Reality Check on a Violin Career

June 23, 2007 at 02:53 AM · Anyone contemplating a career in music, especially violin, should read Steven Staryk's book, "Fiddling With Life," as required reading. It is a well written reality check on how or how not to "make it" in the top echelons of violinists. Not to give anything away, but luck, not talent, at that level plays a big part.

Maestro Staryk also speaks about Vanessa-Mae and scantilly clad female, and male, violinists on album covers and whether they have talent or not.

Replies (20)

June 24, 2007 at 04:20 PM · Just curious if any orchestra professionals have read this book and concur about the politicts of an orchestra career and as a soloist talent not counting all that much beyond a certain level?

Staryk also says conservatories try to teach too much of being a soloists and not enough of being an orchestra player. He also contends that a soloists is not prepared to play orchestra auditions when they find out a solo career is all but impossible no matter how good you are; that an "orchestra major" (my words) in a conservatory will win out almost every time.

June 25, 2007 at 03:31 PM · Hi Ray,

I haven't read this book, but it does sound excellent. In my experience so far as a professional violinist and speaking as a freelancer, I think it's not always based purely on talent. Of course, you have to be very excellent to be professional and belong in the Union, or else I don't think it makes much sense. I have found that you have to know people because in the Union, it's very much by word of mouth. And yes, being lucky also plays a part too. And there is also the "x" factor - - you have to be well liked. It also takes time to build up the number of jobs. I think it's unfortunate that some violinists have to accentuate themselves in a scantilly-clad manner. I'm not trying to be prudish, but we are musicians, and the important thing is how well we play. I also think it's true that not all of the violinists who work a lot are the very finest players.

June 25, 2007 at 06:27 PM · He talks about his first CM job with the Royal Philharmonic at age 24. Wow! I found it fascinating and didn't know that Sir Thomas Beecham, the RPO conductor, was an amateur conductor who mase millions of dollars (pounds) from a laxative pill. Beecham used his money to "buy" an orchestra and make himself the conductor.

June 25, 2007 at 08:08 PM · Beecham was also most probably the best conversationalist since Oscar Wilde--his bon mots are widely celebrated.

June 25, 2007 at 08:05 PM · I like Beecham's conducting actually. I heard a funny story told by Vladimir Horowitz about Beecham. Apparently during this concert Horowitz did with the RPO and Beecham conducting, Beecham's suspenders snapped during the performance and he was forced to keep one hand on his pants for the remainder of the performance to prevent them from falling off.

June 25, 2007 at 09:59 PM · Now that's funny, Nate.

Beecham's jingle for his laxative pill was:

"Hark, the Hearald Angels Sing,

Beecham's Pill is Just the Thing."

Yes, sir, times have changed.

June 26, 2007 at 03:28 AM · Sir Thomas *the* Beecham whose company gave rise to today's giant SmithKline-Beecham??? (actually now it's Glaxo SmithKline, but who's counting?) geez, times HAVE changed!

Buri, are you reading this thread?? There's a real future in prunes...

June 26, 2007 at 03:40 AM · This is all true in any area of life.

June 27, 2007 at 09:56 AM · And how could it be otherwise...

June 27, 2007 at 07:21 PM · Peter, since you studied with him do you recall his warmup routine and his "daily dozen" that he also has his students learn? He mentiones them in passing in the book. I'm curious as to what they were.


June 29, 2007 at 03:28 AM · Speaking of Mr. Staryk, I highly recommend his recording of the complete Beethoven Violin Sonatas with pianist John Perry. It's on the Centaur label, and it is worth every penny of what it costs to buy (maybe the cost of one lesson). Here's a link to it at H&B.


June 29, 2007 at 02:19 PM · Peter, my computer is playing games with me, did you get my e-mail? Thanks,


June 29, 2007 at 02:57 PM · This is great:

"My advice in one word to students is 'overqualification'," Staryk affirms. "Then, hope for the best and expect the worst."

p. 191, paperback edition, ISBN 0-88962-613-8

June 30, 2007 at 04:21 AM · Every Violinists Guide Etudes-Caprices-Studies is a wonderful collection of unaccompanied works recorded by Staryk with an excellent degree of finish.

June 30, 2007 at 05:12 AM · My teacher loaned this to me yesterday. Wow. Worth every penny.

June 30, 2007 at 04:13 PM · He sounds like one in more than a million. Even as an amateur I enjoyed his book immensely. Gauging his personality from the book I think I agree with your assessment of his ego; he didn't have one. His energy appeared totally devoted to his craft and students, not himself. What more can you ask for.

July 1, 2007 at 02:22 AM · I don't have Staryk's book,. but plan to get it eventually. Who is the publisher, from whom is it generally available?

I only have one of his records - an old vinyl, and monaural to boot! It's all unaccompanied works by Pisendel (which I particularly like), Gemeniani, Hindimenth, etc. This recording alone reveals a first class artist-virtuoso, with immaculate technique, and a finely-chisled, sculpturesque, focused yet pliant tone and phrasing. Though he's his own man, I'm somewhat reminded of Grumiaux - and I mean that as a very big compliment!

July 1, 2007 at 12:08 PM · The book is available at 7 different US sellers on .

August 7, 2007 at 02:36 PM ·

August 10, 2007 at 03:41 AM · Stay tuned for my 4 part series on How to Get to Carnegie Hall? (A Music Business Perspective). I will disclose some keys to achieving success as a soloist.

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