what to do about my unrequited passion for violin?

January 16, 2013 at 04:38 PM · I'm a junior in high school, and around this time of year, its time to start thinking about colleges.

I have played violin since the age of 4, yet I am not at the level that I want to be. The most recent thing I am able to play is the accolay violin concerto, which isnt that hard for me at all, but my skill level is a little higher than that. I feel like I have an attachment to music, but at the same time I want to quit because I am not good enough. I am truly ashamed of myself for being at the level I am after playing for 12 years, and I often think that maybe the violin just isn't for me.

But I know that I have an attachment to violin. This passing summer, I went on vacation for 4 weeks and the whole time, I just wanted to get my hands on a violin and practice or just play silly things, because I missed it so much.

I'm not sure what to do, or where I want to go for college. I don't even think I will be able to get into any good music programs with the lack of skill I have.

It's easy to say that if you love something, keep doing it. But in this case, I love something, but am not capable of continuing without causing myself stress. Music has made me both happy and depressed because I love it but I also feel like I am not good enough to play it.

so the question here is: Should I just seek something else and give up violin? What should I do in college?

EDIT: a lot of people have been asking if i have a private teacher. Yes, i do. I've had private lessons ever since i first started out and i still do.

Replies (39)

January 16, 2013 at 04:56 PM · What else do you love / find that you're good at?

One of the difficult things about finding a profession is that the things you love about something as a hobby, maybe even the things that make you good at it, don't necessarily translate over into doing that thing for a living. That applies not only to music, but to other things as well. So you have to think about not only "what do I love doing" but also "what will doing this for a living actually be like, and will that reflect the aspects that I love, or will it kill the joy I have in it?"

Add to that the mundane concerns about money and lifestyle (work hours and conditions, travel, time for your family and friends, where you can live, and so on).

I'm wondering where your teacher is in this, and why you are describing yourself as "horrible". How much do you practice? Is your teacher right for you? Has your teacher been trying to prepare you for a music career, and the auditions for schools, even if it's on a "just in case you decide to do this" basis?

January 16, 2013 at 05:19 PM · You can be very passionate about music and the violin but that does NOT mean that you have to try to make a living out of it. If you read through various threads on this site you will find that being a professional musician can be a very tough life and not nearly as rewarding as some had hoped it would be.

You can choose something else as your career but still keep playing the violin. There are tens of thousands of talented amateurs all over the world who enjoy playing the violin every day but their jobs are not related to music. They do it because they love it and for no other reason.

January 16, 2013 at 05:23 PM · I studied physics and math in college, and spent two to four hours a day in rehearsals on the side. I never got even a minor in music. You don't have to be professional. If you go somewhere where the music department isn't a conservatory, but is part of the normal college of arts and sciences, you'll be able to play as much as you want.

If you have aptitude in science or math, those are much easier ways to support a violin habit that trying to make the instrument pay its own way.

Hobbies are wonderful things.

January 16, 2013 at 05:24 PM · Do whatever it is you want in college. There are thousands of majors to choose from, and there are colleges you can go that can help you discover what you are good at.

This is an entirely separate issue from music. If you love it, do it for the rest of your life. It is a ridiculous notion that somehow every violin student is going to arrive at senior year churning out Sibelius, Tchaikovsky, and all the Paganini Caprices. Given our circumstances, everyone grows at their own rate and the best you can do is to find a teacher who cares about your development as an artist and musician, and set reasonable goals for your learning that you can feel confident about.

Hopefully, your passion for music stems from a life-long passion for learning, and gives you a perspective and motivation to achieve things that others will not.

January 16, 2013 at 06:17 PM · Do you have a teacher? It seems to me that getting a good teacher might both help your skills and give you someone who can give you guidance you need. Given the level of skill you report, you do not have as much to show for 12 years of study as most students who really love the instrument and take it seriously. Why this is is not all that clear from your post. My sense is that you need someone professional to assess you and help you with your situation.

January 16, 2013 at 06:31 PM · I doubt you're horrible at violin. Instead, I imagine you're suffering from a horrible bout of brutal-self-honesty as you consider "what am I going to do when I graduate?"

I remember that time. It's nerve-wracking to be sure.

What you need to do is sit down and ask yourself honestly. "Do I want to dedicate my future to being a violinist?" If the answer is "yes" then you probably have the passion you need to formulate a plan for success. I imagine it involves more practice, creating demo tapes, applying for scholarships, getting loans in place and focusing your attention to being the best violinist you know how to be.

But if you cannot honestly say "yes" you need to ask yourself "what's next?" and reserve violin for "me time". It doesn't mean you can't be great at violin but it does mean that right now you need to make a plan for your future and find out what that's going to be.

Many people just "wing it" through high school. The fact you're not is admirable. It means that unlike many of your classmates, you probably won't be working at the local food service place at age 35. (Like many of mine are.)

January 16, 2013 at 08:03 PM · Hi, I think that what you live is pretty normal for all of us, ordinairy talented players.

On youtube, you may see the best of your age and think you have a problem. But this might not be true. (just go to a normal music school and listen to the average students... you might find yourself pretty good)

You may not have a problem but just don't have the gift of everything needed for a great violin career in a same person (I mean... we don't all have Perlman's physical/mental ability and context) That's sad but it's called natural selection (grossly put...)

Maybe it's just because you don't have the right teacher to get out the best out of you (but that I cannot know!)

When we go through a down period, I think we need to spice it up a little...

You could find an orchestra (if it's that that you like), a chamber music group or simply enjoy music alone making sometimes easier things. I recently started to record myself doing easier things that I can manage ok on youtube for my friends and family. I even made a kind of violin karaoke and it was really fun!

There is nothing bad at beeing a good violinist in the simpler repertoire!

Some of the most beautiful music is in the simpler repertoire (even the greats recorded some of it). Also, the non musician people often like better to hear the easier rep. (you may touch the heart of many people easier with this than if you would play them a virtuosic Paganini)

It may also be fun to explore new genres like folk dances or pop music at the same time you practice your classical (vitamin repertoire) with your teacher.

As for the career, I totally agree with others. Unless beeing very very talented, it might kill your love if you go into music. You might have the less fun jobs, much competition and might have to play some repertoire that you hate to earn a living not to mention if you can earn a living with music alone.

Someone once said to me that I could maybe be good in the amateurs (one day...) but barely a decent professional. That is quite an eye opener...

But it also depends on if you are a person that takes risks are not.

Best of luck!

You're not alone in this situation..

January 16, 2013 at 09:38 PM · The glory of being an amateur is that you decide what you want to play and when you want to play it. The downside is that you will have to make time in your life for it, since you won't be devoting your workday to it.

A teacher of mine, who did a lot of coaching of professionals preparing to undertake major symphony auditions, once told me that it was the final stage of career preparation that often killed young violinists's love of playing -- the excrutiating work necessary to perfect tiny details no one but a handful of people will ever notice... made necessary by the fact that by the time the aspirant gets to that stage, they have no choice to do that work, because they need it to get the job.

So when you look back on your twelve years of violin, and what you think of as your limited progress... Is it because you haven't been taught well? Because you haven't practiced a lot? Or you haven't brought the necessary discipline to the way you practice? How does the aspirational desire to play well, maybe even play professionally, correlate to what you know about your own temperament for work?

January 16, 2013 at 10:46 PM · Sorry, junior year and Accolay just don't equate to a violin major at colleges with programs of any size or reputation. Taking a degree at someplace not so hot isn't a good ticket to earning a living. I agree with the writers suggesting you consider what else you do well or enjoy, and seeking out colleges where you can play in groups and attend good concerts. There are corellary music careers like music therapy, technology or business that keep you close but not trying to perform. Your current advancement doesn't really lend itself to a string teaching career these days, either, but if you also play piano or sing well, you could consider a major in general/classroom-music. But don't give up playing. You like it. Everyone should have outlets. After college, you would be a sought-out good candidate for community orchestras in many areas.

January 17, 2013 at 12:46 AM · Many, if not most people enter college with no idea about what to do with their lives. That's a good reason to look at liberal arts programs. The whole idea is not to show up know what you want, but to explore all of the various possibilities.

January 17, 2013 at 02:26 AM · Play the violin if you like/love it.

Too often on these forums I hear people throwing up their hands as they feel that they don't have what it takes to be a virtuoso/professional/world famous soloist...

HELLO!? What ever happened to simply playing for the enjoyment of it? The challenge of learning more, striving for improvement.

I'm 45, that's what-about three times older than you, and I just started. I'll be happy if I can get to a point where when I play if half the dogs in the nieghborhood don't start baying and howling, the flowers wilt, and little children don't burst into tears. Well, that'll be accomplishment enough.

Maybe you're at a point now where you're old enough to actually focus on your playing/practicing not just going through the motions. I didn't catch whether you had a teacher, or just the school music program? Perhaps taking individual lessons would kick you into high gear.

I say keep at it!

January 17, 2013 at 02:27 AM · Loving something passionately is often the BEST reason for NOT making your living at it...purses and passion do better in different pockets for many people.

January 17, 2013 at 02:33 AM · Is that really so Marjory? Can't say I know anyone like that - I mean doesn't it result in you working and wishing you were elsewhere?

My impression is that if you have a passion for something pursue it until you reach a natural limit. Then settle in something that is within that reach. Thus, going to college to be a virtuoso but realizing that you are not going to make it but can run a music school can lead to a career that lacks the bitterness that can come from lost dreams. There is a resolve in having tried that is livable.

January 17, 2013 at 04:13 AM · Jacqueline:

Add more interests to your life, but never give up the violin. It is time for you to look at professions that will both support you well and give you satisfaction in life. Then, when you come home from work you can relax by playing the violin. If you look there will be opportunities to play in amateur groups or church. There are activities that don’t require an advanced level of musicianship.

Choose a college that has both a music department and the teaches in the field that you choose (nursing for example.) In college, carry violin lessons as electives and to meet other students who love music. Currently, the most important thing is to choose a field where you will be sure to get a job when you graduate.

When Eisenhower was president and was your age I thought that I could walk away from the violin but it kept coming back to me. I think that you’ve progressed farther than I did. The ability that one wants to play with is always elusive, like the carrot hanging from a stick in front of a horse. The more that you learn, you realize how much more that you don’t know. It is like this for everybody. Some people just have faster horses.

Make a plan. After you get a good job, subscribe to the Strad. (But always also read V.com daily.) The next year buy a very good bow. When the bow is paid for start shopping for a better violin and then case. Always keep something in the future to dream about.

In my retirement, when the violinist at church found out that I could play a scale and read music she insisted that I play hymns along with her and the organist as the congregation sings. Our group has just been joined by a cellist. In the three years I have concentrated on improving intonation. This year I will allow myself to use third position. When you get into your seventies you will still be chasing that carrot.

ABL

January 17, 2013 at 06:41 AM · Elise wrote: My impression is that if you have a passion for something pursue it until you reach a natural limit. Then settle in something that is within that reach. [...] There is a resolve in having tried that is livable.

For many people -- and this applies not just to music but to other things -- reaching for one thing in a career and having to settle for something lesser can lead to significant bitterness. That's particularly true if one was hoping for a particular lifestyle.

If you're thinking that you're going to be a soloist, a major individual artist who travels the world playing to the acclaim of big audiences on the major stages, with the major orchestras and conductors -- and you end up playing in smaller, lesser venues, with less-accomplished musicians, you may well turn out to find your career to be disappointing. (Eugene Fodor is a great example of this.)

If, worse still, you have that dream and you end up as a symphony player, a cog in the wheel of the machine, churning through Beethoven 5 for the Nth time, you might be deeply disappointed.

Even if you set your dreams lower -- say, being a tenured full-time member of a major professional orchestra -- and instead you end up scrambling around in a bunch of Freeway Philharmonics, picking up extra gigs wherever you can, teaching whomever you can, and maybe even working another job to make ends meet, you might decide you would have been happier doing something else.

You want to make sure that you feel certain that you can achieve your minimum career goal. You can stretch for more, but you don't want to be in a position where you're below what you consider to be the minimum level for professional satisfaction.

By the way, IMHO, if you decide to not pursue a music degree, take your violin lessons as non-credit classes or otherwise separate from your regular schedule, if you can. It will free you to allow your practicing to wax and wane with your free time, as well as allow your progression to not have to be influenced by end-of-semester juries and whatnot.

January 17, 2013 at 11:53 AM · I see what you mean Lydia - but maybe there are degrees of bitterness? I mean if your dream was to be a virtuoso violinist and you then failed an alternative goal of being a physician - ending up, say, being a diagnostic specialist - I think you would be truly bitter because in your head you would have given up the 'sure' prospect of being a virtuoso violinist.

IMO thats where the worst bitterness comes from the anger that you did not have the courage to follow a dream. Its obviously not the only source. You probably have more first-hand experience with the music business (as you see from above I know more about science ;) ) but is bitterness (not that is far beyond disappointment) common amongst orchestra musicians? I'm a bit surprised; my experience has been that people who aim for their ultimate dream and try to achieve it but do not tend to be less bitter than those that have a dream but choose (or worse are forced) to do something else.

January 17, 2013 at 01:15 PM · @Elise...all I know is that several of my professional-musician friends, people I went to school with (who loved music/playing with a passion so strong it lit rooms), are now truly sick of playing; they have had to do so many blah gigs, there have been so many 'bad days at the office' (like most people have in their jobs), so many unsatisfying compromises that they rarely get joy in playing. They are worn out by the 'business' of music--and will say so--something a dedicated and loving amateur never has to suffer.

That's what I was referring to--anecdotal, yes, but certainly visibly true.

January 17, 2013 at 02:49 PM · I think the answer is that it depends on the circumstances. You have to look at the ladder of accomplishments that lead to the life of your dreams (and then ground that end-state in reality, too, which may be very different than you imagined it would be), and decide whether or not you'll be happy if you only achieve some of your goals.

There is also a sunk-cost aspect to this; as you roll along, new paths open up, but other previous paths close. If you fail to achieve what you want as an undergraduate, for instance, it's easy enough to switch, especially if you do not have financial constraints that prevent you from adding more years of schooling. If you pour heart and soul into music and find that you're thirty and haven't achieved the level you wanted to, your options, practically speaking, will be more limited.

I have noticed that, of my childhood friends who achieved at a very high level in music, especially those who later went on to conservatory, these are the ones *least likely* to still be playing if they did not achieve their original dream. The mediocre players with a love for the instrument have kept playing, happy populating community orchestras; in some cases, they went into music education with realistic expectations, and they're contentedly teaching in Suzuki programs and whatnot.

If you think that you'd find joy in teaching six-year-olds to Twinkle, by all means, that's a realistic dream. But definitely talk to as many people as you can who do that job currently, and who are willing to be honest about the good and the bad, before you decide that's what you want to pursue.

January 17, 2013 at 04:16 PM · @Marjory ...all I know is that several of my professional-musician friends, people I went to school with (who loved music/playing with a passion so strong it lit rooms), are now truly sick of playing; they have had to do so many blah gigs, there have been so many 'bad days at the office' (like most people have in their jobs), so many unsatisfying compromises that they rarely get joy in playing. They are worn out by the 'business' of music--and will say so--something a dedicated and loving amateur never has to suffer.

That's what I was referring to--anecdotal, yes, but certainly visibly true.

I don't doubt it - but to my mind that is not bitterness, thats frustration and disappointment (and a hazzard of any occupation) - they could move into another business still and be a success there. Bitterness eats the soul - these friends are unlikely to have that gnawing pain because they gave their dream their all.

The question is lets suppose they had decided (even though they loved music with a passion) to pursue another career and then that path went sour. What would they feel now? Very likely they would be truly bitter that they had not pursued their passion of playing the violin...

January 18, 2013 at 02:08 AM · While this discussion is interesting, I think we might be missing the issue here a bit. To paraphrase Sue, Jacqueline should have left Accolay behind long ago. After 12 years, she should be working on significant concerti. The question is what happened? Jacqueline has not given us any idea of what she has done during the 12 years. Has she had a teacher or teachers? How has she perceived their teaching? What other instruction, coaching or experience has she had? The question for me is why has she made relatively little progress? Nothing in her post gives any insight on these issues. I hope she will help us to understand what has happened.

January 18, 2013 at 03:19 AM · @ tom I have had a private teacher since I first started and I still do have a private teacher. I went to one of the best public middle schools in my city for arts, and now i am in one of the best public high school for the arts (Laguardia High School). To be honest, I am not sure what happened. I participated in chamber music groups, orchestras, etc. Ive always had lessons, and at first i only practiced 1-2 hours a day. Through middle school and high school, my practicing time extended to 6 hours a day, excluding my time in orchestra and other music groups. I am not sure why I made such little progress. Maybe it is my teacher? I am not very sure.

January 18, 2013 at 06:03 AM · Okay, your practice time is clearly not the issue here. What else are you working on other than the Accolay? How is your practice time divided? How much do you find yourself accomplishing in a practice session (i.e., how useful is the time that you're spending)? What are you playing for technical work?

For instance, on four hours of practice, you might divide it into an hour of scales and exercises, an hour of etudes, an hour of solo Bach or a short work (or your orchestra and chamber music), and an hour of a concerto.

How have you done on some semi-objective measures of your playing? Seating auditions, competitions, anything where you play for a jury or a judge and receive a rating? What sort of written comments are you getting?

Is that Accolay being played flawlessly, artistically, and relatively effortlessly? -- i.e., you're in actuality capable of tackling significantly more difficult repertoire with a struggle -- or is it just reasonably comfortable but imperfect?

How is your lesson time spent, and how effective do you think the teaching is, especially compared to any masterclasses or the like that you've attended?

January 18, 2013 at 09:52 AM · to add to lydia's list - I think one can tell more about technical advancement by etudes. If you have worked with a teacher you surely must have done etudes too - have you worked through Kreutzer or looked at Rode etc?

January 18, 2013 at 02:10 PM · Jacqueline - thanks for the information. Have you had the same teacher since the beginning? How long have you had your current teacher? How have you chosen your teacher(s)? Have you ever asked any of your teachers why you seem to have made relatively less progress than you should have in light of how long you have played and how much you practice?

January 18, 2013 at 09:00 PM · Hi, it's wonderful to ask questions to understand Jacqueline's situation but I just hope this doesn't sound too "accusative".

I've known others who played some instruments for many years and are not super advanced (often it was the music school/teacher, lack of time, lack of motivation, lack of parental support, a personal choice and in the saddest case, a lack of talent despite hard work.)

One thing is sure, as an amateur, one has to always work harder when they become adult to make time for the violin in their life (because there is these demanding studies, this new job or the arrival of the kids whatever... everything seems to want to keep you away from the instrument. It takes a little more discipline to keep onself some violin time, or else, the progress accomplished earlier on can fade away.)

At Jacqueline's age, it is important to focus on how can I use my time more efficiently (because I don't know many adult amateurs who can practice 6 hours a day... and this might be her reality too in the next years)

Their is many ways one can improve this. One of them is to be sure you have a very competant teacher who really is able to show you how to do things. When one understands how, it goes many times faster.

I also question the fact about judging your level by Accolay when you say you do a lot of group playing too... Those who play a lot of solo works will surely move faster towards other challenging solo peices and seem to progress at a high rate. Maybe someone who plays in a lot of orchestras or groups is a brilliant sight reader or is able to work on many things at the same time. This is just as impressive as solo abilities. But the student who only does solo works and seems to progress faster will always be more show off. Do you think that all these kids you see on youtube who seem to progress very fast all play in orchestras? Maybe yes, but maybe no...

If I take my own humble example as an amateur (I'm not able to work on many things at the same time, my talent is limited but I am a sound lover. I like to polish every note, play with gut strings and pay attention to my sound/tone as much as I can as an amateur. Thus, I play a lot of solo music for myself or in student concerts. I might sound better than a student who is able to do a much higher ammount of work and sight reading than me bur less occasions to do solo works. Who is better? No one!)

It boils down to... is it really fair to judge someone by what they play? Maybe, but in their given repertoire and context (solo? Orchestra? Chamber? Conservatory? etc.)

Anyway, just my thoughs...

January 18, 2013 at 09:30 PM · Six hours a day (not including group play, as Jacqueline noted) is a very high amount of practice. Even if two hours of that is for some reason eaten by orchestra and chamber repertoire work -- that still leaves four hours for useful personal development. Even on *one* hour a day, there should be solid progression.

I agree it's not fair to judge someone on what repertoire they play, but the technical level of the repertoire they feel comfortable with, or what etude books they've progressed through, is a reasonable approximation of playing level.

The quality of technical foundation is immensely important because it governs how quickly you learn music. The fewer things feel like a technical hurdle, the faster it will go.

People who are great sight-readers not only have practice reading things cold, but they generally have well-set foundations that make them "do the right thing" automatically (for instance, recognizing an arpeggio as such, and automatically executing the right fingering for it without having to think about it).

Most conservatory-bound students are indeed going to play in an orchestra as well (possibly at least two, such as their local high school orchestra as well as a regional youth symphony), and are fairly likely do be doing chamber music as well.

January 18, 2013 at 09:52 PM · I grew up in the 1950s and 1960s. By the time I got to college, which was about eight years of weekly violin lessons and practicing 30-60 minutes per day (in addition to school orchestra), I had studied Mozart and Bach concerti and was about to go on to more advanced concerti. At that point I dropped the violin for 25 years, but I was at a fairly decent technical level. And, I was not a prodigy, far from it. So, my thoughts and questions come from my experience. I think it is important to find out what Jacqueline's has been, what she has played, etc. However, from my experience, what I have seen, and the comments of Sue, who is professional teacher, the sort of effort she has/is putting in should have resulted in her being more advanced than she appears to be. However, it will be helpful if she provides a bit more information.

January 19, 2013 at 01:40 AM · To answer all your questions:

-Other than accolay, ive been working on bach's A minor concerto, Saint-saens no. 3 (although it is a bit of a stretch), and viotti's concerto no 23. The accolay is comfortable but not perfect.

-my practice time is divided like this: 1-1.5 hours of orchestra/chamber music, 30 mins of scales, 30mins-1 hour of etudes, and 2 hours of solo repertoire. I believe i do have progress, but not significantly.

- I go to an arts high school for instrumental music, so I frequently have seating auditions. I also am having juries coming up next week. I have not really participated in competitions. Therefore, I never really got any feedback or comments from people other than my teacher(s).

- I have an hour lesson every week. Usually I warm up with scales for 10 minutes, techniques for 10 minutes, etudes for 20, and repertoire for 20. I have never had a master class/ was never exposed to the opportunity.

- etudes I am doing are a collection of Mazas, Dancla, Dont, Wolfhart, etc.

- I have only had 2 teachers. My first teacher I had from age 4 to 11, and then switched teachers. I have had the same one since then. So I have had my current teacher for around 5 years. I did not choose my teacher, my parents chose the teacher for me.

-I have in fact asked my teacher why I have not progressed as much as I want/should have and she simply says that I have made progress, and that I am doing very well and should not worry about it.

I am sorry for not being more descriptive.

January 19, 2013 at 02:55 AM · That sounds like you haven't done Kreutzer? I presume the Dont is the op. 37 or 38 (and not the op. 35, which usually comes after Kreutzer).

Let's roll back a little. What were you playing at the point when you switched teachers? What were you playing two years ago? Last year?

January 19, 2013 at 12:55 PM · I assume that your teacher is private and not one of the teachers at LaGuardia. If there is a professional violin teacher among your LaGuardia teachers, it might be worth having a talk with that person and playing for her/him. Tell her/him all that you have told us and get that person's opinion about what is happening. I am not a professional, but there is something odd about your history and why your are still at Bach A Minor and Accolay and apparently have not done Kreutzer. Perhaps one of the professional teachers on this site can make better suggestions than I have, but I think you need to have a talk with someone who is not your teacher to get some perspective. You may need a new teacher, or something else.

January 19, 2013 at 02:06 PM · In reading Tom's comment, something more comes to mind... Your etudes seem out of sync with your repertoire. At least from my personal experience, Wolfhart and Mazas typically are taught along with the equivalent of Suzuki book 4 or 5. The Dont op 37 and 38 come next, starting around the Suzuki book 6 level; my teacher also used them simultaneously with Kreutzer.

Something's really weird here. The etude books you're doing build basic technical skills, but Kreutzer is normally used as the foundation for the technique you'll need to begin to tackle the concerto repertoire. Certainly if you can play Saint-Saens No. 3 (even if you find it hard), you should be able to manage Kreutzer, but more importantly, Kreutzer should have been used as the foundation that you'll need for the concerto -- your teacher is doing something really out of the ordinary here.

(I mean yes, I suppose you could have a very odd teacher who's not a Kreutzer fan, but then there ought to be an equivalent substitution, even if it's lots of tiny drills out of Sevcik or Fischer's Basics or something that cover the same skills.)

Go play for another violin teacher and ask them to assess where you are, and what their recommendations would be for you to do next. If you can, go play for more than one teacher.

This is your future career you're looking at here... At six hours a day with little progress, you've demonstrated a ton of perseverance and willingness to put in work without much in the way of satisfaction. That should factor into your thinking about what you're going to do next, because "six hours a day, doggedly trying to get better, and not" says to me "willpower to do music regardless of outcome", which may not eventually turn out to be "happy being a casual amateur".

January 19, 2013 at 10:41 PM · I agree with what has been said above about setting up a lesson with another teacher. As the dad of a h.s. violinist in NYC (though not at LaGuardia), I know a bunch of the violinists currently at your school -- and there's some real talent there right now, supported by good teachers (not in LaGuardia, I know it doesn't offer private instruction), and several of them are juniors like you. Maybe ask a few of them for the names of their teachers and get in touch with them. This is serious stuff -- You spend so much time playing and practicing; you really need to make sure you're getting what you need to make progress. Maybe you'll find that your current teacher is the person you need, but maybe not

January 24, 2013 at 04:28 AM · Jacqueline:

One detail has not been addressed. That is equipment. I am sure that you are very fond to your own instrument. But have you tried out bows and instruments either in shops or those of your friends. If you do this and something seems way better on another violin or bow, maybe the problem is in the equipment.

ABL

January 24, 2013 at 04:21 PM · Allan - the issue you raise is an interesting one, but probably not the crucial one at this stage. Anyhow, a professional she consults will listen to her play and tell her whether she needs better equipment in addition to any other suggestions.

January 25, 2013 at 01:14 AM · Equipment can and will hold you back, and you'll sound better with better equipment (assuming that you have the control to play something more sensitive). But that's more along the lines of, "You aren't sounding as good as you could be", as opposed to "You aren't making progress commensurate with the effort made."

January 30, 2013 at 04:37 AM · Just a different point of view. I love music and enjoy playing it and composing without the stress of making a living at it. My day job is engineering but every spare moment is spent enjoying what I love most. Do you have other passions or hobbies you intend to make a living from? If so pursue that but never give up on the violin. It's a lifelong learning experience so enjoy learning and improving without the stress.

January 30, 2013 at 06:18 AM · Jacqueline. Don't freak yourself out. It may be time for a new teacher, especially if something feels off (and maybe to get a different perspective after so many years). Look around and be patient. Once you find a teacher that you really connect with, your current doubts will dissipate like smoke.

A lot of people seem to be under the impression that one can't improve after age 18. Most people give up when they settle down with their 9-5s, but improvement just depends on working hard/smart and having the right training. If you look at violin as a lifetime journey, then you give yourself enough space to keep your joy and to keep your diligence in practicing.

If you worry about competing with everyone around you, then you will set yourself up for disappointment, and you may start forgetting about the joy in your practice/performance. Once you do that, it becomes very easy to quit (not that there is anything wrong with that).

Good luck and have fun!

January 30, 2013 at 03:35 PM · I think the reason there's such an emphasis on 'what Jacqueline is doing right now in preparation for college' is that, assuming that she intends to go into a music program, those auditions are going to determine the quality of her four years of college study. It is precisely *because* you can improve after the age of 18 that the post-high-school years are considered important -- college and graduate school involve intensive training.

I do know people who chose not to major in music during their undergraduate years -- studying with top-notch teachers privately and practicing in moderation while pursuing another line of study -- and then returning to the professional music path for graduate school, but they're all people who were already playing at the highest levels by the end of high school, and who were uncertain (or had parents who disapproved) of music as a career path.

January 31, 2013 at 09:32 PM · John: the zen in me says you should appreciate what you are now else you will never reach any kind of satisfaction in your playing. Sure, strive to improve but also savour where you are.

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