Adult students going to music school?

April 16, 2015 at 04:19 PM · I have been battling with the idea of going to school to study violin as a professional player. I don't think supporting myself is a main concern. It is purely out of the love for violin. As an adult, there are much more obligations, career, taking care of family. Is it possible for me still be able to make it? When I talk to my teacher about this, her major concern is where I find enough time to do this and whether or not my hands can endure the long hours of practice... The program near where I am offers a rigorous 4 year bachelor of music program. Is there any alternative?

Replies (75)

April 16, 2015 at 04:44 PM · How long have you been playing the violin? Did you start as a child or as an adult? (If the latter, it is vanishingly unlikely that you could achieve a competitive professional level of playing.) What is your current level of repertoire? What do you hope to achieve in the long run?

(and most importantly, are you financially independent? Because going to music school is a pretty good way to sink any family's finances.)

April 16, 2015 at 05:42 PM · According to your bio, you stopped playing for 20 years, post-college -- that puts you in your late 30s? Your 40s? You're married with three kids and you presumably already have a well-established career given your Ph.D. in an in-demand scientific field.

So to study music full-time, you'd be giving up an existing career and the income that goes with it, and time spent with your family, for... what? What's the post-school game plan?

What level of playing did you reach as a child? What kind of technical shape are you in now, given your very long break? Are you still playing at a level that's comparable to students entering reasonably competitive conservatory programs?

How much are you practicing now? If you're not already practicing intensively, what makes you think that entering a formal program will make a material difference in your motivation to practice?

Honestly, if you really want to play professionally, and you're still playing at a high level, just go out and take some gigs. You'd probably be in that same position professionally after music school anyway.

April 16, 2015 at 06:25 PM · The other question is what opportunities are available in your area and what the competition for them is (the likelihood of you getting a high-enough paying gig that you would be able to move your family is very low). How many orchestras are within driving distance? How many possible students vs how many already-established teachers?

In order to make a living, you DON'T need to get a degree. YOu need to be able to play well. Do not confuse the two.

April 16, 2015 at 07:02 PM · According to the OP's profile, they live in Woodbridge, CT. Which is close to New Haven, making me wonder if the OP is thinking about Yale's music school.

I agree with Scott's point.

I would add though that it doesn't make sense for the OP to do a bachelor's. It's possible to do a performance M.M. without majoring in music as an undergrad, as long as you're a sufficiently qualified player. (I know a number of people who have done so.) The OP could also consider a school that offers a one-year performance certificate program, although the caveat about playing level applies there too.

There's a catch-22 here. If the OP is playing at a high enough level that they could qualify for a performance MM or certificate program, they could probably play professionally without needing to get a degree (although presumably the intensive training would sharpen their skills and make them more competitive). If they're not playing a high enough level to qualify to enter an MM or certificate program, it's questionable whether four years of full-time training to do a bachelor's is worthwhile.

That's particular true when a sensible alternative might be: Find a great private teacher. Take lessons at least twice a week. Practice four hours a day.

I have known people who have done a career conversion to being full-time violinists, in their 30s and later, when they have not been concerned about earning an income (stock, inheritances, and other things that left them financially independent without needing to work). They were all people who were playing at a high enough level when young that they could have gone to conservatory, and later, polished up their skills sufficiently to be able to play gigs, pass the auditions for "Freeway Philharmonic" per-service orchestras, and so forth. None of them went back to school, but they all studied privately and intensively.

April 16, 2015 at 07:33 PM · I'm blown away by what I have given out in this forum!! Yes, Lydia, you are correct of what my journey is and I'm thinking of this option down the road. I do have a private teacher and practice 2 hrs/ day for now. She told me two more years under her and then I can go apply. However, some of the other alternatives that you have mentioned here are interesting to think about. Thank you Scott for clarifying the difference between a good player and a degree. For some strange reason, the science world is run by a hierarchy of degrees!!

April 17, 2015 at 02:54 AM · In that case, I agree with Lydia. You don't need another degree.

If for some crazy reason you ever hope to audition for fulltime orchestras (for the record, I am not advising this), you need something on your resume to make an audition committee believe you can play the violin. A name violin teacher is a very good start. Absent a music degree, you need at the very least some serious freeway philharmonic experience.

April 17, 2015 at 10:03 AM · Mary Ellen,

You are right on. Last year, I saw violin audition opportunities at New Haven symphony orchestra. It clearly stated that these positions are for professional musicians ONLY...

April 17, 2015 at 12:00 PM · Qing Liu, what is your current level of playing? What are you working on with your teacher?

April 17, 2015 at 12:32 PM · I also took 25 years off from the violin for college, graduate school, establishing my career, and starting my family. I was a mediocre violinist to begin with, so the re-start was quite difficult, however I enjoy it. I admire your determination but I think it is essential to be realistic about what can be accomplished. Lydia is asking where you are now in your studies, but you should also consider where you were a year ago, or where you are a year from now. Every good trajectory needs a slope.

April 17, 2015 at 02:42 PM · Prior to quitting, I played at the level probably equivalent to the ABRSM level 7. I wasn't as serious as Lydia. My jorney is similar to Lydia's. I started in 2011, quit again after 9 months. After 2 yrs, I started again And is still going. After 1 yr and 6 months, I am working on Mazas Etudes and just finished Mozart concerto no3. My teacher focus a lot on different bowing styles with me. I think i've improved much faster the second time I started. I already have a pretty good idea of my road map after consulting on this thread at least for the next 2-3 yrs. Where will this lead to? No one will know until I try.

April 17, 2015 at 05:33 PM · Not being familiar with the ABRSM syllabus, I just checked out Level 7--it turns out to be Meditation from Thais level.

Only your teacher can speak to your learning curve, but I think you have quite an uphill road ahead of you. When I have a high school student at the Meditation from Thais level, I actively discourage them from pursuing music as a profession should they express an interest in doing so. There are too many people playing too much better, and too few jobs.

I understand that you've progressed since then. But that is still quite a gap.

April 17, 2015 at 05:43 PM · Oh yeah, you're in a totally different boat from me, and folks I've known who made a mid-career switch.

If you're doing Mazas, you're still basically an intermediate player -- you have an entire Kreutzer journey in front of you. That's going to be years of learning new technique. Even if you come to the end of that journey, say, 3 years down the line, any degree program you could get into probably wouldn't be worth anything on your resume. (It's not going to be Yale, certainly.)

In the meantime, play in (community) orchestras as much as you can. There may be a time when you can start gigging, but that time isn't now, even for things that don't pay union scale. (By the way, your New Haven orchestra is the kind of orchestra that Mary Ellen and I mean when we say "Freeway Philharmonic" -- it's a part-time, per-service professional orchestra paying union scale.)

There's a good chance that reaching a passably professional playing level is going to take you ten years of serious work, but that's almost certainly better done in the context of private lessons, not a degree program.

April 17, 2015 at 06:19 PM · I will preface this that I am no advanced player, but playing in a community orchestra is not necessarily going to be a boon to your technique. If you are trying to really do heavy duty work on technique, then the time that you put into orchestra would probably be better spent practicing the fundamentals. I decided I had to quit the orchestra I was in when I got more serious about building my technique.

Of course, there are other benefits from playing in orchestras (Like sight reading).

April 17, 2015 at 07:03 PM · The OP needs to build orchestral skills if they want to eventually freelance. Technique is only a part of what makes a good orchestra musician.

April 17, 2015 at 10:35 PM ·

April 17, 2015 at 10:47 PM · I am concerned that perhaps the OP's teacher is not being straightforward with her and is making rash and unrealistic promises.

If an adult student came to me after not having played for several years, previous peak ability at AMRSM Level 7, and asked me if I could prepare her for music school and/or a career change to professional music, I would straight up say "no." There would be too much ground to be covered and that by an adult with many other responsibilities in life; admittance to music school would be a slim chance at best (audition committees are also aware of the realities of the marketplace and are not going to give a spot to a returning nontraditional adult with marginal skills over a talented 18-year-old); and future chances of employment would be very few except for perhaps some of the smaller semipro freeway philharmonics (i.e. below New Haven).

I am sorry to be harsh but "marginal skills" in the context of a conservatory or serious music school (Yale) admission is pretty much anybody below an excellent Mendelssohn, Saint-Saens #3, or Scottish Fantasy. Tchaikovsky or Brahms would be surer bets. There are enough 18-year-olds who can play well at this level that any first-tier music school can easily fill their class with traditional students.

I would agree to teach such an adult only if the prospective student understood that at best she would be hoping for mid-level or lower gigs. I would never assure this person that I could get her ready for a conservatory admission, because that would simply not be true.

And now I am very curious to know the background of the OP's teacher, and how much firsthand knowledge she (the teacher) has about the realities of the marketplace. Is she a serious performer herself? Does she listen to auditions? I listen to a lot of auditions along with preparing high school students for music school auditions, and there is very close to a 0% chance that someone with the OP's background would be competitive.

April 17, 2015 at 11:51 PM · When I was writing of the OP possibly eventually playing professionally in my earlier post, I was thinking specifically of a fairly narrow context -- getting the occasional freelance orchestral gig (which might including being a sub in a freeway philharmonic), playing "gas money" gigs (you know the type, where they're really expecting to attract mostly semi-pros who like to say "I'm getting paid!" but they aren't paying anywhere near union scale), playing weddings, and whatnot. Not "earn a living", full-time money. Just playing well enough to do that kind of thing and have another full-time career.

Also worth remembering: The volume of gigs has declined over the past decade, even as competition has increased. You used to get string quartets playing in restaurants, for instance, or even lone violinists; that seems vanishingly rare now. Weddings often have a DJ or a band instead of classical musicians. Theatres are increasingly using canned music, or minimal orchestrations with keyboards instead. Smaller professional orchestras have had problems staying afloat financially. I would wager that most freelancing players actually make most of their income teaching.

So for the OP, I have to again ask... What's the end game here?

April 18, 2015 at 12:38 AM · Quing Liu, to answer your question about whether any of us know of an adult student who went for professional studies: there is a young woman in my orchestra who is working as a scientist and simultaneously earning a Master's in Music. She is an excellent player; started out in performance but switched to music theory as her concentration. I think the recital prep looming was the deal-breaker. She seems very happy with her studies. This is the only example I can think of, although I know many people who did the opposite--went into other professions (law is a popular one) after receiving bachelor's or graduate degrees in music and working as professional musicians.

April 18, 2015 at 11:31 AM · Perhaps some of you have forgotten if there is a hobby in your life and the joy and fun that it brings you. There are quite a lot of opportunities out there, may not be what you think is good. Again, I feel that I am still at the stage to keep things open. Yes, I wasn't as a serious player as a child and never had a private teacher back then, like all of you did probably and he never really cared to tech us much techniques. That doesn't mean that I reached peak at 18. There are so many senerios of life out there that you might not know. I do not doubt of my teacher's qualification. She has sent quite a few students, both violin and piano, to competitive college that offers performing degree and conservatories. I think what has been helpful here is that you have given your honest opinion of the music world. The outcome for me is to play well to my own satisfiction. It sounds very different from what some of the advice given here, which is how the music world judges a musician. It is true for most of the profession because in order to earn a living you need to prove your ability and worth to your field. In order to play to my own satisfiction, what are the strategies? I like the advice to continue private lessons and see where I am going next.

April 18, 2015 at 12:06 PM · This is an interesting thread. I think that I have a similar history to the OP, except that I had excruciating performance anxiety until my late 20's, which limited what I was able (or willing) to achieve on the violin when I was a child and teen, especially as a soloist.

Nowadays, after coming back to playing seriously in my 40's, I do do occasional gas money and freeway philharmonic gigs. There also increasingly seem to be "all-star" orchestra opportunities for adult amateurs in major cities. I've been in a few of those now, I've played in Boston's Symphony Hall, for example. I am the concertmaster of a volunteer community orchestra and the visibility and opportunities conferred by the "position" help.

My teacher is a full-time professional free-lancer on the violin, and while I can see the appeal of her lifestyle, I actually prefer my own. She has a lot of weekend and holiday gigs, playing when I'd rather be with my family or just doing something else. i.e. playing one or fewer Handel's Messiahs per season is fun--a bunch, not so much.

Sometimes I've thought about getting a degree because it seemed like it would be fun. In my area there is a glut of conservatories. I really have no idea where and how all the graduates are going to get jobs. So I could imagine that one in the 3rd or 4th tier might be willing to take someone like me who would be paying full tuition. I would enjoy the opportunity to think about music so intensely and to practice so many hours per day. But then, if I'm honest with myself, I realize that for me, doing that for longer than a month or so would be excruciating. It would more likely burn me out and make me want to sell my violin on eBay. I have too many different interests and things I want to explore and do.

April 18, 2015 at 05:30 PM · Frieda, thank you for the comprehensive answers. I found that people here are quite interested in others' qualifications. Have you heard of Julia Fischer? Are you familiar with the Russian music training system? Then, you will know that it is very possible for someone from there to be excellent on both. She is one of the rare finds.

April 18, 2015 at 07:08 PM · No one here is saying that players peak at 18. But there's a HUGE difference between "learn to be a better player at 40" and "go from being an intermediate mid-life student to a professional". That's why you're seeing such a cautionary tone on the responses to your post.

It's possible for someone to be very good on both instruments but it's exceptionally rare for them to be at a professional level on both, and even so, one is usually a primary instrument and one is a secondary instrument. It's not that unusual to see neighborhood music teachers who can teach beginning, even intermediate-level students on multiple instruments, of course, but advanced students tend to be another matter. Thus we're all curious about the name of your teacher and who they studied with (for both piano and violin).

There is a reason that performers always note who they studied with in their bios. Pedigree matters.

If you are pursuing personal enrichment, the degree program is definitely the wrong way to go. For theory, you could either sign up for a local college's theory classes, or hire a tutor to teach you privately. For music history, you could either read on your own (I recommend Charles Rosen's books for starters), or check out a MOOC online.

Lessons and practice make a big difference. I would seriously consider twice-a-week lessons, and longer lessons if your teacher is willing (say 1.5 hours or 2 hours, two times a week). Even if you're only practicing an hour or two a day, more frequent, more in-depth lessons will help you make progress quicker.

If your work hours are flexible, local colleges and the like often host violin masterclasses with visiting artists during the day. Attend as many as you can; they're often free. Even if you're not playing, you'll pick up lots of interesting tips along the way.

Seek as many opportunities as you can to get third-party opinions and coaching on your playing. Festivals and the like are great for that, but with your teacher's permission you may also want to occasionally play for other teachers in the area (and participate in masterclasses when you can, if they don't restrict participation to kids). Every teacher you spend time with is likely to tell you at least one valuable thing. In aggregate, that can be really useful.

Play in orchestras and play chamber music like Karen suggested, but do keep in mind that the quality of your ensembles is going to depend on your own skill level. It may turn out to be more satisfying to invest more deeply in building your playing level right now with practice time, and then diversifying more once you're more skilled.

April 18, 2015 at 09:08 PM · I'm just going to start following Lydia around to post right under her, "What she said."

April 19, 2015 at 12:55 AM · My violin teacher is Russian and he does play the piano quite well but teaching both instruments at a level to send both to conservatory, that strikes me as very rare.

And Jenny, it is okay. Even without the talent. Trust me. :)

April 19, 2015 at 03:54 AM · It's wonderful to be a passionate, talented amateur.

The issue is, I think, the use of the word "professional," which appears to mean different things to different people.

April 19, 2015 at 10:15 AM · Alas! I appreciate all your well thought comments. I don't need to proof to you more than what's already said. My dream and life is my own. Even if it takes a long time, I don't really mind. Remember, I have options? Professional or not, I want to be a player that I am satisfied with. If it takes the effort to go to school to be a good player, I am willing. This is the bottom line. And, thank you all for your suggestions.

April 19, 2015 at 12:31 PM · If your goal is to go to music school and become a better player, if you've got the finances to do it, then just do it.

If no one else at your age has ever done that before, then you can be the first.

I know any number of people who have gone to fine music schools, who started at the "right" age, who aren't currently working "professionally" (except maybe some occasional teaching). So just going to music school at the "right" age doesn't mean you're going to get a top-level job in music. Or that you'd even want one. But it is one path to learning to play better. There may be cheaper paths, so I'd look into those first, but that doesn't mean you can't do what you suggest.

However, if you're going to do another bachelor's degree, I'd try to find a place that has a really good music program. There are lots of colleges that give out 4 yr music degrees -- many of them just don't have a lot of great musicians enrolled as students. And I'd think that the real reason for enrolling in a bachelor's (or master's) program would be the experience of playing with a lot of other good players. If that's lacking, then, as others have suggested, your money and time might be better spent on an excellent teacher and many hours of practice.

It would also not surprise me if there are community orchestras out there that do pretty challenging music. After all, there are a lot of musicians out there that went to music schools who are not currently working professionally. They need somewhere to play. (This may be more common in some areas of the country)

I would not worry too much about your hands holding up due to age. Truth is, hands may not hold up even for young people. (I know several young professionals who had to give up violin due to hand problems) As with any player of any age, keep things relaxed or you may end up with serious and unfixable problems.

April 19, 2015 at 03:03 PM · Im glad Im not a professional musician. And Im even more glad there are professionals and pros in training so that I can enjoy their playing while I also enjoy my own.

April 19, 2015 at 03:50 PM · The catch-22 on Ellie's suggestion: To get into a great formal program, you already have to be an excellent player. This is unfortunately broadly true - to study with a "name" teacher, or to get into a really excellent festival, etc. you normally already have to be exceptionally good, and you'll run into age restrictions on things as well. Even the better community orchestras will be auditioned, and the minimum bar may be higher than the OP's current skill level.

That said, the OP has plenty of non-degree options. They like their teacher, and in any event, the number of available teachers at this intermediate level is very broad; they're not currently looking for someone teaching at the conservatory level and can realistically convey competitively pre-professional skills. It's pretty much a "spend as much time with teachers as possible, and work really hard" situation for them. (The tuition that would otherwise go to a college can pay for a *lot* of hours of private lessons!)

I wish the OP luck with their dream. Probably the next big time for them to evaluate their progress and trajectory will be at Bruch concerto level.

July 15, 2016 at 05:09 AM · I am in a similar position to the initial enquirer. I quit violin for 23 years. Before quitting I was first chair of college orchestra, and I won a student concerto competition on the Bruch Violin Concerto. Currently, I have been back at violin for almost exactly four years. I have been sporadic in my current pursuits.

Right now I am working on my own on Fritz Kreisler. I have a couple of amateur solos posted on facebook that I will link if anyone wants to put in their two cents.

I do not have a teacher at this time.

July 15, 2016 at 12:12 PM ·

July 15, 2016 at 01:22 PM · Ah, this thread returns. April, yes, please do indeed link your videos.

I'm curious, April, if you've been sporadic for the last four years, why are you interested in jumping full-force into a degree program now? Why not just get a teacher?

I read your bio and saw why you don't want a teacher, but if you go into a degree program you'd have a teacher anyway. Just how old-fashioned is your bow hold? The old German-style hold? If your hold is old-school Russian, that shouldn't be a problem, but if you've got a German-style hold you will probably be better off at least modifying it. It's not so much the German bow hold itself as the very low elbow that normally goes with it, that you're almost certainly going to be asked to change because it rarely produces the kind of powerful tone that's favored in players today.

July 15, 2016 at 08:13 PM · A detail: don't confuse a low elbow tied with string to a coat button, with the slightly hanging elbow and Franco Belgian bow-hold of an Oistrakh or a Perlman. Lots of power there!

July 16, 2016 at 03:58 AM · If you want to play professionally, but you do not have traditional professional training, you start by playing gigs.

First, you play individual giglets that you can manage to get without an audition or other contacts, like weddings -- likely in the company of some people who are more experienced, so you get the hang of the etiquette for the business -- and you probably do so at the lower end of the market rates.

Second, you play with the best community orchestra you can, preferably one that is semi-pro. You take non-union-scale gigs -- you play pit for musicals and whatever else you can do. Possibly this just pays "gas money".

Third, by doing giglets and non-union-scale gigs, you get introduced to enough people who hopefully are impressed by your playing, and who will give you referrals for jobs. You join the union and you start to sub for freeway-philharmonic orchestras and play in pick-up orchestras and so on.

Fourth, the previous steps get you enough of a resume and contacts that you can audition for the local freeway philharmonics. If you're already subbing for them, you might even get a first-round bypass.

And of course you can teach, though you might want some training for that -- Suzuki teaching training seems to be the most practical way to get it on a part-time basis.

You can skip over the whole rigamarole and just try to audition for the local freeway philharmonics (per-service part-time orchestras). However, you might not be able to get an audition without a professional resume or the necessary contacts. (A valid contact includes studying privately with a locally well-known teacher who is willing to make some phone calls and put their reputation on the line by vouching that you're a well-prepared player who has a realistic chance of winning the audition.)

Importantly, do not underestimate the playing level expected at a professional audition. The local freeway philharmonics aren't necessarily expecting a perfect Don Juan, say, but it better be pretty darn close to perfect. And if you win the job, you will be preparing demanding music on short notice. It is definitely work, not just a hobby.

July 16, 2016 at 03:59 AM · "Ok, so if she is a 45 year old with no degree or experience from the music world but who just plays good, how do you suggest she should go about that? "

I have no idea. I guess my answer is that someone who is a good amateur at age 45 with no professional training should be realistic. No one can wave a magic wand over her.

You might as well say "I need a cake in five minutes."

Well, cakes need an hour. And no, turning up the oven to 1000 degrees doesn't work. It doesn't matter how passionate or committed someone becomes at 45. The cake needs time to bake.

July 16, 2016 at 04:20 AM · The definition of a "good amateur" varies pretty widely, too. I've met other amateurs who had very serious pre-professional training, studying with big-name teachers, often at formal prep programs (Juilliard Prep, Peabody Prep, etc.). Even if they had no professional (i.e., conservatory) training and/or have taken a hiatus, they are often still quite good in middle age -- often better than professionals with music education degrees or the like. They are not really in the same class as "45 and playing Meditation from Thais" or even "45 and playing Bruch"; they were generally taught an audition concerto (Tchaikovsky, Brahms, or Sibelius, probably) as teenagers, and may have been taught the common orchestra excerpts back then, too. Such people might be able to become competitive for freeway philharmonic auditions by going into intense practice mode, especially with good coaching -- and their childhood with a big-name teacher is going to give them some credibility on the resume selection.

July 16, 2016 at 06:48 AM · Hi - Thank you for responses, especially the detailed response from Lydia. I began my own thread which you will find at

http://www.violinist.com/discussion/response.cfm?ID=28198

It might be easier to consolidate in that location.

Separately, I am now 50. My playing as it currently stands can be seen by running up and down my timeline on facebook - amateur videos with flawed playing. Believe me I hear every flaw but have trouble producing better than you see.

https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100012180303625

Dates of Violin video posts are June 9, July 5 and July 12. I have not had a lesson in 30 years. I began in public school at age 10 and privately at age 11.

Bow - I have a high elbow and an extremely slanted bow grip.

Thank you,

April Stevens

July 16, 2016 at 07:09 AM · Thank you Amanda as well as Lydia. Also Mohammad, Scott and Adrian. Much appreciated info and POVs.

Especially appreciate the question from Amanda of "45yo (I am 50) who has no experience but just plays good...how should she go about that."

My private teacher was not big name. She was a Julliard pre-college teacher - Dora Marshall Mullins. She worked in Virginia mostly. She also taught me for two years in college. I was not a pre-college student but a VA student.

Community orchestra is helpful to me in that I really need the current experience of sight reading and of staying with the orchestra and conductor. As a youth I had a lot more orchestral experience than I believe is typicial today and community orchestra is helping me remember what I once knew. I can't believe how much I have forgotten - even the markings for a mute or "col legno" for example or how to read harmonics! The orchestral experience is currently of a lot of value to me, even if we aren't making beautiful music.

July 16, 2016 at 08:57 AM · I've met a number of adults who have come back to music school after retiring from their first careers, and are looking for a challenge and a different path. Certainly, it is important to be realistic about career options after the time spent in academia, but some of the most committed, reliable, players who I hire regularly for community orchestra performances include some of these adults.

There are outliers that defy the norm and come into music after being in another field for awhile...however they never stop playing despite doing something else as a career. The current principal second violin of the LA Phil was two years into an MD/PhD program in Biology before making a change, but he was concertizing from a young age.

July 16, 2016 at 04:34 PM · Lydia, the problem with your definitions of "amateur" is that you're relying on concerti and other typical solo works to define them as such. And many amateurs and students are going to judge themselves as well on their abilities to play Bruch or Mendlessohn or whatever.

Here's the issue, one that is much more in tune with reality, and that inexperienced musicians are often unaware of: the orchestral repertoire (the bread and butter of the professional's life aside from teaching), is terribly, terribly difficult. And there is a huge amount of it. Not only that, but even lower-tier orchestras attempt to play it. Amateurs who think they want to "just play in an orchestra" may be able to get though a concerto but will still be in for a rude awakening.

In just a couple of weeks I'll be playing a music festival, and on my stand is a huge stack of music including: Mahler 2, Copland 3rd Symphony, Hindemith Symphonic Metamorphosis, Petrouchka, and a whole bunch of other stuff. The only reason I feel in reasonably good shape is that I've played them all before. Many of the challenges of this music go WAY beyond the usual concerti. Can you fake your way though it? Depends on whether your stand partner is....

July 16, 2016 at 05:39 PM · What does it mean to be 'professional'? I have seen so many definitions of the term that I can hardly can keep them all in mind, and it starts to look like sometimes 'professional' means "my level and above".

A dictionary definition would give us 'professional violinist' as a person who makes of the violin his profession and can 'profess'- say, a knowledgeable person that can make of it his job. This doesn't look like the level is defined sometimes, as we encounter that a professional violinist is necessarily a member of a top-orchestra, or a soloist, or even more, a respectably and not average unknown soloist, but someone of the level of Bell, Chang, Markov, Hahn, etc. This sometimes makes the distinction of professional and good/advanced amateur not only blurry, but such that may leave a wide gap between.

July 16, 2016 at 06:49 PM · It's like pornography: we know it when we see it. Or rather, hear it.

July 17, 2016 at 03:26 AM · Scott, I fully agree with you. That's why I ended a previous post with, "And if you win the job, you will be preparing demanding music on short notice. It is definitely work, not just a hobby." A former amateur career-switching is not necessarily worse off than a newly-minted music graduate who hasn't had rigorous orchestral repertoire preparation though.

More broadly, I think that the definition of a "professional" is "someone who gets paid full-time to play or teach the violin". But within that, there are very different balances of how one earns an income, as well as different levels of skill involved.

Some freeway philharmonics, for instance, have widely-spaced sets, and so there's plenty of time to learn the music. But someone might be juggling several orchestras of this type, which leads to a giant pile of music. For people without extensive orchestral experience and/or the ability to learn music very quickly, encountering a whole big pile of music for the first time is a big challenge. (Doubly so for learning first violin parts, I think, though second can be tricky as well.)

The blurry line between the amateur and the professional is the semi-pro -- usually an amateur who plays at a high level, sufficient to earn a little bit of supplemental income from gigging, which might include playing in a freeway philharmonic or the like. In practice, this might not look very different from a music educator -- a lot of public-school music teachers end up playing in community orchestras and/or doing some light gigs. You won't confuse the skill level between such people and actual full-time professional orchestra players, if you hear them play, though (even those who aren't in a top global orchestra).

July 17, 2016 at 03:43 AM · I agree that there's much more to being a professional violinist than playing concertos, but as a shorthand way to describe someone's level (which is what Lydia is doing), I think it's just fine. If you tell me that you're learning Bruch g minor, I don't have to hear your excerpts to know that you're not yet at a professional level. Conversely, if you can play a great Sibelius, you may not necessarily have the necessary excerpts or orchestral literature in general under your fingers but I have no doubt that you're capable of learning them.

July 17, 2016 at 06:22 PM · It is interesting to find out that I am not alone as a returned adult player. I have to say after a year of posting the question here, I have some fresh insight to my own question! My musical journey or maybe everyone's can be unique. I continue to take private lessons weekly and practice almost 2 hours a day most of the time. I am still progressing nicely. I'm on Lalo now as far as my own work. I agree with Scott's point on orchestra repetoior. I joined a community orchestra. It is a fast growing experience for me. The short amount of time and the challenging repetoior all helped me to grow. At the latest pops concert, we invited the concert master from ONE. Sitting next to him is an eye opening experience, in particular the way he approached the music and his way of expression. What's more interesting to me is that he started a career in computer science after being a soloist. He has deep respect for people like us who play in the community orchestra. I think when I posted the question last year, it was to seek a way to get better with violin playing in a traditional way, like how we all go to school for a degree when we were growing up. I think I am where I should be right now. Taking private lessons, practice, and play in community orchestra. What's more important for me is to love the violin playing. I did complain a lot when I had to learn Rimsky-Korsakov's Russian Easter Overture in a short amount of time and not be able to touch my own pieces. I get a taste of what it is like to be a professional violinist in an orchestra where you do not have a choice of what to play. It is WORK. Eventually, the love for the violin playing kept me going. All is well. I think I have a wise teacher. She urged me to go to an orchestra. I asked her why in many occasions. She said it is to get me familiar with the repetoior. She also told me no matter how good someone can be, most of us eventually are all dumped into orchestra :)

July 17, 2016 at 06:22 PM · It is interesting to find out that I am not alone as a returned adult player. I have to say after a year of posting the question here, I have some fresh insight to my own question! My musical journey or maybe everyone's can be unique. I continue to take private lessons weekly and practice almost 2 hours a day most of the time. I am still progressing nicely. I'm on Lalo now as far as my own work. I agree with Scott's point on orchestra repetoior. I joined a community orchestra. It is a fast growing experience for me. The short amount of time and the challenging repetoior all helped me to grow. At the latest pops concert, we invited the concert master from ONE. Sitting next to him is an eye opening experience, in particular the way he approached the music and his way of expression. What's more interesting to me is that he started a career in computer science after being a soloist. He has deep respect for people like us who play in the community orchestra. I think when I posted the question last year, it was to seek a way to get better with violin playing in a traditional way, like how we all go to school for a degree when we were growing up. I think I am where I should be right now. Taking private lessons, practice, and play in community orchestra. What's more important for me is to love the violin playing. I did complain a lot when I had to learn Rimsky-Korsakov's Russian Easter Overture in a short amount of time and not be able to touch my own pieces. I get a taste of what it is like to be a professional violinist in an orchestra where you do not have a choice of what to play. It is WORK. Eventually, the love for the violin playing kept me going. All is well. I think I have a wise teacher. She urged me to go to an orchestra. I asked her why in many occasions. She said it is to get me familiar with the repetoior. She also told me no matter how good someone can be, most of us eventually are all dumped into orchestra :)

July 17, 2016 at 07:46 PM · "Dumped" is an interesting way of putting it...

By the way, for people who are under the impression that soloists are somehow "freer" than those poor orchestra musicians, who have to play what they're told...even most soloists are told what to play, at least for concertos. Conductors make their programs for the upcoming season, and then look for a soloist who will oblige their wishes. They don't generally invite a soloist who will then just play whatever they want.

July 17, 2016 at 09:52 PM · Good to know that's WORK for the soloists as well!

July 17, 2016 at 11:09 PM · Well, I've been playing for about 5 years now and am entering my junior year of high school. I'm working on the Mozart 3 and am playing in 3 orchestras. (School-not hard about beethovens 1st symphony level) (youth orchestra-pretty hard not really any limit) (community orchestra- hardest will play whatever). Most of my classmates that are in the same year as me are way below me. I would say that I am one of the best musicians in the school next to 2 others. (One being an amazing cello player who is working on Lalo Concerto). My teacher is pretty good, and I am hoping to get in to 4 schools: Butler University, DePauw University, Indiana University, and the Oberlin Conservatory. I feel confident about the first 2 colleges I mentioned, I know a person who played Rode and Vivaldi and got into DePauw, and my teacher got into Butler with Mozart 3. I don't know how hard it is to get into those schools, but I think it is doable. For you, if I can get into a school with about 6-7 years of work, I think you could too.

July 17, 2016 at 11:26 PM · 1. Beethoven's 1st Symphony is quite difficult, if played correctly.

2. You don't yet know if you are going to be accepted at any school, so your last sentence is more than a bit, er, imaginative. I think that Butler is the most realistic of the four you've listed, but I don't know nearly as much about either Butler or DePauw as I do about Oberlin and Indiana, both of which are extremely difficult to gain admittance to as a performance major. Mozart 3 as a high school junior is not really on track for either of the latter.

3. Depending on your teacher's age, his/her success with a certain piece at a certain school is not necessarily predictive for you. Nobody gets into Oberlin these days playing the pieces that I auditioned with...actually, few people did back then, either. I got extremely lucky with the year I auditioned, which was something of a low point between violin professors.

July 18, 2016 at 01:22 AM · There's a big gulf between the first two schools mentioned and the last two. And a phenomenon that should be pointed out: at the top-tier conservatories (the latter two), there is no shortage of talented applicants. However, once you go below the top tier, there is a chronic shortage of talented string players. It has to do with numbers: many lower-tier schools feel they would like to be recognized for their music departments and schools of music. In order to to this, they have to have an orchestra, which requires a large contingent of players. And the violin professors need to have X number of students in order to get tenure or benefits. So at these schools, they're under constant pressure to recruit, recruit, recruit. College conductors have nightmares about not being able to have enough players. "What if I don't have....a bassoon, or more than one violist, or....." I've been there, so I know the reality.Its a nightmare that never ends, year after year. Bazillions of small colleges and state schools, all desperate to grab anyone at all that can play. So all of these schools--hundreds or thousands of them--are forced to take students with even the most marginal ability so that they can keep their jobs and field an orchestra that the dean will be forced to attend (with a grimace) once or twice a year. From there, you can apply to a similar graduate program which is desperate for graduate students.

This, my friend, is where you come in: as canon fodder. You are there to feed the beast.

July 18, 2016 at 01:39 AM · April mentioned community orchestra for sight-reading and ensemble practice. What I like to do is load up a chamber piece on Spotify, put on my headphones, and try to keep up with the violin part. If I get stumped, I just listen to how the professional is playing it, and then I can "rewind" a bit and try again. If a movement is just a bit fast, then I sometimes allow myself to work through it first and figure out some fingerings. (One of these days I will figure out how to slow the recordings down with software.) And sometimes it's just too damned hard and then I move on.

The situation that Scott describes with colleges recruiting students is not limited to the field of music performance.

July 18, 2016 at 02:33 AM · Qing Liu, it's really nice to hear an update from you!

I prefer to think of it as the privilege of playing in an orchestra. I've always loved orchestral playing, though; I remember the other kids I grew up with all wanted to be soloists, but I've always much preferred playing in an orchestra. (I love the repertoire and the sound of massed forces and whatnot.)

Jacob, here's the context you need to think about: You're the third-best player in (from what I can tell) a suburban high school of a modest-size city. Right now, there are thousands of students your age who play the violin at a higher level than you do. Most of them won't be admitted to a top conservatory. Of the ones who do, only a tiny percentage will win an orchestra job. (The last stats I saw indicate about 30,000 music-school graduates each year for about 150 job openings.) What kind of life awaits you at the end of the many thousands of dollars spent on a music education?

July 18, 2016 at 04:13 AM · "The situation that Scott describes with colleges recruiting students is not limited to the field of music performance. "

Indeed. This has now become the case with law schools. Great if you go to a top school, but there are too many low-level and for-profit schools which are desperate for students. They're taking large numbers of students they KNOW have no chance of passing the bar.

July 18, 2016 at 04:53 AM · "Most of them won't be admitted to a top conservatory. Of the ones who do, only a tiny percentage will win an orchestra job. (The last stats I saw indicate about 30,000 music-school graduates each year for about 150 job openings.)"

To be fair, while the statistics are still dismal, those 30,000 music-school graduates include an awful lot of pianists and singers, who aren't in the competitive mix for orchestra jobs. And they also include anyone graduating with a music degree from any school at all, including State U, Local Regional U, and 3rd-rate Private College. For those students who can actually gain admittance into a top conservatory, the numbers are not necessarily encouraging but they're a lot better than 150 jobs per 30,000 graduates would suggest.

July 18, 2016 at 04:53 AM · Double post, sorry, and I really wish v.com had a way to completely delete the shame of the double-click.

July 18, 2016 at 06:10 AM · Well, I hope to get a degree in performance and either music education or violin pedagogy. I'm not looking to being a concert violinist or member of a high tier professional orchestra. I'd probably play in a few community orchestras and teach either at a school, privately, or both. I will try to work towards a career as a soloist or violinist in an orchestra, but I know it is unlikely I will make it. This fall, I plan to enter a competition (young artist competition). The prize is cash plus performing with the highest level of the youth orchestra I'm in. The past two years winners have included Sibelius violin concerto and Kabalevsky Cello concerto. I'm not sure if I can win, but it would probably be a good experience.

July 18, 2016 at 02:28 PM · Audition, competition, and performance experience is almost always worth accumulating even if you don't expect to win. I think even for students who don't plan to continue any music into adulthood, the experience is worthwhile; it teaches you to overcome fear.

Jacob, your goals sound reasonable. Compared to middle-age returnees looking for career switches, though, it's a very different path. I think for the most part the middle-aged people posting are hoping to improve their playing level to a professional level. You're taking an orthogonal path towards education, which requires you to be technically well-grounded but doesn't demand virtuosity.

By the way, anyone contemplating a second undergrad degree needs to find out how much of the core curriculum they'd have to repeat (i.e. do you need to take math, English, etc. again). Likely if you're going back to school, a master's makes more sense.

July 18, 2016 at 09:11 PM · I agree with Mary Ellen. I attended a small Christian college, and the music department was mostly piano, voice, and organ majors. I think there might have been one or two students taking violin lessons from an adjunct professor who played with a regional orchestra. Very very few of these people had *any* ambition whatsoever of becoming performing artists. Most were destined to become public-school teachers or homemakers who sang and accompanied in church.

July 19, 2016 at 04:23 AM · Paul and Jacob and Qing - don't know how much you have participated in Orchestras but I think it is a far better experience than most in life. Sight reading with a tape cannot compare.

Right now I'm sitting principal seconds in a summer community orchestra and because I had so very much orchestra experience when young I have found it comes very naturally. I finger parts every time the conductor lowers his batton, keep my eye on the concertmaster to try to match up 2nds bowings to the firsts, and read a couple of measures ahead since the conductor is a big fan of rubato, all while counting constantly.

No I don't get all the notes but I almost never lose my place in the part and when I do it is because of eyesight problems that I didn't have when youngerr. Now last year when we did Beethoven's 2nd like a bat out of hell it was a little nuts (and I was way in the back last year so pretty hard to follow the conductor).

This year we have more waltzes and the pace is good not crazy. Moazart's 35 is the challenge piece for the 2nds. Not my first time playing it though last time I was in the firsts.

As a teenager for about 4 to six years, between student summer festivals, two separate festivals a summer, and all state, all city, weekend camps, high school orch, youth symphony, local college symphony (I played it in high school) and a small regional orchestra I did about 15 to 20 orchestra concerts a year, most of them rather badly, but it was great fun. Youth symphony was the biggest blast because it was huge in size drawing from a broad region and the conductor was always shouting out measure numbers as we fell out one by one like Napolean's Army on the march to Russia until he was left with nothing but a couple of stands playing in rehearsals.

While I'll never recapture that feeling in current orchestras, I'm enjoying the ride. Now I just need to find a winter time community orchestra.

July 19, 2016 at 04:28 AM · Lydia, your comment about curriculum that would have to be repeated for second undergrad - yes that is the big question and the thing that I really don't want to do. I don't have a viable second language unless a Southern Hick Dialect might count and so don't want to go that redo the academics route. It is simply not worth the time or effort.

Somewhere on this forum I saw something about some Masters programs that are available to non-music majors. This would be of interest to me.

July 19, 2016 at 05:40 AM · Mary Ellen - orchestra jobs stats. Here is a real one. Two years ago someone temporarily (1 yr sabbatical) vacated a first violin section seat from the Albany ASO, part time regional orchestra, to teach abroad for one year.

Audition was for one seat for one year only, no contract renewal. 89 people auditioned for that chair that lies 2 1/2 hours from Boston and NYC.

July 19, 2016 at 07:50 AM · April "the conductor was always shouting out measure numbers as we fell out one by one like Napolean's Army on the march to Russia until he was left with nothing but a couple of stands playing in rehearsals". What a great metaphore. :)

July 19, 2016 at 03:11 PM · I found that metaphor hilarious, too!

Adult players, especially those on the east coast: The Baltimore Symphony and the Buffalo Philharmonic both run summer week-long adult orchestral camps. The BSO program (BSO Academy) is more developed, but Buffalo is probably an easier drive for you NYC-based folks.

I attended BSO Academy in 2015 and absolutely loved it. There are three components to the program -- orchestra (side-by-side with the BSO, and usually Marin Alsop conducts, so a rare chance to work with a world-class conductor), chamber music (a BSO member coaches and plays in every group), and solo (you can take multiple private lessons with different BSO members, and there is an optional solo recital). Skill level varies from about intermediate to very advanced (and there's a parallel music-educator track, so you'll also get those folks in the orchestra portion). There's also a chamber orchestra (participants only, conducted by the BSO's concertmaster, Jonathan Carney), plus masterclasses that any participant can play in, and other educational classes (there's a couple of hours of Bulletproof Musician, for instance).

There are lots of great adult chamber-music programs, and some festivals accept adults that are more solo-oriented, but BSO Academy provides a really nice balance across all the aspects, I think. I felt like the intensive week was really beneficial for me.

Plus, I also really enjoyed hanging out with the other participants. Those of you who are scientists will feel right at home. ;-)

July 19, 2016 at 08:59 PM · I am well aware of "real" orchestra player statistics; I am on the string audition committee for my own orchestra, and of course before that I myself spent several years in the audition meat grinder. Based on experience listening to auditions, I would expect that of those 89 auditionees, at least half were wasting their time.

My point was not that the statistics aren't discouraging, it was that they aren't 150/30,000 discouraging.

July 20, 2016 at 06:39 AM · i did some back-of-the-cocktail-napkin estimation, and figure there may be about 40 (give or take) conservatories and schools of music producing violinists. If you assume somewhere 5-20 graduate each year, that a range of about 200-800. Let's average that and we come up with 500 fiddlers. It's probably conservative, and doesn't account for graduates of small colleges. So let's add 100 for them. Then there are graduate students, so let's say those are 25% of the total. Now remember that those are, in a way, counted twice because they were undergrads prior to graduate school. But anyway, let's throw in another 150. So we come up with 750 violinists, all scraping away like there's no tomorrow. But then, a bunch of Canadians just casually stroll across the border after graduation, eh, so let's round up to 800.

But wait, there's more!

Let's figure out how many years the average violinist flies around auditioning before giving up, spirit and wallet broken.Five years at the most? (But don't worry, the practice continues--look in the mirror and repeat after me: "Hi, Welcome to Applebee's! My name is *your name here*

Can I bring you a cocktail while you look at the menu?")

So 5 years of graduates X 800= 4000. Once, I added up the number of full-time orchestra jobs and came up with about 1500. Let's estimate there's 10% turnover each year. Sound reasonable? It's about 3 positions per orchestra. Good. So that's 4000 violins vying for 150 full-time seats. But it's not really 4000 violinists, but more like 400 have any shot at all. The other 3600 will rush or drag their way to oblivion (Applebee's).

I will conclude this thought experiment with a word of advice: don't just ask your customer if they want desert--actually show them the desert tray. It works!

July 20, 2016 at 12:42 PM · I agree with your estimate of the percentage of violinists who have any shot at all. But even to attain that level (the "you have a chance" level), the school matters-- it isn't enough to have a great teacher, you've got to have high-level competition. People who go to unremarkable colleges because they get a full ride there and then second- or third-rate graduate schools for the same reason have shot themselves in the foot, unless they aggressively make up for this with top-ranked summer programs.

To be fair, not all people who graduate with a degree in violin performance are taking auditions. Some do so with the idea of becoming private teachers, or getting Suzuki training. Some have already changed their minds midway through but finish their degree because it's still the shortest route to a bachelors for them. So the numbers are slightly lower.

I won my first US job at an audition that was sparsely attended because it was for an undesirable orchestra in an undesirable city. Most of my music school classmates would not have considered taking that audition. But I got three years of valuable experience there while continuing to take lessons three hours away, and building on that experience allowed me to win the next audition. Choosing ones' auditions wisely can certainly help the odds.

By the way, Applebee's isn't inevitable for the other 90%. Some do successfully put together students, gigs, and freeway philharmonics for a life that is acceptable to them. Some even do this by choice because they have married someone with a career that is not movable--sometimes, another musician who did win a job. And again, the performance degree is still a four-year degree; people can choose to go in the sorts of directions that philosophy majors, or English majors without teacher training, can go. Among performance majors that I knew at Oberlin who aren't in an orchestra, I know of an attorney, a doctor, a few people working in computers, a college professor, and I'm sure more will come to me later. Anyone intelligent enough to learn to play an instrument at a high level is intelligent enough to succeed in many other fields.

July 21, 2016 at 05:01 AM · Scott Cole - I think you are way underestimating the number of violin graduates from small colleges or regional universities. A lot of them are Music Education majors but I bet it is way over 100 per year with a performance degree, though this is purely speculation on my part.

Mary Ellen, I wasn't doubting your knowledge of real orchestra auditions, merely giving a fairly recent real life example that I know of.

About thirty-two years ago I remember the story of a back of the seconds of the BSO audition story that was circulating where over 1000 players had showed up for an open audition. I knew someone who made it through the second call back.

July 21, 2016 at 05:19 AM · Scott Cole - your 10% turnover - three violins per year is extremely generous.

From what I have seen, the only seats in established orchestras open up when a violinist becomes ancient to the point of unable or dies, or if a small orchestra decides to expand or a new fledgling orchestra is begun or community orchestra becomes part time professional.

In ongoing/established professional orchestras I doubt there is one violin seat available every three years.

July 21, 2016 at 06:21 AM · Shaelle and Lydia - the youth orchestra with the conductor shouting out measure numbers - yes he was a character. He would not stop until he decided that going on was completely hopeless and we really were like a bunch of fallen soldiers.

He was afraid that if he paused to give a new starting point "begin at letter D..." it would waste valuable time. We also rehearsed two nights a week for 2 1/2 hours with no break time allowed.

Mary Ellen Goree, I agree that in theory music majors on scholarship who don't attend top program have shot themselves in the foot, but if there is no parental or financial support, how is an average kid supposed to afford $176K in tuition (42K/year plus for typical private colleges these days) whether music major or any other type of major? And this is without another 10 to 20K per year living expenses.

For most, private colleges which include most music conservatories are out of the range of the masses, I'm talking about the masses with parents making 150K to 300K per year with professional jobs or small business owners unless the student receives special attention and therefore generous scholarships top tier schools. Music schools are generally out before application process has even begun.

Many of my friends are struggling with the idea of putting typically three children through college and private colleges or universities are not even applied to or the acceptance is just to prove to others that they could have gone there if they could have afforded it or on the well why not theory - maybe you will be accepted and we will hit the lottery or they will love you more than expected and give a boatload of scholarship money.

Just last year a daughter of close friend did not attend Manhattan School of Music or Mannes when she was accepted at both and is at community college hoping to enter Queens College in a year. She applied with the thin hope of scholarship money. She is the only kid I know of who even applied to private colleges. The rest are all state/public college only applicants.

I don't think most kids, no matter where they are accepted, have the choice of private vs public schools for college.

And without parental support, most kids won't say yes to a private college/music conservatory where they know their parents won't volunteer enough money.

I'm sure there are rare gems of students who receive $30K plus per year scholarship money and there is of course the Curtis Instite, but most don't have the money so public school is all that is left and all that has ever been on the table for most.

This is also why I question Scott's mediocre school graduates of violin majors and think it is likely much higher than 100 students nation wide.

July 21, 2016 at 10:45 PM · We've had violin openings in our orchestra almost every year for the past several years. People leave for lots of reasons--spouse gets a job somewhere else, violinist wins a better job, or plain old burnout are the most common in my experience. Not everyone who gets an orchestra job spends their entire career in music--I know of two who became RNs, for example, and another two or three who went into fulltime teaching (college in one case) by choice. You don't have to wait for someone to die.

My husband and I are currently putting two children through college with a third waiting in the wings--fortunately, neither wanted to go into professional music though they were at the level to audition for conservatory acceptance. However if either had, the University of Texas (our in-state school) has a credible music school--it is not Juilliard, but it would not have been the end of the world if scholarship money to a better school didn't come through. Many other states also have credible undergraduate music programs at state schools that are better options than Anonymous College Offering Full Ride, and of course fortunate is the talented young person whose parents settled in Indiana. I have a few gifted students myself at UTSA who are there solely for financial reasons. I give them the same advice I would have given my own children had they aspired to a musical career but couldn't afford a top conservatory--make the most of whatever summer opportunities you can get accepted to and then plan to go to the very best grad school you can get into and afford. And have a Plan B, because the odds aren't encouraging--and yes, I give them an explicit description of the audition process and the numbers involved.

Incidentally I think at least a couple of the SUNY campuses have excellent programs. One of my colleagues did her master's at Stonybrook, if I'm remembering correctly.

July 22, 2016 at 12:41 AM · April,

Naturally I was coming up with very rough figures, and aiming for something within an order of magnitude. For example, I can be quite certain that 800 violin graduates is more accurate than either 8000 or 80.

As far as how many openings occur in any given orchestra, again, we're interested in orders of magnitude: 3 is more reasonable than 30, or .3. In fact, orchestras seem to vary widely. The Oregon Symphony seems to have openings on a regular basis, but the Omaha Symphony rarely does. Then again, the Oregon Symphony, at least in the recent past, was famous for holding auditions and not hiring anyone. So there's that.

Anyway, there might be a good master's or doctoral thesis in this subject. And more useful to the world than research into something like "A survey of Tuba, violin, and snare drum trios in 1930-1940 from Finland."

I've already done my dissertation, so it's all yours. Knock yourself out.

July 22, 2016 at 10:28 PM · Some smaller orchestras never hold auditions, either. I've been looking at the local freeway philharmonics, and from what I've seen, they mostly recruit their subs out of the professional acquaintances of the current members, and then as there are openings, subs get permanent seats.

July 24, 2016 at 04:50 PM · I think an option a lot of American students don't consider is studying abroad. It is usually either free or much less expensive than the U.S. and there are some programs throughout Europe and East Asia that are surely nothing to sneeze at.

July 24, 2016 at 06:53 PM · It's my impression that schools in the U.S. are far more open to the non-traditional (older, career changer) student than are European or Asian schools.

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