Amazing young violinists

March 26, 2011 at 05:33 PM ·

Recently, I have heard some young violinists perform in recitals and masterclasses and am blown away at the level of playing.  I am baffled at how these kids got to be so good.  I have spoken to some of their parents and apparently, some don't even take music all that seriously; they only practice about an hour a day, 1.5 hours max.  And yet, these kids are playing Sibelius by age 12-13. 

I have spoken to other pros and they share my sentiment.  To quote one pro I corresponded with recently "the level of the kids today is scary."  So, what caused this incredible improvement in today's young players?  When I was in high school, I was one of the top violinists in the local youth orchestra (MCYO).  Now, I don't know if I would even make the orchestra. 

Here's a video showing the finalists in a local competition for high schoolers. 

NSO Young Soloist Competition

Our own Brian Hong is first on the video -- very impressive playing Brian.  I would also like to draw your attention to the winner, who starts at 36:00.  She is one of 5 violinists, who was very close in ability and they had a tough time choosing the concert master for the MCYO this year.  She ended up as co-concertmaster.  Needless to say, she can play circles around me upside-down, in a coma. 

So does anyone know their formula for success?  Is it apathy -- lack of drive?  These are the traits that Al Ku would attribute to his daughter no doubt.  And yet, month by month, year by year, these young kids just keep getting better.  How do they do it?

 

Replies

March 26, 2011 at 05:58 PM ·

Strong short term memory

March 26, 2011 at 06:47 PM ·

Who knows? Maybe all those food additives are actually good for them! ;-)

March 26, 2011 at 07:22 PM ·

 My theory is that more kids start playing violin nowadays at earlier ages, and more kids quit playing at earlier ages.  There's a quick and efficient sorting process that goes on:  either you're "good" and you stick with it, get an excellent and expensive teacher, and devote regular time to it, or you're "not good" and you cut your losses, drop it altogether, and try something else in hopes of being "good" at that instead.  There's little-to-no patience these days for kids not being dedicated and disciplined or not having a "passion" for an activity, even at young ages.  It's go big or go home.  So the ones you see who are still standing, in high school, are the cream of the crop.  They are Malcolm Gladwell's "Outliers."

I'd say there are pluses and minuses to this.  On the plus side, I think more kids try activities that they might not have tried in former times.  And often enough those kids turn out to have the requisite talent and energy and discipline, are "good," resources are made available to them, and all's well.

 It's tough on late bloomers and generalists, though.  I share the sentiment that I probably wouldn't make the youth orchestra I played in as a teen, were I auditioning today.  In fact, today I probably would have been weeded out of playing violin altogether by age 10 or so, for lack of dedication, passion, and focus, and for desultory and inefficient practicing. 

March 26, 2011 at 08:14 PM ·

Some other factors.

Access to CDs and DVDs of world-class violinists is ubiquitous. This is something barely one generation old.

When the violinists who grew into the "golden age" of violin playing were born, about 100 years ago, the world's population was 25% of today's.

In the past 60 years, there has been major "Westernization" of culture on every continent so % of the population exposed to "Western music" and violin playing has probably grown by a factor of 10.

So I would crudely estimate that the potential "pool" of violinists for a new "Golden age" is 40 times larger than it was at the beginning of the 20th century. I think that is part of what we are seeing.

I started playing the violin 70 years ago. While I was living in New York City (for the first 8 years of my violin studies) I was the only child I knew (outside of my music school) who played the violin - or any other portable instrument (that I knew of).

When my own children were going to school, many children took violin lessons. The Suzuki Program had arrived and you could see little kids carrying violin cases everywhere. So in addition to a multi-fold increase in violin students, and probably a gigantic improvement in  'pedagogy per student' available almost anywhere. The conventional "classical" pedagogy is still available for those who leave or graduate from their Suzuki origins.

So in addition to a really great increase in the number of young people playing the violin, there is an opportunity for realistic competition (after all, we couldn't hope to compete with Heifetz, but we could (possibly) compete for concertmaster of our local school or youth orchestra).

I think these are just a few additional factors at work today.

Andy

March 26, 2011 at 10:42 PM ·

I think that unquestionably there are more kids playing violin now (and piano), and starting at a younger age.   I also think that part of the reason why there are so many awe-inspiring young violinists is the societal trend towards professionalizing kids' activities.   A few decades ago, a kid who was interested in swimming or baseball or violin might have spent a couple of hours a week on it, and probably in a comparatively casual manner.   Clearly, things are different now!

I wonder, too, whether the same change has occurred with instruments that kids start at a later age.  For instance, is there a similar change in the number of awe-inspiring young trumpet players?  Or clarinetists?

March 26, 2011 at 11:29 PM ·

Hi, coordination and very good feel of what they are doing is my bet/guess.  (I might be totally wrong too)

Kids are better and better in sports too...

With that super "feel", quickness or reflexes, flexibility and a very good training,I think many not so dedicated or passioned kids can beat anytime and by far more dedicated ones that lack physical talent.  

I agree with Karen.  I am a "generalist" of the violin, of school or of anything I do.  I can do many of the required skills but never push one of them to perfection. Though I have much imagination to put together these little skills (thus could be a teacher who would not be able to demonstrate very well : )   But nowadays, generalists are not wanted so I understand what she means!

 

March 26, 2011 at 11:33 PM ·

 haha, smiley, the apathy part only applies to my kid as far as i know!  you really need to share with me some of your torture techniques!  i am thinking of holding back noodles to show her i mean business.

those kids, v.com's brilliant brian included, if you only practice an hour a day still, it is a shame and an insult to the classical music profession.:)

i think if they are serious about music as a profession, they should have realized that they simply need to have as many concertos on their fingertips as possible.  it is just that competitive out there.

i will try to attempt to ans smiley question on 2 main fronts:  since i am not in music, i will say anything without taking any responsibility:)

1.  more gifted kids are starting earlier.

despite what people say, aka, outliers, talent is overrated, talent code, that hard work makes up the difference and a more sure way leading to success is 10000 hrs, at least up to the high school level, my opinion is that a big factor is inborn talent.  

some kids simply learn faster from day 1.  some kids can go through suzuki book 1 in one month, while others take 10 times longer, under the same teacher.  those gifted ones do not sit around like the hare in the story for the turtle to catch up.  they speed ahead.  parents spend more time and $ on them; teachers push harder materials on them.  with the same pressure approach,  the growth of some are stunted while others' stimulated. what we are witnessing is talent plus hard work from an early age to the power of x, "shrinking" the 10k hours.  BUT, without true self interest in music,  what talent and hard work brings is debatable.  (a family friend graduated from juilliard a while ago, in her sixties now.  the story goes that she handed her mom the diploma and said: here!  after that, she never touched piano again and became a business woman:)

2.  earlier and stronger emphasis on multitasking, aka, you be good in everything you do...

my older one is a self driven second year in hs.  i swear:  what she has done in one year, study/volunteer/sports/school club activities in quantity and quality surpasses what i did in 4 yrs hs plus 4 years college.    to her, going to sleep at 1 am is routine because good students are expected to put in 100% all the time.  i know friend's kids, after school work is done, practice their instruments at midnight.  as much as we lament that the younger generation is lost,,,there are a few good apples out there still:)   because of the multitudes of activities, they simply cannot afford to practice one thing too long.  or, to do it, they sleep even less.  as parents, we have headaches, the good kind.

 

 

March 27, 2011 at 12:56 AM ·

As a student myself I find it werid that I am 14 and am about to perform with a pro orchestra.  And I have been playing only 4 years.Only 1 person had any musical ability at all, on both sides of my family. My grandfather played sax and gituar. Maybe we just sound better because more and more people are finally learning that you dont have to play football to be popular. You dont have to do the "norm" to fit in. We just learned to be ourlselves and give a @#$% less  about what the world has to say  about it. And people keep pushing the distance you have to go to be "good". So we just go that extra mile to be considered "good". I dont consider myself to be good, I will when I debut as a professional at Cargenie Hall and study at Juilliard.

March 27, 2011 at 01:21 AM ·

I think Karen hit it dead on.  For those of us "of a certain age" we all started playing instruments in fourth or fifth grade at the local elementary school, learned in classes, maybe had a small-group lesson once in a while.  The more ambitious of us started taking private lessons in junior high or high school.  We actually played pretty well considering the terrible deprivation of it.

In contrast, quite a few years ago I took my now-16-year-old to a Suzuki summer bootcamp- I think he was 7 at the time.  I found myself surrounded by a group of mothers-from-hell who were just beside themselves that my kid hadn't started until he was five!!!  Theirs had all started at three- just what was I thinking?  (Then there was the issue of my kid going to a public school, but we won't go there.)

These kids start young, their practice is supervised for years (how many of the over-40 crowd ever had Mom "help" you practice?), many are home schooled, giving them more time to practice than those of us punching the time clock at the local elementary ever had.

How many of them love it?  How many will stick with it?  How many are being tiger-mothered into it and will chuck their violin over the bridge into the river first chance they get?

March 27, 2011 at 01:56 AM ·

2 issues here.

1. omg, how do some kids get so good?

2. omg, what do the rest of us do with our lives?

i am in the "rest of us" camp; i am special:)

this morning i made some french bread to everyone's liking.  then i drove my kid to play in a tournament 2 hours away in 40 degree weather, froze my butt off,  and made it back just in time to watch messi in the argentina vs usa soccer match.   

i don't need to be good at violin to do what i do!

March 27, 2011 at 08:28 AM ·

It's surprising to see so many who think that there is an increase in level of musical ability. From what I read I generally see the opposite take.We have more cases of Dyslexia,ADHD.ADD, Autism  , allergies etc... If we go back 25 yrs, pregnant moms use to smoke and drink more often, and white bread, salt ,red meat and overcook food was the norm.Today, more Moms seem to be more health conscious.

What I find is that students with a strong short t term memory and have good processing skills,  learn very quickly.A good diet will give you a stronger mind.

 

March 27, 2011 at 10:48 AM ·

isn't there an observation that when tsychovsky dedicated his concerto to auer, auer looked at it and said it could not be played on violin.  these days, many kids play it reasonably well even at high school level?

i think we can argue that we don't see more like heifetz or oistrakh, but the level of the entire class of good young players is possibly higher and higher.

more great teachers spread around all over the world; teaching materials flourish and organized; more competitions venues for those competitive ones to start early and aim for, countries like s korea, china among others step onto the plate...

now media can bring playing from all over the world into our living room, amplifying this surge.

March 27, 2011 at 11:33 AM ·

 i am a young violinist, and for me, it comes from passion and love for what i do. im ok with sitting at a music stand for hours. I love what i do, and i have such a passion for violin, that i am always playing my violin. thats how we become so good. plus with the push of family and teachers. 

March 27, 2011 at 12:58 PM ·

Stephen, that is EXACTLY what I was trying to say!!!:) People look at me weird when they ask me what I did last saturday and said I praticed 6 hours or something like that. Maybe the younger generation has a passion that other generations lacked.

March 27, 2011 at 03:04 PM ·

Al exactly,

I could take as an example, Vivaldi's concertos and sonatas who were seen as "very difficult" in his era.  In the movie about the Pietà, I remember one scene where they told anything with double stops was seen as "very difficult".  Today, they are given to students as student works.  (But I don't mean that to diminish that incredibly beautiful music!.  It's as great as the Brahms concerto in its way!  I listen to Vivaldi all the time. Great music doesn't have to be ultra virtuosic to be great!) 

I just wanted to express that what was very difficult at a time is now done by kids.  (maybe not always with all the maturity but sometimes yes!) 

March 27, 2011 at 04:22 PM ·

I have spoken to some of their parents and apparently, some don't even take music all that seriously; they only practice about an hour a day, 1.5 hours max.  And yet, these kids are playing Sibelius by age 12-13.

I'm sorry, but those parents are seasoned spin-doctors. Don't believe anyone who tells you that their child was playing Sibelius (well) by age 12 who claims they practice only an hour or so a day. The reason for that kind of talk should be obvious.

The truth is that elite child-violinists are practicing many, many hours from a very young age. Kids who start later, more slowly, and who have more rounded childhoods will not play with the same incredibly accuracy as kids who are practicing 6 hours a day by age 7-9. That's how it is: you get there through discipline and hard work. Yes, talent matters, but it is only one ingredient in the stew.

Part of the game, for parents, PR agents, and managers (often one and the same) is to promote an myth of genius. And truly these kids are exceptionally gifted in terms of fine motor coordination, ability to focus, docility (in the literal sense), musical intelligence, etc. But in order to achieve the high level of technical ability that "scares" today's professionals, these kids are pushed to work, and they do work-- hard. They put in the hours, making tremendous personal and sometimes physical sacrifices to achieve what they do. Because the next kid over, with the same set of gifts, will work harder. And there is always a next-kid-over working harder.

The spin, that they aren't working, that they spend a lot of time frolicking in garden with their pet chickens and stamp collection, is always found to be an illusion if you scratch beneath the surface. So when you read an interview with a young phenom who claims to love spending time at the mall with her bffs, smile and turn the page. Score one for the marketing department. These kids are very gifted, but they got where they are by working very hard.

March 27, 2011 at 05:05 PM ·

E. Smith, interesting perspective.  OK Al Ku, which are you, a tiger dad or spin doctor?  

March 27, 2011 at 05:10 PM ·

E smith, but fourtunately these kids have "the right to work hard musically". 

Now, at university, if I dare practice that much one in a while, I'll most likely feel that people think "shouldn't you be studying instead?"  You know, "that's just your hobby"

As an amateur, I feel guilty if I have a chance to play much!   (even though it's my biggest passion, I shouldn't be doing "this") Perhaps it's the same with those who have families.  "What are you doing playing violin, you should take care of your kids you bad parent : )" 

Today, I was talking to my mom and we were talking about this summer (I didn't have time to find a job yet), she told me "what will you do this summer to keep your brain cells working if you don't have a job?"  I replied "violin"   She replied "oh yes sure"  I was kind of hurt by her reasoning!   But she doesn't know how much brain juice it takes to play music...

Funny how society encourage those who have talent to work hard and those who don't to quit and do something else instead of "losing their time" 

But now I'm going in another subject so I'll stop!!  

 

March 27, 2011 at 05:28 PM ·

 Smiley, I am not really counting Al's daughter, or mine, or Brian in this elite class. For example, Al's daughter is extremely musical but she's not focusing on music. She's focusing on golf and academics. My daughter and Brian have also demonstrated somewhat wider interests (as I know from his writing) and began their woodshedding somewhat later in the game. If you want to know how the very technically accomplished kids get where they are: it's from work. A parent who claims otherwise is not being straight with you. (I didn't watch your video, but from what you write, some of those kids may fall in that category.) I spent a few years traveling around watching these kids and their entourages, and I also put in my time in the waiting rooms of precollege programs that feed Curtis, Juilliard, Colburn. These parents (the bane of precollege administrators) work very hard on the periphery to ensure their children's success. By comparison, Al and I are a couple of slackers. 

March 27, 2011 at 11:19 PM ·

 smiley,  my take is that e smith has gone through a significant part of this classical journey with her maturing artist child, making it possible for her child to enter  onto an important stage of her music education,  to the mom's credit no matter how the mom downplays it.   even though i have not been there seeing it for myself what she has described on the youth classical scene, the charade and smoke and mirror, i tend to believe it.  i think among the top contenders in the youth division in classical music, it is more like pepsi and coke than luthiers sharing secrets:).  it is a fight for recognition and marketing dollars, camp vs camp.  (my older one plays golf on the ajga level, so i have seen my share of parents on the farther left field than i am :)

personally i like the label slacker, but spin doctor has a ring to it...tempting!   i think e smith is a tough cookie mom but open minded enough to encourage her kid to be exposed to classical music in a balanced and healthy way.  i've got a strong sense of that watching her videos: the evolution of her maturation.   i remember they used to commute to nyc from phile every weekend for lessons.  i just found that mind-boggling.   

meanwhile, many will find it equally mind boggling that my kid and i spent 9 hrs today and 9 hrs yesterday for golf (4 hr in car plus 5 on the course).  due to the travel, no violin for 2 days straight.  i feel guilty but she can care less.  it is not the best arrangement but fundamentally, it is a choice we make.  (i did ask her to look over some scores in the back seat and we do plan to play some catchup in the morning:)

what is different between e smith and me, however, is that she is decidedly more culturally sophisticated in classical music education and more serious about it.  what i am doing is the menial job of keeping up with teacher's instruction since, in my opinion, my kid is exceptionally absent-minded.  i believe classical music education and golf competition will turn my kid into a more thoughtful and responsible person.  i know those are big words but what she needs in development is not found in our house nor in her school.  not with her little friends, not in computer:)  the stress in violin and golf may save her from becoming a slacker :)  

 

 

March 27, 2011 at 11:27 PM ·

 I dont practice for hours a day at all! some people just pick up pieces easier than others...i take music very seriously but i dont lock myself in my room and practice allll day

March 27, 2011 at 11:54 PM ·

My goodness, we certainly have high standards don't we.  I don't know E Smith, or her daughter, so I have no basis to form a judgement, but if her daughter is as big a slacker as Al Ku's, then I want my kid to be a slacker too.  :-)

Perhaps we need to redefine the meaning of success.  In my mind, Al Ku's daughter is already a success.  No, she isn't ready for Carnegie Hall, but for goodness sake, she's not even a teen ager and she has played solo Bach, Lalo, and other very challenging pieces.  She still has quite a few years left to improve.  At the rate she is going, I have no doubt that she will be able to play Tchaikovsky VC before she graduates high school.  If that is your definition of a slacker, then you and I are not working off the same set of standards.

I have no desire for my kid ot become a professional musician.  There is just too much talent out there, and even if you do well, it is a tough way to make a living.  But, I do hope that he enjoys music and is able to learn about hard work and discipline.  And I hope that he will develop to his potential, which means being able to play violin at a level he can be proud of.  That's really all I'm asking for.  I don't expect him to get into Julliard or win any big violin competitions. 

Based on "my" definition of success, then I do believe that there are talented kids that reach a very high level with minimal effort.  By that, I mean practicing 1 hour per day on average.  I have spoken to several such kids as well as their parents, and also the teacher of one.  Call me naive, but I don't think all those people are "spin-doctors." 

 

March 28, 2011 at 12:29 AM ·

 as an outsider looking at the classical scene, i think caeli smith has many qualities that i consider to be important to go far in the field.   i find her approach to classical music unique and refreshing...the wholesome image is a good role model for younger ones. 

on the other hand, my kid and i welcome the notion that having some fun with a dog and pony show limited to youtube can be nominated for a slacker award:)   that is success!

there is no control what classical music will do to and for our kids.  i hope the music will calm them down so that they can be more focused with their pursuits.  

i do think that one hour per day since very young can do "miracles" or be crowned as achievement. but, imo, to develop the depth of a true musician, that is hardly enough.  

this reminds me of the pop music arena.  some are one song wonders that are quickly forgotten.  a few constantly reinvent themselves and keep searching,,,

March 28, 2011 at 01:24 AM ·

Just wanted to say that in my own little corner of the classical world., as a parent of a young violinist, I have come face to face with the spin-parent phenomenon numerous times.  At my daughter's school (a specialized music school her in NYC), the spin parents are alive and well, thank you very much.  And, interestingly, my perspective was augmented by my daughter's --while I would sit around doing the parent thing, I can't tell you how many times I heard parents  sing the  "if only my son/daughter would play computer games/basketball/etc. less and practice more...."  I believed it at first...until my daughter told me (on more than one occassion) later that the so-called slacker told her she was practicing a million hours a day  (they were young and so hadn't adopted the spin yet themselves, I suppose).... I'm more seasoned now, so that when I was recently sitting with other parents at a competition, I knew exactly what was going on when the mom next to me launched enthusiastically into the familiar song bemoaning her daught'er's unwillingness to practice...I swear, there must be a script you can buy for this because the speeches are all virtually identical....this is one of the reasons why I have no idea how long anyone my kid's age practices....especially since there's also the flip side of the gift-from-on-high miracle prodigy spin...the poor kids at the school who really don't practice much at all (and, with all due respect, it shows....just as the heavy practicing shows on the flip side) who claim desperately to be slaving away six hours a day.. I learned long, long ago to put my head down as a parent and focus exclusively on my daughter's personal musical journey.... and mostly I'm successful....though occassionally I do feel the urge to leap into song.... but no...true confession: my daughter has many interests but she is a serious violinist and she takes her practicing seriously.  Wow. That felt good..

in any case, some wonderful playing at that competition...and great job, Brian! 

 

 

March 28, 2011 at 01:19 PM ·

Wow!  I find some of these comments rather disturbing.  Let's go back to definitions for a moment.  Let's say I am talking to the parent of a child that practices 2 hours a day, and I ask that parent, how much does your child practice?

Response 1:   Not enough

Response 2:  Only about one hour a day

The first response is a spin.  The second is an outright lie.  The parents I have spoken to have told me explicitly how much their kids practice so their words cannot be spun.  They are either telling the truth or they are not.  I am inclined to believe them.  Kids nowadays are busy.  They don't have time to practice multiple hours each day unless they are planning to go into music.

The other thing I don't get, what's the benefit in making others believe that your kid is a slacker if they actually work hard.  If my kid practiced 2-3 hours a day, and he played beautifully, I would proudly tell other parents that my child is a hard worker.  To me, that is a better attribute than being a good violinist. 

I agree with Sean's point that I should not compare my child to others.  That we should focus our attention on him and all I can ask is that he try his best.  In the end, that is what really matters.  My purpose for starting this thread was to see if there is something special, or different about the talented kids these days.  What I did not expect to hear is that they are all liars.  C'mon guys, call me naive if you want, but let's have a bit more faith in the human race. 

 

March 28, 2011 at 02:25 PM ·

The other thing I don't get, what's the benefit in making others believe that your kid is a slacker if they actually work hard.  If my kid practiced 2-3 hours a day, and he played beautifully, I would proudly tell other parents that my child is a hard worker.  To me, that is a better attribute than being a good violinist.

Smiley, I think that competitive parents say that to "unconsciously" find any possible excuse if their kids underperfeorms.  Like that, they won't look ridiculous publically if their kids plays badly in a competition and they had told everyone previously he "practices 10 hours a day home and is really dedicated."

Assume the facts!!!  If your kid practices 10 hours a day home and still can't make it at that incredibly talented level, it's not a shame!  Be proud that he follows his heart no matter what.  He's just like the 90% other percent of the planet, will have a wonderful social life, find a spouse be happy and balanced (joking...)

  
 

March 28, 2011 at 02:27 PM ·

Sorry to go off topic, Smiley.  I can only speak anecdotally about my own experience, so I don't know the actual percentages, but I can say I have met parents just like you -- parents who are honest about how much their kid practices, and justifiably proud of their discipline and effort -- especially since, like you say, kids are incredibly busy these days. I have also met a fair number of hypercompetitive parents in my travels, and if some of them spin things a bit, some of them....well, as you say, lie.  Why do it?  I suppose it's a way of making their talented kid seem ever so much more talented -- so talented, in fact, that they don't have to work to achieve great things -- and so differentiate them from their other highly accomplished peers (my kid is better than your kid -- my kid plays so well with such little effort, while yours has to work ten times harder to come even close).  Silly stuff, but real...you just have to see it in action a few times before it becomes obvious. I'm not overly cynical, but I do bring along some grains of salt when I go to the music school these days. Actually, they've installed a salt dispenser at the entrance, right next to the Puerel.

So I don't know what makes these young kids so accomplished so young (other posts have provided some excellent reasons), but I think it's a safe bet that these very talented young people work -- they work awfully hard -- to get where they are.  The video you provided was a pleasure to watch.   

(p.s. just kidding about the salt dispenser)

March 28, 2011 at 03:04 PM ·

"So, what caused this incredible improvement in today's young players?"

conjecturing...but maybe

1. violin pedagology is now broader and more scientific than before. not only etudes but a richer tradition of combining etudes to specifically target technical abilities. Auer speaks of how few technical studies there were at his time that were known to him as a child/young adult.

2.  parallel to the above, good teachers are more abundant. one great teacher (again, say auer) spawns heifetz, zinbalist, elman...etc...they (or some) spawn in turn...the network grows exponentially.

3. we have a much more developed global (and national) media be it televised or cyber. you will necessarily hear about more violinists (and everything else), young or old. since gestalt favours the outstanding, you're dismissing the countless youtube videos of painfully out of tune tunes :o) umm, no, i didn't record myself yet ...

4. music is more integral within many schools now.

there is the other side of the coin, the mirror rhetoric (maybe myth...i can't tell since i'm nothing in this world) that speaks in other threads. that, although there are more technically competent performers, they are less characterful, less charismatic less individualistic (hence, the understanding is "less artistic") than the old smaller constellation of stars.

these two parallel but oppositely moving rhetorics are interesting. they are an amalgam of myth, morality and fact i'm sure.

March 28, 2011 at 03:12 PM ·

Personally I do NOT believe that there are more outstanding teachers these days, it's about the same.

And parents who say their kid only does one hour a day - 5 days a week - for them there is an easy answer!!

"Well, if he/she had worked two or three hours a day instead of one, imagine how good they would be, instead of just run of the mill, as he/she certainly is!!"

March 28, 2011 at 03:20 PM ·

Sorry for my comment, but yes ,there are excellent players out there... but very few good musicians... The problem we deal with is not on a technical level, but about being individual. Individual sound is rare today, strong musical personality ,we seldom encounter... Who can play just a short piece like Neveu did,  or Oistrach... I have mentionned this over and over again, this has to do with general culture. This is a total failure nowadays, in all fields...not only music.

March 28, 2011 at 03:22 PM ·

Marc

I have to say I'm sorry to have to agree with you, but you are right.

March 28, 2011 at 03:42 PM ·

ok, then maybe i can add new conjectures that have to do with this opposite rhetoric

1- along with the growing netword of teachers, there is now a more unified academia of violin playing..which reflects in the solidification of a clearer zeitgeist..which might translate into fewer differences in terms of musical taste (less portamenti and the like). 

2- unless the difference of playing between one violinist and another(or one violinist in one stage of his her development and the same in another) is striking in terms of techniques used, we might be exaggerating our ability to tell the difference between the individual kinds of playing (i don't mean the difference in musicality and intelligence, but in tone). also, if you listen to heifetz forever, yes you will recognize his playing in other places...but thats only because you listen to him soooo much. you're specifically educating yourself to distinguish what makes him an individual. perhaps, those same people who are complaining about the lack of character shown vide the new generation's performance aren't putting the same effort. some sort of insuduous covert prejudice....PERHAPS...or maybe not, a conjecture.

3- another point, that might be more psychological: there is, probably, a concievable likelihood that after a crest of enlightnement, a trough of depression. so, you see joachim, you see oistrakh, milstein, heifetz, szigeti...well, how do you not expect to be disappointed afterwards, irrespective of whether the newer generations are good or not.

 

March 28, 2011 at 03:53 PM ·

"Sorry for my comment, but yes ,there are excellent players out there... but very few good musicians..."

Marc, You obviously have a very discriminating ear.  If you don't mind, click on the link I provided in my original post, and listen to the violinist at 36:00.  I'm curious to know if you think she is a "good musician" or just technically proficient.

 

March 28, 2011 at 04:57 PM ·

Smiley, That video you send is fascinating and of course the winner (36:00) is really amazing! Players nowadays are probably quicker and more agile than ever (at a much younger age than before)

But aside from the unique vs not unique sound debate ( where everyone is allowed to have its own opinion on the matter and no one is right or wrong!)

I want to add that I've seen many young videos of young players having greater will in their playing than well establish adult pros.  I can just think of the video of Sarah Chang playing Mendelshon and Vitali Chaconne when she was about 15 yo and I immidiately hear that sound of those who have everything to prove to get in there and can move mountains to do so.  They have so special energy. 

But it is said that very few keep this youthful daring energy as they mature.  (not the first time I heard good musicians telling this)

But the few who keep or kept that youthful daring special energy combined with experience as they matured  do produce masters like Neveu or Oistrakh or Perlman etc. 

I wish all these kids (well I mean teens and young adults!) the best and the ability to keep this energy!!! 

Anne-Marie

March 28, 2011 at 06:41 PM ·

I think there may be two aspects of this.

Young players today are facing a much more complex world than we did when we were young. The violin is a complex instrument. They are in better condition to ingest some of the components of technical mastery at a younger age.

There were always some excellent players out there, but current technological capability allows more recording and communicating these performances. In the pre YouTube days, many stunning performances would not be seen by more than a handful (or possibly by a cat).

Combine these two, and it seems like it is almost a different world.

March 28, 2011 at 07:06 PM ·

Interesting discussion...I do think the access to recorded performances has a lot to do with it...forgive my ignorance, but what piece is the winner playing?

March 28, 2011 at 07:34 PM ·

Hi, Ravel's Tzigane (what the winner is playing)

March 28, 2011 at 08:00 PM ·

Actually, I think Brian Hong gave a "cleaner" performance, but perhaps not the best choice of music to wow the judges.  I have to commend Brian on his left hand though -- very efficient and fluid.  I was also impressed by the young lady that played the Tchaikovsky VC.  She had her share of technical issues and intonation problems, so I guess she is another "slacker" by E Smith's standards, but I was impressed nonetheless.  These are high school kids; what do you expect? 

March 28, 2011 at 08:17 PM ·

 smiley has made it difficult for me :), so i will make it easy for him, by asking some questions about his kid.  i think this one hour or more than one hour discussion is not going anywhere productive.  i would like to know, for instance, if someone spends one hour,  how that one hour is spent.  you ask 10 people, you get 10 replies and another 10 real stories.

so here are some q off my head on smiley's kid.  i want to get the kid ready so that one day smiley can pen the book: tiger papa with his pup :)

1.  how long does he practice in general?  is he physically capable of handling it?  can he focus completely in that time frame?

2. when does he practice?

3. does smiley "help out" with practice?

4. if so, what exactly does smiley do when his son practices?  does smiley react to the son's playing or does he outlines first before the kid starts?

5. does smiley sit in the lesson?   does he raise his own questions to the teacher?

6. does smiley take notes?

7. if so, how does smiley take notes?  big things or tiny details...etc  in other words, can smiley completely regurg the lesson back to his son on a daily basis until the next lesson?

8. if smiley tells his kid, starting tomorrow, we will not play violin anymore,,we will find something else to do,,,what may be the kid's reaction?

9. if smiley is on a business trip and leave practicing entirely to the son, how long does smiley think the son will practice on his own under no pressure or influence from smiley or other family members?

10. what does smiley think are the reasons that is holding his kid from progressing faster?  

11.  will smiley some day use the said competition as a goal for his kid to practice toward?

March 28, 2011 at 09:18 PM ·

OK, I'll answer honestly.

1.  how long does he practice in general?  is he physically capable of handling it?  can he focus completely in that time frame?

One hour per day with brief 5-10 minute break in the middle.  Yes, he focuses pretty well.

2. when does he practice?

Every night, after dinner.

3. does smiley "help out" with practice?

Yes.

4. if so, what exactly does smiley do when his son practices?  does smiley react to the son's playing or does he outlines first before the kid starts?

I try to make sure he practices effectively.  One of my main jobs as a daily coach is to point out problem areas so he can spend more time working on them.

5. does smiley sit in the lesson?   does he raise his own questions to the teacher?

Yes, yes.

6. does smiley take notes?

During lessons yes, during practice no.

7. if so, how does smiley take notes?  big things or tiny details...etc  in other words, can smiley completely regurg the lesson back to his son on a daily basis until the next lesson?

Yes I can, but I don't.

8. if smiley tells his kid, starting tomorrow, we will not play violin anymore,,we will find something else to do,,,what may be the kid's reaction?

He would be devastated.

9. if smiley is on a business trip and leave practicing entirely to the son, how long does smiley think the son will practice on his own under no pressure or influence from smiley or other family members?

He would probably practice about 40-45 minutes with a lot less attention to detail.  By his own admission, he learns more when I sit with him.

10. what does smiley think are the reasons that is holding his kid from progressing faster?

Don't know.  Actually, I think he is progressing nicely.  He has only played for 1.5 years, so I can't really expect too much at this point.  He is currently in Suzuki book 4 on the Seitz concerto. I think his teacher diverges from Suzuki at this point so he is now learning Boy Paganini from Barbara Barber's book (Solos for Young Violinists)

11.  will smiley some day use the said competition as a goal for his kid to practice toward?

Don't know.  I will probably leave that to my son.  He can work towards that if he chooses to.  He hears me playing the Bach Chaconne so he has expressed an interest in learning it.  At the rate he is going, I hope he will be able to play it by the time he is in high school. 

March 28, 2011 at 09:49 PM ·

 i enjoy reading those answers, particularly about him being very interested in learning the violin. consider yourselves lucky because of each other.  under your influence, i think he will progress very fast.  pretty soon, people will come up to you and ask: my gosh, how long does he practice everyday! :)  imo, those kids in that video, more or less have followed such routes.  good kids get good support.

the other thing often mentioned but probably not in this thread yet is this family influence. you can be practicing your bach, he can be playing a game or doing homework, but his ears are subconsciously absorbing.  perhaps that is why i see frequently that the younger one tends to pick up things faster,,,for a reason.  not that the genes are scrambled better the second time around, but that the second child, in smiley's case, the child with his father as a role model, spends more time on music that is not accounted for.

March 28, 2011 at 10:04 PM ·

My take on it:

This "technical perfection" and "apparent lack of musical sense" is simply a matter of Everyone is Still Playing the Same Old Songs that _____ Did." 

Since there is a mountain of old recordings, and the pieces are well-known, there is only one place to go--copy, and then "improve." That is antithetical to originality, in its essence, though not without its own merits. We could pretend the same thing is true of the Expressionists following the Impressionists etc except that it is not. Instead, it is the Art of Becoming a Copyist.

Without digging into new music, to new compositions--even new "genres" if that be what you must call "that which is not classical" then that is what it takes to get on with Art.

I love Bach, and Beethoven, and the Beatles--but I also love Lady Gaga. It would be boring if new people, new ideas didn't come along. In the world of pyrotechnic "violin" this is the central problem.

March 28, 2011 at 10:18 PM ·

I just read through the entire topic and one thing stands out starkly:  There are adults,amateurs and parents - discussing what it is about prodigy (for want of a better word) today, and then there are two such young violinists telling them.  And yet, astonishingly absolutely no recognition by the former of the latter!

What gives?  Its almost like the these youngsters are assumed to not have a perspective on the very lives they are living.  Or maybe I'm missing something?

I particularly liked the comment (was it Heather; durn this window that you can't also see the posts you are replying to) that this generation has more dedication.  That really rings to me since my son was of the 'whatever', 'easy come easy go', 'don't sweat it' and inane 'just do it' generation.

March 28, 2011 at 10:55 PM ·

Our ductus is almost completely different from many others. That is not to say I think it is superior. Far from it. I often wonder if I am ruining the child. But here goes.

1.  how long does he practice in general?  is he physically capable of handling it?  can he focus completely in that time frame?

Not every day. Sometimes less than an hour a week. Sometimes 4 hours straight. Sometimes all weekend long. Never solid "practice" for more than a half hour. Lots and lots of improvisation and invention and trading off instruments along the way.

2. when does he practice?

When he feels like it. Sometimes when I say on Sunday, "you have a lesson tomorrow and you should be prepared. Play for 3 hours today." Maybe an hour gets done, maybe 4.

3. does Bill "help out" with practice?

Used to when he was little. We both did. Now rarely. Except with fun stuff we do together or if he is hung up on something.

4. if so, what exactly does Bill do when his son practices?  does Bll react to the son's playing or does he outlines first before the kid starts?

Listen and smile. It sounds so beautiful.

5. does Bill sit in the lesson?   does he raise his own questions to the teacher?

Haven't done that since he was 11 and even that was getting too long.

6. does Bill take notes?

Never needed to. Either teachers did that, or I remembered:-)

7. if so, how does Bill take notes?  big things or tiny details...etc  in other words, can Bill completely recite the lesson back to his son on a daily basis until the next lesson?

Even now, I know what all the issues are that are being worked on. But that doesn't mean I am involved in a direct way all the time. More just a resource and facilitator.

8. if Bill tells his kid, starting tomorrow, we will not play violin anymore,,we will find something else to do,,,what may be the kid's reaction?

He would be deeply hurt. He would also be disbelieving and if he did believe, he would be incredibly hurt. It would be cruel and mean. He loves music and he loves the violin. It is one of his voices. Once, in a long down period, I  said something like, "if you don't practice, what's the point of having a violin" and I think that was mean enough. It was something I regretted saying. I love his playing and I love that he loves it, that it is something that he is good at, enjoys, has a passion for, has a place with, is recognized for and that we share together.

9. if Bill is on a business trip and leave practicing entirely to the son, how long does Bill think the son will practice on his own under no pressure or influence from Bill or other family members?

It all depends on his mood, the week, what his motivations are. Music is self-directed. He is incredibly passionate about it. But like all creative arts it is highly non-linear and follows quasi-periodicity. He might not touch it the whole week. I might come home to find recordings of new ideas.

10. what does Bill think are the reasons that are holding his kid back from progressing faster?  

Amount of practice--but this is also related to the idea of not always having the right support--not finding the right venues/opportunities. Also the tremendous demands of school. All in due time. It is not a race.

11.  will Bill some day use the said competition as a goal for his kid to practice toward?

Music is not about competition. That is anathema to musical development. Auditioning is necessary but that is about fit and timing not about competition. Being inspired by something and taking it seriously as a passion opens the doors it should open. But I won't rule out competitions. Sadly, they are one of the few opportunities available to play out--especially to play out solo. We go to jam sessions, we make our own jam sessions, we go to music festivals, to monthly blues jams on the green etc. Playing out is fun. Don't want to be a potted plant. To that end, competitions are good.

March 28, 2011 at 11:16 PM ·

 isn't it amazing with feedbacks from just 2 parents, we already see a contrast in styles. if we are to structure bill's kid to a time schedule on a daily basis, his creative side may be obliterated.

March 28, 2011 at 11:58 PM ·

...or he might flourish. I could be irresponsible.

March 29, 2011 at 12:18 AM ·

Here is another input from another dad.

That's amazing I asked those questions to my son this week-end. He is 8 and just played 1st violin of Beethoven 5th with the local student orchestra. I started learning with him and we usually practice together but last week I had much work and skipped some practice. I heard him, several days in a row, rush through the pieces without caring much about intonation, dynamics and i started to wonder if he really loved playing Violin or he was feeling pushed. So i asked him do you really want to play Violin. He said yes.

1.  how long does he practice in general?  

1.5 h / day during the week and 3 hours on Saturdays and Sundays

is he physically capable of handling it?  

Y

can he focus completely in that time frame?

Yes but as soon as we repeat exercises he is bored and loses attention.

2. when does he practice?

Morning

3. does Marc "help out" with practice?

Yes.

4. if so, what exactly does Marc do when his son practices?

I play with him

does Marc react to the son's playing or does he outlines first before the kid starts?

I react after he plays. I am learning to make him more in control.

5. does Marc sit in the lesson?   does he raise his own questions to the teacher?

Yes and I play and ask questions to the teaches who teaches me as well.

My son does not ask many questions but will say things about the music.

6. does Marc take notes?

Yes.

7. if so, how does Marc take notes?  big things or tiny details...etc  in other words, can Marc completely regurg the lesson back to his son on a daily basis until the next lesson?

Both big and smaller details. I print special sheet music for my son when i am traveling with exercises for the current pieces.

8. if Marc tells his kid, starting tomorrow, we will not play violin anymore,,we will find something else to do,,,what may be the kid's reaction?

Thinking he was feeling forced to play music I asked him if he wanted to do something else and he said no, he loves to play in the orchestra.

9. if Marc is on a business trip and leave practicing entirely to the son, how long does Marc think the son will practice on his own under no pressure or influence from Marc or other family members?

A much shorter amount of time. It's also the same with homework. He has straight As but often he will not pay attention and miss some questions in tests.

10. what does Marc think are the reasons that is holding his kid from progressing faster?  

His lack of attention to details, his maturity and lack of attention.

11.  will Marc some day use the said competition as a goal for his kid to practice toward?

Our teacher asked him if he sees the Violin in his life in 20 years and if so what would he be doing. He said he would be playing in an orchestra. He's only 8 and last year (before playing in the orchestra) he wanted to be a teacher so he will or not change his mind. I just want him to do what he loves as I believe this is the best way to be good at what you do. If he becomes serious about being a Violinist I would encourage him as much as i can (although I have some reserves about the job perspective in the field) and will likely show him that he must reach the extraordinary level presented in this competition.

March 29, 2011 at 12:22 AM ·

March 29, 2011 at 01:16 AM ·

Great, now we're making progress.  I wish I could get an honest assessment from each of the kids in the NSO competition.  Brian, want to take a crack at it?

Al, perhaps you can answer your own questionare so we can see just how big a slacker you really are :-)

March 29, 2011 at 01:23 AM ·

Sean, either you forgot to replace Bill's name with yours, or Bill has been working overtime...!

March 29, 2011 at 02:17 AM ·

Whoops!  Looks like the cutting and pasting got the better of me.. 

March 29, 2011 at 06:22 AM · I think it is access to the violin, classical concerts and the amount of young children that are now learning. Small size instruments are now available at a very reasonable price, more and more children are learning at a young age which creates drive and competition and the access they have to concerts and recordings is inspiring to them. We have over 200 children between the ages of 4-6 learning the violin with our small company. This means that in most schools we teach in 1/4 - 1/2 of pupils learn violin. The 4 year olds are inspired by the 6yr olds to keep going because they can see many children playing at an attainable standard and the 6 year olds are encouraged to practice more because they don't want a 4yr old catching them up. Also the music that is on offer to young children is amazing. My string ensemble for 4yr olds to yen year old beginners are currently learning a really simplified version of mendelsohn violin concerto (with 6 year old soloist) that is extremely inspirational to them and no doubt encourage them to tackle the real thing later in life.

March 29, 2011 at 06:22 AM · I think it is access to the violin, classical concerts and the amount of young children that are now learning. Small size instruments are now available at a very reasonable price, more and more children are learning at a young age which creates drive and competition and the access they have to concerts and recordings is inspiring to them. We have over 200 children between the ages of 4-6 learning the violin with our small company. This means that in most schools we teach in 1/4 - 1/2 of pupils learn violin. The 4 year olds are inspired by the 6yr olds to keep going because they can see many children playing at an attainable standard and the 6 year olds are encouraged to practice more because they don't want a 4yr old catching them up. Also the music that is on offer to young children is amazing. My string ensemble for 4yr olds to yen year old beginners are currently learning a really simplified version of mendelsohn violin concerto (with 6 year old soloist) that is extremely inspirational to them and no doubt encourage them to tackle the real thing later in life.

March 29, 2011 at 09:49 AM ·

This thread is suffering from an overly high speculation/data ratio.   Any given kid may have more or less talent or dedication than the average, or practice more or less than the average, but sweeping conclusions about "this generation" can't be drawn from a handful of individual cases, no matter whether they are parent-reported or self-reported.  These videos are good at illustrating Smiley's hypothesis that there are more good young violinists today than in the past, but they don't prove anything.  I also have the sense, from talking to my teacher, from seeing the young soloists who come through our orchestra's young artist's competition, and so on, that there are more amazing young violinists today than in the past, but it's all anecdotal.  Unless someone can come up with some actual data beyond how long their own kid practices, we aren't going to be able to test the hypothesis in any kind of meaningful way.

March 29, 2011 at 10:52 AM ·

 i agree what we have here does not prove anything beyond reasonable doubt and that what we have here are simply observations, from a variety of people, of different level of authority.  i don't know much about formal music education, but if someone out there can be helpful with info like,,,say,,,admission standard at juilliard or curtis, etc.  compare what a good entry level is 50 years ago vs nowadays.  perhaps that will be more solid-still not proof- than individual opinions.  i suspect today's standard is higher; more young people can play at higher standard, even if controlled for the population factor.

on the other hand, we have people like marc constantly reminding us that the individual artistic standard has dropped since the great ones of yesterday.  i am sure a few subscribe to that notion, me included, but on a larger scale, i tend to believe the mean, the median and the mode all point toward a higher level today when comparing with the past.  we are talking about random sampling of the young violin population here, not individual geniuses.

perhaps a tough question to answer is that does a higher functioning young violin population necessarily lead to emergence of more individual geniuses?  probably not or not necessarily so.  but from a societal perspective, the fact that more young kids strive for higher standard, esp in a society that encourages money for nothing, blank for free, it is a surprising and  gratifying oasis.

---------------------------------

here is something straight from the slacker's mouth:)  

 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0uvHc8V_9lE

 

March 29, 2011 at 11:09 AM ·

I see that many of those high-achievers come from upscale suburbs & have parents in high-paying positions. If Mom isn't a surgeon or a banker, she's at home. The brain drain from small-town America comes in many forms, unfortunately. The high-power, achieve-or-else style of education in the burbs pushes kids to excel at whatever they can. They may not spend more time than kids used to on something, but they have to get more done. I agree w/the writer who mentioned self-selecting; those who do well at a very young age stick, the others leave. Quickly. That goes on in school sports as well  as in music, and I suppose in other pursuits. Now that I teach high-schoolers, I'm hearing, "Well, she's not going into music, so..." as a rationale for quitting lessons, quitting orchestra, not buying an instrument. Too bad, is what I think! High-school music ensembles may be one of the last bastions where kids can be "average",  participate for enjoyment & personal growth, and also fill a crucial role. Sue 

March 29, 2011 at 11:23 AM ·

 sue, how do we account for those violin players from china where the living standard is much lower than that of the usa?  i know many chinese parents taking on a second job to support their kids' lessons.   if someone in the usa does that, it will be headline news.

i think a bigger factor is the will of the family.  resources are helpful to some extent, but a family with a goal for their kid can find opportunities everywhere, especially in the usa.

that is why people flock into the usa because relatively speaking, the usa is indeed a place where the road is paved with gold.

what do some (if not most) of the "native" :) kids do?  right after school, get a job at min wage, make couple $, drive to the mall and spend it.  let's hang.  working on their individual artistic expression with whatever they are listening to in their ipods.   good talker but can't write sheet.

native english speakers do worse than immigrant kids on SAT verbal.  travesty. 

here, a good role model: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EtybvFW0ncY

March 29, 2011 at 12:24 PM ·

March 29, 2011 at 01:34 PM ·

Hold on, a minute Al.  I have a second job specifically to help pay for my kids' music lessons.  It's not headline news, and it shouldn't be.  Music lessons are damned expensive, but I feel their value to my sons outweighs my needing to put in a few more hours each week.  Unlike scores of parents in developiing countries, I don't see music education as a ticket to success and riches for my kids, and I've never suggested my boys kill themselves, a la Lang Lang's father, if they weren't progressing fast enough.

All three of my boys are also excellent writers, wouldn't be caught dead at the mall, and do explore various means of self-expression and creativity that don't involve ipods.

 

 

March 29, 2011 at 02:11 PM ·

@Karen, you are right, but short of an exhaustive study, the responses here at least represent a snapshot that might give some useful insight.

@Sean, that is quite a time commitment.  Just by the time she puts in, it is obvious that your daughter is a serious musician.  I assume she plans to go to music school?

@Elise, I did notice the two youngsters that responded.  First Stephen, perhaps you can clarify something.  In your first post, you said you are always playing violin, then in your second post, you say you are not.  Which is it?  Hunter, that is quite impressive that you are playing with a pro orchestra.  What exactly does that mean?  Are you playing solo?  If so, what piece are you playing.

To help you understand my bewilderment and the reason for starting this thread, I attended a master class a couple of years ago with violinist Adele Anthony (wife of Gil Shaham).  One by one, I watched as local 14-15 year olds played for Ms Anthony.  And one by one, I was floored by their ability.  I assumed that they all played 3-4 hours a day and were on track to become professional musicians.  But after the masterclass, I spoke with one of the young musicians and asked how much she practiced.  She looked me straight in the eye, with her mother standing next to her, and said "anywhere from 0 to 1.5 hours a day."  I did not sense any sarcasm, or dishonesty in her response, so I am inclined to believe she was telling the truth.  That is just one example.  I have spoken to 3 other violinists and/or their parents or teachers and have gotten similar responses.  That's what has me baffled. 

Surely, anyone that works hard enough can achieve a very high level, assuming a decent teacher and effective practice.  But what surprises me, is that there are so many excellent musicians today (at least technically).  When I was in high school, there were decent musicians.  We played Mendelssohn, Bruch, Saint Saens Rondo Capriccioso.  But pieces like Ravel Tzigane, or Tchaikovsky VC are quite a bit tougher, and these kids are playing them relatively cleanly.

 

March 29, 2011 at 02:43 PM ·

 lisa, it is great you speak out against what i have written, and by no means people should take it personally.  feel free to agree or disagree with my sentiment.  in fact, the more people out there that can speak up against what i have written, the better.  to prove me wrong with my generalization is a win-win situation for everyone.  so lisa, congrats for bringing up 3 kids who make you proud.  often, those are the kids who can appreciate the sacrifice you have to put yourself through.  to me, that is what family is about.

if you don't understand what parents do with music education in third world countries, that is understandable because you are not living inside a third world country--except to some it already feels like one.

meanwhile, even inside the usa, a big melting pot, there are different perspectives on what classical music education can and should do for the younger generation.  to say that learning violin will lead to riches is perhaps too simplistic.  in fact, it is possibly one of the worst investments if we measure by money. 

if to some families success means a lot of money, then go for it and good for them.  there are schools out there that are totally legal and they are called business schools and their sole purpose is to teach people how to make more money, an american concept to start with if you will.

if to some families success means not a lot of money, but priorities to other pursuits,  go right ahead.  it is not righter or wronger, yet another way to spend 80 yrs.  

as i have previously pointed out, having money does not necessarily lead to a good violin education/ career.  but having absolutely no money to get anything does not help either.

ps.  no matter how people ridicule lang lang, for whatever reasons,,,dementia, jealousy, true music critical power, what have you, i think he has a better influence on my kid than justin bieber.  that story, which i have related to here several times, if true, is inexcusable.  but that one incident cannot and should not overshadow the father's contribution to lang lang's education and career.  

for instance, before lang lang broke into the world stage, he was a provincial star in northern china.  at one time, there was a national competition for spots to go to germany for an international piano competition.  lang lang did not make the cut, thus lost the chance for a country-paid trip.  his father refused to sit still at the fate and went around to borrow a large sum of money from all over to send lang lang into the competition on his own.  i don't remember how lang lang placed in the competition, but that event helped lang lang to get noticed.  one thing lead to another, he ended up in curtis from there he lived out his dream.  

anyone from any position can argue that well, my kids are not interested in that stuff.  fine,  i wish everyone finds something interesting and finds contentment and fulfillment pursuing it.

March 29, 2011 at 03:01 PM ·

Al, for decades we've said that northern New Mexico is the only third world nation in America.  The rest of you are just starting to catch up!

March 29, 2011 at 03:38 PM ·

 one thing for sure, usa has a lot to catch up.  what does mommy tomato tell the baby tomato when crossing the street?  ketchup!

http://4brevard.com/choice/international-test-scores.htm

March 29, 2011 at 04:11 PM ·

Justin Bieber is very talented.

March 29, 2011 at 04:23 PM ·

 i think lady gaga is even more talented, but just not for my kid right now if i can help it:)

i love that name, gaga, gaga,,,

March 29, 2011 at 04:55 PM ·

My wife thinks Gaga is very derivative--Madonna derivative. I am three degrees of separation from gaga.

Check out Bieber's early busking. He could have been an undiscovered kafe komposer but instead he is a teenybopper's dream.

Pink is good. A bit older than Gaga. I think some of her stuff is great. My wife likes her stuff better.

Katy Perry is a shameless recovering Born-Again Christian Sexpot. Either she or her producers are perfect at dialing in what "pop" is all about. Catchy titillation.

Taylor Swift can't sing in tune live. But she has something to day that apparently resonates with teenage nostaglia and lovesickness.

There is some absurdly bad pop phenomenon sweeping youtube with over 60million hits. Kids showed it to me yesterday. Most of the comments, from teenies, were "WTF?"  That's how bad it was.

When I listen to the Beatles, I can never get enough. But I also hear George Martin's influence all over it. I don't think those boys would have amounted to anything past a quick passing fad, if it hadn't been for the magic that came from growing together with the guidance and inspiration of George Martin. Maybe that seems absurd, except that nothing any of them produced later has the same effect. Actually I think George Harrison really started to blossom again near the end of his life.

The Needle in the Haystack just happens. Most "stage mothers" are working with futility. I know a couple people who went on to greatness. They were so far beyond everybody else by age 8, you just knew. But they got support. I would have been President if I'd gotten that kind of support;-)

 

 

March 29, 2011 at 05:13 PM ·

 to pop music's credit, i think for many young classical music beginners, they can get used to the basic tempos and beats easier with some pop tunes.

to MY credit:), recently my younger bursted into a bieber song (as i later found out) in the middle of dinner, then my older one followed it into a chorus, it was crazy.  never seen them so expressive.  then the all-knowing dad seized the moment and lectured the kids that they had to give bieber some credit because he had worked hard at his trade since very young.  

agree with the gaga-madonna connection:)

March 29, 2011 at 06:53 PM ·

Even more bizarre, Bill, that godawful excuse for a song has been downloaded over a million times on Itunes....so, hard to comprehend, but many, many people are actually BUYING it....at a buck a pop.... 

March 29, 2011 at 09:23 PM ·

 Hm, this is actually very interesting to read, and I can't even say I agree with all of it. Personally, I would insert myself into the somewhat exceptional camp. I began studying seriously at 13, and by next year I'll be on Mendelssohn and Lalo, and by 17 I'll be on Tchaikovsky and Saint-Saëns Introduction et Rondo Capriccioso. What I believe is separated into two parts, essentially:

1) Over time, a wealth of valuable musical knowledge has accumulated, making the process of learning music faster for successive generations, and

2) Forgive me if I'm wrong here, as a complete newbie to the violin world to be honest, but there seems to be a quite uncanny and even unsettling obsession with virtuosity and sensationalism in the violin world that I've never seen before. It's the one thing about the violin world that I don't like to accept. I know the sort of kids that are the subject here, and some of them believe that it's more important to play hard music and to play it perfectly than to play beautiful music And I think the increased pressure has made kids of this day and age force themselves to grow faster than what may even be healthy.

Well, there's my opinion on the matter.

March 29, 2011 at 10:40 PM ·

 Malik, 

We are (well I am) very interested in your story, your progress, and what you have to say, and are rooting for your success. But you need to realize that it doesn't matter what repertoire you are "on" so much as how you play it. Don't fall into the trap of using your repertoire to credential yourself.

Virtuosity and sensationalism have always been obsessions in the press. It's called marketing

Yes, a lot of kids today play with astonishing technical precision. Problematically, despite your late start, you will need to compete against that crowd for a spot in the educational hierarchy. (I have it on good authority) the standards by which student violinists are judged have more to do with precision and technical skill than with musical promise. That is because these are qualities that adjudicators, who may disagree about everything musical, can more or less agree on. But you are clearly musical, intelligent, and very determined and I believe you have a chance at a wonderful and interesting future. 

Read Laurie's blog today about the problems of posting on the internet. You write well and are posting a lot of information and opinion attached to your real name. I admire your attitude and enjoy reading your posts, but I would like to express concern, because you are hoping for a career in music, that you may be revealing more at this point about yourself than you will (at a later point) wish you had revealed. 

March 30, 2011 at 12:07 AM ·

I agree. In my experiences with the viola, people older than me can play techinaical wonders like a vituroso. But when asked  to perform a very simple drone, they cant put any feeling into the music. Skill should be based on soul and ability not just ability. What good is a book if when you pick it up, the pages fall out?

March 30, 2011 at 01:26 PM ·

To help you understand my bewilderment and the reason for starting this thread, I attended a master class a couple of years ago with violinist Adele Anthony (wife of Gil Shaham).  One by one, I watched as local 14-15 year olds played for Ms Anthony.  And one by one, I was floored by their ability.  I assumed that they all played 3-4 hours a day and were on track to become professional musicians.  But after the masterclass, I spoke with one of the young musicians and asked how much she practiced.  She looked me straight in the eye, with her mother standing next to her, and said "anywhere from 0 to 1.5 hours a day."  I did not sense any sarcasm, or dishonesty in her response, so I am inclined to believe she was telling the truth.  That is just one example.  I have spoken to 3 other violinists and/or their parents or teachers and have gotten similar responses.  That's what has me baffled.

I don't think one needs to postulate anything beyond broader access to good pedagogy and other good resources, and more kids starting earlier, getting access to these resources, and taking advantage of those opportunities with the help of their parents.  In mean, did your peer group in youth orchestra take master classes? I didn't even know what a master class was until I was an adult--at least college age. But here we have a bunch of 14-15 year olds taking a master class from a world class teacher.  Good for them!  I'm glad such opportunities are available these days. 

If the girl you talked to started when she was 3 in a good Suzuki program, and is now 15, she's been playing for 12 years.  Even if she only practices 1 hour a day, she has potentially practiced for 365 days/year X 1 hr/day X  12 years = 4380 hours.  This is not Malcolm Gladwell's 10,000 hours, but it's almost halfway there.  And if she is somewhat talented, disciplined, and has a good teacher, a fine instrument, an involved and knowledgeable parent, and takes master classes with Adele Anthony, I don't think it's beyond the pale that she can play very well, even at her age, even only practicing 1 hour a day.  Not every kid will be able to do that, but not everyone does.  By age 15, if you can't play well, someone has told you to quit, and you've probably listened to them.

When I was 15 and in a youth orchestra, I had been playing for 8 years, starting on a VSO with school group lessons and a music store teacher, a non-musical family, no parental supervision of practice or lessons, a modest amount of talent, and maybe 1000 hours of practice under my belt, if that.  (At my current lifetime rate of practicing, I will hit 10,000 hours at approximately age 124).  If people like me are the control group, it's a no-brainer why there are so many amazing young violinists today in comparison.  

 

March 30, 2011 at 04:12 PM ·

 Actually I want to fine-tune my earlier response because Karen has an excellent point, and because I believe we are talking about apples and oranges throughout the thread. The elite performers I'm referring to in my very first post above are those on the astonishing level of say, Chad Hoopes or Sirena Huang, winners of international competitions (note: their parents are not among those described earlier who make disingenuous statements concerning how much work they do-- I mention them by name because they are simply jaw-dropping performers.)

If we're taking it down notches to well-trained, competent, elite-ish players on the level of say, youth orchestra concertmaster, local competition winner, etc., yes, I have observed kids who have great proficiency and don't practice much, generally because they are so over-scheduled they don't have time. These kids put in many hours earlier in their youth, often starting before kindergarten. Some of them love music and would be on the conservatory track, if allowed. Others are doing it because their parents make them; it's good for the resume. These kids have had access to the best teachers from an early age; they have always had excellent equipment, and when they were little they were either supervised closely by their parents or by someone their parents paid to supervise them. If you've put in the hours (let's say that 10,000 hour chestnut works on a sliding scale) then you can maintain your level without too much elbow grease. (I apologize for the clashing metaphors in the previous sentence; they are too weirdly awful to edit out.) But it is a different trajectory for a student who is still aspiring to the level that the elite-ish players described above, who stopped the hard work around the time school became intense, say 9th grade. The student who is relatively behind (let's postulate, a later, slower start) starts working hard, s/he will need to put in the missing hours, practicing much more during those high school years. In the end, by sheer dint of will and hard work, the tortoise may pass the hare.

March 30, 2011 at 05:17 PM ·

"These kids have had access to the best teachers from an early age; they have always had excellent equipment, and when they were little they were either supervised closely by their parents or by someone their parents paid to supervise them."

Guilty on all counts.  I guess I won't be able to make excuses if my kid doesn't become a decent violinist :-)

@Al, I just listened to the words from the slackers mouth -- quite a unique relationship you have with your daughter.  You seem to have a unique ability to ask the right questions to help her make wise choices.

March 30, 2011 at 05:55 PM ·

 @ Smiley-- sure he can, but he'll need to put in more than an hour a day.

March 30, 2011 at 06:36 PM ·

March 30, 2011 at 06:45 PM ·

@E Smith, Well, I'm afraid he might fall into the same camp as many of the other kids these days.  With extracurriculars, Chinese school, and leaving some gaps for play time, he only has about 1 hour a day to practice.  And even that requires a dedicated effort.  We'll see how it goes. 

BTW, Al Ku's daughter has done pretty well on 40-60 minutes a day.  Remember, I'm not expecting him to win any international competitions -- just achieve a decent level of proficiency.  By that, I mean the ability to play works like Mendelssohn, Lalo, perhaps the Bach Chaconne.  If he sticks with it, and is able to play those at a decent level, then I'll be a happy camper and I think he will too. 

I'd rather have lower expectations and be pleasantly surprised, than have super high expectations and be disappointed.  To me, it is more about having fun and learning a little discipline, than being the best violinist this side of the Mississippi. 

 

March 30, 2011 at 06:57 PM ·

If Mendelshon is a low expectation (I mean well played...), then the world is crazy!  I would love to do this as well but where will I find the time to learn all the pages of these 3 mvts concerto???  With school (college or university) or work, it's another challenge!!!

Of course, anyone can maybe try Mendelshon one day but how much will play it well...

March 30, 2011 at 08:10 PM ·

 @Anne Marie, Mendelssohn is a high expectation. And you're so passionate and thoughtful about your playing; you are bound to do well, but I hear your frustration at not having time to practice as much as you want to. Again, this is an apples and oranges thing. You've got different goals with your playing than a young kid trying out for conservatory. It's not worse or better, it's just different. Sometimes not having enough time to devote to what we love most makes us more energized towards that thing-- and we do even better than when we have loads of unstructured time. 

March 30, 2011 at 09:35 PM ·

 "@Al, I just listened to the words from the slackers mouth -- quite a unique relationship you have with your daughter.  You seem to have a unique ability to ask the right questions to help her make wise choices."

there you go again, smiley.
 
i think with most parent-child relationships, at times, there are moments of communication that are better than others:)   there i was simply going through the list... i wish we had more time to discuss each question in greater depth, but the ride was short:)
 
in fact, i am sure at times, after the violin class your kid may be slightly confused by what the teacher said, but when you rephrase it after the class, or take out your violin for a quick demo in a different way, in such a way that you know your kid can identify with, he immediately gets it.  because you simply know your kid.
 
i have caddied my kid in golf competitions since she was very young.  often we were faced with omg situations that required me to handle her reaction to the situation not too hard and not too soft :).  i have to find ways for her to believe me that walking on thin ice is doable:)
 
the other thing is that peewee herman and mr rogers are my idols:)  that is why i love kids and have a hard time dealing with grown ups here.   so called grown ups, hehe.

March 31, 2011 at 12:07 AM ·

@Anne-Marie, I didn't mean to imply that Mendelssohn is easy.  It certainly isn't.  But given the fact that my son has a good teacher, and a father that can help him with his daily practice, I think it is reasonable to hope that he will play it one day, at least at a half decent level. 

I guess that's where the issue of definitions comes in again.  What constitutes a decent level?  I played Mendelssohn many years ago, but frankly, I don't even play twinkle at a pro level.  So, am I worthy of attacking a piece like Mendelssohn?  There are probably strong opinions on both sides of that debate -- perhaps the subject of another thread.

March 31, 2011 at 06:18 AM ·

You've got different goals with your playing than a young kid trying out for conservatory

@ E simth

I never intended to tell I was in the top!  But I think I'm still similar to Smiley's son in that sense that I follow conservatory lessons and have a very good teacher. (Smiley's son is amateur too for now : )  I just don't have the father and time variables at my age...  Though my teacher says I'm a good self-teacher outside lesson time

But in many years from now, I see no reasons why I couldn't do these (as Smiley sais, at least at half decent level...)  Just that I think I won't because of time issues...  With a full time job, I imagine it's not easy to practice 4-5 hours every evening (that's what I want to do after university...)  Well never say never.  I'll see...

March 31, 2011 at 07:51 AM ·

I too was impressed with the young man playing the Glazanov concerto.

However, the young lady that "won" did have more temperament in her playing and lots of colours, and I think that may have been why she was chosen. Both were highly accomplished.

March 31, 2011 at 02:48 PM ·

Great discussion.

I would like to know however...where all these kids end up?  Very few, as we've noted, make it to the top of the pile.

Our community orchestra is seriously hurting for violinists.  We have cellists, violists, but not close to enough violinists.  Of those...our die-hards (that show up pretty much all the time, come hell or high-water) are the weaker players (that includes me).

I know that I contribute much more when I play with stronger players.  I know the same goes for the others.

There are finite opportunites for people to play in our part of the world.  There is a Symphony Orchestra and a youth orchestra...and chamber groups seems to pop up here and there and disappear...really very little places to go and play.

So?  Do they burn out after years of practice and/or competition?  Do they think they're 'too good' for a community orchestra and would rather just not play than lower their standards?  Do they think they can't possibly be good enough?  We have a fee - do they think they should be paid to play vs. paying?  Do young adults think it's an 'old people' activity and don't want to play with those over 30 or 40 (or whatever the 'old people' official age is).

Personally, I think too much emphasis is placed on pushing young kids and on competitions (and I'm all for competition...just not a focus on endless competitions) and not not enough on venues for those children, as they become adults, to play in - and want to play in.

 

 

March 31, 2011 at 04:01 PM ·

"Personally, I think too much emphasis is placed on pushing young kids and on competitions (and I'm all for competition...just not a focus on endless competitions) and not not enough on venues for those children, as they become adults, to play in - and want to play in."

 

Amen, PTL, praize to Zeus, praise to the prairie chicken, whathaveyou.  I completely agree!

Sooooo much you can play on your fiddle, soooo much fun to be had, and yet soooo little outward opportunity!

March 31, 2011 at 04:45 PM ·

 >>the other thing is that peewee herman and mr rogers are my idols:)  that is why i love kids and have a hard time dealing with grown ups here.   so called grown ups, hehe.<<

@Al, I hope I get to meet you in person sometime!

March 31, 2011 at 04:53 PM ·

@Al (and any others out there who love Mr. Rogers):

There's an absolutely wonderful profile of Mister Rogers, written by Tom Junod and published in Esquire magazine in 1998 (I think).  If you haven't read it already, it's worth the trouble to look up.  It's one of my favorite articles of all time. 

April 1, 2011 at 12:44 PM ·

 sounds like we have a fan base of mr rogers in v.com.  thanks aj.

as we welcome the kids into the neighborhood, i would like to make an observation that may give budding violinists a boost:)

you see, when we start kids on the violin vs on the piano, it is easier to spot the special ones on piano earlier because the physical demand with the piano is not as challenging as it is with the violin.

in other words, some smaller built, shorter fingered, weaker fingered, weaker bow armed kids on the violin may take a while to improve their physicality before others notice their true potential with the instrument.   they may want to do the right thing, they may know how to do it mentally and cognitively, but for some, the physical barrier may take couple years to overcome.  

therefore, once they catch up with the physical growth (physiological growth has nothing to do with violin teaching by the way:), they can shoot up very quickly and catch up with their peers if not overtaking them, like little pressure cookers.

case in point, my kid has always been on the big side.  when at 5 she plays a piece vs another 5 yo, boy or girl for that matter,  there is a good chance that she gives the impression that she projects on the violin with a bigger sound.  problem is, she is playing on a violin that is 2 sizes bigger!

April 1, 2011 at 05:38 PM ·

Well, this thread certainly has gotten quite a bit of traction and is nearing it's end of life.  From the comments above, there seems to be a consensus that kids today are "better" than the kids several decades ago.  What isn't clear is how they got that way.  It is probably a combination of several factors including better teaching, more supportive parents, access to more videos and recordings, and plain old sweat equity.  Any one of these factors can make a pretty big difference, but if you combine several or all of them, then the difference in achievement can be quite profound as witnessed in the video I posted originally. 

Another thing I have learned is that there are wide variations in how one defines success.  I have found this to be true for any endeavor.  I have never been world class in anything so I can make the following claim.  No matter how much you work, or how good you get at something, once you start looking at the world stage, you realize just how inadequate you are.  But at the same time, one does not have to be world class to be deemed a success.

In the end, all that really matters is that one enjoys the journey.  Life is short, and we really have to make the best of it.  I would love for my son to become an excellent violinist.  But as long as he sticks with it and enjoys the ride, then he will be a success in my eyes. 

 

 

April 2, 2011 at 12:50 PM ·

An excellent violinist is a great goal to aim for (if your son wants that for himself)...but to what end?

To perform solos? Concert Master?  Last chair 2nd violinist in an orchestra?  Fiddle player? Teacher? Own enjoyment? Busker?  Electric violin in a pop band?

Of course, he can all of that...but do you want him to make a living off the violin or 'just' enjoy the violin?

 

April 2, 2011 at 05:17 PM ·

@NAM, Those are all excellent questions.  It is easy to get caught up in things and lose sight of the big picture.  This thread has allowed me to take a more "outside" perspective on my son and where he might be heading.  I personally think there are better ways to earn a living than being a musician -- professions that offer better compensation with less stress and fewer hours.  If it turns out that music is in his bones and something he absolutely cannot live without, then I will encourage him to follow his dreams.  But I will also give him my honest opinion if he asks. 

As a parent, what matters most is that he develops into a successful person.  That means someone who shares my values (not that I have any), and lives up to his potential in whatever endeavor he decides to pursue.  In that respect, I think that violin is at least a stepping stone to getting there.  It develops discipline, and a work ethic.  And if he becomes good at it, it might provide a boost to self confidence.

April 2, 2011 at 09:16 PM ·

We also tried to raise our children with similar goals...strong work ethics, honesty, empathy for others, etc..  And we engaged them in activities we thought were important...

I think we succeeded in part...but they do remind you, as they mature...that they are their OWN people...and what they enjoy, might not be what you enjoy...

We have to be careful not to over-project our preferences onto them.

Good luck!  I hope your son ends up with a life-time love of the violin, in whatever capacity works for him!

 

June 10, 2012 at 05:01 PM · More than a year has gone by and I'm still scratching my head. I just went to a student recital this morning -- a local teacher with a studio of 18 violinists. All I can say is wow. One by one, her students took the stage and left me dumbfounded. I think I play at the level of the average 10 year old, but once they reach the age of 11-12, they leave me in the dust. I'm still trying to figure out how they got there.

June 10, 2012 at 05:06 PM · Does this teacher start students from scratch? I know that a couple famous teachers in my area only take on serious advanced students, so no wonder their students are all extremely good (I see it as cheating).

June 10, 2012 at 06:44 PM · Fair point Joyce. She does expect her students to take the instrument seriously. And she has a full studio so she has the ability to be selective with her students. At any rate, she seems to have a knack of taking students to a very high level.

But in a major metro area like Washington DC, there are many other teachers and I have heard other students that are just as impressive, some more so than others, but needless to say, the kids I have heard are really exceptional musicians, not only technically, but they also play with feeling and have an incredible maturity to their interpretation.

June 11, 2012 at 12:46 AM · If their parents tell you "Oh, he's not very serious, he doesn't practice so much," that's their way of making you think their kid is really super talented. They could just be lying because they don't want you to think they're tiger parents.

June 11, 2012 at 01:16 PM · I think it's only "cheating" if teachers are seen as in competition with each other, but why should they be? I think the goal should be finding the right teacher for each student.

That said, I agree that this phenomenon is mostly one of selection. You're seeing the cream of the crop here, which is great. Not sure what the point is of comparing them to oneself at that age or one's own offspring.

I do wonder, what is going to happen to them in 20-30 years? Will they still be playing? There was a comment above, last year, that community orchestras are scrambling for string players. That's been my experience too, lately. There are only so many positions for pro players, so where do these kids go if they don't turn pro, and why don't we see them playing as adults?

June 11, 2012 at 03:57 PM · Smiley, I am too convinced that there are super talented violin kids that what they can achieve just blow us away, especially for those of us know how hard it is to be done by mortals. My recent experience in Bejing during the Menuhin competition (I also blogged) and our local young prodigies I befriended with in the recent years tell me that skepticism only shows how little we know about these kids.

Skeptical arguments usually go like this: most highly accomplished kids worked long hours and this is what you need so if anyone tells you otherwise, it's lying. Yes, just because vast majority successful kids have to work very very hard doesn't mean there can be no exceptions. During the Menuhin competition, all the kids were staying at the same hotel. Some practiced all the time and a few very good ones didn't. They or their parents can't lie to the public constantly in this way if they go to international competitions and music camps all the time as they tend to do, especially kids and parents are so competitive these days, the spin doctors have to have better lines to promote these kids.

Or, people would insist on you need to practice so many hours each day to cover so much material to be so accomplished as to win big prizes; thusm it is impossible for ANYONE to do 1-2 hour/day and be so accomplished at such a young age. Again, this is to assume the super tenanted kids practice the same way as what most kids do. Well, this assumption cannot be supported, as the exceotional kids work very differently and efficienatly. They get it on their own and they don't need the kind of repetitions we mortals do to solidify things.

What I am saying is that we cannot compare 99.99% of talented normal violinists with the exceptionally talented ones by using the same benchmark.

Also, we shouldn't assume the super talented violin kids should go on to be professional violinists in later life. If they do, great. But why shouldn't they also be able to choose to be a doctor, mathematician, politician or organic gardener, if ther other talents and passions later take them to do so? Choosing not to be a professional violinist in later life should no more be a rejection or failure than for someone who gives up golfing for hokey or skydiving.

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