Playing for Cirque du Soleil?

May 9, 2009 at 04:25 PM ·

I was just offered a position playing with Cirque du Soleil, touring for 2 years, being paid $50-80,000 a year. I am 17 years old and want to become a professional classical musician in chamber music (if possible). I know that running off to join the circus isn't in my interest to acheive that goal (or even get through conservatory training during the regular time), but it also would be an incredible life experience. Helpfrom professional musicians with making this decision would be greatly appreciated!!

Replies (69)

May 9, 2009 at 05:10 PM ·

Do it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!Why wouldn't you, young and make a lot of money, duhhhhh!!!!

I would do anything for an opportunity like that, school is good but this is a once in a lifetime chance, and I don't think your safety and security will be an issue because this is a big gig.  Hey, do they need a backup??

May 9, 2009 at 05:41 PM ·

Hi, this is great!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I don't want to comment on what to do since I'm not a professional. But if you know where you are going to tour, could you make plans with conservatories there to still take lessons and thus continu to aim for your goal when these two years will be over?  (just an idea)

Good luck in whatever you choose! 


May 9, 2009 at 05:54 PM ·

Sarah- I seriously doubt that you will have a second chance!  Congrads! Man am I jealous! But so happy for you!  And can you imagine the violins you'll get to play and own!!!!!?????!!!!!

May 9, 2009 at 06:38 PM ·

 It really depends on what you think is best for you at this point. That's not much advice, but think about whether you would be happy spending a couple of years playing professionally before going back to be a student (assuming you are going to be doing a university or conservatory degree). Personally, I would absolutely JUMP at the chance to be a professional performer before going to school. The experience of being a performing musician will really give you a proverbial leg up on your peers.

Not to mention the financial benefits! If you're smart with your money, you can save up enough money to pay for your education in a couple of years, and buy a really fine instrument. And you can always start a degree at 19 or 20 (or later) anyway. That is, if you're not being continually offered work after this gig. Really, you can start a degree at any time/age if you want to.

Also, if you don't take the job, give them my email.... just (sort of) kidding.

May 9, 2009 at 07:06 PM ·

good for the résumé...good for the "chops"...good for the pocket book....good for the soul...GOOD FOR YOU!!!

May 9, 2009 at 07:29 PM ·

Do it - BUT...

...if you believe your longer term goal is in chamber music, make sure you at least maintain a listening regime, a mental practice regime, even if you can't maintain a physical practice regime on the road.


It is one of the Great Gigs, playing with Cirque du Soleil. You will learn more about being a performer there than you would in thirty years at a conservertory.

And the money's good.

do it!


May 9, 2009 at 07:38 PM ·

It's hard to give you definite advice without knowing you, your playing, and the particulars of what your commitments would be in the next year or 2, but if one of my students had this dilemma my initial reaction would lean towards the other comments. So long as the fundamentals of your playing is in healthy condition and in line with your ambitions. This seems like a unique opportunity (the professional context, with the responsabilities, the human experience, the travelling, etc, involved - and you list musical theatre as an interest) at a time when you are perhaps free from other commitments, will still be at a good age to embark on your conservatory studies once you've done, + the financial aspect and how it can help you in many ways later. This is the kind of earning most aspiring 17-year-old aspiring musician can only dream about. I suspect you're mature and would put it to good use and there'll be something left for chocolate.

Best, Nathaniel

May 9, 2009 at 09:27 PM ·

Sarah, I say go for it, but beware the seductive nature of the party atmosphere that can develope in touring situations. It can lure you away from your purpose and goals. I too say put together a listening list and even a list of chamber music to learn on your own for the next 2 years. Perhaps you can interest some of the other musicians in forming a small rehearsal group on the side-just for fun.

Having said that, what a great way to see places and meet people. Have fun, but stay focused.

May 9, 2009 at 09:28 PM ·

P.S.   Save all the money you can!

May 9, 2009 at 09:56 PM ·

What David Said!!!!!!! BIG TIME!!!!!  Wise spending and saving and watch out with the parties, etc.! And never say, "Oh, it'll never happen too me."

May 9, 2009 at 11:24 PM ·

A tantalizing offer indeed.

I would ask the opinion of your teachers or experienced performers who know you and your playing. It may be great for your career or not, depending on what you can do in the same time being out of the circus.

I had some gifted trainees. Sometimes they commented with me about some oportunities that were offered to them. Sometimes I said go!!! Sometimes I said: "I'm training you to be a "cordon bleu" cook and you want to work on a Mac Donald's restaurant... ..." 

But I'm a conservative guy....

Good luck!


May 9, 2009 at 11:33 PM ·

The experiences you will have will add a new dimension to you personally and musically, and will serve you for the rest of your life. Go for it !!

May 10, 2009 at 12:07 AM ·

Cirque du Soleil is not McDonald's. It is a cutting edge cabaret/circus that prides itself on having the very best of each type of performer. If CduS want you - that already says how good you are.

It is a great opportunity. Thousands of people will see/hear you. This a stepping stone to other fields of work. Maybe not that chamber thing you want now, but the world will open to you in a different way, You might find a different path opening itself to you.

again - I wish you the best of luck - take advantage where you can


May 10, 2009 at 12:48 AM ·

Menuhin was shiped in Europe to play for US soldiers. He said he loved it but commented on the fact that he played gigs but could not practice.  I guess he didn't loose too much....  So you can surely do it and if you can find a good teacher wherever you go and...a place to practice, then it's heaven!  IMOH but as I said this is only thoughs and not advice since I can't give advice at my level:)

Good luck!!!  It seems so great!


May 10, 2009 at 01:23 AM ·

I think you have been given poor advise.  Apparently you are very talented and considering your age it would be a shame to forgo college for a circus gig.  These are your formative years as a musician and it sounds you might have the ability to realized your dreams.  If you skip college you will have given up the oportunity to grow intelectually, musically, and socially.  The world you would be going into isn't the best environment for a teenager or young adult and it really won't allow you to develop properly as a musician or a person.  A college experience is invaluable.  After four years of intense studies you will be much better prepared and have more choices and career opportunities.  There will be many more incredible life experiences waiting for you in four years. 

May 10, 2009 at 01:40 AM ·

Sarah, I am sure you are unusually mature for your age, but I am curious what kind of organization would offer a minor a 2-year touring contract as a staff musician. Also, there is a big difference between $50K and $80K-- which is it? What do your parents say? $80 is enough to fund almost two years at Juilliard, but after two years away from teachers and studies, I wonder what shape you will be in to audition for conservatories. Have you discussed the idea with your teacher?  This is an offer that would sound very tempting if you were 22, but at 17 it sounds problematic.

May 10, 2009 at 01:54 AM ·




May 10, 2009 at 03:20 AM ·

Michael, Cirque du Soleil is hardly a "circus gig". I'm impressed and frankly quite surprised that they use a live orchestra in this "canned music" day and age

May 10, 2009 at 03:26 AM ·

Sam, what is it then?  Sarah seems interested in classical music, not show music and sound effects.  Admittedly Cirque du Solier is arguably the best circus, but it is a circus. She wasn't offered a starring role but a job in the pit, or whatever they call it in the circus.

May 10, 2009 at 03:32 AM ·

I have a friend who toured with a show for a couple of years. he said that it is a very depressing life. The show got old fast. Everyone was very professional but they phoned in their work. I am sure that he would say that a touring show is no place for an 18 year old. 

This is your time to go to school and get the education and training you want. Travelling shows are put together all the time. If you're good enough to do it now you'll be good enough to do it later. Also consider why the money is so good. There are a lot of talented musicians who don't make anything like what you're being promised. Why don't they do it? Perhaps all that glitters is not gold.

May 10, 2009 at 03:33 AM ·

May 10, 2009 at 05:44 AM ·

Sarah, it seems that a lot of advice being given to you is in a "all or nothing" vein.

I would encourage you to explore ways you could play the gig, AND not forgo your entire education in the meantime. The advances that have been made in educational technology today make it very possible for you to study a variety of subjects that interest you. Heck, just take one class to begin with! Furthermore, if you can find say, a school with an online program that can give you transferable credits for the classes that you take during your time off from the show, at some point when you decide that you're done playing for Cirque, you can continue on from there. It's not like you can't try the gig for awhile and if you hate it, resign and go do something else. As long as you've made sure that you've set up additional options, you won't be "stuck."

What it will take is an incredible amount of motivation and discipline in order to maintain a regular practice schedule, keep up with things in life (like studying) that are *not* a part of your work, and as others have mentioned before, avoid partying 24/7.

Whatever you decide to do, make sure you have a planned entry, a planned way of getting out, and don't abandon your education entirely for the sake of money. The right education can help you get your life on a path for success for many years, not just a few....


May 10, 2009 at 06:24 AM ·


I play with 1s and 0s for a living, and play violin for myself and my grandkids. Based on my profession, I can understand why the advice is all (1) or nothing (0).

However, I also believe that you should first clearly identify what you call success. I believe that success has nothing to do with money, money is only secondary, and it usually comes after you become a success. It can also impede your success by becoming the trail you follow instead of the trail to success.

My definition of success is to find what you enjoy doing, and then find a way to get paid for it. Not get top dollar, but get paid enough so you are not depending on the benevolence of others while you pursue your dream.

So, money aside, what would you get from playing CdS? Travel, experience, time away from any support group you have, the opportunity to see new places (from train windows and hotel rooms, much of the time), the chance to work in a different atmosphere than you have experience so far in your life, etc.

You may love the challenge, or it may disillusion you. You know what kind of person you are more than anyone else. However, remember that if you make such a commitment, it will be a major event in your life, and in years to come, you will still talk about it to your grandchildren. You will not care about the money then, but you will remember the experiences. What will that memory consist of?

May 10, 2009 at 11:40 AM ·

Hi Sarah,

This is indeed a superd offer.  If I may offer advice as a teacher and performer (as if you were one of my students...) -

- First off, you are quite young, so delaying the start of your college years for a couple of years, is not necessarily a bad thing.  

- The second advantage is that in these economic times, scholarships, especially to major U.S. institutions are down, way down, so having money saved up for college, and avoiding student loans which are hard to pay off is a major plus.  The salary offered seems excellent!

- Another advantage is getting to play in front of large audiences a great number of times at a young age.  There is no substitute for stage experience, and being in a position to acquire it at a young age is a major advantage.

The only downside may be practice time which would be worth checking into.  With many touring contracts, there is often quite a bit less time for individual practice - because of travel, rehearsals and performances - than might be ideal for someone your age.  So, I would investigate to make sure that you can acheive a proper balance.

If your goal is to be a chamber musician, then I don't see how that would set you back, as becoming an excellent violinist and musician and forming a high-level partnership with others are the long-term goals in this type of career, and may be something you achieve late in your college career or after.

That said, I agree that offers like this don't come along too often and usually it is good not to pass them up as they never come along twice.

My own two cents...

Cheers and Best of Luck!

May 10, 2009 at 11:47 AM ·

A fine  - but older - musician from Ukraine's best orchestra played 6 months on a quartet in a cruise ship around the world. His goal was to save money to comission a viola from me. He would never save the money with his salary in Ukraine (500 bucks/month, or less) so he had to play in the ship.

He  kept studying in the ship all the time and saved all the money. I made him the viola and now he is back to his orchestra and thinking about continuing his viola studies in Belgium or make an audition to another orchestra.  He had a plan and this plan was linked with his musical career.

May 10, 2009 at 11:52 AM ·


This is a big decision for someone of your age. Before you make it, you should listen closely to the advice and counsel of older people whose opinions you value. If you decide to take the position, be sure everything is in writing so there are no surprises later. Got any lawyers in your family? Show the contract to a professional with a lot of experience in this field. You might find that the salary isn't as good as it appears if you have to bear any expenses yourself. You'll need other eyes to look at this.

Now, should you take the position, you will come back a much different person than you were when you left. If you enter college or university as a 20 or 21-year-old freshman, you will find a great deal of difference between yourself and your classmates. They'll seem very young and immature to you, and you may experience a feeling of isolation. I know how this is since I entered music school as a 21-year-old freshman myself.

You will have one enormous advantage, however. You'll have seen the world and you'll know what life is like "out there."  You'll also be a much better vessel into which your teachers can pour their knowledge. Knowing what was out there kept me entirely focused all the way through school. As I look back on it now, I wouldn't want to go to college right out of high school. Many students finish their undergraduate work and then take a few yearsoff before going to grad school. I went straight through, so at the end I received my master's degree at about the same age as the others. This could be a viable option for you if it fits with your long-term plans. You do have a long-term plan, don't you? :-)

This is a big decision for someone your age.

May 10, 2009 at 01:02 PM ·

Not that my advice should matter, but I would definitely say go for it! Like others have said, you could save up enough money to get you through school (even through four years, depending on other things) and buy you a very nice violin. You'll be set!

May 10, 2009 at 01:17 PM ·

I would take this offer.

If not for the money, for the very chance of networking. Network as much as possible and things will be coming back to you :)

May 10, 2009 at 02:12 PM ·

Hi Sarah,

you have received a great and very tempting offer and you have started quite a discussion on in a very short time.

Without knowing you and knowing how you play, it is really impossible to give you an answer of what is right.

My gut feeling though is that you should think about it well. What do your parents say, are they in the music business? What does your teacher say? How much time have you got to decide?

If I was you I would try and play to some very good and experienced teachers before you make any decision and see what they say. Maybe you will be given a scholarship to study at a University at your choice, who knows? I think it really depends all on your circumstances. It might be the right decision to take the job and it might not, but I am sure you will find out very soon for yourself what is the right thing to do. In the end you have to got to listen to yourself. But I think it is great you have posted this question to get other people's responses.

Good luck and let us know what you are going to do,

best regards, Hans

May 10, 2009 at 02:21 PM ·

First of all, is there an excellent teacher where you are going to tour?  If the response is no, maybe those who say it's not a good thing think their isn't one.  I think no one really knows all the details and this, (I think) seems like a really important one?  Also free time to practice... Do they allow people like you to have ennough free time to practice.  Only the circus managers and your violin teacher(s) can answer to these. Again, this is just thoughts. (interrogations)


May 10, 2009 at 04:45 PM ·

What an opportunity. As mentioned earlier have the contract checked over by a contract lawyer. Many top notch musicians are so into music making they forget that it is first and foremost a business. If the contract checks out then what an opportunity you have in front of you. Doing several shows a day in front of large audiences is worth its weight in gold. Stage fright, what's that? You won't have any after those two years. You will have the chance for some major networking. Being from the Cirque is an automatic entrance into places and people you would normally not have access to. You're young, two years is nothing. You'll go in as a frightened teenager, you'll come out a mature veteran with the world before you if you choose. Good luck and keep us informed. If you take this superb gig keep us up to date.

p.s. The Cirque is not so much a circus but a circus type musical. Ringling Brothers Circus and the Cirque are as different as Andrew Lloyd Weber's shows and broadway plays.

May 10, 2009 at 05:54 PM ·

First of all:  congratulations on the great offer!

I haven't read every word of every post, but I agree with David Allen:  do it, but be careful.  But DO IT.

The main reason I say "do it" is because it will give you a glimpse of what life is like for a professional musician.  Not in the sense of playing the same show over & over again, although some of us do that, but in the sense of having to play your best every day, regardless of whether you feel like it / got enough sleep / feel like it's important in the grand scheme of things / whatever.

A large number of people get through the educational process and even win a job, and are then disappointed & disillusioned by how much it can be like a "regular" job.  We all think how wonderful it would be to play Scheherazade one week, Beethoven #5 the next week, and Petrushka the week after that; but when Beethoven #5 comes up and you are still tired & sore from Scheherazade (and teaching and doing whatever else you have to do to live your life, let alone make ends meet), and you have to play it anyway... meanwhile practicing Petrushka because it's hard... meanwhile trying to eat healthy & not get fat even though there's no time for exercise... you get the idea.

This is part of the reality of being a musician:  how do you keep the magic alive after it has become a JOB?  In my opinion it's an extremely valuable piece of  "growing up" as a musician, and you're very lucky to have a chance to experience it early in your career.

Plus if you have the discipline, you can spend this time practicing and saving money, and take lessons from people in every city you stop in.  (Symphony websites are valuable that way)

Just my free advice, and worth what you paid for it... :-)

Best of luck, and let us know what you decide!

May 10, 2009 at 06:28 PM ·

Don't do it if:

1. You think you might not be able to handle the two years on the road from an emotional perspective

   - 1a: touring with any size group of people is a lot like high school. There's infighting, partnerships are formed and destroyed constantly, dramas are inflated way beyond their true worth, etc etc. There's always someone who likes ruining others' reputations and always someone willing to get you in trouble, on purpose or otherwise. And, sad to say, being as young as you are, you also run the risk of colleagues being rather jealous of you. This is all fine if you take the good with the bad, and can let things wash off your back and be mature about your own choices of behaviour.

  - 1b: no matter what you might think, you will miss your family and friends more than you can imagine, and eventually even stupid, banal things that you don't even like right now! 

 - 1c: you will probably hate the music after repeating it more than 25 times. After the 50th time, you may find yourself thinking about the laundry during it. This can be very demoralising. But at least it won't be Beethoven quartets you're wearing out in your heart. Can you handle that?

So far, you could say much the same about music college. But anyway.

Don't do it if:

2: You don't really need the money.

 - 2b: I don't think anyone, even the naysayers above, would argue that the money wouldn't be very nice indeed. However, we don't know anything about your background, maybe you come from a well-off family and don't need any help with college money or any of those things.

 - 2c: the money will be of no benefit to you unless you are extremely sensible and frugal and save it. Do you think you're able to do so? Because if not, then there is not much benefit to spending two years of your life working yourself to the bone!

The age you are at right now is a fairly crucial point in the development of a musician. It's the point at which many absurdly talented people give up because the growing awareness of the true weight of the work ahead of them feels like too much, along with the obvious difficulties of growing into an adult. You've got to be very careful with yourself at this age. At the same time, you're likely to still be very idealistic and principled in ways that tend to soften a bit with growing up which could work in your favour in maintaining discipline while on the road.

It's been said above and I don't need to reiterate it really, but it is crucial that if you do it, you maintain a good practice regime. You will quickly work out how to make efficient use of your time, which is not a bad thing! Henryk Szeryng maintained his stunning technique during college with one hour's practice a day. Between blasting out a show every day and not actually being Szeryng, you might need a little more - but it's definitely achievable.

Only you can know the answer - if it feels wrong in your gut, leave it alone. However, it could be an incredible, character-building, eye-opening experience after which you would a) be better equipped than most to handle the vagaries of music college and b) still be plenty young enough to go through the usual third-level educational system.

Life is a long, many-flavoured journey and it is ALWAYS worth questioning and looking beyond the strictures and structures which are taken for granted in the societies we are born in.

I think it would benefit most of us classical musicians to see the vast world beyond our own, and see that not every non-classical show or project is aimed at the lowest common denominator.

May 11, 2009 at 06:06 AM ·

Hi and congratulations. These folks deliver an amazing show however as a business person I would find out about the following and get it in your contract if it is not called out. Details are everything on something like this.

First, what is the health care situation and what happens if you get sick. I traveled internationally for years and even though I stayed at great places it does wear one down. Airplane air seems to foster illness so find out what they do about that and what is included in the health plan including what happens about sick days.

Next, I would find out about what class of hotel you will be staying in and how your instrument will be insured. I don't want to be paranoid, but safety is a big issue in your case. If you were my daughter I would be very concerned about it and also about theft. I hired a lot of consultants in my many years and we always made sure they were in groups and never had the new hires off wandering in some town alone and checking in at 2:00am. Checking in late in some strange place is a recipe for trouble for a woman traveling alone. Some bad things can happen and things can disappear, like passports etc. and it can get pretty rough with no cash in a strange place. As a transient, no one will know if anything happens to you so someone needs to know where you are all the time. Find out if they have a check in system or buddy system of some kind for your safety. It is a big show and I am sure they have thought of this type of thing if they are hiring 17 year olds. Also, cheep hotels don't have a safe at the desk to lock up your valueables so find out if they insure your belongings. Many a talent has been wasted by getting wasted too often. It tends to go with working late nights. Find out what days off you get and where, how often you will get them. They have to have a schedule set up if they are hiring. Find out what meals, gas, etc. and other items are expensed and what is out of pocket. Also, if it is international, how will taxes be handled. This could be huge and really hit your bottom line. If it looks good, go to a good CPA in advance to get some get advice. If you are in a cheezy hotel and have to eat out all the time, it can really add up. The 50K will dissappear if you need to eat out for every meal.

Lastly, find out what happens if you don't like it or they don't like you. Do they hold back a % of your pay until the tour is finished. Things like that. Things at any job can not work out for a good reason, a bad reason, or no reason. So be aware of what the exit scenarios are and the risk to your cash. You seem talented so what if a better gig came along after 6 months? It does happen. What would you do? See if you can get a year with a renewal after 1 year. Then if they offer you less than 80 say OK, but if I finish the tour I want the balance...80K. They might do it because turnover kills an operation like this. Also, if disputes are handled in court outside of the US, (I think they are out of Canada) then you are pretty sunk as far as recourse if things go south. Make sure the contract is reall good so you never end up in that spot. So there is my 2 cents. Good luck and go big!

May 11, 2009 at 01:31 PM ·

How easily we are influenced by money.  Sure, the pay is good for a musician, but after 1 month living in hotel rooms and eating out, I'd be ready to go home.  Sarah has not shared her financial situation.  Maybe her parents are doing well and have the resources to pay for her college education.  On the face of it, it sounds like an incredible opportunity, full of glamour and excitement, but if you really consider the lifestyle and the sacrifice, to me it's not an obvious decision.

May 11, 2009 at 03:05 PM ·

Sarah...I would strongly encourage you to think long and hard about this job offer.  It is very flattering indeed, but you will be spending two years of your life living in motel rooms, eating crappy food and not receiving the type of musical instruction and nourishment that someone of your obvious talent needs.  I also feel that this is not a situation suitable for a young woman.  Yes, it sounds like a great deal of fun, and a nice pay check to boot...but at what cost to you personally?  

Your time at college will be some of the best years of your life.   I would hate to see you put college off for an opportunity such as this.  Other job offers will come.  If Cd'S is impressed with your talents now, certainly they would consider hiring you in another four years if you still want to tour with them.  But I think you may change your mind about such an opportunity once you have time to really consider what such a lifestyle would be like.  They may be a 'professional' circus with extremely talented gymnasts...but it is still a traveling circus underneath all the glitz and spectacular tricks.  There is alot of pressure for every performance to be breath-takingly perfect so audiences keep coming back.  A business such as that is always full of opportunists.  You may be getting into a situation that hurts your development more than it helps it.

Also, Cirqu de Soleil performers can be fired at any point in the tour if the show manager feels they are not performing to the best of their abilities.  I would check the contract to see if the same applies to the musicians.  You wouldn't want to be sent packing if you get a cold or flu and can't perform.  Contracts are always in the best interest of the business.  If you are seriously considering this job, pay a skilled attorney to read and explain the contract to you so you know exactly what you are entering into.

May 11, 2009 at 05:47 PM ·

What a great opportunity!  Go for it.  Two years isn't very long in the grand scheme of things, even if you end up not liking'll be done in a relatively short period of time.

University can wait.  You'll only be 19/20 when you start - that's hardly wasting away the years...many people have worked 1 or 2 years before going back to school and getting a degree.

What you don't want to have is regrets when you get older...and if you skip this opportunity you may well have those regrets down the road.





May 11, 2009 at 06:07 PM ·

Tess, your post has good points but about the "college years are the best of your life" sentence, are you saying this for this young ladie in particular (then it could apply since we don't know her) or for everyone in general?  If it is for anyone in general, I could find you full of people for who it is not true!  But let's mostly talk about the primary topic on this thread because the college think could be a big debate in itself... and so subjective. lol



May 11, 2009 at 06:16 PM ·

 After two years you'll probably have more experience working professionally than some of the teachers who have their cushy teaching jobs and go around telling people not to take work outside of the classical field! I've come across this at college - the worst, most narrow-minded career advice comes from the music schools and conservatoires or at least it used to.

May 11, 2009 at 07:03 PM ·

When we are older, we tend to regret the things we didn't do, rather than those things we did.


May 11, 2009 at 07:49 PM ·

Szigeti played in the circus and he turned out ok.  Go for it! 

May 11, 2009 at 09:11 PM ·

Where's Sarah... Hope we didnt scare Sarah away...

May 12, 2009 at 12:15 AM ·

Hi! I'm here! :)

I apologize for not responding; I actually just finished a series of concerts last night and haven't had a chance to get on the computer at all. I really really appreciate all of your comments/suggestions/support! Thank you!

I'm actually trying to keep the money seperate from my decision - it's not that I'm that well off, but I don't want to make any major life decisions like this because of salary.

I'm still thinking it over, although the length of time being away from family/friends and the possible situation of not improving technically/musically with a consistent teacher is making me shy away from accepting (at least for at this point in my life).

Also, I have a chance to record on a respectible label this coming year, and study from an amazing teacher. My family, boyfriend, and friends are also extremely important to me, and since this coming year will be my senior year I'm loathe to give that up for touring on the road. That being said, this really IS an incredible experience and a one-of-a-kind thing...

As you can see I still haven't made up my mind completely, but I'm starting to lean toward not doing it - at least right now in my life. Like some of you said, I could probably do it later when I'm done with school and more informed.

Anyway, thank you again for all of this help!!! I've just joined this site and the huge response from all these kind people has made me feel like I have a whole string family online! Thank you. :)

May 12, 2009 at 01:34 AM ·

Good response Sarah.  You've got a good head on your shoulders.

May 12, 2009 at 03:40 AM ·

Sarah I'm curious, how did this offer happen to come your way?  Did you audition for the job or how did they find you?

May 12, 2009 at 03:50 AM ·

Oh violinists do have lives I forgot!

Maybe you'll find a much more convenient option :)

May 12, 2009 at 12:37 PM ·

I would like you to read the blog by Laurie about Anastasia Khitruk as a life in music before deciding.  For an acrobat, of course, accept.  For a musician who wishes a career in chamber music, I am not so sure. 

May 12, 2009 at 03:58 PM ·

Tess, I have a man who acts as my manager finding opportunities for me. Also, more importantly in this instance, he is a scout for Cirque du Soleil. Apparently you can't go just and audition for them, they have to be told about you first and then they invite you to send your material to them to look over. This wouldn't have happened if he wasn't connected to them...

May 12, 2009 at 04:30 PM ·

Aha! Now the plot thickens!

You have a man that acts as your manager that helped get this opportunity. You also have an opportunity to record, and I assume that was arranged by the same person.

What is the advice of the manager? Did he have to pull any strings to get this opportunity, or does he have any risk on the line that depends on your decision? What will your relationship be with him ongoing (professionally; I don't care about any other) if you decide yes or no? Is there a risk that he could change the quality of offers he locates, or the effort he puts in, if you turn this down?

Many of those answers should not be primary, but you may wish to think the complexities of the decision through by isolating all the questions you have by category, then answering each question one at a time, with nothing else involved.

When I have a 'really big issue' to think about, I have a process that helps me keep multiple levels of thought from getting tangled.
I make categories from 1 to 3,  or 1 to 5, then categorize each question, benefit, or risk in those brackets. Then I answer each one, or write my feelings on the benefit/risk.

Then, I almost always find there is a leaning in each category, and they usually do not agree (category 3 says no, category 4 says yes, etc.).

Then, I do NOT try and do a simple addition, but then think of the overall issue; when I think of an issue, if I glance at the category, I usually have related things right there with it so I can consider both the detail and the big picture all at once.

So, this is not an answer, but a way of looking at a complex thing. This works for me, but you may have some other process that works for you.


May 12, 2009 at 04:50 PM ·

I am going to say that 2 years passes by very quickly and if I was in Sarah's shoes, I'd definitely take the post - provided of course that the contract  terms were all acceptable and fair.  If I was a university or conservatoire music department head, or indeed an orchestra personnel manager  - I'd be much more impressed with someone who's taken hold of this opportunity to work in the business than someone who has not undertaken such a contract.   She'll still have the chance to continue her studies on the side, as well as hopefully be able to save some of her earnings for when she decides to continue her education at a later date - or maybe put towards a special instrument etc.

My prime concern would be to go over the contract with a good employment law specialised lawyer NOT associated with your management (for a completely neutral professional view) and perhaps in particular see what clauses you  would have to allow you to leave the contract - say after 3 months - if things are not working out for you, that way there's no harm in at least giving things a try-out.  But this is the kind of opportunity that I can almost guarantee you'd be thinking:  "What if?" should you not take it.   Life's too short, we should grab it with both hands...

May 12, 2009 at 10:42 PM ·

gee, i went to see that show in orlando, fl one year i did not even know they had a live orchestra!   i wonder if sarah is expected to play the violin on a unicycle...:)

interesting dilemma here.  i know in many other disciplines, once you are out of the academics, it is a little tough to get back in...

lifestyle and money tend to make people do interesting things,,,

May 12, 2009 at 11:52 PM ·

Something doesn't smell right here. A man who is a manager, hmmm....Is your main contact with him over the Internet? Have your parents met him? Have the done any determination of his bona fides? Do you know anyone else who knows him? Does your music teacher know him? 

Things that sound too good to be true usually are too good to be true..

May 13, 2009 at 12:42 AM ·

I love and have been lurking for years benefitting from everyone's wonderful posts and blogs. 

I  read this discussion thread thinking "what a great opportunity -- DO IT!"  and then I read the posts about the "manager" and then I went to the Cirque du Soleil website.

You can start the application process -- for a job as a musician or acrobat or whatever -- online.  Maybe I'm old and cynical, but I'd check what Cirque du Soleil says against what your manager says. . . .just to be on the safe side.


May 13, 2009 at 08:56 AM ·

I agree with Michelle. Hope for the best but plan for the worst.

I sailed on Merchant Ships for ten years and wouldnt give up any of it.

May 13, 2009 at 11:06 AM ·

Dear Sarah Atwood:  I think the kind bloggers who have responded are now as curious as I am in hearing some of your playing!  Do you have a web site or something on Youtube we could listen to?

May 13, 2009 at 12:28 PM ·

Again good luck! In addition Sarah's are good at the violin!  One of the greatest violinist living is also named Sarah! 


May 13, 2009 at 04:11 PM ·

>Also, I have a chance to record on a respectible label this coming year, and study from an amazing teacher. My family, boyfriend, and friends are also extremely important to me, and since this coming year will be my senior year I'm loathe to give that up for touring on the road. 

There's your answer, then. And as someone else pointed out, you just have no idea how much you'll miss your family/friends until you are gone, away from them, away for six months with 18 months more of exile to go. (I learned this the hard way.)

That said, what a THRILLING offer and what a fabulous thread to read through. I'm really impressed by everyone's thoughtful, intelligent replies, both for and against taking the job. Good luck to you, whatever you choose!

May 13, 2009 at 07:17 PM ·

One of my biggest regret was not traveling around the world before starting my career, it's not quite possible now both financially and family obligation wise to just drop everything and do it, therefore, I encourage you to think about it.

However, Al made a very very valid point, money can really make people do very strange things.  If there is even a slight possibility (u know yourself the best), that you may be tempted by the money and quit school, then I wouldn't even get near this opportunity. 


Also, since you have another opportunity to record, I would much rather see you do that than doing Cirque de Soleil.  I love love love their shows, but honestly, people go there to see the amazing acrobats!  As much as i love orchestra, violin, music, what have you, I have got to tell you, the 3 times I've seen their show, I either paid absolutely no attention to their orchestra or they hid them somewhere! I do love their music though.

Good luck!

May 14, 2009 at 04:14 AM ·

my friend is a recording and former touring artist for the cirques du soleil ( ) .

It's a prestige job, because they only take the best musicians... we're not talking only technique here, we're talking everything... being able to adapt and react on the spot, to improvise ie having an extremely high level of relative pitch....

however i have met former cirques violin performers who are just terrible at classical music (my friend is not in that category!).... he admits it himself, he never practiced his classical chops.... so if you're absolutely crazy about classical and only classical music, it's up to you to decide....  personally, as much as  i like classical music, if you think in practical terms, classical music performance just doesn't cut it unless you are a superstar or are willing to play pachelbel's canon for hte rest of your life at weddings... you're more likely to earn a living as a performer (without getting bored) if you develop skills such as improvisation and learn to adapt to different styles, etc....

but the cirque has many productions and have different roles for everyone... what is it exactly they're asking you to do?

May 14, 2009 at 04:20 AM ·

ah i just followed the discussion some more... i really don't know your situation, but really do be careful of people who call them managers... as a full time performing musician, i've met ALL SORTS of people; you'd be surprised.... i was naive when i was your age, i've met "producers", "talent scouts", etc... you name it..... they were all just people who talked and didn't walk... you're only 17 but you're going to realize one day (as you get more involved in the business) that they are a LOT of weirdos in the business.... generally speaking if it's too good to be true, then it probably is....Again I don';t know your situation, and your exact relationship with the manager but these are just words of experience...

her'es a story i have... i perform regularly at a big jazz club in town, one time this random guy walks  up to the owner who was just standing outside and starts talking to him..

he doesn't know trhat he's talking to the owner, and he starts by saying:" do you like the music here"?

owner: "Yes i do"

random guy:"ah cool, I'm the one who does the booking at this jazz club"

the owner just looks at him with wide eyes...

the random guy walks in and tells the band" Great job guys, keep it up, i'lll call you next week"

May 17, 2009 at 06:24 AM ·

What ever you do, keep us updated on what happens. I enjoy playing the violin, but know my talent is limited and it will only be for my enjoyment. It's fun to live vicariously through all the working musicians I read about on these forums.

May 17, 2009 at 09:42 AM ·


we also die vicariously on occasion ;)



May 17, 2009 at 05:35 PM ·

I'm so touched that you all have taken your time to give me your thoughts on this!

The dreaded "manager" is actually an official person working with Cirque du Soleil, who helps them find people for casting in upcoming shows. He also seperately works on a recording label that he would like me to record for (whether I take the circus job or not).

After agonizing over this decision for a while and considering all of your advice carefully, I've decided to hold off on running away to join the circus... I want to make sure I finish school and get conservatory training (and then I could always do it later, at a better time in life). But I can't say how much I've learned from all of your advice on how to deal with a professional decision like this!!!

Michael, I don't have a website or anything on YouTube at the moment, but I'm working on it, so if you're still interested I can let you know when I get stuff set up. Thanks for your interest! :)


May 20, 2009 at 06:17 PM ·

And you know he is an "official" person because?


1) he said so?

2) Cirque du Soleil said so?  

May 21, 2009 at 02:20 AM ·

If something like this comes up again (and assuming it "checks out"), go for it!  There's no correct timeline for life -- you should be jumping at opportunities like these!

I can understand that you've been working toward a goal -- just remember, your goal will always be there and it sounds like you've got room to wiggle a bit.

May 22, 2009 at 04:47 PM ·

Sarah, I'd like to applaud your decision as a serious musical one. I have friends who did not complete their degrees, who went off to professional jobs either in orchestras or in Las Vegas. And many years later, they are not really fine players. Sure, they can read and cut the charts and deliver the goods in a recording studio, but I don't want to play chamber music with them. They never got the artistry in their playing that comes from many years of serious practice and study, because they felt like they were already pros.

If you do want to attend an intensive chamber music workshop to play quartets for 2 weeks in June, the Soundfest Quartet Institute needs 2 more violinists for a quartet with a couple of excellent players. Full scholarships available (anyone else reading this can also apply). Email me from or


May 26, 2009 at 01:00 AM ·

I don't know if Sarah is still following this thread, but if my two cents is worth anything, she is a jewel of a violinist.  Humbly spoken by a Hartt ex-concertmaster. 

June 29, 2009 at 06:04 AM ·

 Hi Sarah!

First of all my first language is french so if I do mistakes I'm sorry.

I think that I can give you a real opinion on the subject since I am violinist for cirque du soleil since january 2002.

It always depend on how you spend your time. I perform between 6 to 10 shows a week. Let's say that I play 10 shows this week. A show is 2 hours and 30 minutes. Plus we do a 20 minutes soundcheck 1 hour and a half before the show. Let's say that you work around 25 hours max in this week. A normal human being work normally 40 hours a week or more. I don't work that much. I have 2 kids and a wife on tour with me and I can spend most of my days with them because I only play during the night or late afternoon. 

You can also travel around the world and seek for the best teacher as I did and still does. I was able to work on a master certificate online on guitar with, 

I would say go for it and spend your time wisely. Learn and practice. You'll get a amazing scene experience, the music is challenging, you'll develop your creativity, and playing that much shows is a gift because even if you know the music piece very well, you can always find something to work on like the sound of each note, and the most important is that you'll work deeply your violin and bow technic (fingers, the tuning, sound...) since you have to perform amazingly every show. Your gonna play in different conditions and you'll learn how to control them like the humidity, the dryness, when it's to cold or to hot. 

There is nothing like music for interpreting and materializing the emotions of a circus act. You'll feel like you are doing those stunt since the music is very close to the action. Like the music is in a movie, but this time it's live. 

I hope that my experience will help you to take the best desision for you.

July 3, 2009 at 05:45 AM · Hi, I think you should. It would help secure ur financial needs for the future.Also I believe it would help make you a more rounded player, im sure you'll learn many things and you'll get to travel. After 2 years you'll still have time to join a major chamber orchestra (:

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