for about 3 months, and then went to my first serious music festival for solo stuff. i could never find a place to practice, so i'd play pool all day. i also didn't want anyone to hear me play- the first masterclass that i heard there was with two juilliard girls who played bartok 2nd concerto and brahms concerto (flawlessly), and i actually had nothing i was working on.

i met mr.fenyves at that festival- and he totally changed my approach to music. and then, for some reason unknown to me, he invited me to join his studio. i spent the rest of my 16th year working diligently on trills, octaves, and martele.

today, i'm in the cecilia string quartet, and on tour right now on the jeunesses musicales desjardins series. i'll also be doing my first international competition with the quartet this july.

16's a great age to start thinking about music as a career choice. if you start working really hard at 16 (and keep working hard), there really is no limit on how good you can be by the time you finish your undergrad.

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