Violin or Academics?

September 12, 2012 at 01:24 AM · Hi everyone, I'm in 8th grade and I really love to play violin. I'm not a prodigy or anything, but people always mention that I'm very musical. My violin teacher's students all tell me that, and my teacher says I can express the music a lot better than her other students. I'm in Suzuki Book 8 and I'm playing DeBeriot's Concerto in A minor, Sicilienne and Rigaudon by Kreisler, and Mozart's Concerto No. 3 in G Major. I can practice 8 hours straight. I really love violin. I wish my future was violin. My teacher told me I could've been a prodigy if I'd started earlier.

My problem: My parents don't want violin in my future(Asian). They've put a lot of time and money into my academic education, and I'm pretty smart too. I took Pre-AP algebra 2 at the high school last year, in 7th grade, and got an overall 90 average, and my End-of-Course was a 96. My other talented and gifted classes were 100s. They want me to do something important in the future relating to academics. In particular, my mom wants me to be a surgeon. True, she say all of that "be what you want" stuff, but she means in the academic field, not music. What should I do???

Oh, and the explanation on my violin education:

I started in kindergarten and took lessons up to 2nd grade, when I'd finished book 2, and then joined my school orchestra and I still am in orchestra. I couldn't continue lessons until mid-6th grade, because of the economy. By then, my skills really went down. My new teacher had to re-teach me shifting, vibrato, how to hold my violin, etc. I had to start again in book 3.

So I'm in 8th grade, and I know I have a lot of time. But it's really been bothering me, because I love playing and practicing that much, and I want to do something with it. Minor degrees seem so... minor, and I don't know what my parents will say to a major. So...

Oh, and btw, idk if this matters, but I'm my school orchestra's concertmistress.

okay, so I talked about it with my teacher, and what she told me was that I could probably end up very well with music, and that at the least I could be my local city orchestra's concertmistress, and also at the least be in a quartet that tours the world. I really wish I could do this, but the main thing my parents are saying is that I won't be able to provide for myself. They don't know what my violin teacher said I could end up like, and I'm not sure I should tell them. But don't you think that what my teacher said I'd end up like would make me plenty of money to provide for myself? I guess I could double major, but I heard that's kind of hard, and to major in music, you need at least 30 hrs a week of practice. Right now, in middle school, I am averaging 30 hrs, sometimes more, sometimes less, but usually 30 or 29, and I'm managing my academics fine. But my studies will be a very different story in college, so how would I manage the harder classes and keep up my practice time? And I'm pretty sure if I did decide to major in music, I'd feel compelled to practice a lot more... so...


September 12, 2012 at 03:22 AM · Academics.

September 12, 2012 at 04:24 AM · Yeh, Scott's right. I think - if you have to ask...

September 12, 2012 at 04:47 AM · I would not try and force the matter just yet. You have at least another 4 years of high school before any major decisions have to be made. Your parents may change their minds in this time....or perhaps you might change yours ! and wait.

September 12, 2012 at 06:03 AM · Hi Skye Yoo,

The world as it is has too many good violinist, with a majority of them without a stable job.

Your parents' advice has many ring of truth in it. Pursue a dream of being a professional violinist when there is no question about it.

Being a professional violinist, unfortunately has more to do with the number of hours you practise everyday. You would also need a top level teacher with top level instrutions which a majority of students don't have access to.

September 12, 2012 at 11:57 AM · A lot can happen in the next few years, but you will open the most doors for yourself by making sure you do well in school.

The most interesting people I know have many passions. Whether you win a solo competition, play in the back of an orchestra, or just play for fun, you shouldn't consider yourself a "failure" for pursuing a profession outside of music. (These things do look good on a college application, though, whatever your major.)

By the way, many doctors, professors, lawyers, etc. are quite talented musicians, and a lot of them probably could have been professionals. Even Thomas Jefferson played the violin, but that's not what he is remembered for. You can always play your violin for your own pleasure, and you may even enjoy it more as an amateur.

But it's a lot easier to be an amateur violinist than it is to be an amateur surgeon. So study hard, and you can the best of both worlds!

September 12, 2012 at 11:59 AM · No reason you can't have both, as long as you don't insist on putting yourself in boxes (being a 'professional' musician, for instance). There are many really fine, well-trained, musical violinists who make their incomes from other jobs, saving their violin for their heart time. They may miss the glory of what they see as the job, but they also continue to LOVE playing all their lives (and I wonder how many pros can actually say that with lie-detector honesty by the time they are, say 50?)

I played quartets for several years with a retired proctologist (and, oh, yes, there were jokes about that..I've heard them all) but he loved playing, wasn't half bad for someone his age and handicap(arthritis in hands) and his love of music both filled his life and supported other musicians in theirs.

One thing everyone this site ALWAYS seems to overlook is the essential role of music's PATRONS: those absolutely necessary individuals who, by giving their time and money, keep 'professional' musicians playing. Many (if not most) are musicians themselves to one degree or another, and they can support the musicians because they chose to emphasize academics (or business, or medicine...) but kept their music alive for themselves, their friends, and in their hearts.

September 12, 2012 at 12:28 PM · Skye,

I was in your situation at your age and grew bitter on my parents for that I had to pick academics before music. After all, one can always try to do music, and if you try it when yo uare young enough, you wont be too old to go into academics in case you wont enjoy the music.

But you know what...Being an amateur musician, is fantastic!!

September 12, 2012 at 12:42 PM · Admittedly, I'm not the most practical person in the world, but I've always believed in pursuing what you love above all else, and only then approaching (aggressively) the practicalities of making a living. (This is not a strategy employed by the millionaire next door, I should add.) Half-heartedly pursuing something you have no passion for largely because it's practical may (I use "may" intentionally) be a recipe for material well-being (which has a lot going for it) but it can utterly undermine your chances of happiness or fulfillment. I'd also add that it's not always easy to excel at something that you don't truly care about, so there are perils to the so-called safer, more practical path as well, and what a shame to choose something you don't care about and then not succeed in the ways you were counting on!

By the same token, pursuing your passion (especially if it's music) with anything less than full devotion is likely not the key to success either.

Still, it's worth emphasizing that pursuing your passion does not guarantee material success (not by a long shot), although it can offer you other things -- like a fulfilling life. Again, though, a fulfilling life does not mean that you will not face financial struggles -- many musicians do. Anyone contemplating a career in music needs to know that. It's about one's priorities.

I should also add that I agree with all the previous posters' comments. There is nothing wrong, and a lot right, about pursing a double major, or keeping your love of music as an amateur while pursuing other professional interests. Like I said, making a living is nothing to sneeze at.

Only you can determine your priorities. And in your case, you do have to work with your parents. They're your parents, after all, and they also hold the purse strings to your education. You need to decide what you truly want, what you're willing to accept, and you need to have those tough conversations with them. Perhaps there is room for a workable compromise.

September 12, 2012 at 03:18 PM · When you get to college, you may or may not know what you want to do (and that isn't a bad thing). You will get much greater satisfaction from figuring out what you want to do and doing it than doing something because it is what you should do or because it is what your parents tell you to.

If you love something, don't let someone kill your love of it by smothering you in their expectations. People can never truly take away your passion for something, and you can continue playing for the rest of your life, whether or not you go to music school. Music school isn't the only choice for someone who loves music and wants to keep playing and learning. It really depends on the passion that lives deep inside yourself. I think that a lot of people take a lot of unhelpful ideas about themselves as musicians from the competitive and career-driven environments of music schools.

Long story short: Keep learning and keep playing. An uneducated artist is an incomplete person, and so is an educated person with no art.

Perhaps you can show your parents some of this stuff

September 12, 2012 at 03:46 PM · You know, I agree with you, Sean. If a person has only ONE passion, s/he should pursue it. But aren't most people more complex than that? Hope so, anyway.

Sure, practicing is more fun than studying--you are on your own, making something beautiful you can share with others. Studying is tough, but the rewards can be at least as wonderful. I hate to see 8th graders already decide they know all the options life might have to offer.

September 12, 2012 at 04:18 PM · I agree, Marjory. People certainly can and do have multiple areas of interest/passion. And overriding passions, when they exist, can change for anyone, but perhaps especially for very young people. As a result, I think being exposed to many areas of study, particularly those we don't seem to like at first glance, is important. I guess what I was getting at was less about limiting possible life paths then it was about the potential (non-financial) perils of turning away from a much desired path simply because others don't regard it as worthwhile as another, or perhaps because other paths seem (and maybe are) more practical from an income standpoint.

September 12, 2012 at 04:30 PM · Hi, my peice of advice is follow the academical path but not too far if it's not your calling (but your parents' one)...

You could be a very unhappy surgeon, very rich and have 0 time for your beloved violin because you work 7/7 days a week... (my sister and her friends study in med and I GUARANTY, this must be your passion because they gave up everything for it, lack sleep and regret their past hobbies and life. My sister would do anything to start again her life and go in something else. So as many of her fellow students. But they gave so much for this that they continue...) And this busy life lasts even after you graduate if you live in "workoholic countries" who lack meds. But if med is your true passion, pls ignore what I said above : )

But, yes, you NEED a bit of money to realize your musical dream as an amateur... to pay yourself lessons in a good music school, buy good violins and bows which are a pleasure to work with etc.

If you can't live without your violin (like if just playing on sunday afternoon is not ennough for you...) I suggest to find yourself a good job that does not take years and years of university. I also suggest to not have 4-5 kids : ) which does the same effect...

I fell in that trap myself too... So this is why I want to warn you. I was good at school and violin (but not ennough to be the next soloist... just a normal good student). I went in healthcare university (OT) and though, this is easy... it is not med. Here in Canada, it's almost as bad as med for the ammount of work. I can let you imagine what happened to my violin... I did not quit but it's disgusting how one can take a drop when not practicing consistently in bad conditions!

If I could start my life over, I would definitivly take something less paying (but still not starving) that allows me to keep my violin passion "in shape" with more time to play violin as an amateur.

All my friends that took easier paths are all happier than me and finished school younger.

After a few years, you might get tired to please someone else than yourself. Academics,'s sadly about the only solution. But too many of them when it's not your passion and that it will take you away of your violin forever?

Things to think about... you still have time. It's just my opinion...

Good luck!

September 12, 2012 at 09:33 PM · Even though music may sart as a passion, I wonder how lasting that can be under typical "professional" contexts. Its not just about loving the violin, loving the music and loving the practise. Its also about having to play repertoire that you don't love, with people you don't love and who don't love you back, uncertainty leading to a sense of desperation or fatefulness about having to accept what is offered in case nothing else comes along. Whenever I speak with regular professional musicians, I am so grateful that I have a job that I discovered I love (one I didn't even know existed until I applied for it as a second choice). That space away from music makes me more longing to get back to music, but it also gives me so much fun in its own right.

When you go the academics, explore thoroughly and don't feel that it is one or the other. For inspiration, check out this video of the Mozart Sinfonia Concertante . the ensemble is not professional, they do other things and then they play music really well.

September 12, 2012 at 10:21 PM · Sometime between your third year of high school and your third year of college, you're going to need to make two lists. One is the stuff you really love to do. The other is the list of confident you can be sufficiently good at that there is a reasonable chance of someone hiring you to do it -- and not the dozens or hundreds of other people who apply for the same job. If you are lucky you will find something on both lists.

I really love to play tennis. And chess. And the violin and piano. When I went to college I thought I wanted to be a doctor. Then I discovered organic chemistry and now I am a chemistry professor and an amateur violinist and very happy with both.

September 12, 2012 at 10:44 PM · If you're in 8th grade you should be focused on Academics before violin. Just my opinion.

September 12, 2012 at 11:02 PM · Hey,

Your still pretty young yet being in 8th grade. If your that good at academics, you should really keep doing that good because it can be a huge help later on.

Here's something you'll discover eventually. There are many many things you will be interested in as you get older. In my situation, I went straight out of high school into college to learn to fly. I got as far as my private pilots license with night rating on single engine planes over land before I ran out of funds. Things went weird and the money wasn't there. So now I've been working as an electrician for the last year and a half. I'm hoping to be in the army soon instead of electrical yet too. Throughout this time, I have discovered many different passions (including the violin recently). At first I was very distraught at not being able to fly but I realized that there is so much more to this world than that. There are times as well that I wish that I had put in more effort in high school (I did pretty well mind you but still).

Your very very young yet (I'm pretty young yet myself at 22) and you have a long way to go. Focus on your education (it's a very rare gift to have!) and enjoy your violin in your spare time. After all, what is your goal for the violin? It sounds like you just want to play for the joy of it. Do just that! Just because your not in a concert hall doesn't mean you can't enjoy it.

Passions change, new interests arise. Give yourself the best possible chance by doing everything you can with the education you are freely given.

September 12, 2012 at 11:42 PM · Play your instrument for the rest of your life. Solo, orchestra, especially chamber music. You will truly enjoy it, until the day you can't pick up your instrument anymore.

Unless you can't imagine doing anything else, there's a huge amount of career choices out there, and the only way to see what is possible is to have stellar academics. You won't regret having more choices, and you can't play violin to the exclusion of everything else if you expect to grow up to be a mature artist.

(Spoken as a former young violinist from an Asian family who earned full scholarships in music performance for college, but opted to pursue a career in Computer Science instead, changed careers to perform then teach music, and currently loves his job, teaching young people)

September 13, 2012 at 12:42 PM · If you're not a prodigy you will struggle making a good living playing the violin.

I agree with your parents, keep hitting the books, no one is stopping you from continuing to play the violin even semi-professionally.

Be a doctor or something, make tons of money, money really matters in life. Money can't make you happy only those around you can do that, but it certainly doesn't hurt form my experience.

September 13, 2012 at 12:51 PM · One thing people haven't mentioned here is the possibility of combining the two. You could become a violin teacher in a school and/or have a private studio. You could also train to be a music therapist or physical therapist specializing in performers.

September 13, 2012 at 01:45 PM · Skye,

There are many words of wisdom already written in answer to your post.

As someone who gave up music at age 20, excelled in academia and ended up doing a well paid and quite meaningless job (unrelated to my hard-earned degree) may I add the poem written by Kahlil Gibran, as a gift for your parents?

"Your children are not your children.

They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.

They come through you but not from you,

And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,

For they have their own thoughts.

You may house their bodies but not their souls,

For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,

which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.

You may strive to be like them,

but seek not to make them like you.

For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children

as living arrows are sent forth.

The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,

and He bends you with His might

that His arrows may go swift and far.

Let your bending in the archer's hand be for gladness;

For even as He loves the arrow that flies,

so He loves also the bow that is stable."

September 13, 2012 at 02:24 PM · I would like to offer you another opinion based on my experience.

My family encouraged me to specialize in college according to my dreams. I graduated from a very competitive arts program and successfully worked in my field for 10 years before I came to the realization that I was no longer suited for the rigorously grueling schedule imposed by my career choice. Furthermore, something that I truly loved at your age, became a chore that made me miserable as an adult.

It took me several years to break into my second career and many more after that to acheive the success that I now enjoy. Had I specialized in the field from the start, as my friends encouraged me to do at the time, I would have not had as many struggles, I would likely be in a better financial position, and I would not now dislike the art that was once the center of my life.

Academics are important to your future happiness. Please consider double majoring if you choose a musical career so that you have options.

September 13, 2012 at 02:40 PM · 'Academic life' 'be a surgeon'

How do you put those in the same sentence? Sure, there are surgeons who manage to churn out papers and teach - but theiir lives are dominated by the needs of medicine (which are enough for one career). Seems to me that your parent's goal is not academics but learning for a job of financial security (could be a semantic issue?). And many a life has been ruined on that path if it is not driven from internal wish. Further, since competition is very hard in medicine (or law etc) a person that goes that route without the will is unlikely to suceed.

A true accademic life is living for knowledge - research for the sake of discovery with passing knowledge a central part. If you truly have a passion for violin - and that means you can not imagine life without it being at the centre - and you are really smart. Opt to academics - and do so withe goal of becoming a professor of music. That keeps your music options open and satisfies the letter (if not the actual intent) of your parents wishes.

I'd be most interested in your parent's response ....

September 14, 2012 at 01:01 PM · But the point remains John, an amateur can not play the fiddle all day unless they are finacially independent....

I doubt your doc, amazing as he was, would get into a pro team today!

September 14, 2012 at 03:33 PM · Kreisler didn't finish his med studies from what I've read. His father was a doctor though. I'm pretty sure of this, I've read it somewhere...

September 15, 2012 at 02:07 PM · Medicine and music have long had overlapping talent pools. For just one example, there is a very fine orchestra in Boston composed primarily of doctors and others in the medical profession.

September 15, 2012 at 02:48 PM · Rocky,

what a meaningful poem! I think parents should really learn to advice but not control or force...

I had the same situation. I decided to go with academics and finished with a hsci degree. Now I just feel silly cause I don't enjoy it at all and I want to go back to music. and parents blamed me for my shortcomings saying I wasn't persistent enough.

I would say..try to double major if you really enjoy music and really do well in school. Keep your options open. Plus, you don't need to be super talented to become famous or successful. Follow your passion and things will eventually work out for you!

September 15, 2012 at 04:37 PM · Steven: thats exactly it. A career in music is obviously difficult (there are plenty here that know) and it may seem logical to make your career in a surer area - indeed I am sure there are musicians who regret not having done so. But that should not be the knee-jerk answer because if you really, really need to be in music nothing else will suffice.

I have dealt with umpteen students that end up in medicine because a) they have the ability and b) all their world pushes them that direction even though they have no personal motivation (I often ask them 'why' do medicine? The look of surprise shows that I may be the very first person to cause them to question that decision). Many of these succeed academically (they are super smart) - but then fail the life test. I suspect its the real origin for the joke that the doc is always at the golf course. He/she hates treating sick people but now feels trapped.

Not sure about our OP ....

September 15, 2012 at 04:37 PM · Steven: thats exactly it. A career in music is obviously difficult (there are plenty here that know) and it may seem logical to make your career in a surer area - indeed I am sure there are musicians who regret not having done so. But that should not be the knee-jerk answer because if you really, really need to be in music nothing else will suffice.

I have dealt with umpteen students that end up in medicine because a) they have the ability and b) all their world pushes them that direction even though they have no personal motivation (I often ask them 'why' do medicine? The look of surprise shows that I may be the very first person to cause them to question that decision). Many of these succeed academically (they are super smart) - but then fail the life test. I suspect its the real origin for the joke that the doc is always at the golf course. He/she hates treating sick people but now feels trapped.

And Rocky - your poem is fantastic. Now where on this scale does our OP fall....?

September 16, 2012 at 01:13 PM · there are many examples of "early" failures that succeeded later in life in the entertainment industry. People always say it's difficult to make it in music but so is business, medicine, or anything else. O well, it's just my personal opinion.

I believe most people encourage her to either double major or stick to academics cause she can always be an amateur musician. I suppose it is better than some musicians I know that choose to pursue their career but are stuck working in a pizza shop trying desperately to get the exposure they need.

Too bad we can't peak into our future eh?

September 16, 2012 at 09:04 PM · Steven, I so agree! I've got a little trapped too. But, at least, I want to warn others.

I find it important that people see both sides to academic and music.

Too much academics taken innocently or for someone else is bad... One can't change school programs for ever. It takes money and one wants to start one's life one day!

Therefore, making the good choice is important...

It would be nice to know the real things ahead of time and not only what our parents or society tell is good for youngsters :)

But of course that's life... we do not always know in what we put ourselves in and we got to compose with it! An important skill

I would also like to add to not overestimate the fact that one is young. Once 20yo is hit, it climbs up fairly fast and not everyone wants to stay up to 30yo in school... just saying :)

September 18, 2012 at 12:43 PM · You don't have to be a prodigy to have a career in music, but you do have to be extraordinary. What I would suggest is to work hard and when it comes time to apply for college audition at several top music schools or conservatories. If you are accepted with a healthy scholarship you should be able to have a career in music. If you don't get accepted with adequate money perhaps you should just minor in music.

September 18, 2012 at 04:19 PM · Why 'follow your passion' is bad advice

Also, about 40-60% of each entering class in some elite colleges is pre-med, but most will drop out of that track by sophomore year...

September 19, 2012 at 02:52 AM · It is okay to aim for a career in music if you are the concertmaster of every orchestra you play in, win concerto competitions and have frequent experience playing recitals and solos with orchestra. Just about every violinist in a major orchestra has such a resume. (However many with such resumes are not able to get into major orchestras.) If this isn't you then listen to your parents.

Am I exagerating? Not much. The worst violinist in a major orchestra was a star until he joined that orchestra.

September 19, 2012 at 03:42 PM · Soloists: up to $50,000 per weekend.

Orchestra musicians in top American orchestras: over $100,000 per year starting salary.

College violin professor: Anywhere from 40k-100k

High School orchestra teacher: 33k-60K

Private studio teacher playing in local orchestras: Maybe 20k (possibly more if you have a really good reputation in a large community)and no health insurance.

September 19, 2012 at 10:29 PM · corwin is so right on! the fact is you can always play the violin at any level but you cant easily go back and get that edjucation. Even if you dont do anything with it, you will have it. Very important. Edjucation first, then do the orchestra thing, at whatever level you choose. (edjucation misspelled on purpose to highlight the importance of an edjumacation).

September 20, 2012 at 11:00 PM · I have to say-- this thread was quite heartbreaking to read through in its entirety. I've been reading for many years now, and it's interesting to note how sour and negative the commentary has become. Thanks to whoever quoted the Kahlil Gibran poem.

September 20, 2012 at 11:14 PM · I didn't read every word of every post, but I didn't find the overall tone to be "sour and negative". These threads always draw some people talking about the difficulty of making a living as a musician, and others who say follow your dream.

I wish someone would write an article for the FAQ section about the pros and cons of trying to have a career in music - this question comes up so often.

September 20, 2012 at 11:56 PM · The people who post on this forum quickly forget that they are talking to a 13-year-old.

September 21, 2012 at 02:51 AM · No one has forgotten that. Unless (or even if) one is a prodigy 13 is a make or break time for a future musician. Closing the door on one option to pursue another could lead to heartbreak. And that goes both ways.

September 21, 2012 at 09:51 AM · E. Smith: SOME people, please..

I hope we haven't lost our poster - I don't think there was a followup...

September 21, 2012 at 11:58 AM · It's funny, the "tough love" approach used to be reserved for the inevitable 25 year old self-taught rank beginner wondering if a career as an international soloist is a reasonable expectation. I'll just reiterate my much earlier post, which was geared toward the young OP. No one on these boards knows your potential. Your teacher may have an inkling -- and has actually said that you're talented, but even he/she doesn't know how you might grow and change as a person and a musician in the next few years. You don't even truly know what you're capable of achieving if you apply yourself. Some people grow incrementally, some putter along and then suddenly make huge and surprising leaps. Teenage non-prodigies can't become prodigies (that word is reserved for the very young -- and the parents who misapply it on Youtube), but they can sometimes become mature artists with worthwhile things to say. (Interestingly, it's worth mentioning that some prodigies don't ever grow into mature artists despite their early promise and achievements.) The only way to find out for yourself is to try -- and it's hard to try fully when serving two masters. It's also hard to achieve true excellence when you turn away from your passion and choose a path that you don't truly care about, whether it's motivated by fear or supposed practicality or the recommendations of well-meaning others, in the vain hope of eventually finding that passion in Plan B, or especially when you attempt to replace or rebuild your true passion in the pursuit of material well-being. Since all professions are challenging and require commitment, choosing to follow your true passion with your entire being and focus may, ironically, be the most practical path of all.

As for the practicalities of making a living, there are many ways to make a career in music, and being a soloist or member of an orchestra are only two of the many options available to you.

And if your passions change? So what? Let them. Follow them. If you go to music school and find it's not for you, change your path, change your major. It happens all the time. If you finish music school and learn that the life of a musician is not for you, so what? Go back to school. Change your path. People do it all the time. Follow your passion and give yourself to it completely -- because I believe it is your best guide to achieving true excellence and living a fulfilling life. The perils of pursuing a direction that you do not love -- for money or any other reason -- are simply too great. Like I said above, it's just not practical.

Your future is not written, not at 13, not ever.

September 21, 2012 at 12:23 PM · I remember something violinist/composer Todd Reynolds said at a masterclass a few years ago. When he was a young person studying with Heifetz, the legendary violinist sat him down and began by asking him if he knew what a vocation was. That tough love conversation, well meaning perhaps, shook the young man to his core and he didn't touch his violin for two years. At that point, his passion re-emerged and he began to play again. He didn't become a traditional soloist, but he has created a unique and rewarding career for himself. I'm lazy so I'll just paste bits of his bio below for those who are interested:

Todd Reynolds is an American violinist, composer, and conductor well known for his work with amplified violin and electronics....former principal of the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra... member of Bang on a Can and Steve Reich and Musicians, co-founder of the string quartet Ethel...critically acclaimed both in his career as a repertoire violinist and as an improviser....the recipient of a number of grants and awards for his work, including ASCAP awards and a 2003 Meet the Composer Commissioning Award.

September 21, 2012 at 01:10 PM · That is so sad to here because it is so important to have your parents' support, but do what you love!!!!!!!!! I did both. I went to college for music and studied math too.

Play with outside orchestras and go to a college that has a great music program and double major! Never give up on what you love to do because you will resent it in the future. It may be a bit crazy but music can be your stress relief so keep it up.

Or just tell your parents that you love violin and ask for their support... Whatever works

September 21, 2012 at 01:38 PM · There's lots to ponder here and it's been extremely interesting to read through the various responses. Every individual is unique and the path each of us have taken probably isn't going to work for someone else. I chose an early path that led to medicine, and as I remember I was about thirteen when I made that decision. I don't remember that my parents were particularly demanding. They simply let me follow my own ambition. At the same time I wanted to learn the piano, so I bought a piano with a small inheritance from my grandparents and my parents paid for me to take lessons from the local church organist. Then I went away to medical school and didn't think about music again until I started working. I returned to the piano, but after a while I fell out of love with the piano and in love with the violin. As I reflect back though. I don't think I would have been happy making music my career. I've read many stories on this site of people trying to make a living as a musician. I take lessons still, and one of my teachers plays for a very reputable city symphony orchestra, teaches, and struggles to survive. I'm always afraid to ask how things are going when I go for a lesson. My teacher really loves music and so do I. I guess the difference is that musicians must play to both live from day to do and to fulfill that inner need. I just have the latter to think about. So back to the first question. If you love academics and it rises to the level of a passion, you shouldn't need your parents to push you. If on the other hand life is miserable hitting the books and the only thing in life is to live and die for music, then you should follow your heart and then marry a doctor.

September 21, 2012 at 06:29 PM · "then you should follow your heart and then marry a doctor"

I'm now inspired.......I'm going to carve a sign that says that, and give it to my daughter before she leaves for college.

September 22, 2012 at 12:04 PM · If I have read the post correctly, our OP is a 13-year-old Asian girl. That means "follow your passion" may not be in her family acculturation. Just saying.

And why is 'doctor' always the main--or only--choice when people look for something a person should do? Sure, teachers make less money--so do secretaries or managers of landscape companies; but those can be passions, too. They are not often ones a person discovers at 13, however. That's one reason I would suggest academics should not be minimized--but "academics" in its broadest sense.

One thing this country lost about 40 years ago was a solid--and RESPECTED--vocational-tech program as an alternative to a college 'career.' I've had students with NO higher-academic interest at all, who want to do things that don't need a BA or BS but who can't find an apprenticeship program or any way to get the 'professional credential.' And my plumber blushes to admit he never went to college (I do not blush for him--I envy him: he makes 3x the money I do, gets to take long, relaxing travel vacations, and PLAYS THE VIOLIN VERY, VERY WELL to boot.)

We've organized ourselves into a box in this culture and I'm not sure how we are going to break out of it (although the high co$t of college may end up doing the job for us.)

September 23, 2012 at 12:40 PM · At 13 you can just plan for both options...and don't forget, music IS Academic - especially classical music.

There's no reason you can't perform and get a Ph.D in music...if you were so inclined.

However, at 15 your opinions of what you'd like to do will change...and at 18 they might very well change again...

The best advice anyone can give you to keep all your options open and don't burn any bridges.

September 24, 2012 at 08:16 PM · Of course I was being flippant when I recommended marrying a doctor, better still marry a banker! Seriously though for a minute, it seems as though the real issue is the parents pushing their daughter into academics (read a profession with a guaranteed significant income)rather than being just as supportive of a daughter that wants to make violin her career. Perhaps 13 is too young to know one's own mind, so when is it the right time to take the musical road if there's no turning back?

September 25, 2012 at 03:12 AM · I basically got good grades in school. But I kept coming back to music. I tried working in quite a few jobs unrelated to music, did not last very long. My parents did not want me doing music, not even music therapy, which combines medicine AND music. And to this day I still wonder what my life would have been like if I had been allowed to pursue my dream.

I write about it in more detail in the following blog post:

But, in spite of all that, and the amazing support I receive from my husband (a musician and music teacher himself, he has a master's degree) and the rapidly expanding number of students and performance opportunities I've had this past year thanks to teaching at the church he is music director at and the people doing the math tutoring program in the basement of the church under the sanctuary where I teach, I only have about 6 or 7 spaces left, and 4 of those are single half hour slots between other student's lessons, in combination with several referrals from one of my families, who have brought some of their friends and even their grandma to study with me. I actually had to turn down a couple of families recently, one because of an unreasonable request for a lesson time, claiming it was the only time they were available (Sunday at 6 PM????) and another because they had too many teachers in 3 years of lessons (I was going to be their 5th teacher in 3 years)

September 25, 2012 at 12:10 PM · Meri,

it's good to hear that from you. So many people just choose to stay in their misery. I've tried three different subjects in my university life and it all somehow ended back to music so yea. Parents support really is the most important. It can be the greatest support one needs and it can be the greatest obstacle in one's life.

Anyway, I believe we have said too much for this 13 year old girl...Let's all stop advising and let her experience her life!

September 25, 2012 at 12:31 PM · Its a forum Steve - we can only initiate discussion, it will go where it chooses. I think thats the point.

I just hope she plucks up courage and writes again. I'd love to hear whether anything here was of value to her - too often what we interpret isn't actually the intended question ...

September 25, 2012 at 04:27 PM · Many of the comments here have been kind and sensible, but I think some have been abrupt for an 8th grader , and some have implied that Skye most likely could only hope to be an amateur. Plainly she wants violin to be her main occupation. She sounds like a talented, intelligent kid who has accomplished a lot with the amount of lessons she's had. I don't see why she couldn't hope to be a professional. She didn't say anything about being a soloist or getting into a major symphony. Someone in my area with a degree in music education was assistant concertmaster, 2nd violin in a quartet, and had about 56 students. She achieved a lot with violin, and has had a fulfilling life with it. The going rate for teachers is about $40 an hour here I think. It's not a bad income. Some people on this site seem so black or white about if nobody should even bother with violin unless they can be at the top level. I think that's unfortunate, and I don't know any other instrument that has such unhealthy extreme expectations put on it.

Several professional violinists I've met have told me that when they were in school they were told they'd never be any good. These people went on to play with fairly good symphonies and were in quartets that toured the world. What is it about playing a stringed instrument that makes people want to be discouraging? I was told " Never let anyone tell you what you can do with violin because they don't know!" Skye, now you know that if you put your dreams out there with people you don't know, who don't know your might not get just what you were looking for. You have to guard your dreams sometimes. I imagine your teacher is in a better position to advise you about your future with violin. Nadia Salerno Sonnenberg once said that violin will require the fight of your life.

I don't know why it might require that, but it's true you can encounter opposition..maybe more if you are good.

I don't have any advice for what to do about your parents, if you think they might take away violin if you push to do that.

Maybe you could have a conversation about life choices in general. How money making might not be as important. How you might be happy with a good but not huge income. ?? Maybe your teacher could talk with your parents if she thinks majoring in music would be great for you.

I do agree with the other posters who advise you not to neglect academics for now. I guess you don't have much choice about that right now anyway.

I wonder what your parents would think if you aimed to get an advanced degree or two in music?

September 26, 2012 at 10:35 PM · Here is a rather exceptional computer science major playing the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto

December 26, 2012 at 09:58 AM · My passions are music, art, and academics (especially visual arts, psych and hard sciences). It's not easy to indulge all of them.

My situation in university was complicated by the fact that I wasn't living at home, wasn't eligible for student loans (long story), and had to work almost full time to pay for tuition and living expenses. Plus, when you're on your own, you need time in your schedule to shop, cook, clean, and do laundry. There was no time to practice and violin is an instrument you MUST practice.

The way I worked things out was to spend two thirds of my time on academic courses, a third of it on fine arts courses, and to sign up for the school orchestra.

Now... signing up for the orchestra was a long shot. You couldn't just "sign up." There had to be a vacant seat and you had to pass the audition. I had grown up not practicing because my father wouldn't let me. I never had private lessons either. I knew my chances of being accepted were zero to none and yet I tried.

Somehow, incredibly, impossibly, I made it into the university orchestra. I can't tell you how much JOY that brought to my life, to be able to play in that group, which included quite a number of gifted violin, clarinet, French horn, and oboe soloists. To be able to experience music from within, to learn new pieces, to be directed by a good conductor, to commune with the talented music students around me who knew far more about music, musicians and music theory than I did.

I don't know how you will work out your life, but if you REALLY care about music, no matter how hard it is to incorporate it into a schedule that also includes academics, it is worth it. Even though I never got any sleep (I worked late into the night typing essays and working at the fast food place after having classes all day and orchestra rehearsal after classes) and struggled about as hard as a person can struggle financially, playing in the orchestra sustained my spirit through those difficult challenges and getting an academic degree gave me a better shot at a decent job.

Even if you take an academic path, that shouldn't stop you from spending your free time with other musicians and playing with community or university orchestras.

If you're really determined to study music, that shouldn't stop you from studying academics, either. It doesn't hurt to incorporate other subjects into your schedule to broaden your horizons and give your brain something else to think about for a while. Best of luck whatever you choose. Maybe you should find a university that has both a good music department and good academic courses. You have time to look around.

August 21, 2013 at 01:12 AM · Skye,

Yes, it's true, you still have a few more years to go until you truly need to decide. I would say that, at your age, make sure you're doing very well academically because you never know, you might change your mind later in high school and you'll want to have that good, smart work ethic that yields excellent grades---colleges love that, as I'm sure you know. This is also important if you find that you want to double major or pursue a dual degree in college, because you need to be equally strong in the other major/degree as you are in violin.

My advice to you is (if you still feel very passionate in your junior/senior year of high school) to pursue the music major if you feel like you absolutely have to. You must not be able to picture yourself in another field. To be a successful professional musician takes your heart and soul's dedication---you seem to be willing at the young age you are, so if that sustains until your latter years of high school, go for it! Just continue to be aware of the music world and how it's changing as the years go by. Oh, and if you do major in music, take music business courses---especially in this age, you need to be aware of how the music business operates, and you also need to know how to market yourself as a musician. Best of luck!

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