Okay, so I've been told by my parents that they don't want me to be a violinist because they say only rich people who don't have anything better to spend money on can do it. They say that the cost of a really good instrument and all those expenses for professional level playing is beyond our income, and most good violinists have violins worth about several houses. Also, apparently there have been three people in my family that failed as musicians because they couldn't support their families. Is this true? They also say since I'm a girl, and in the future women will bring in the most income, I definitely cannot support my family on only violin. I'm kind of scared now because of my family members with their bad fortunes, but I also really love violin. I don't think I'm too bad, but I've started really late. I'm in 8th grade, I've been playing three years, I'm playing Zigeunerweisen, and I'll be starting the Bruch concerto soon, followed by Sibelius or Wieniawski. Do I have any chance? Will I really fail just because my family is normal in income and we're not rich? Or will I not make it because I'm too late to be "really good" in the future?
"What kind of people can become a violinist?
Usually only nut cases like me ...
Minor point, but please don't buy into the idea that you need to spend six figures to get hold of a playable instrument. Ask on this forum and you will be pointed to talented emerging luthiers who will craft you a fine professional instrument for $5000 or less.
I think this is a difficult question and on one hand cannot be answered here.
It is difficult, because in my eyes it reveals some uncomfortable truth. And its just the peak of the iceberg. Having a good violin is expensive, but "buying" a good teacher can be even more expensive if you are not certified "Wunderkind". Practicing 6-8 hours daily until the age of 18 is expensive too, helping in the house and meeting with frinds doesn't fit in here. The practice alone doesn't make a musician, but today not every popular musician is a great musician. So the question is more if practice brings success. And I would say yes, if you are not totally unfriendly and unsocial to other people.
In my opinion (and I really speak for myself and from own experience here, I want you to think for yourself, what you probably will do anyways ;) earning money as a violinist is a trap. Its a trap in many sences. If you aren't the top of the top you will NOT end up in an major orchestra under a good conductor, not speaking of earning money as a soloist. I have the conviction, that one should only do music for a living if there is nothing else you could imagine doing as a job. This doesn't mean you should quit violin if you don't live from music. I think this because earning money as a musician, being on the outlook for gigs and auditions is a very unstable and demoralising procedure, that you only can live with it, if you can't or never want to do anything else with your life.
Also keep in mind, that a musician comes home from work and cannot easily switch off the work. You will always have to practice and to think about music. This is a lifestyle, not a "job".
I don't want to discourage and I think everyone who has a decent motivation can make it quite far in music. But if you think about supporting a family, you should probably go with something else unless you are already on a very good track. Supporting a family with something musicrelated is so hard and not for soemone who wants to be an artist. There is always a big amount of unsecurity and the money isn't that much.
Regarding instruments: Even the search of an instrument can cost you some hundrets of dollars if not more. And finding something really world class... I would think starts around 20 thousand dollars. And you are bound to luck again.
Geoff is right about the instrument and Simon has said some very good things there as well, about a musician's life, which you might take serious note of.
all type of people can become violinists, and to be a really good one, all kinds of factors have to be present. Some of them are under our control, some are not. The American dream paradigm that one can achieve anything if one puts enough effort is only partially true in this field.
Having support of your family is important, if not critical for success. As you have read from other posts, to earn a living as a musician can be challenging. The last thing you need, in this quite competitive type of work, is constant family nagging and the shadows of your "failed" predecessors looming over you.
This does not mean that they do not care for you or do not love you; quite contrary - they want you to be happy, successful and to prosper. They have also been around a bit longer and know the rules of the jungle.
At the end of the day, no matter what they or we say, you need to follow your guts and do what you and only you feel is right.
Lastly, even if you don't decide to pursue a career of a professional musician, keep your music alive. It is already a big part of you and without it, there would be less of yourself.
Skye, at the rate you've been progressing (starting Bruch after three years of study), I would say that you likely are unusually talented. On the other hand it depends on how *well* you have played what you have worked on so far, and whether you have developed correct playing fundamentals, and we cannot hear or see you play. However, if you are talented, then you have actually more options because it's likely you can continue to make significant progress toward a professional level of playing skill and musicality without spending 6-8 hours per day. That means you can also concentrate on school, explore academic subjects that you like the best, and get the kind of education that will allow you to have good career options all the while enjoying music quite fully. Something I'd recommend is to go to a very good summer camp and have a frank talk with a professional teacher who is not YOUR teacher, about whether they think you have what it takes. Insist on candor!
Reading through this topic brings out one sentiment above others - anguish. Everyone wants you to succeed vocationally and also succeed practically. Unfortunately, from the experiences above and elsewhere on V.com, its pretty obvious that for the violin these are two desired ends that seem to have only a modest overlap (I am not a pro). Noone wants to dash your dreams and equally noone wants you to end up living unhappily on the margin. A career playing the violin is obviously hard enough with an early start, a supporting environment and many (mostly financial) resources. You question whether you can succeed without the latter - but admit to significant issues with the former two as well.
Can you succeed? Yes, with strength, determination and (unfortunately) a lot of luck. Should you try? Noone can tell you; all they can do is say 'here's the reality, its your decision'. But the odds are obviously not very high. Is there an alternative?
Many people suggest a career in an area that you also love, combined with playing as an amateur. There are many of us on the forum who fall into this catagory, all with our own stories. There is a bit of a 'second class violinist' aspect to it - and that is OK as we have not and can not reach the level of playing that many dedicated professionals can - not to say that there are not amateurs who are better violinists than many pros.
However, what is not stressed enough is a comparison of musical satisfaction between the pro and the amateur. From my reading here and from many of the musicians I know, the level of happiness with playing the violin is on average higher for amateurs than for pros. This may be the other side of the struggle-for-a-career coin - some of those who took it up for a career found that the struggle actually soured them on the act. For amateurs the opposite is often the case - playing the violin is a contrast and satisfaction compared to their career (which may have suffered the same fate!).
I raise this not to put you off nor to recommend abandoning a violin career but to make sure you are aware of a real alternative - and if you choose that route to encourage you to elect for a career that accomodates it. Thus, you need time to play while a job that demands a lot of travel makes it difficult to build a musical community.
Everyone said very interesting things... I also just want to point out that if you really but really love the violin but are afraid of going in it for financial reasons. You can always seek shorter collegial degree careers too...
If you are extremely brilliant at school with not much time spent on it, then... you should go to university to have a better salary and life.
But if you are like me (very brilliant in arts and languages... hence not money making fields as bad as music...) it's maybe not a good idea to push school and academics too far. I went in science school even if I was not that good in maths/physics. I went there to go in an healthcare field at university. I made two years in OT (health care universitary field) and found it SO maniac and intense (the made a total complexity over very simple things and were so demanding and snooty on us students that I decided to quit and was NOT happy). I had to sacrify my violin (my real love) way too much during these years. Now, I'm applying on healthcare collegial degrees which are less stressful and more music friendly (less overtime etc.) I'll never be rich but I'll be a more happy person and will still have way more money than many hard working musicians. University is good if you go in something paying and that you are very brilliant in it. Otherwise, I feel it's a waste of money and time that can lead you to deporession (or almost).
I do not know how you do at school and sometimes it's only later on that you realize in what you are really good (before college in my case, I didn't know since I had good grades in everything...) That's why people here are telling you to try to do a bit of everything and choose definitivly later.
Nowadays, I see so much people (me included) starting many programs before finding the one that really fits them and their need. I agree it's not easy to chose and to know for sure it will be a good program for you. Best of luck!!!
Reality is that on a practical basis, most people don't support a family on a single income these days, at least not in a metropolitan area. Women do make slightly more money than men these days, but that's because a larger percentage of women go to college than men do now; a man is still on the average paid more for doing the exact same job as a woman. So you shouldn't look at the potential income and think of it as the sole support for a family.
I also think that being able to play music is a real skill. You're not going to be graduating from college with an English degree, which will mostly qualify you to ask, "Tall or grande?" with lovely elocution. Very few liberal arts degrees lead to high-paying jobs post-college. Even the general major of "business", which has gotten super-popular in recent years, doesn't really give you marketable skills.
Even the sciences don't necessarily lead to high-paying jobs -- in a lot of cases you'll walk out with skills, but they'll be the skills of a laboratory tech, leading you to the potential of putting in years of labor as a lowly research assistant. Engineering remains an exception, I think, as does anything else where whatever you learn in college translates into knowing how to perform a task that is useful to a business (going into nursing, for instance).
You don't need a super-expensive instrument, ever. Yes, if you're going to be a soloist, you would be eventually, but most people who reach that level end up receiving a loan, not buying something themselves. You may also end up borrowing an instrument for auditions, competitions, and the like. But buying a decent instrument for a future professional will cost your parents less than the equivalent of a year of tuition at most private universities.
I think that unless you're so super-talented that committing at a very young age is necessary in order to get to stratospheric levels (i.e., you're the next Sarah Chang or Hilary Hahn), you're better off keeping your options open through at least your junior year of high school. Excel in your academics, excel in your music, try to have at least one other interesting and relaxing hobby.
By restricting your practice time, you force yourself to be more efficient. I had a teacher who theorized that kids with tons of time to practice spend a lot of that time admiring what they're doing and noodling around, rather than buckling down and doing focused work 100% of the time. That also meant that they spent a lot of time playing things wrong because they weren't focused -- creating hours of bad work that they would then have to undo.
I have something to say contrary to Elise:
I would consider myself as a "pro" because I earn my money from playing and teaching, yet I am far away from being a pro orchestra musician in an major orchestra.
But I have to say, that I love my work. In fact I love playing even more, when I play good and thats because I decided to study music as I had the chance. For me not even teaching is a pain (as for many teachers it is). Sometimes its exhausting and takes your energy away, but its also inspiring and a good experience. Also you learn much from the responsibility you have for your students.
So from the fun aspect I can totally recommend being a musician of any kind. Most really professional musicians and teachers are great collegues too, so you will have good friends.
The only problem is, that you spend so much time working on yourself, trying to think of new ways to get good gigs, recognition... money!
If you want to earn money like everyone with a "normal job" You have to be a top player and play in an major orchestra. Small orchestras have very bad pay and many bad rehearsals. If you want to support a family as a teacher, you have to work all day all week. Not much time for music then.
So, if you are not afraid of this kind of restrictions, being a musician is at least for me the best decision I made in my life!
Let's face it - even though making a living as a musician can be fun and rewarding, it can also have bad days or even weeks. Sometimes orchestral rehearsals drag on, performances of second rate music may also be a drag, and conductors can **** you off. But it still beats working to make a living. I never found teaching always that much fun, but then I did very little, but this was offset by the occasional good pupil who was interesting and rewarding to teach.
It's true that unless you are a top soloist and/or chamber music player, you won't make a lot of money, but I've never been too hard up. If you want big money then you need to train as a doctor or lawyer, even though this might not be as rewarding as a player.
When I first attended college I didn't worry about getting a job, I just wanted to get involved in music. Unless its a burning desire and nothing else will do then you should have another career in mind, or in place in case music fails.
Simon "I have something to say contrary to Elise:"
Its not contrary at all - I said SOME pros. Obviously many love it even if it keeps them playing in debtors prison. Be happy, you are the exception that proves the rule. :) I
I know an amateur who hates it too. least I did, he quit - an option thats much harder to take if you are a pro - and the main reason why amateurs have more violin-satisfaction...
Good advice from everyone.
Keep in mind that here are different types of violinists.
It is true that most 'famous' concert violinists start taking lessons at a very young age (averaging around 4 years), have supportive parents willing to do whatever it takes to get their child through the process.
It is also true that these violinists have horrendously expensive instruments...in part because that is what the public demands that they have.
(It's less about the actual quality of the instrument than the provenance of that instrument, or its history. An audience wants to see/hear a 'famous' violinist playing a 'famous' violin).
Then there are the less-well known concert violinsts. They also perform for a living, but maybe not at the same venues, they can have a less expensive instrument, etc. Oftentimes these performers will gravitate to other areas of interest - if they find they are not happy being in the 2nd tier so to speak. Perhaps they will compose, conduct, etc.
There are orchestral violinists...and again, the calibre of their ability, the instrument required, all vary from one orchestra to another.
There are violinists who play other music such as fiddle, folk, blues, jazz...in bands as well. Again, with varying degrees of success.
There are violin teachers - you certainly can make a living at teaching - but it might not be as much as you'd like to make. You can teach at a university, a college, or from your home (or any combination thereof).
There are amateur violinists. These are the people that love the instrument, the music, but do it as a serious hobby and do not make money from their playing (unless they get paid to play the occasional gig; wedding, etc.).
This is a simplified summary, I'm sure I've missed some categories.
My point is that you have options. If your parents won't fully support your desire to be a concert violinist, perhaps they'll support the violin as a serious hobby? If you take it seriously, you may still be able to find a career in a few years.
Time brings with it many changes. There rarely has to be an 'all or none' approach to such decisions.
"It is also true that these violinists have horrendously expensive instruments...in part because that is what the public demands that they have.
(It's less about the actual quality of the instrument than the provenance of that instrument, or its history. An audience wants to see/hear a 'famous' violinist playing a 'famous' violin)."
That's why I always tell 'em that I'm playing on a Strad or a Del Jesu - they believe it and think it sounds wonderful. They get what they want ...
i've been keeping this back far too long. this forum is great, information wise, but it seems that there are more and more people looking for either attention, either making their lives harder. if you think only rich people can play the violin or make a living out of it, you may just well quit. if you can't play a regular violin, there is no way you'll be able to play a stardivarius. it's the player that makes the violin play, not the other way around. when all the great violinists will be rich from the start, i'll believe otherwise...
Peter! You have great showmanship! Another important element! :D
Peter - if you told them it was a Stradacaster or a Holy Jesus - with the right Gravitas they would probably be even more impressed.
PS [Gravitas is actually the name of my violin - what else could I call it, made by Newton ...]
As always, Peter in his cynical way, talks a lot of sense. Me - maybe I was just lucky. I was in youth orchestras with loads of gifted kids going to the Royal Academy / Royal College /Guildhall and I just wished I could be as good as them. Me - I went to university and read engineering. At the end of it, I'd fallen out with engineering, spent my final year playing the violin, failed my degree and was lucky enough to audition for the BBC Training Orchestra and get in. As I said - I've always been lucky. After Bristol, "freelancing" (i.e. looking for a job) one day I rang the Ulster Orchestra obviously at the right time - "I've been looking for a violinist all day - can you come over tomorrow?". Was asked to audition and got the job. Two months later, a friend of mine who was on the fron desk fell and broke his wrist while cutting the grass, and I was asked to move up and replace him. What was that about luck?
After 12 years of full-time employment, I decided I wasn't enjoying it enough and retrained in IT. Still play a lot semi-professionally. So I sort of made it - I'm sure there are plenty of far better players than me who weren't in the right place at the right time. Maybe that's what you need? And, of course, to be lucky.
As for the instrument - I inherited a decent violin probably worth about £6k. However, I'm playing on a Chinese instrument that cost $1200 (about £750) and it sounds great - better than my previous instrument. And nobody's suggested that it's not up to the job.
PS [Gravitas is actually the name of my violin - what else could I call it, made by Newton ...]
Spectra, Calculum etc etc.
Mircea, don't underestimate how much playing on an inferior instrument can hinder a student. It's not necessary to spend a fortune, but at some point in time, an inadequate instrument makes it harder to learn and can actively encourage bad habits.
good point Lidya: not a fortune. Thinking that only a good violin can make you advance already keeps you back as far as motivation is concerned.
"Simon "I have something to say contrary to Elise:"
Its not contrary at all - I said SOME pros. Obviously many love it even if it keeps them playing in debtors prison. Be happy, you are the exception that proves the rule. :) I"
Actually I was saying something somehow contrary to my own first statement.
Its quite simple I think Music is great, money is little in music. But easy ways are boring anyways ;)
I am a little concerned about the direction this topic has taken in terms of the importance of the instrument.
It seems that is a general agreement here, that you can buy a good violin for little money.
I just want to point out, that its not about a good violin, its about the best violins wich soloists need. Its a little to simple but lets compare it to cars: everybody can buy an decent car, wich is cheap to repair reliable and so on... but really, whats that in comparison to an aston martin, ferrari etc.? And would you expect people to sell their rare rolls royce for the same money as a renauld twingo!? ;)
I know its not the same market, and many variables are different. But if you are a good soloist with an possible carreer, you will need more as an instrument that may have proven itself in a blindtest....once...
Its a difference if you buy an violin wich is a copy of a strad model wich you like fresh from the bench than having the original instrument on wich great concerts have been played and wich has proven over... time.
I like the possibilities and potential of new violins, but if I would be able to afford an great old soloist instrument, I would definetely be on the secure side! Also financially as an investment, of course.
And I must say, that many new violins are nothing I would ever think of using my whole life. Many are quite one sided in sound. Many, not all! By no means! but even the good ones sometimes are "just" good but lack the certain woodiness of an old guarneri for example.
So in my opinion. Yes, as a artist with a potential good carreer you will need the best(!) instrument you can get!
The better you get, the more you will demand from an violin. A violin with is good for me now, may be totally boring for a soloist who has to play the brahms concerto with orchestra.
Names are important too, of course.. sadly noone notices if the player actually doesnt play his strad but a modern copy.
Just like your parents, I had told my daughter in clear terms that I would much rather prefer she become an architect or a school teacher than a musician when she voiced her dream job. There are excellent reasons: My family already had a failed musician and besides her first violin is badly-scratched junk which the luthier admitted no child would ever want and her second violin was a cheap one from e-bay. She was also a late starter and this is supposed to be a hobby albeit a life-enriching one. That is what some old fashioned Oriental parents will instruct to protect our children from failure [as if we could]. We are a pragmatic bunch with survival instincts at the fore.
However, as you probably guess in your heart of hearts, if you truly and passionately love your violin, more than ever before and still do even by the time you are 16+, then, eventually, you will probably ignore initial advice and forge ahead and you may prove your parents' logic wrong.
My point is obvious, even though it is easy to forget: no one knows the future so it's a good idea to follow your own "peace" or as some call this, your basic instincts. You know yourself better than others. In my personal experience, my parents were totally [and thankfully] wrong on my career.
If you can, try to focus on all that you like doing, work hard in both school and music work, seek and get plenty of performing experience presently, and then, try not to dwell too much on violin/music as a career. Presently, performing can be a hobby to be taken seriously.
Try to picture your violin studies as a journey, as a process if you like, that you can in the here and now improve and enjoy albeit only with diligence. If you wish to be a professional orchestral musician, there is no need for you to make up your mind now or to think of a Strad/Gua/Tononi, etc, at this age/stage.
[In any case many violinists are helped by kind, generous souls to use/own the good 3rd, 4th or 5th violins they use to perform for wage. Some benefitted from long term interest-free loans.]
Another point is, it's necessary for parents to warn their kids of harsh realities [music lessons with professors will cost a great deal, etc.] so the young can, to some extent, mentally prepare for the inevitable setbacks to be endured as well as know they are "doing it" for themselves. Not for anyone else and certainly not for their parents or teachers. Forewarned and forearmed that way, they can become more focussed on whatever they will choose.
The director of a pre-college division advised that it's best to keep the options open as most young musicians however talented, do not really know what they want to be until they are at least 16, or even 18. That was the professional opinion of one who has been in top tier music education for 30 years.
The final point that came to me, speaking as a parent still, is, nowadays, people do multiple work streams to support their living. The last time my daughter and I debated this issue, I'd suggested something more or less along these lines, "Look if you want to take music so seriously, you have to be prepared to end up in adjacent work streams you may not like. Like some music producer or a writer / critic / presenter, a bow seller, whatever. Maybe as a violin teacher who also has to write articles [for a living], such a busy one that you may have no time/chance to perform. That's where the bread and butter is, you know," to which her reply was revealing, "I can't imagine myself doing anything else."
"I've your drive ... and besides, I like teaching. I'm teaching [name of another teenager] [how to play the violin] at school." That was it. She was then being paid like an accompanist to perform gigs from time to time and teaching regularly for the love of it, unpaid.
Since then her parents have supported her 100%.
When your own initiative, determination to succeed and maturity shine through, eventually, your parent(s) will respect your choice even if they cannot fully understand it or [financially] support you.
All kinds of people [not necessarily the rich] eventually become violinists. For now just try to perform in public as much as possible.
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February 28, 2013 at 06:28 AM · I think it's incredibly difficult to make a stable living only *playing* the violin unless your ability level puts you in the highest echelon of musicians. Obviously, those with solo careers, or playing in the major orchestras (that aren't on strike, locked out, or filing for bankruptcy), or have a steady gig somewhere like in regular touring/resident musicals or the recording studios can easily say they "play the violin for a living."
This is why you can see a diversity of interests in musicians who not only play their instrument in orchestras, chamber music, and solo, but also for other genres (rock/pop/country/etc.), in music therapy, teaching in K-12, colleges, independent music schools, Suzuki, Orff, Kodaly, community musical theater, the list goes on...it's possible to have a fairly stable career but you can't just do one thing all the time, and you have to be able to adapt to the changes that time brings because of shifting cultural, economic, and technological movement.
Now, I think it is absolutely idiotic to think that a student can lock themselves in a room and practice 8 hours a day, not doing anything else yet become an artist...creating art requires an understanding of the world around you, and that means getting a huge dose of languages, mathematics, science, history, technology, and music of all kinds. Studying all that opens up the possibility that you could do something in any of those fields should you decide to go in any particular direction.
At this stage of your life, I would not pigeonhole yourself into any one particular career track. Put in time to the subjects you feel are important, but don't sacrifice too much all for one thing...plan your schedule and accomplish what is reasonable. Keep your options open, because in the end you can always drop something...it's far more difficult to try and pick it up years later when you realize THAT one thing was what you really wanted to do.
I speak from personal experience, although your mileage may vary (YMMV). I turned down a full scholarship to study the violin because I didn't believe that it would be a lucrative career, and choose a "safer" route by studying computer science. While I finished my degree and worked as a software developer and technical writer, I certainly was not happy because of the jobs I ended up in, living in cubicles with no windows to the outside, working 60+ hour weeks and keeping a sleeping bag underneath my desk.
Today, I have found balance as a teacher of both music and technology, in a school that values my presence on their faculty as an instructor in both disciplines. It is stable employment that allows me to do the normal things that people do, like own a house, and have a dog, and take my family on trips. I still find plenty of time to play chamber music of all kinds, which (aside from my wife and son) is my true love.
My family and I are immigrants who came to the US in search of a better life...my parents came here legally through the official process, started with practically nothing but the clothes on their backs, and over decades built a life and a future for their kids and grandkids. We certainly have never been "rich" but music was always a presence in our lives because our parents felt it was as important as any other academic subject. They told me, "commit to something, but be smart about it."
To come full circle, I do "play violin for a living," but it is so much more than that!! :)