Professional chances??

January 1, 2012 at 06:39 AM · I will begin learning violin through private lessons very soon, but I have a huge question...I am 14 yrs old and im pretty sure that is a late start, but I like to say that I am pretty musically gifted. Music is my life, and I have always surrounded my self with music. I play saxophone in school and excelled quickly and am competing on a max of 4 years ahead, I can read music well, and I played guitar (private lessons) for two years. I have an ear for music (i think) and I sing as a hobby and perform every once in a while...I was wondering what my chances are of playing violin on a professional level such as a city orchestra? Any advice/comments would be great! Thank! Also if you have any question, I'll be glad to answer!!

Replies (100)

January 1, 2012 at 07:54 AM · It all depends on if you can achieve the technical proficiency to compete for a job with your peers.

Being musical is many ways, it is something that cannot be taught but must come from somewhere else, whether that be innate, through exposure to great music/musicians, or cultivated through life experience.

However, you can't play professionally with other musicians unless you can play correct rhythms, in tune, with the appropriate tone, articulation, and understanding of the stylistic demands of the repertoire. Achieving that requires expending time and resources that you may or may not have.

Your question is like asking if you can be a professional tennis player...the answer to that question is "yes, as long as..." followed by a series of stipulations. It will take dedicated, focused, training under a superb teacher (or teachers) to get there.

January 1, 2012 at 08:12 AM · Thanks! I definitely intend on practicing every day and I believe that I have a "heart" for music. As I said in my profile, music is always there no matter where I go. I have been singing literally since birth and my musicality has spread to saxophone, guitar, a little piano, and now violin! I play in the local symphonies, and I involve myself or rather associate myself with music as much as possible. Hopefully my love of music and talent that God gave me combined with opportunity and determination can get me where I want to go! Thanks again!

January 2, 2012 at 06:13 AM · Even though you've excelled on the saxophone, There's really no way of telling how well you'd do with the violin until you are officially private lessons and you have someone assessing your progress. I too play a wind instrument (well brass, Baritone) for marching band but I'm first in foremost a violinist. I can tell you from personally experience, playing the violin or any string instrument is unlike any other instrument because there is so much technique involved in mastering the instrument.

Is 14 too late? Of course not, I hear everyday about people deciding to pick up the violin. With the right instruction (and a ton of practice) being able to play at the level of a professional orchestra is definitely possible. It's a long way off though, I must say. My advice is to enjoy just learning the violin (see if you actually like it, for one) and then when the time comes, think about being in an orchestra. Having that goal to work towards is great, though!


January 2, 2012 at 06:17 AM · Way too late. You should have started at age 2. You would have had a chance.

Work hard and you'll do just fine I think. Assuming you aren't having to work a job and support a wife I think you'll likely have enough time to devote to the violin.

January 2, 2012 at 08:40 AM · Violin is a much steeper hill initially than the saxophone. Be warned. ;)

January 2, 2012 at 08:43 AM · You definitely have a chance to become a professional. Soloist? probably not but definitely a professional orchestral player or something. I have seen talented people who started around 14 or 15 or 16,7 ? as long as you practice hard and make sure every minute of your practice counts.

January 2, 2012 at 11:00 AM · sorry.

the phrase `you defnitely have a chance` is misleading. The degree of chane is not defined which is exceedingly dangerous. Your prospect for what you seem to have in mind are much poorer than the msuicans who have either been fired from their orchestras recently or the glut of young graduates all desperatley trying to get thta one seat. This is not a romantic pipe dream and if you let it lead you up a wrong life path ¥you are due for a great dela of frutration and unhappiness. There are many criteria for definitely having a chance of getting into a professional orchestra. Thes ehave not yet been discusse din any depth.

This kind of ging ho serendipity is rreally worrying.

Just follow the advice of studying as hard as you can and evaluate your potentila with the help of a reputable teacher. Then you can make a sensible decision about your future. Others can tell you nothing about you. Only about what you might be in for, which is not at all pretty and is only going to get worse.



January 2, 2012 at 02:14 PM · Spell check is your friend.

January 2, 2012 at 04:47 PM · It's important not to be negative while still being realistic. One must recognize that there are many roads that lead to Rome. I think the most important thing is to understand that there is also a necessary business side to being a musician. If you want to be able to support a family one day, it's important to have a mentor who can give you realistic advice.

At your stage, because this is a new world for you, I would concentrate on your studies in school and practice hard. Then in a few years, make a logical decision.

January 2, 2012 at 05:26 PM · Garrett, it's impossible to say what's possible, because there are just so many variables. We had this thread just recently from a person a few years older than you. A lot of the posters were pretty negative (some rather bitter, I suspect more from their own perceived failures, than from anything wider ranging). So take it with a grain of salt, for what you can get out of it. This is a link to that thread.

January 2, 2012 at 06:05 PM · I don't know what "city orchestra" you have in mind (If it's New York Philharmonic, then it's pretty safe to say your chance is almost zero), but I am assuming what you meant is an orchestra job that you can make a living with. If so, please read this article.

January 2, 2012 at 10:08 PM · Please pay careful attention to these sentences from the link Joyce has provided: "Obtaining a full-time orchestra position is extremely competitive. Because the marketplace is oversaturated with outstanding performers, not all qualified applicants are able to secure work." The likelihood that someone who started playing at age 14 would be even considered "qualified" is small, and even smaller is that someone who is at least theoretically qualified but lacks the kind of experience that someone qualified but who started violin at age 7 would get one of these positions. If what you want to do is teach, you could probably do that, but that would likely be the extent to which you could make a living starting at 14. Sorry to rain on your parade. Please start thinking about what your Plan B is.

January 2, 2012 at 10:34 PM · Steven- First off, thanks for being rude. I'm not sure what you have against a musically talented person who is trying to stand out in the bowl of rice...there is a difference between being realistic and being demeaning...and this "gung ho serendipity" is called being optimistic, yet realistic. So, with all due respect, please just check your discouraging attitude because I'm sure I'm not the only one whose feelings you have hurt...Thanks!

Everyone Else- Thanks for being realistic and supportive! I am being very realistic with myself on the chances of achieveing dreams (as the world has taught me to be). Also, I realize I should have started much younger. I can only blame two things: 99%: I wasn't concentrated on building a life path when I was 5 or 6 or 7...1%: I was never exposed to anything that would have gotten me started at a very young age...Thanks again!

January 2, 2012 at 11:04 PM · Garrett, Buri is one of the most revered members on this site and he knows what he is talking about. I don't find his post rude at all. He is just being honest, and those are great advice!

January 2, 2012 at 11:13 PM · Garrett - I just want to reitterate what Joyce said - once you are here for a while you realize that Buri (Steven) tells it like it is - and you really should be grateful for the input as he has a unique and very experienced mountain top from which he talks.

No sugar coat, but lots of wisdom...

January 2, 2012 at 11:54 PM · Ok..well thanks Buri...for being realistic..but admittedly, it is a bit discouraging, and might make some people wnat to give up. But thanks for your consideration and realism. If your goal was to change my attitude torward playing violin, everyone has different ways for saying the same thing. If you were trying to dishearten a fellow aspiring musician, please rethink your method of being realistic. Thanks (truly)!

January 3, 2012 at 12:28 AM · This can be a bit of a minefield, because whatever advice one gives can end up causing offence.

Personally I think it best to be (brutally) honest and not give false hopes and encourage anyone where it is seriously doubtful they can make it. Play and learn the fiddle by all means, the more the better, but don't have any professional expectations. (And if it turns out you do make it that is a bonus).

I was once, many years ago, asked by a girl-friend who had been playing for many years and had previously spent one year at music college, whether I thought she could get into the orchestra I was in. I had to say no, no way. She was a little annoyed and pointed out that there were players who were not that brilliant in the orchestra. I had to point out that they had been there quite a while and had held a job down and had by now considerable experience. I also had to point out that it was a matter of opinion as to whether she was as good a player as them. (I have to say I thought her considerably inferior).

I think this was not good for our 'relationship' as I had dashed her hopes, but it would have been embarrassing for me and also her sister who was a good player and also in the orchestra, had she applied and even got an audition. (I doubt that she would have in fact even got that far).

People have dreams and in fact we all do, but few manage to fullfill them. Most of us dream of being soloists and end up playing in orchestras, or teaching, or both. But even that is OK once you come to terms with it.

But it is a tough profession and it is getting even tougher.

Many people who play the violin or whatever will encourage you - but most of these people, who are well intentioned, may not really know the professional situation.

January 3, 2012 at 12:40 AM · Garret, if you find Buri's advice disheartening, how about this one?

(Notice that the OP of that thread is most likely not a late starter - in the violin world, someone who starts after 7 is considered late, and he graduated from one of the top music schools in this country, which means he is an outstanding violinist.)

Why not just learn to play first, and find out if you even like it, or are good at it before dreaming about a career as a professional violinist?

January 3, 2012 at 12:51 AM · I say start your lessons, read the many comments on this site made by the experienced musicians on all topics, especially the posts and blogs by Buri and Emily Grossman and Laurie, listen to lots of music, read many books on the mastery of music and other endeavors, learn all you can about all that is required in becoming a violinist and follow your love and passion and it may take you places you cannot imagine now. Your attraction to the idea of being a professional violinist might be a small step in your journey. You may become a violinist, you may become a recording engineer falling in love with different instruments over the years, you may become another type of artist, you may become fascinated with the way one learns an instrument and become a psychologist or physical therapist specializing in ergonomics, or philosopher, you may at some point become fascinated with what makes sound and music, and and become a physicist or a composer.

Follow your need at this point to learn and be open to where that may take you rather than focused on what you think you may want for your future. After all, you haven't even started yet!

January 3, 2012 at 12:56 AM · "Steven- First off, thanks for being rude"


The vast majority of people who set out to make a living playing the violin do not succeed. Steven is not being rude by pointing this simple mathematical fact out. Just because someone does not support your desires and tries to give you a healthy dose of reality, that does not qualify them as "rude." You should be seek all opinions on the matter, positive and negative, and not filter out ones that don't conform to your wishes.

When I almost went to law school a few years ago, I talked to many lawyers about the reality of the profession. When people said "run from it" or "you will NOT love the law" I didn't plug my ears and say "don't be so negative." I sought out best-case AND worst-case advice.

One thing you should do for yourself is to go to a library that has the International Musicians magazine. Look through a year's worth of ads, and see how many ads there are for violins in orchestras. First eliminate the majors, like Boston or NY because you won't get in. Second, eliminate the tiny per-service ones in which you won't make a living. The ones in the middle that are left should tell you something about the realities of a career.

January 3, 2012 at 03:24 AM · Garrett-- I will say that Steven maybe could have gone about his approach in a different way, but you can't deny the fact that the advice he is giving is indeed good advice. If you're going to be a violinist (and I believe it possible) then, you are going to have build a little backbone, because being apart of the music community can be rough at times.

I can't tell you how many times I've been told some things 10x worse than what was said by Steven, by people who no NOTHING about much and who had no intent to help. The truth of the matter is, the violin is not easy AT ALL. I personally don't think you're late, but I also know people who have been playing since they were three years old. It's a whole new world of music you're about to jump into. Don't take everything to heart.

January 3, 2012 at 06:19 PM · OK, let me try to address this fact so I don't seem like a total jerk. What I disliked about Buri's comment was the very ending, say it would only get worse. I understand his realism, and there were many others who were also realistic, and that is not what upset me. If I have already started way late, I am already upset a bit about my chances and I am fully face-to-face with reality. But if it "only get's worse" why would I want to try at all? I looked at the website a lot before registering and realize that Steven is one of the more prominent members, so I respect his advice. The only thing I had a problem with is the way he said, which almost made me not want to even pick up a violin. Thanks! And my full apologies to Mr. Brivati!

January 3, 2012 at 07:01 PM · Only Steven can really say what he means by "it only gets worse."

However, it does get worse and for a multitude of reasons. As time goes on, the market is being continually flooded by more and more very qualified violinists for fewer and fewer jobs. What do you think all of those musicians from Honolulu and Louisville and elsewhere are doing? They're trying to get jobs again.

For the individual, yes it gets worse. As we age, we find ourselves less and less able to practice for 5 hours a day due to family, muscle fatigue, and other reasons. Our costs only go up.

My health insurance in grad school was $25 a month. Now it's $500. Gas in grad school was 99 cents. Now it's around $4. Everything relating to the cost and maintenance of a violin has gone up, including strings, which have doubled in price. Rent only goes up. The rate of pay for most gigs either stays flat or goes up very slowly. In one CA orchestra I play in, we took a big cut.

So, yes, it gets worse.

January 3, 2012 at 07:25 PM · Garrett, I was like you in high school--saxophonist, violinist, oboist, and also considered myself 'musically talented.' My last year of high school I was ranked by IHSA as number 2 of the oboists in Illinois. However the problem is that even though I was musically talented, there are TONS of people who fit that description. When I was your age, music was my life and I dreamed of a career in the Chicago Symphony...needless to say, it never happened.

I am trying to write this as nicely as possible, bc as a university student had several very discouraging teachers and conductors. The things people have said on are much more respectfully said than some of the things I heard as a college student. When I began my studies in music, I was enthusiastic and hoped for a good career as a pit band musician or symphony member, and could not imagine my future as anything else. Many friends, family members, and music teachers tried to tell me the reality of things, and that there was a small probability things could work out. The people who cared about me wanted me to make choices for a realistically successful future. I was too stubborn to believe them and decided to study music anyway.

As time passed, I burned out. Playing music was more of a chore than dream, and I didn't feel motivated to practice. The competition was too strong...while my peers were practicing 6-plus hours a day, I was working 8-plus hours a day because without a job I could not have afforded to pay for my education, but bc of my work schedule, I lacked energy and time to practice enough. I ended up changing my course of study. My 2nd year I quit oboe for good and my 3rd year stopped being a saxophonist.

I am still a violinist, but no longer aspire to play in any major symphony. I am 23 and still young and realize it isn't realistic anymore, and probably never was. As someone who started out studying music performance, I can tell you that if I could go back in time and change things, I would have studied something more economically feasible and continued playing music for fun.

All that being said, I am a violin teacher and street musician on the side and earn decent tips to supplement my income. It is much more stress-free and enjoyable than trying to compete with people who had more talent and time than I did.

I am sure you are a musically capable person, and please understand I am not trying to discourage you. It is just that many times I feel that if I hadn't tried to 'make it' in music and just learned for the fun of it, I would have enjoyed it more and been happier.

January 3, 2012 at 09:49 PM · What a lot of the experienced professionals on here have said is good advice and they are not pulling any punches but at the same time being sensitive.

What you have to decide is whether you are willing to spend the next 6-10 years or so studying music and becoming a violinist and face the prospect of failure. I had to do that many years ago when I thought I would go to a music college for 3+ years and if at the end I hadn't made it, too bad. I just had to do it. However, at that time aged about 18 I already had six years of violin study behind me and I had started lessons with one of the top players and teachers in London of that time. You are 14 and have not yet started playing the fiddle - as I understand it.

So go ahead but be prepared for failure, and an alternative career if it does not work out.

January 3, 2012 at 10:06 PM · Preparing for failure is a discouraging approach, no?

Have your Plan A, Plan B, and Plan C in place...and be prepared that those change over time and with circumstances.

You're 14.

January 3, 2012 at 11:16 PM · NA,

I'm wondering what your main source of income is currently. Living in Canada, you probably don't have to worry about health insurance.

January 4, 2012 at 12:19 AM · Thanks, everyone! And Sarah, you didn't hurt my deelings or discourage me at all. I understand you are just being very realistic. Also thank you Peter, and N.A. You are all very supportive, and I understand the chances are like that of a grain of rice trying to be picked from a rice farm (haha) and that it is a very unrealistic goal. But I guess all we can do is reach for the stars and realize the possibility of only skimming the clouds. Thanks again everyone!

January 4, 2012 at 01:45 PM · There is no reason not to give it your best shot, if that is what you want. Just have a Plan B ready in case. The legal profession, for example, is full of Julliard-trained lawyers. Good luck!

January 4, 2012 at 02:07 PM · Hey Garret,

You asked a question when you started this thread, and for the most part, I think the responses are a pretty good reflection on reality. Sometimes, the truth is not easy to swallow, but if your mind is set to become a musician, then you should go for it. But, just be aware that it is not an easy path to follow.

To put it in perspective, a former teacher of mine plays in a major orchestra. When he auditioned, there were over 200 applicants, all music majors. They took 80 auditions, then narrowed it down to 6 musicians who played for the conductor. Then chose my teacher over all the other "very" qualified candidates.

That was several years ago, and now things are even MORE competitive after the recession and orchestras around the world are struggling to make ends meet. It's not a pretty picture these days for anyone trying to get into a paying orchestra.

January 4, 2012 at 04:33 PM · Garret,

I think it is great that at a young age you are already thinking about the future and using the great tools at your disposal to try and find out more about what awaits you should you go down this path. I know that many of the answers here may seem very disheartening, but it is important that you be equipped properly.

You see it all the time these days, many incredibly talented young musicians enter the professional world with little or no prospects. It is simply the age in which we live. Arts funding has been hit hard in recent years, symphonies are folding left and right, classical musicians seem to be living the not-so-romanticized version of the "starving artist."

But that's doesn't mean there aren't opportunities for you in the industry. What I always tell people is that you have to find ways of being creative and doing what other people haven't thought of, haven't done, or haven't done in that particular way. I would say that your chances of making it as a successful violinist are lower if you intend to go through school like "every other" musician with the goal of applying for the same standard positions.

You must find ways of making yourself stand out and be unique. As several of the other authors have written, competition is very fierce in today's marketplace. But that also means that those who stand out do so that much more, because their innovative and unique qualities are in such high demand.

If you are a bit lost on HOW to do this, don't worry. You still have much time to reflect on this and figure out the HOW. What's important is that you are at least thinking about it, which in my opinion puts you far ahead of most other aspiring musicians.



January 4, 2012 at 07:50 PM · Scott; I'm not sure how encouraging a 14-year old to plan for his/her future translates into a dig at Canadian Health care...but you're welcome to immigrate if you like.

You can even come spend a few days at our house until you find yourself a place of your own...;)

January 4, 2012 at 10:54 PM · NA,

I think you missed my point. First, please answer my question:

How do you earn a living?

Second, my comment about the fact that Canadians have government-provided health care is meant to emphasize the large burden that the cost of private insurance has on the self-employed and freelancers in the US. This burden, especially as one ages, is eating into the fabric of US society, and with each year the ability to support one's self and one's family as a freelancer grows more untenable.

Before the recession, health care-related debts caused the majority of bankruptcies in the US.

If you can't get into an orchestra or other organization that offers health benefits, you are scr*wed in America. People who wish to pursue a career in which freelancing is the likely mode of making a living should be aware of this. We are all one hospital visit away from total ruin.

January 4, 2012 at 11:01 PM · Scott, So what you are saying is that the market for musical skills does not support a musician's desire to have health insurance and so this must be provided by confiscationg money from the rich (who make almost all the donations to support the arts) or borrowed from future generations? Am I missing something here?

January 5, 2012 at 03:22 AM · Corwin,

I assume that either you are so young that someone else pays for your health care, or your health care is provided by your employer.

Which is it?

January 5, 2012 at 04:00 AM · I am nearly 60 years old, am self employed and I buy my own health insurance which is an option you didn't offer but that is what it is. I love music but I chose to develop working skills that have a market.

January 5, 2012 at 04:34 AM · Corwin,

Then you understand the high cost of health insurance.

However, you did twist my words a little with a conservative slant: I did not imply that musicians deserve to have their insurance subsidized by the rich.

What I simply said was that if you wish to be a professional violinist, there is a good chance that you will be a freelancer, and that health insurance, along with other costs, have risen to the point that it is difficult to make a living.

January 5, 2012 at 04:45 AM · I concede your point but your tone about this came off as bitter. The basic fact of life is that very few have highly remunerative lives in music. Most musicians I know are really very smart people who could have chosen financially rewarding careers so they are responsible for their choices to pursue something less marketable.

January 5, 2012 at 05:31 AM · Through hard work and dedication anything is possible.

I could have been playing the violin since i was 3yrs and not be "fully" committed and be at a certain level by age 22

Against a person who started at 14 yrs who was FULLY "committed" and is now at the same level as the 3yr starter

January 5, 2012 at 09:33 AM · Scott

In a more just society I do not see why musicians [and the poor generally] do not deserve to have their insurance subsidized by the rich.

It's only in rich countries like the USA and the UK that the rich refuse to help the poor and less well off by paying a bit more tax. It's commonly known as greed, as they get richer and the poor get poorer.

January 5, 2012 at 11:40 AM · Peter, we could take everything the rich have and it wouldn't be enough. The greed comes from those who demand that others pay their way. The others that they expect to pay their way are those that chose productive careers, risk their money to make money, their children and their grandchildren. No society can afford free riders and the growth of the number of free riders has brought us to this economic crisis we are in today. My advice to young people is do whatever you want to do but make sure that it pays enough to pay your way.

January 5, 2012 at 02:55 PM · I also think that more generally the principle only sounds good in theory. Just because you give money to the "poor" does not mean that it will be used effectively. While there are of course rich people who gained their money through less than ethical means, there are also lots of successful people who are wealthy because they worked hard/smart/etc and were generally more productive in terms of what they contributed to their community/society/company/business.

It's easy to find exceptions to the rule, but in my experience working in small businesses, enterprises, startups, and the like, almost always the most successful and wealthy contributed something invaluable.

If you take from those who produce solely to fund those who don't (or those who produce less) there is no reason to believe that it would necessarily lead to a more equitable result as HOW people use that money can be just as (or more) important than IF they have it in the first place.



January 5, 2012 at 03:25 PM · I think you have both misunderstood my point.

I have not suggested that we take everything from the rich, but that the rich AND those who are comfotably off should contribute a bit more to the healthcare of the poor. If their income tax bill was about 50% higher they probably wouldn't miss it too much but it would go a long way to diminish poverty. And if governments did not waste money and resources on Olympic Games and wars in Afghanistan and Iraq then there would be adequate money to provide better healthcare.

Rich Republicans and Tories are dead against using the nations wealth by imposing taxes which can be used for the good of everyone. This is why all politicians suck, to use an American phrase.

January 5, 2012 at 04:38 PM · Well 50% more wouldn't make a dent in the bills and it would take money that would be invested to create new jobs or spent on symphony tickets (work for musicians) fancy cars (work for factory workers) beautiful clothing (work for tailors and dressmakers) wonderful meals (work for cooks, waiters, dishwashers etc.) fancy vacations (work for airline pilots, factory workers in airplane plants, resort workers and builders, etc.) or ... Etc. etc. welfare should only be for the truly handicapped not for able bodied people who greedily refuse to match their talents to the marketplace.

January 5, 2012 at 04:38 PM · Corwin wrote:

"Peter, we could take everything the rich have and it wouldn't be enough. The greed comes from those who demand that others pay their way."

Agreed! Furthermore, no matter how much the class-envy crowd keeps screeching otherwise, America is not a class society. The poor and the wealthy are not like two separate races but are, quite often, the very same people at different stages of their lives. I know this from personal experience.

I joined the ranks of American entrepreneurs in 1996. In the nearly 16 years I've had my own business, I have lived at both ends of the economic spectrum -- 1) below the poverty line and 2) free and clear. Even in my leanest times, I never -- even once -- envied "the rich" one penny of what is theirs.

And I have never -- even once -- favored raising taxes on the wealthy. Every time I hear these career politicians talk about making the rich "pay their fair share," I think of Judas Iscariot -- see John 12:6: "This he said, not that he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief, and had the bag."

Regarding health insurance: If it operated the way, let's say, auto insurance operates, this could do a lot to cut costs and eliminate waste. If you're in a collision, your auto insurance comes into play. But does your auto insurance pay for new tires, oil changes, tune-ups? Come on!

I can see the logic in having health insurance cover a catastrophic injury or disability. But to have it cover the whole field of routine, non-emergency visits that it covers today -- wellness visits, inoculations -- what absurdity!

On taxes: I have long favored a flat tax -- that is, until we can get rid of the income tax and the IRS altogether. As for graduated tax rates, I can't imagine anyone -- except perhaps Karl Marx himself and his devotees -- thinking that this somehow equals "fairness." When Washington talks about raising taxes on the wealthy -- beware. Hold on to your wallet. It's only a matter of time before they target the rest of us, too.

January 5, 2012 at 05:23 PM ·

January 5, 2012 at 05:33 PM · It would take an asteroid strike to cause the fundamental changes that are needed but the main requirement for meaningful change is that we never look to others to pay our way in life and that we keep responsibility for actions as granular as possible.

If I were king of the forest I would make health insurance insurance again and not prepaid healthcare. But that is a tangent.

Young people--choose work that remunerated you for the lifestyle you want to live. If you cannot, choose a lifestyle you can afford.

January 5, 2012 at 05:37 PM · Talking about politics is a minefield, but single-payer health care system can be a wonderful thing! U.S. should look to Taiwan for a successful example. I still pay into the system, and happily so, even though I haven't been living there for the last 15 years, because it may one day save my loved ones or even myself from demise or bankruptcy:

But the cost of medical care in the U.S. is just out of hand - even if they didn't have universal healthcare, most people in Taiwan can still afford to pay the expenses out-of-pocket themselves, while it's one medical disaster from bankruptcy for many people in the U.S. (insured or uninsured).

January 5, 2012 at 05:50 PM · Of course if you are OK and you don't care about society, as the Tories in the UK don't, and the Republicans in the US don't - then fine.

But I like to think of myself as a little more humanitarian than that.

January 5, 2012 at 06:58 PM · Corwin et al,

Just to play the Devil's advocate:

One can think of health care in two ways: one is a private good, like clothing or food. The other is a public good, like roads, airports, or other infrastructure. If one considers it the latter, then the cost has to be spread around society in a different manner than it currently is. If the road in front of your house were to develop a pot hole, the city wouldn't fix it and send you the bill--it's a public good and you couldn't afford it anyway. The same could be argued about health care: that A. it's often too expensive for any one person to afford and that B. we all have a good chance at utilizing those very expensive services, especially later in life.

The problem with the conservative viewpoint, that health care is a private good, is that it's shortsighted. If you don't prevent people from being ruined by large bills and they lose their house, then eventually it does affect the neighborhood, local businesses, and the economy as a whole. If we don't pay for neonatal care and well-baby visits, then society as a whole ends up paying more for problems later.

It's not simply a personality-responsibility-vs-lazy-entitled-socialists argument.

January 5, 2012 at 06:58 PM · Peter, Typically Republicans and Tories care about society including their children and grandchildren and Democrats and Labor care about getting society to pay their way now, the children be damned.

To the original post, choose a career that will allow you to live the lifestyle you want and live the lifestyle you can be responsible for.

January 5, 2012 at 07:43 PM · I agree with Scott - you cannot live in peace if your neighbors are suffering!

Now trying to get back into the topic. I talked to one of my teachers yesterday in my lesson about this thread. She said that at 14, people like her (i.e. those who play at the level that would go on to win positions in full-time orchestras) already have years of experiences playing in youth orchestras (violin, not other instruments), going to camps, playing for master teachers, performing, competing, etc. So someone starting at 14 would have missed all these opportunities and have a huge gap of experiences to make up...

January 5, 2012 at 08:35 PM · If it is a public good for us why don't we extend it to our neighbors on our southern border? Why not to all of South America? Or Africa or India? The suffering in many countrioes is horrific yet they have no access to what we have. Why? Because we can pay for it and they cannot. If a society is "just" then it doesn't limit its largesse to itself. But I think everyone with any sense will recognize that the devloped nations don't have the wealth for this and we have spent too much already on free riders. Take Greece for example.

The only solution young people is grow up and pay your way (and your grandparents and great grandparents debts).

January 5, 2012 at 08:48 PM · "Typically Republicans and Tories care about society..."

Yes, that's what conservatives like to believe about themselves.

Joyce, I'd add that if our neighbors are suffering, it leads to a lower growth rate, lower property values, less corporate profit, a smaller and less powerful military, poorer infrastructure, and less investment by business. However, conservatives tend not to look at the long-term problems of a society that can't afford it's own health care. That would be too long-term for them. Part of the reason our social programs may eventually insolvent is the lack of growth caused by conservative policies.

To our friend Garrett I'd add: sure, go for it. People actually do make a living in this field, and it may happen. Just have your eyes open, and be realistic about your talents. As one of my teachers said to me: "your success will depend to a large extent on how honest you are with yourself."

January 5, 2012 at 09:35 PM · For three years now our growth has been constrained by uncertainties about taxation, excessive debt and overregulation. Progressives only care about here and now for themselves. I have four children and a grandchild on the way. I care intensely about the world they will live in when I am gone and I hope it is a world where people take responsibility for themselves and voluntarily help others without being extorted by governments who want more than anything else to be in control.

Young people, whatever you do be responsible for yourselves and your well being and do well enough to help take care of your family and your neighbors without whining and begging.

January 5, 2012 at 10:30 PM · "For three years now our growth has been constrained by uncertainties about taxation, excessive debt and overregulation"


Tell me specifically which regulation you like to get rid of.

Actually, our growth has been constrained by the vast numbers of people forced into bankruptcy and foreclosure, the huge costs of end-of-life medical care, and most importantly, by the loss of jobs from globalization.

January 5, 2012 at 10:56 PM · What conservatives really mean when they say....

"we need less regulation!": keep the rules that protect me from predatory corporations and keep my air and water clean. Just get rid of them for everyone else.

"we need smaller government!": keep plenty of police and firemen in my area, and cut services for everyone else.

"Don't subsidize lazy poor people": but don't take away my home mortgage deduction!

"Make people pay for their health care!" : but don't touch my medicare!

January 6, 2012 at 03:03 PM · This thread has been hijacked. Can we stop the political discussion, please?

January 7, 2012 at 05:34 AM · Rats. I was just getting started. What was the question again?

(besides, let's face it: this question has been so thoroughly discussed in this and recent threads that there's nothing left to say on the subject. Hijacking was the only reasonable course of action)

January 7, 2012 at 11:25 AM · Here, here Scott!! Keep going, I like it!

January 7, 2012 at 12:42 PM · Me too. Lets say if a poor young violinist was a truly phenomenal talent - a new paganinin and this 'prodigy' wanted to be a professional virtuoso (see, on topic, I even used the word) - but he had an inherited disorder that required weekly hormones shots at $200 a pop - but his father left to join the tea party movement to live the rich life while his mother earned only enough to pay for their two room hovel.

Is there no collective responsibility for this childs well being? I mean we only get a Paganini every 100 yrs or so...

January 7, 2012 at 02:18 PM · Sorry Elise, too implausible unless its daddy went of to the Occupy movement to whine about no one taking care of him.

January 7, 2012 at 04:49 PM ·

January 7, 2012 at 06:02 PM · I am very sorry for this man's wife but it sounds like you expect someone else to take the risk so that this guy can do something else. The people of Nigeria would love to have $1000 for medicine if thy needed it. Why spend $30k here for one person when we could help 30 people there? Oh that's right the man in your story is paying for it himself through his salary and benefits. Thank goodness he has the right to spend the money on those nearest and dearest to him. If you left it up to me as king of the forest I would spend it on the thirty. It is more moral.

January 7, 2012 at 11:15 PM · Corwin,

I think you've missed the point. Again.

I wasn't saying that Americans need to pay for health care the world over.

Conservatives are preoccupied with jobs creation, innovation, entrepreneurialism, economic growth, and opportunity. As well they should be, I should add.

However, my point was not to elicit sympathy, but rather to point out how our system of paying for health care tends to have a damping effect on the above. If people in your hometown cannot afford their health care or cannot afford to start and grow a business, then obviously that leaves less money for you (and me), whatever you do. And the fact is that any of us--you and I included--can contract a disease such as this. We are all at risk, and thus the risk needs to be spread around more.

Although they champion the idea of Joe the Plumber, conservatives don't really care if Joe the Plumber makes it.

Because no matter how stacked the system is against Joe, they'll just smugly insist he didn't try hard enough.

January 8, 2012 at 02:56 AM · Scott, I think you missed my point again. What kind of chauvinism says that we should pay for Americans' health care but not for other people? If it is proper and just to take money out of my pocket to pay for you why not for someone in Mexico or Nigeria? When taking money from one person for another starts in the name of Justice then it will for sure never stop until no one has any money.

January 8, 2012 at 02:55 PM · Dang, haven't you people moved on to religion yet?

January 8, 2012 at 05:15 PM · Corwin - if you also agree to stop all significant inheritance - I mean why should some people get a free ride just because their parents worked hard - then you might have a case.

January 8, 2012 at 08:14 PM ·


January 8, 2012 at 10:27 PM · Why should some kids get to go to college because their parents paid for it? Why should some kids get violin lessons because their parents paid for it? Why should some kids get good violins because their parents paid for them? Why do some people get to keep the fruits of their labors and ingenuity? Why is Itzhak Perlman rich?

January 8, 2012 at 10:31 PM · I think Americans should be entitled to a lifetime supply of shoulder rests. Now that we're pulling out of Iraq, it's essential for national defense.

January 9, 2012 at 01:17 AM · Exactly Corwin. So you agree. Lets try and even the playing field as much as possible and devise a system where people get the benefit of their own labours - not money taken off the well to do and not money inherited from them either. Money they make by their own hard labour and dedication. See, I'm actually to the right of your point of view. But its really not about that is it? 'Conservatism', at least as espoused in the US now, is actually about a bunch of people who are trying to both hang onto what they have and rationalize why they do so - they don't give a damn about a fair society. In two words, its really only about selfishness and greed.

I think what you forget is that the reason social programs were started was not really to help the poor, it was to create a workforce that could effectively produce and earn and in so doing could also consume thereby providing both the source and dispersal of goods. Your spiritual forefathers realized that they could not become nor sustain their riches unless both of these processes were maintained. Perhaps whats happened now is that the leaders of new conservatism have decided that they don't need workers any more because the markets have shifted overseas - and hence why not dismantle even the (reagan) 'safety net' pretense, let the poor die and maintain wealth on white collar income based on international corporations.

Trouble is it won't work. If we can learn anything from history its that before they decide to die the poor revolt. IMO thats what the 'occupy wall street' demonstrations are - the very thin wedge of the start of that scary process. People with nothing left to loose. Push it too far and you could well end up with a 'US spring'.

January 9, 2012 at 04:10 AM · I agree? Hardly.

January 9, 2012 at 04:22 AM ·

January 9, 2012 at 03:46 PM · That is a gross slander Scott and unbecoming someone who aspires to be an artist. For the record, political conservatives are for more generous in their charitable contributions than liberals.

January 9, 2012 at 05:30 PM ·

January 9, 2012 at 06:44 PM · In a much earlier post, before all the tongue-wagging about health care and taxation got started, someone wrote, "through hard work and dedication anything is possible."

Possible is not the same thing as likely! What if your parents said they were selling your musical instruments to buy lottery tickets? It's "possible" they could win. Does that make it a good idea?

There is no field that is not competitive, but violin performance seems disproportionately so. The clever 14-year-old will channel his or her intellect and industry into fields in which there is a long term need for people, and those fields are things like medicine, scientific research, math/statistics, engineering, journalism, business administration, computers and networks, the ministry, primary and secondary teaching, nursing, and so on. Statistically you've got a much better shot at pharmacy school than you do at an orchestral career. Statistically you might even have a better shot on the saxophone, although you will have to leave Bach behind.

Don't forget to take care of your mental health and physical fitness along the way. That will improve your odds of success.

January 9, 2012 at 07:43 PM · OK, as long as we are this far off-topic, let's talk specifically. My insurance premium for myself and three kids is a little over $800 a month. My husband's comes from the state high-risk pool, and the current premium is $560 a month, so we are talking almost $1400/month for a family of 5. (It's not Cadillac coverage, either.) Do the math: $16,800 a year. (For the record, the CEO of my insutrance company is making about $8 million a year.)

Someone above gave an example of the rich going to restaurants and thus providing jobs for dishwashers. Minimum wage: $7.50/hour, $300/week, $15,600/year GROSS, assuming working a full week every week.

Personally, I would like for the dishwasher's kids to have all their vaccinations. First of all to help keep them healthy, but also because no vaccine offers 100% protection, and whooping cough or measles isn't how I want my kids or anyone else's to die.

January 9, 2012 at 07:51 PM · Lisa. Right on.

January 9, 2012 at 08:39 PM · Scott, The cost is increasing so radically because it has been spread around too much. Anything that someone else pays for will be over-consumed. Bad health is a personal tragedy and we are busy making it a national tragedy.

Statistically there is no one left to spread it all around to except future generations. We can expropriate all the incomes of all rich people and it will only make a tiny dent in the problem near term and crush our economy thereafter. If we get more sharing there will be extreme rationing and no one not even you, will be happy.

January 9, 2012 at 08:48 PM · In the UK I wouldn't imagine any family would pay more than £2000 per year (about $250 per month) and that covers all health care and a lot more social and unemployment benefit. (All health care is free at the point of service, and many will pay a LOT less than this).

But then we have a pretty marvellous National Health Service and we do not (yet) live in an extreme right wing fascist country. We do have a conservative government who would love to get richer by privatising the health service, but the b******* know they can't get away with that even though the scum try.

I would hate to live in a country like the USA and I'm afraid I avoid it like the plague, even though there are many decent people living there.

January 9, 2012 at 09:04 PM · We are glad you don't live here Peter. We are happy that we saved England twice but we don't care for any of your socialized medicine and are very happy that our ancestors abandoned the place long ago. We are grateful for what England once was--a bastion of liberty and a leader in free market capitalism. But that was then. Here is a defense of the National Health Service from one of your leading socialist newspapers. Damned with faint praise, I would say:

January 9, 2012 at 10:01 PM · Peter, Joyce, Elise, et al, I'm happy to hear you all say you are pleased with the health care in the UK, Canada, and Taiwan. We're always told how awful it is, usually by someone here who is profiting immensely from our system.

January 9, 2012 at 10:21 PM · Corwin

If you think that the Guardian Newspaper is a socialist paper then you need more education. It's a middle of the road newspaper with right/liberal leanings.

Also, if you think the US saved Britain you have to think again. We don't need the US and you only joined in with the second world war when you had to. We were doing OK on our own. We neeed Europe and not the US. But you can have that war criminal Tony Bliar and Thatcher whenever you like. They will fit in OK with your GW Bush and make it a full set of war criminals.

And I have to say that we in Britain are pleased that a certain bad element left these shores a long time ago and settled elswhere.

January 9, 2012 at 10:54 PM · If you say so Peter.

January 9, 2012 at 11:23 PM · If you have insurance of any kind you are paying for other people's health care; it's just that in the U.S. it's a badly-regulated, for-profit endeavor, so a great deal of money is skimmed away. I haven't met a Canadian or European who isn't happy with their nationalized system.

January 9, 2012 at 11:53 PM · Have you met any unhealthy ones Laurie? They come to the US and other countries in droves to pay "out of pocket" for hip and knee replacements. This is a Canadian medical journal. Here is another article: according to this article Canadians spend $60 billion a year in healthcare costs in foreign countries

January 10, 2012 at 02:01 AM · "We are happy that we saved England twice but we don't care for any of your socialized medicine and are very happy that our ancestors abandoned the place long ago. We are grateful for what England once was.."


Please avoid the use of "we." "I," if you wish, but not everyone feels that way.

You are partially correct in that employer-based insurance has pushed cost up and I've always felt it should be abandoned. However, the much of the reason is due to simple demographics: most health care dollars are consumed by people at the end of life. It is the same problem in all the developed countries that have aging populations.

January 10, 2012 at 02:01 AM · This thread is like a train wreck. I want to look away, but I just can't stop watching all of the carnage!

January 10, 2012 at 04:22 AM · You're free to watch or look away Terry. There are a lot of interesting threads active just now. Gerald Klickstein's blog on self awareness is really excellent.

Scott, now you're talking rationing which is the inevitable and necessary outcome of socialized medicine. End of life will be dumbed down to justify a lot spending cuts Frankly I am all in favor of death panels, rationing etc. if we are to have socialized medicine. In fact I am not just in favor of rationing I insist. What I object to is that the health care laws we have recently had rammed down our throats will not allow those who can afford it to get what they want with their own money (unless they belong to a union or are a member of Congress,)

January 10, 2012 at 04:36 AM · More and more of these lately.

January 10, 2012 at 05:06 AM · Corwin,

Please explain your assertion that Obama's health care law

"...will not allow those who can afford it to get what they want with their own money..."

What are you talking about? Maybe when you or someone in your family isn't rejected by an insurance company due to a pre-existing condition you can thank Obama.

And by the way, if you're so against "socialized medicine" we can all presume that you will NOT be signing up for medicare in a few years?

Just because Canadians who can afford it are taking advantages of certain aspects of our system does not mean that most of them would willingly give up their system overall. Any Canadians out there wish to comment? What about N.A. Mohr? Care to switch to "the world's greatest health care down here"?

Guess what Corwin? Our infant mortality is #46. Are you kidding me? Look who beats us: Well, first there's Canada at #36. And of course Sweden and Denmark, those socialist herring fiends you conservatives SO detest with the red-hot intensity of five suns. And we're even beaten by CUBA!

And life expectancy: we're #36. I guess it's a given that Canada beats us. And those rat-bastard Swedes at #8. And hey, even those British you are so glad to be rid of! THEY LIVE LONGER THAN WE DO! Even eating that awful British food. So maybe if well all donated to Doctors without Borders as I have done, they'd come HERE and make us a little healthier!

January 10, 2012 at 06:02 AM · "Frankly I am all in favor of death panels"

Why am I not surprised?

January 10, 2012 at 11:11 AM · Scott. I'm afraid the statistics you quote will fall on deaf ears. I mean they mix up everyone with 'the people who matter' (read rich or in power) who's health care is probably the best in the world. And there is the rub.

The point to me is that America has existed long enough to develop into a two tier society - the rich and the poor. The rich have all the resources and not only that, they can now ensure they can pass these down to their progeny. By resources I include the essential element - education. Once you have money and better education system you will do better than the other group.

What we are actually observing is the evolution of an aristocracy - the very thing everyone went to America to get away from. It happens in all coutries eventually I guess. Whats weird is that the majority in the lower caste end up supporting the structure on the belief it seems that without the rich there will be nothing to pass on to the poor. There was a time when the American Dream was real. Its still true that "if you work hard you will succeed" but noone seriously believes that it is generally true that everyone has an equal opportunity to get onto the ladder of success.

Corwin, I am guessing, is a member of the american aristocracy and does not want to part with his privilidge for the sake of a common good - something that he would read as comunist (thats the defence that has been used to create the society of privilidge). The question is, of course, would any of us part with it either if we were in his position?

Anyone else having flash backs to classes on the French Revolution yet?

January 10, 2012 at 05:48 PM · Elise,

I have no doubts that the elite in such chronically stratified countries as Brazil present similar arguments against "class warfare"

or "redistribution" or "those progressives want to make our great country look like SWEDEN!" or what about "we must get evil government off our backs like the libertarian utopia of Somalia!"

(when they're not whining about being slandered, that is...)

January 10, 2012 at 06:05 PM · I love it when conservatives talk about how they (but more typically their parents) "pulled themselves up by their bootstraps" and how they started three or four successful businesses and raised their children etc. etc. with "no help from the government," and therefore everyone else should have to do the same. But then we learn that:

(1) They are generally healthy,

(2) None of their siblings or children had diabetes or crippling depression or muscular dystrophy or leukemia or any other horrifying disease,

(3) They grew up in a two-parent, middle-class, healthy family in a nice town with good schools,

(4) Maybe they even served in the military but they weren't blinded or paralyzed,

(5) The government built the schools they went to, paid the professors where they went to college, and paved the roads leading to their businesses,

(6) One or two of their main business competitors died suddenly of strokes, or they just happened to be coming out of college during a boom cycle,

(7) Other huge (and countless) lucky breaks to which they are unwilling (or just too ignorant) to assign any credit for their so-called success.

What I find really really shocking and vile about the mainstream right these days is the inability to recognize that the overwhelming majority of so-called "self-made" successful people were the beneficiaries of mostly dumb luck. Yes there are lots of people who have worked hard to get where they are (I count myself among them) and perhaps others who truly built something from virtually nothing, but the latter are a tiny minority.

Are YOU willing to admit that you benefited from dumb luck? Are you willing to admit that you did benefit -- significantly -- from government-funded projects and programs including basic infrastructure and national defense?

Perhaps poverty will always be with us, but other countries have taught us that at least you can ensure that anyone can go to the doctor. Are we to be civilized? Or is it just "too flipping bad" for anyone who didn't benefit from as much dumb luck as you did?

January 10, 2012 at 07:53 PM · We have entered an era where the audience at a debate between presidential candidates cheers at the suggestion that people without health insurance be left to die. Twice now firefighters have stood and watched a house burn to the ground because the homeowners hadn't paid a $70 fee. The idea that we have a responsibility for each other has gone away. Each man for himself, and the devil take the hindmost.

January 10, 2012 at 09:57 PM · Regarding "dumb luck": Well, mine wasn't such, and I've known of plenty of others like me. I know firsthand what it means to face lean circumstances and have to do without over the long haul -- and pull myself up by the bootstraps. As mentioned earlier, since I joined the ranks of American entrepreneurs in 1996, I have experienced life below the poverty line and, by contrast, life free and clear.

While I agree that we should all have access to a physician in time of need, I am wary of government-run programs -- except for the truly needy. The hand that gives -- i.e., government -- is also that hand that can take. Budget shortfalls can play havoc with these systems.

I am staunchly conservative on political, economic, and social issues -- no apology. I split with some fellow-conservatives on requiring individuals to purchase private health insurance. I favor such a plan -- though far from what the current administration envisions. It has to be true insurance -- not just prepaid healthcare plans that clog physicians' and nurses' offices with all manner of non-emergency appointments.

End-of-life care and its attendant costs came up. We have created a lot of problems for our elderly population by keeping these people biologically alive on machines -- adding years, or maybe mere hours, to their lives. The last time I re-did my will and related papers, I put in every available provision for DO NOT RESUSCITATE and DO NOT HOSPITALIZE.

Bottom line: If I have a sprained wrist or dislocated shoulder, I'll get it fixed. But end of life? Forget it! When it's my natural time, I'm going. "A long life may not be good enough, but a good life is long enough." -- Author unknown.

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

EDIT: Joyce, regarding your point below about labels: If the reader takes offense merely at a writer's own self-identification as liberal, conservative, beginner, advanced, it sounds like the reader, rather than the writer, has issues. The conservative-bashing earlier in the thread, I can deal with; but the overheated rhetoric in some of it -- plus some misstatements of fact -- these are the things that stir up distrust and hostility and destroy credibility.

January 10, 2012 at 10:07 PM · I just wish people would stop labeling themselves and others, such as liberals vs. conservatives, Republicans vs. Democrats, Suzuki teachers vs. traditional teachers, shoulder-rest users vs. shoulder-restless, beginners vs. advanced, etc. When people see a label, they would automatically judge the subject based on predisposed idea or stereotypes, which creates a "Us versus Them" mentality, unnecessary distrust and hostility. In fact, people have more in common than they'd like to admit.

People would like to believe that they are all self-made and they all deserve what they have earned. I have worked hard all my life and made a lot of sacrifices to get to where I am, but it would not have been possible if I were born into abject poverty, with ill health or inadequate facilities, wasn't allowed an education, or became disabled due to illness/injury, etc. Plenty of people work extremely hard but still struggle. Yes, luck does matter, a lot!

January 10, 2012 at 10:09 PM · I think that it is shameful that people attend symphony concerts in the US while Haitians and Nigerians are dying.

I have seen the error of my ways. I will become a Democrat and quit working and paying taxes. I realize that paying more than my share of taxes has been greedy.


Just for the record I am the beneficiary of a free and prosperous United States of America. My parents and ancestors were not rich. I am one of a large family who gave me a lot of love and support but not much money. They did pay for my violin lessons and bought me a decent violin. But the most valuable things they gave me were their values and beliefs. They taught me not to whine and complain and beg from others. They taught me that I didn't live for me but for those who I helped bring into the world so that I needed to make my choices accordingly. I could see early enough that I didn't have the talent or discipline to support a family through music so I chose a career that I could enjoy well enough. Here I am with a bit more than some but a family that I can help and am being roundly criticized as greedy because I want to take care of my family before I take care of the lazy or self indulgent. I know that there are many tragic and sad situations out there. I know people that are uninsurable. I can see that there is suffering all over the world. The best I can do is raise productive contributing children who pay their own way and have a little bit left over to help their neighbors.

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