I'm a 16 year old violinist who has been playing for two years (since I was 14). I started playing as a hobby, but slowly I began to get more and more serious about violin, especially when presented with opportunities to play in my performing arts high school's orchestra and the local youth orchestra. Within two years of increasing and crazy dedication, I made it into the 1st violins of my schools mastery orchestra, and was co-principal second in the intermediate orchestra, 1st violins in one youth orchestra, and 2nd violins in the other. I have put sooo much time, dedication, and money (specifically by getting a job to pay for my lessons with the local concertmaster, and to pay for my violin ($2000+), and have had to deal with the discouragement, and down bringing of my family and "friends" who have told me I am wasting my time and that I wont make it. I'm trying to be resilient, but it's hard when your the only one supporting your cause. So here is where the problem is, I have practiced soo much this summer and school is coming up, and so are auditions for all state, youth orchestra, string quartet, school orchestra, and etc. and I have been pushing myself hard to make sure I prove those people wrong, and prove myself right. I want to be Concertmaster or 2nd chair in my local youth orchestras, make it into allstate, and get into all of my other dream performing ensembles, but when im practicing, i feel as if im getting nowhere, I get sooo frustrated with my self, and i feel so horrible and worried at the fact that my dreams and plans wont come true or will fail, and I feel as if it will have all been for nothing. My main motivation is to prove everyone wrong, and to get ahead of some people (specifically this girl who has played since she was 6 and has made all state several times, and has all the positions i aspire for, i understand its a stretch but i like to believe hardwork can get me there). I don't know what to do at this point. I need suggestions, advice, anything. Are my goals and expectations to unrealistic? My problems i say i have specifically (based off practicing some etudes and excerpts)
-solidity in my fingering and making sure my fingers dont slip and keep with the rhythm
- my shifting, and shifiting to different positions from different strings
-confusion on a practice method or routine (as what should my routine consist of)
- putting pieces together after simplified and slowed practicing,
I'm currently working out of Mazas, Sevcik, Schradiek, Suzuki, Hrimaly
Are my expectations and dreams to unrealistic? Do I stand a chance at making all the ensembles? Am I on the right track, and is what aim going through normal? Can I ever become a concertmaster in the near future? I just want this, or something to go right in my musical life right now...
I think the problem here is that somewhere along the way, the assumption was made that high chair placement in a school, youth, or honor ensemble would mean something in the long-term.
What specifically are you working on with your teacher? Are you at the level where you can play a Mozart concerto yet? Three octave scales? Solo Bach?
Besides trying to reach a specific chair in orchestra, do you have any long-term goals for your playing? Do you want to play professionally?
Is your teacher aware of your aspirations?
If you haven't already figured this out, you should know that competitions/chair seating/All-State are all subjective events. You cannot assume that you are better than someone else if you are 3rd chair and he/she is 4th or 5th chair, though if you're consistently ranking about the same across the board, then it's probably accurate. And none of it means much of anything once you're out of high school.
I'm currently working all 12 of my major and minor scales (3 octaves and arpeggios), Double stop scales, the Beethoven's 1st symphony excerpt from the first page, mazas 15 and 26, Suzuki Book 4 and 5 (we barely go through it though), Introduction and Polonaise by Carl Bohm, and Sevcik Op.8 for shifting, Sevcik op.1 (books 1-4), and a little of Schradiek. I'm also trying to perfect my bowing techniques such as Colle, Martele, Spiccato, and etc. I haven't mentioned Bach solos but my teacher has and he said im not too far away from playing the Mozart concerto and solo Bach.
Of course, my dream is too play professionally, to play in a professional symphony as Concertmaster, to play all of the great works and really make music come to life and really show myself and others what a world music really is and to inspire others. All of those goals that I mentioned, I'm just trying to use them as markers to know that im on the right track for the road ahead of me. Also, to get the experience of playing with people just as serious as me and who share my same passion. I can't imagine my life without music, and this new world of music i have discovered within the past two years has literally changed the way i see the world around me, music is within me and that is what pushes me really to keep fighting and practicing, because I know i need to share this passion with others, and inspire others like i have
My teacher knows a little of my aspirations, specifically of my goal to get into 1st violins of the top youth symphony in my city, and to get into all state, and to audition for NYO-USA in the near future, also getting into a conservatory. I haven't told him EVERYthing, because I'm scared of what he might say, and his response, i don't want to hear something like its not possible, especially after how my last teacher made me feel like i was getting nowhere and i was wasting my time, and he almost made me quit violin.
I know yall cant make too muc of an assumption for lack of true knowledge, but whats the next step, my goals are to unrealistic are they?
Lol can I add that I literally itch to practice
If you're currently doing Suzuki book 4 and 5, your teacher is prevaricating substantially if he's telling you that you'll soon be playing Mozart concertos and solo Bach. (For reference, if you were sticking with Suzuki, the Mozart concertos are books 9 and 10.)
It sounds, given the repertoire and etudes, like you're at the late-beginner / early-intermediate stage of playing. It's possible that with really, really hard work, you might be able to get into conservatory in two years, but you're going to have to be intensely dedicated and have the benefit of great teaching.
(I recently encountered a professional violinist who started at age 13 and managed to get into Peabody undergrad violin performance, so miracles do happen even at upper-echelon schools, although bear in mind that there's still long years of catch-up that follow such miracles.)
The teaching is super-important. All of your frustrations, including how to practice, ought to be addressed by your teacher. Indeed, with an older beginner like yourself, "how to practice" should have been taught from the very beginning. You have no time to waste, and so your teacher should be ensuring it is used ultra-efficiently.
You should have the expectation that with your late start, you are going to be practicing intensely, every single day, for the next fifteen years or so, to reach a professional level (i.e., to win a professional symphony audition, likely one that doesn't pay a full-time wage, making it necessary to supplement your income with teaching or other gigs).. Make sure that you understand how you're going to support yourself during that time of intensive training, since that extends well beyond your undergraduate years and involves a lot of extra schooling.
Think long-term goals, not short-term ones. The immediate competitive youth symphony auditions and whatnot may actually be non-useful distractions from the core business of learning the fundamentals of the violin. (Do play in orchestras, though, since it's a valuable learning experience, but woodshedding orchestra music for auditions probably isn't a good use of time.)
We had a student here who started around age 11/12 and this year successfully auditioned into all of the top US schools including Juilliard so it's certainly not impossible.
However, while it sounds like you're on the right track, realistically you have a massive uphill climb ahead. How many hours a day of focused, efficient, practice are you getting in? Realize that your competition is doing four to five, every day. Those are the folks you'll be competing against for a spot in music school, and for the few jobs that exist when you get out there.
If that isn't unappealing, then by all means, this is the time in your life to go for it. If you're not willing to sacrifice that much of your time to do it, perhaps you should evaluate other career options than "professional symphony musician."
I won't tell you it can't be done--I recently had a student who started at 14 and was playing a creditable Brahms concerto his senior year of college, though the jury is still out on his future professional success. But I will tell you that the odds are long even for those who started at five and were at your level by age seven. The audition process to get a job in a professional orchestra is brutal and the truth is that conservatories graduate far more trained violinists than orchestras have positions for.
Here is a feature article about a percussionist going through a Boston Symphony audition that gives a pretty good overview of how people get jobs: http://www.bostonmagazine.com/2012/06/boston-symphony-orchestra-audition/
And here is a very old but still accurate and relevant article about Pittsburgh Symphony auditions: http://old.post-gazette.com/magazine/19990530auditions1.asp
Finally, I will tell you the same thing I tell my students who express professional aspirations: if you want to get a realistic idea of the level a serious pre-conservatory student is playing at--the students who will be your competition when you start applying to music schools--go to Youtube and google Juilliard Pre-College (or Prep) senior recitals.
When you read that someone knows of a student (and note the use of the singular noun form) who started in their teens and advanced quickly -- what you should be wondering is how many students that person has known. Some of the folks who have responded to your post are veteran teachers and orchestral musicians with decades of experience who have doubtlessly encountered dozens to even hundreds of students. One thing I want to assure you is that you can indeed truly enjoy having excellent skill on the violin even if that is not how you earn your living. I enjoy it even without the excellent skill part.
Why not go for it...BUT - have a Plan B in place as well.
If you don't try...you may regret it.
If you try, but don't get to where you want to be, then having a Plan B in place will keep you moving along, versus everything seemingly grounding to a standstill and having you asking yourself 'now what?'.
I would also put less emphasis on trying to become 'No. 1' for everything and be more focused on being the best you can be - for yourself. Don't forget that we don't live in a simple, straightforward world. The 1st chair might not be the 1st chair solely because of talent. Maybe their family is a major patron of the arts. It happens.
May I invoke the spectre of the (in)famous 10,000 hours needed to perfect any skill.
With only 5,000, you will play the same repertoire, but with "off" days.
With 10,000, you will stll play quite well even with 110°F!
That is 2 hours a day for 15 years , or 3 hrs/day for 10 yrs etc, etc. But it's not just the total; it's the way muscles, nerves, and brain cells adapt to the task. They have to be "total awareness" hours.
I once wrote this to my teen-age students:
- Striving to exceed our limits is like vitamin C: part of our diet;
- comparing ourselves to others is like caffeine: it mobilises energy, but does not create it;
- the desire to beat others is like a performance-enhancing drug: it can work wonders in the short term, but eats away at our core, leaving a dry husk in the long run.
Love music. And thy neighbour.
Mary Ellen, thanks for the links, particularly the one about the PSO auditions! I was pleasantly surprised to see that one of the folks who won a spot that day is my daughter's current teacher (she's no longer with the PSO)...and so as not to derail the thread completely with random personal observations(apologies), I believe she told my daughter that the playing level/competition has grown even stiffer since then....so yeah, not an easy road.
And just to chime in with previous posters, how you practice is critical. It's about the hours, sure, but it's not about the hours at all if your practice is not focused and efficient. Speak to your teacher. Do research. Various books on practicing are out there (Burton Kaplan's Practicing for Artistic Success, Simon Fischer's Practice, and others), and there are online sources. You might find research about random vs. blocked practice schedules helpful (i think Noa Kageyama has a blog online about it). And also mental practice techniques.
Best of luck!
10,000 hours isn't perfection. 10,000 hours is to get to the baseline level of mastery. Baseline mastery isn't going to cut it if one's ambition is to be a professional symphony's concertmaster.
The whole 10,000 hours thing is a meaningless crock, probably popularized by Malcolm Gladwell, and indicative of zilch.
Some advice I give to students aspiring to a career is to spend a summer at one of the more intense programs like Meadowmount or Aspen, to get an idea of how your talent and achievements compare to others of your age. Your placement in locals orchestras may not tell us much about how you compare on a broader playing field. You need to see what you will be up against in a few short years for conservatory entrance and job auditions. It's anyone's guess as to whether you will catch up to or surpass them. It think a pretty valid generalization regarding age that, for any given talent level, the later you start the less of a living you are likely to make.
Another thing to ask yourself is this: how much do you enjoy being on stage? Are you naturally an exhibitionist? Are you totally uninhibited, or do you have nerve issues? Are you itching to be a soloist, or do you only do it if you have to?
There is no functional difference between an orchestral player and a soloist--a violinist's life is filled with soloist duties, from concertmaster solos to auditions to even just wedding gigs.
There are solo recitals, juries, and having to do various educational and demonstration solos. If these don't appeal to you, do not go into music.
"-- what you should be wondering is how many students that person has known"
That is an excellent point...I've taught hundreds; I've known one who progressed like that. And he was in no way ready for conservatory admission as a college freshman.
August - I say this every time this topic comes up, though it's rare that anyone listens!
If you focus exclusively on classical violin, as a late starter you're committing your future to a ruthlessly competitive field where most of your peers will be well ahead of your standard. The problem is that classical music demands a very high level of technical virtuosity that only the most gifted and industrious can achieve.
But there are vast fields of music where the kind of technical competence you can realistically develop, when married to musical imagination, can lead to a lifetime of creative music making. Jazz, Rock, Blues, Celtic, Tango, Bluegrass, Gypsy, Klezmer... Much of the most exciting contemporary music making is not in the classical field.
I'm not saying you shouldn't go for your classical goals, but if you widen your interests you'll have a lot more options going forward...
The local level of talent around you is unlikely to be representative of the broader world. If you were living in my city, for instance, your playing level wouldn't even allow you to audition for the good local youth symphony for kids your age, which requires a minimum of a Grade 6 work (on a scale of 1 to 6, where the Bruch only counts as Grade 5). Your current playing level is equivalent to the minimum level demanded of my local 4th-grade-age orchestra. (There are obviously lesser youth symphonies, but we're talking about a competitive standard, here.)
And if you do watch those Juilliard Prep videos... keep in mind that a lot of those kids won't even be going on to conservatory, having self-eliminated themselves from music careers on the grounds that they don't feel that they're good enough to make it professionally.
This is not to say that you can't reach a professional level of playing, but your teacher needs to have a down-to-earth discussion with you about what the educational path would look like -- and what it would cost. Don't forget that you're likely to need $25k+ to buy a professional-quality violin and bow as well, in addition to funding that education.
I agree with most of Lydia's points but for the benefit of lurkers, it is possible to find a professional quality violin for much less than $25K, although it may take some looking. My first professional violin (a Klotz), which I won several auditions on, was most recently appraised at $12K (the appraisal is out of date but likely not by thousands of dollars). Old German violins in general don't appreciate the way old Italians do.
And to be fair, many excellent young musicians opt not to go into music because they would rather do something else, not necessarily because they don't think they're good enough. I'm the mother of one such musician (oboist, not violinist). Anyone with the intelligence and work ethic required to succeed at a very high level in music is someone who can succeed in many other fields.
Just out of curiosity, if you are working so much to pay for all of this, when do you find time to practice enough and attend school?
There should probably be a separate thread, but I agree with Scott about the 10,000 hours. My own experience as a reluctant childhood practicer belies it. Practicing is necessary; mindful practicing is far superior to mindless repetitions; more practice is better than less practice assuming that the practice is being done correctly; all these are true. But in my own experience, my son's experience, and in observation of my students, some people do better than expected on sub-optimal practice time and others do not do so well despite being harder workers.
Methinks the burden of proof is on everyone who now pass around the stats around on the internet as if it's truth.
I've had students who could bring in a concerto after a week, memorized. And those who struggle for a year or more on the first movement. There is vast variation in ability to learn, perfect, and retain material, and in behavioral flexibility. Some students memorize a concerto quickly, including the mistakes, and are locked in to how they learned it the first time.
In spite of what should be obvious to any teacher, it's very difficult to figure out how many hours someone accrues over a long period. Most people will overestimate how long they practice if they do keep track.
At some point someone will toss out a number...like 10,000 hours of practice...or that you need to drink 8 glasses of water a day - and we latch on to that number as if it's gospel.
The point is that it takes many hours of practice to become a good musician...and you need to stay hydrated.
Liz, the idea that practicing for 10,000 hours will make you a master violinist is like saying hitting a punching bag 1 million times will turn you into Mike Tyson.
Of course, violin mastery is a long and hard road, but imagine someone picking up a violin and just moving the bow across the strings, and fingers up and down the fingerboard. If this person does not have the proper guidance, after 100,000 hours will he/she be a good violinist? I doubt it.
The 10,000 hours does not create ability, it may permit it.
A gifted child starting at 6 years old may become a good professional in 15 years and have practiced intelligently for an average of 2 hours a day.
The more brilliant child may reach the same level in only 10 years: he has probably done an average of 3 hours a day. He/she needs talent and stamina to benefit from such a regime.
Most child prodigies on TV shows disappear from the scene in mid adolescence..
Just to say there is are no short-cuts!
I suggest that before you set your musical career goals too firmly you watch the DVD "Freeway Philharmonic." This is about really good professional musicians who have to work incredibly hard (just driving to and fro) to scratch out a living from music. I have been coached by a number of the people in the orchestras shown there and that has given me a feeling for how much they know and can do that I don't, can't, and never will (I have been playing music for 76 years (violin for 76, cello for 66, and viola when required).
One can progress by leaps and bounds, and your scale studies will certainly help. I have great respect for the Suzuki program, but all the Suzuki students I knew who went on to get degrees in violin performance were guided to professionally trained (big city, like LA and NYC) teachers by their remarkable Suzuki teachers by the time they were in Suzuki books 5-6 or so.
One way for a violinist with a good bow arm to leap frog ahead is to switch to viola. Keep that in mind if your arms and hands are large enough to handle the 16 inch or larger instrument size. I saw that with a young woman who had been concertmaster of the Utah all-state high-school orchestra. Next year she was majoring in viola at Cal-Arts, and an incredible violist she was too. The competition among violinists these days is really severe.
Just a thought.
The days of "leapfrogging" ahead by switching to viola are long gone. There are a lot of good violists about, and I must point out that in the pp's example, the young lady was obviously an accomplished violinist before making the switch.
A good violinist can become a good violist with the proper instruction, practice, attitude, and physical set-up, but a mediocre violinist will be a mediocre violist at best.
good heavens, I thought the 'escape via the viola' path had long been super ceded by the 'escape via authentic early music performance!'
And yes, the ten thousand hours thing is one of the most nonsensical red herrings to appear in instrument playing discussions ove rather last few years.
Buri -- hahahaha!
Perhaps a double major an a university might be a great option to explore.
Double majoring sucks, in a lot of ways. For it to have practical use, you're doing two unrelated degrees -- violin performance, plus something that gives you enough of a vocational skill set that you can get a job afterwards (like engineering or nursing). There's no point in taking the second major in something without direct career applications, because your violin performance degree will let you compete just fine against liberal-arts majors for burger-flipping jobs (and management-trainee jobs, etc. if you are feeling more optimistic).
That means that you don't end up committing yourself to either field of study fully, meaning that you're not as good at either as you would have been had you focused. The exception is if you're going into a field that is inherently blended -- for instance, music + business = arts management. (But if you're just getting a generic marketing degree, say, the lack-of-focus disadvantage applies.)
Contrary to popular belief, a lot of "science" and "research" is actually bs. Although my knowledge of how to be scientist is limited to experiences with undergraduate research, I've read multiple articles/papers published in very prestigious journals with obviously falsified data. Some of these articles even had results that appear to show promise, but no other groups were able to replicate through countless repeats using the same protocol under the same conditions. I've heard someone joke about making data extremely complicated as a "confuse the reviewer" strategy, and there have been times where you've seen it work but I doubt that it's a very reliable method to do things.
I know a Phd student who works for a very well known faculty at a top university for her field(not going to use names). This PI has subtly hinted to her on more than one occasion to skew her data in a certain direction so that her results appear more promising. Sometimes, she feels pressured, because she needs to graduate.
Although most scientists might be somewhat ethical, many at the top of the profession get there through good writing, careful editing, and a good understanding at how to market themselves to the reviewers/people who give out grants and funding/other important individuals in academia.
Back to the OP. As many people have stated earlier, the classical music world is quite brutal. I think you should only pursue music if it is literally the most important thing in your life. Ask yourself next time you wake up in the morning, what you want to do with your life. If you can't imagine yourself being something other than that concertmaster, then you should go for it. Apart from that, most people will tell you to pursue something safer and more practical. However, no one will be able to answer that question for you besides you. Regardless of what you do, keep working on those violin skills. You'll have a lot of fun regardless of whether you are a professional or amateur :) just my two cents.
I did a double degree program at Oberlin, with majors in violin performance and mathematics. I don't regret it even though the only professional use I made of my math degree was as a math graduate assistant at Indiana while I pursued my MM (the math dept was always shorthanded, and also paid twice as much as the violin assistantships--supply and demand).
Having that other degree was a great psychological comfort while I was on the audition trail--much like walking across a high wire with a net underneath.
I don't think the OP could realistically do a double major if he is really determined to pursue violin; he's too far behind. And that is a problem, since being so far behind also makes the likelihood of winning an orchestra position that much more remote. It's a real Catch-22.
"Double majoring sucks, in a lot of ways. For it to have practical use, you're doing two unrelated degrees -- violin performance, plus something that gives you enough of a vocational skill set that you can get a job afterwards..."
It doesn't always have to suck...granted it will be tough for sure. I know people who regretted it but I also know people like a friend who double majored in computer science and music performance at Northwestern and now works in a major tech company and freelances when he free -- he finds it a very satisfying equilibrium I think.
I mentioned double major because I don't think it has to be an all-or-nothing, that either you dedicate yourself entirely to become a professional musician or you give up. August mentioned he can't imagine living without music; I believe when someone has an intense passion in something, and it's not doing evil, we can be more encouraging and let it grow to it's fullest potential -- without being irresponsible for someone's financial future of course.
I agree with everyone that our friend just started too late and is seriously behind. August, I think even if by incredible hard work, having the perfect teacher, and maybe even taking a year off after high school to practice, and you managed to have a major concerto, solo Bach, sonata, etc. prepared for music school auditions, the chances are still really, really rough. And even at conservatories the levels of students vary from great to meh, and many of my friends at school later decided to do something else because the competition is so tough, or they find doing something else more fulfilling.
I think if I were you I wouldn't care so much about being concertmaster for school orchestra, butI would take this summer and fall to seriously prepare audition/audition tapes to festivals like Aspen, Bowdoin, Meadowmount, and other festivals with pre-college age range (I'm probably out of touch with festivals these days, I'm sure you can easily research them on this site) and see 1) if you get in, and 2) and if you do, see for yourself at the festival first hand what the general level of playing is like in the country, talk to teachers there, and then you can judge for yourself.
I'll be honest, everyone has given such realistic and honest responses and I truly do appreciate it.My plan was to Major in Violin Performance. I really want to be a Pediatric Neurosurgeon but I also love music with a deep passion. I have gotten way too far and I have invested too much of my time and money into this and I can't stop now, and I can't just make this a "hobby" or some amateur activity, I will get to a professional level, despite all odds, I will get there. I can't let the people at the Julliard Pre-College or the kids in youth symphonies of high caliber (which by the way, we play the highest level of music we can in our state, i.e. Mendelssohn, Beethoven symphonies, Mozart, Bartok, Barber,Dvorak, etc. ), I actually see them as my inspiration and determination to catch up and work hard. I find the competition to be exciting and something to work towards. From a lot of your responses I'm gathering that my dreams are possible but not really possible, and that I should set my sights lower which with my personality I can't do. I understand that alot of you are trying to be encouraging but also at the same time show me reality. You all may very well be right, I may be setting myself up for disappointment and failure and hardship in the future, but that's life... right? Atleast I'll know that when I get there that the journey was hard but well worth it, and I learned immensely in all aspects musical and life related. I'm truly hard headed, and I'm going to put in the dedication your saying I need but waaaayyy more, because I have no more time to waste if I want to get anywhere. I will continue to push, fight, work, and stay determined and motivated. At this point, I will truly show myself what I have the ability to do. I will meet hardships trying to close the huge gap but I will do it. I have no choice but to do it. Especially with all my goals.I really do wake up in the morning thinking of being a concertmaster one day or playing the Mendelssohn as a soloist, and I think its starting to become something I can't live without. I asked for honest responses and I got them and I can't be more grateful, but if there's a chance there's a way to get there right? I'm too determined at this point. I will post a video, and I want you guys to maybe critique and maybe a get a better understanding of my playing abilities. But please keep your opinions coming, because you all are very insightful and are giving me alot knowledge as to what I should do. Summer Festivals such a Meadowmount, Aspen, Tanglewood, Interlochen, and etc. How hard is it to make it in? How and what should I start preparing?
Comparing yourself with two years of experience vs. a girl who has played since they were six and has 10 years worth of technical and performance background is just unrealistic. Also, you can expect to feel frustrated when practicing no matter what level you're at. And there are quite a few walls to overcome, but if you continue then one day suddenly you'll catch on and that problem will become second nature assuming you practice smartly.
You're 16. You're working on very early stuff which a majority of music programs would balk at. You have another couple years to work on maybe getting up to snuff, well I guess 1.5 years since you need to start auditioning for music programs your final year of high school, most of which are due by Jan/Feb generally.
Will you ever be a CM of a professional orchestra? Unlikely, however you can still have a respectable time playing in different organisations as well as teaching.
You also need to have a sit down with your teacher to help flesh out some realistic short term and long term goals concerning the violin. Unsure why you haven't done so already before proclaiming your aspirations in a public forums. Maybe trust issues, or maybe you are afraid they'll tell you how it is?
If one can be bothered to "google" the "10,000 vs 5,000 hours" one finds that the figures come from interrogating many sportsmen and musicians about their histories; not a deep study, but a serious one. It was never a recipe.
The negative comments above come from ignorance.
Which is a pity.
"The negative comments above come from ignorance.
Which is a pity. "
No, the negative comments (putting aside the math thing) come from the experiences of professionals like myself who've been doing this for decades and have seen the market shrink as the competition and living expenses rise yet the salaries stagnate.
My standard advice, oft-repeated on this forum, is this: if you can get a full ride to a conservatory of national prominence, then go. If you either can't get into a top school or have to pay for it, don't. Yes, one can make terrific progress once in a school. But few around you will be standing still...
As for the question of a double major, you don't need the major per se. You just need a few required courses in case you want to apply to grad school. If you go to undergrad as a violinist and decide upon graduation you want to be a doctor, you just need an few required classes and an MCAT. Lawyer? No classes but take the LSAT. For the professions, it's grad school that matters, not majors.
Medicine is a good area for jobs because there will always be sick and dying people. Home maintenance services (like plumbing and electrical work) will need people for another few decades since most homes won't become maintenance-free for many years. High tech is pretty bad already because of outsourcing and international competition. Read Shop Class as Soulcraft for a perspective on future jobs.
You can't be a pediatric neurosurgeon AND a world class musician.
Getting into a medical program, being a student, then interning, residency, etc., are all-encompassing.
You can be a doctor and an amateur musician though. Many doctors are.
I would caveat that slightly. People CAN be both, but those that are, will typically have reached a high level of accomplishment by the time that they finish their undergrad years. Then they set it aside (either totally or mostly) for a few years while they do their medical training. Then they resume playing music (as accomplished amateurs, not world-class professionals) when they're done. Some of them will still play at an exceptionally high level, though.
There's no shortage of future doctors who, at the end of high school, have conservatory-level chops. (Juilliard Pre-College produces plenty of these people.) My local community orchestras are full of physicians, especially in the violin sections.
The same is true of the folks double-majoring. If you start your college years already highly accomplished (preferably in both fields), you can split your attention. If you need to devote serious attention to one or both of your fields of study, though, you're going to fall short of the necessary commitment in one direction or both.
The OP, though, isn't going to be one of those people -- they are going to need serious catch-up time on the violin, which means that adding another major subject is nontrivial.
Don't underestimate the "couple of classes" needed for the MCAT. It's 8 semesters of science (bio, chem, physics, o-chem), plus probably at least one semester of math, and don't forget that organic chemistry labs can be hugely time-consuming. You actually want your undergrad sciences to be pretty rigorous, because they're better prep for the MCAT and because you'll need them to understand the science you're taught in medical school.
It's also worthwhile to note that one can't be a professional musician and an amateur neurosurgeon (unless of course you want to play your violin behind bars). The other way, though, is possible, not uncommon, and--most importantly--legal. ;)
If you want to think about double majoring in violin and something else, the something else basically needs to be a "jock major." Forget science or engineering. Think about what it would be like to major in both violin performance and piano performance at the same time. If you're the next Julia Fischer, by all means, go for it.
If you want to prepare for a medical career, remember that there is a great deal of work that you need to do beyond academics, throughout college (starting now, actually) to make your resume even halfway competitive, and the "few courses" that you will need to prepare for the MCAT and to gain medical school admission is more like "quite a few" because many of them have prerequisites (consider genetics and microbiology, for example, which your competitors who did the standard pre-med course load will have had). And by the way you cannot get C's in those courses either.
Just as not every orchestral violinist gets to be concertmaster, not every physician gets to be a pediatric neurosurgeon, for much the same reasons. Surgery requires a set of skills for which you may or may not have native talent.
Shawn is entitled to his opinion about science, but his lack of direct experience in research beyond an undergraduate level shows from his comments. I'm sorry that he and perhaps one or more of his acquaintances have had negative experiences. Nor am I discounting the plain fact that there are individuals engaged in research, even at high levels, who may be cheats, crooks, etc. One finds cheats and crooks in all professions. ("Error is the hardiest plant, it flourishes in every soil.") And it is true that the pressures today are very high because research funding is so scarce. But the overwhelming majority of researchers are highly ethical individuals who design interesting experiments and publish thoughtful work.
Moreover, to conclude that research is mostly BS is to draw a poor conclusion. Research is why you are sitting in front of your laptop made from dozens if not hundreds of different specialized materials performing as many functions -- among countless other outcomes that have increased our living standard immeasurably. If you open up most scientific journals what you will read, for the most part, is glacially incremental work -- work that is nevertheless absolutely necessary to underpin the breakthrough concepts, to establish the scope and limitations of new theories and methods, and to reveal unexpected findings, even if relatively limited in immediate consequence, that may lead to the next big thing. And there is a vast amount of research that you cannot see because it is tucked away in the notebooks and reports of researchers working in the private sector.
It's too soon to close the patent office.
August, in your most recent post, you wrote, "If there's a chance there's a way to get there right?" The issue is whether the chance is too small to be reasonable as a goal. The "no chance is too small" attitude explains the success of your state's lottery.
It's negative and smug comments like yours that would've put me down, but yet it still encourages me to work harder and to prove you wrong. However unrealistic it maybe, I just don't see it. I have absolutely none trust issues, I posted on this sight to get a wide range of professional and appropriate comments, nothing like yours. I could have very well sat my teacher down and talked to him about this but I just don't see the point in trying to use up my hour of learning for talking. Maybe sometime in the near near future, but not now. Him telling me "how it is" isn't a problem for me, never has and never will.
To others, I understand very well that I can't be a mediocre physician, I actually plan on becoming an amazing and well-studied pediatric neurosurgeon, however Why can't I do the same on Violin, yeah it may take me a little more time than most but whose to say I can't. I'm extremely behind, but why is it that there's no way for me to catch up. I really wanted tips on practice routines and what I can do to start really putting myself ahead. Whose to say that if I finally find the practicing that works for me, I won't skyrocket in my ability. I feel as if though some of you are trying to deter me from even continuing playing Violin at all...
No one is saying you can't become a good violinist. You were asking, though, about being a professional violinist. You can't have a full-time job as a violinist and have a medical career simultaneously, for about a million reasons starting with the limitation we all share of not being able to be in two places at once.
I once had a student who thought he could be an engineer and play professionally in the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra on the weekends. (Lol.) Maybe this is a similar case. You cannot be the concertmaster of a full-time orchestra, or a section player, and have another full-time job outside of music. It's like saying "I'm going to be a doctor, and in my spare time I'm going to quarterback for the NFL." It just doesn't work that way.
To the OP:
Actually, John A's message is spot-on. It's correct, it's concise, and it's entirely polite. Any negativity and smugness you're reading into it is entirely in your head. If this is what people have been telling you and you're dismissing it, stop and listen.
I find your tone incredibly arrogant. You're showing an enormous disrespect for just how much effort and talent it takes to become a professional violinist, much less a "world-class" one. You're still a beginner. You're like a guy who is out on a golf course for the first time and wants to tell Tiger Woods, "Sure, I'll be like you someday". Maybe it's theoretically possible. But it's so improbable as to be an absurd statement.
If you wanted tips for practicing, you should have posted a thread to that end. You didn't. You posted a thread that seemed like it was asking for reassurance that you were on a viable path.
If you don't know anything about a topic, have a little bit of humility. You seem to have no idea what it takes to become the concertmaster of a professional symphony. Since you apparently study with one, you would be well-served to ask your teacher what it took to get to his current state. (And based on where you live, if your teacher is the concertmaster of the Savannah Philharmonic, it looks like that's a per-service orchestra, which means that it's not sufficient to give him a full-time living.)
Do keep playing the violin. You may someday be a solid violinist. But being a pediatric neurosurgeon and a professional violinist (much less a concertmaster), especially given your late start, is not a realistic goal.
I do know physicians who are the concertmasters of *amateur* orchestras, who may be good enough to play some gigs as well. That's a realistic ambition.
You wrote, "@John A, it's negative and smug comments like yours..."
I didn't read ANY smugness in what John A wrote. What I read (and I re-read it twice to be sure) was refreshing candor. Honestly, I think you should apologize.
The only comments that you seem to want are the warm gushy type like "follow your dream" and "anything is possible". If anyone who doesn't think you have a realistic shot at becoming a professional orchestral musician (to say nothing of being CM) is "negative and smug," then your situation is one that none of us is qualified to help.
The girl that you're comparing yourself to, somewhat obsessively, I might add, is one of *thousands* of such young people worldwide who have toiled all their sentient lives to become highly skilled violinists. She's at the bottom end of that spectrum -- the ones at the top end are already at Juilliard Prep (or Curtis).
You're in a situation where you're at serious risk of painting yourself into a corner if you haven't done so already. If you're 16 years old, you've got serious looming questions on the near horizon such as where to go to college, what field you'll study, and what kinds of career opportunities you'd like to open up for yourself, what sorts of extra-curricular activities will support your college applications, etc. These are questions in which you absolutely should involve your parents and your school teachers/counselors. To be honest with you, I'm starting to become concerned that your fixation on the violin may be an escape from facing these other decisions, which I know can be very daunting. But, you do seem quite bright and articulate, and there should be lots of things you're capable of doing. And yes, it's totally worth spending an extra hour with your violin teacher to talk about his/her opinions of your chances. To not have that talk is to bury your head in the sand.
You seem to be very concerned about the money and time that you've spent -- two years of practicing and lessons. I take lessons (and so do both of my children), and I own two decent violins, and a student cello, and a piano, and a basement full of music and accessories, so I know what all of that costs. It will never go away because by the time you're "finished" with your training, you'll have your own kids who will drain your checking account at a rate that seems to defy the laws of physics. All the more reason to become a doctor or an engineer.
"Surgery requires a set of skills for which you may or may not have native talent."
I don't agree with this statement, as I believe that there's no such thing as native talent. Of course we may agree that genes may help or not, but we all come to earth with no skill except vital ones. We don't even have our brain fully developed, which is why cows can walk 30mn after birth and it takes us a little while longer. I do believe though that we are born in an environment, a context. This context leads to genius or not and allows oneself to develop in a certain direction, it might give confidence, artistic values/tastes, ass power, language(s), the list is long. But you'd be born on mars left alone, even with the supposed "native skilled" you'd not likely seem any more advanced than a worm or a flower. So I do agree that we get a part from genes, but I firmly believe the context one grows in is a way bigger factor.
Now to connect this with the original topic, I'm a beginner myself so I can't judge what it takes to become a professional, but I would always push someone that has motivation.
I agree with John A's comment 100%, and I felt he was polite while being direct.
It is no kindness for people to simply cheer you on by saying "follow your dream" and "never give up" and "if you can conceive it, you can achieve it," and other such nonsense. That leads to wasted time, wasted money, and wasted lives.
I think it's wonderful that you love playing the violin so much. I absolutely applaud your determination and hard work. I hope you can keep that love through your whole life. But there are many ways to be a musician as an avocation while pursuing another profession.
You are very far behind. And you have to remember that while you are working so hard in your determination to catch up, the people you are behind are also working hard and getting better and better. You're looking at a moving target.
I have been a professional musician for over 30 years, and have been teaching private lessons virtually that entire time. I've taught at a university for the past 15 years. In all the hundreds of students I have taught, I have known one who started as late as you and progressed very fast. And even he had absolutely no chance to get into a top music school as a college freshman.
Incidentally, I wonder at your determination not just to be in a professional orchestra but to be the concertmaster. And your mutually exclusive determination not just to be a doctor but to be a pediatric neurosurgeon. Most people, even those with very successful professional lives, do not reach the very top of whatever mountain they're on, and that's OK. While I'm quite sure your first ambition is not realistic, I have no idea about the latter one. But one thing I'm quite sure of is that you are not getting a very clear idea of the level of competition which you will encounter in college and beyond, not just musically but academically. Why not simply work to be the very best student you can be and then see where that takes you?
Please, talk to your teacher. It's worth your time. And since he is most familiar with your playing and your progress, he's a very good person to filter the comments you're getting on this forum through.
Arnaud wrote, "I believe that there's no such thing as native talent."
What I mean is that there are some kids who take up the violin at age 5 and are playing concertos by the time they're 8, while there are some kids who practice just as much but don't learn to play the same concertos until they're 12 or 15 or, as in my case, possibly never.
Maybe there is some other explanation besides what I am calling "native talent," but if you are someone who acclimates quickly to the skill of surgery, you will be more likely to succeed in that field than someone who doesn't.
So much of the OPer's words just made me sad. I wish Mary Ellen's previous post had been the 100th so it could've been the last word on this. Lots of good there, worth paying attention to. I won't post any advice as others have already said it.
The medical profession and music can sometimes, if rarely, intertwine at an advanced level. An example is a little while ago when the young CM - in his mid 20s - of one of my orchestras, Bristol Classical Players, vacated his chair in his final concert with the orchestra in order to play the Barber VC at St George's Hall in Bristol(UK). A fine performance it was, too, and received well by the audience.
Our ex-CM, a junior hospital surgeon, is now no longer with my orchestra, and possibly no longer in the area, and probably not even doing much violin playing. The training demands of the medical profession ensure that he gets moved around the country every six months during his progress up the career ladder, so he is unlikely at present to get much opportunity to pursue his music in any great depth. Doubtlessly, when his career settles down to a permanent position he will be able to return to more regular music making. If he has been at the Barber VC performance level in the past he is likely to return to that level one day.
The moral of this is that the medical profession at physician or surgeon level is the most demanding of all professions and leaves little room in its long years of training for much attention to be paid to the technically demanding profession of music. Just one example of the demands - I've seen a consultant in one of my orchestras being paged in the middle of a symphony movement in a live concert, whereupon he immediately got up and went to his hospital A&E (ER) to deal with the casualties from a big motorway pile-up.
In my many years as an orchestral musician I have met many medics in the orchestras, ranging from hospital juniors up to consultants, and they all say that they are unable to give the time to music that they'd dearly love to - until they retire, and then I've seen some remarkable improvements in their playing.
It might behoove the OP to look up the World Doctors Orchestra, which is comprised entirely of physicians, for an idea of what music as a hobby looks like. According to the organization, about 15% of them do some professional playing (gigging, not full-time music, of course).
Here's their concertmaster, Mark Lupin: http://www.marklupin.com/
(There's video and audio. Check them out, along with bio et. al.)
He's a highly accomplished dermatologist (note: a specialty that is much more amenable to a music sideline than neurosurgery). He studied violin with a whole host of well-known violinists as a child, including Heifetz, and he has a B.M. from Indiana (studying with Franco Gulli, suggesting he was certainly no slouch as an undergrad).
Now he's an excellent amateur violinist -- and he is as good as *some* professional violinists, but he's not at the level where he could be the concertmaster of a professional symphony, despite what looks like top-notch and intensive training in youth.
OP, I think John A's post was pretty honest. No one is saying that you can't do what you want to do in life, but sometimes it's important to be realistic about your goals and aspirations. If you go into every practice session thinking that you are going to be the concertmaster of some orchestra, then if it doesn't happen one day, the truth/reality is going to crush you. People are not necessarily trying to say you won't do this or that, but having some humility makes it more likely that you'll achieve your goals anyway.
The medical profession is very tough and competitive as well. I remember having roommates my freshman year in college who assumed that they would be great doctors some day. One wanted to be a neurosurgeon, and frequently raved about his interest about the human brain. I had no such aspirations, yet they struggled mightily in the same intro classes that were a cakewalk to me despite being a lot more "devoted" than me. Sometimes people fool themselves when they say they work hard. These individuals, along with most other prospective pre-meds eventually changed to some humanities track after several semesters. If you are going to pursue medicine, it's very important that you are mentally prepared for its rigors. Don't just assume it will happen, because every step is harder than the one before it. Medical school itself is harder than getting into it. Residency can be a soul crushing experience. Becoming a practicing physician, regardless of the field, has its own challenges. You are only 16 years old, and it's important to know what a physician's lifestyle is like. If you don't want it bad enough, it's probably not going to work out.
Paul, I apologize if my comment before sounded a little ignorant. I didn't mean to generalize so much, and despite my limited experience in academia, I believe that my opinion has some merit.
I'm guessing you are a professor of some sort, is that right? You sound like one for sure. I am aware that it's unfair to characterize scientists as liars, because there are so many honest ones producing very fair and good work. In my original post, I simply said that a lot of research is bs - a lot more than people would think - not necessarily that most of it is. I'm just very jaded about certain things.
Scientific misconduct is going to vary greatly depending on the area of study. I'm not sure what field you work in, but in certain types of experiments, ethics and honesty is very vague. For example, in many cases, results are very hard to replicate in an accurate manner. Because of this, it's hard to accuse someone of dishonesty, and a lot of people get away with much more than they should. In some other professions, these crooks might have legal trouble, but in these cases this does not happen.
I've seen very well respected individuals with multiple questionable publications that dozens have groups were not able to replicate. I've also seen other examples of dishonesty that are much more subtle.
My anecdotal observations should not be used to draw any conclusions, but the fact that so much unethical behavior exists invalidates a lot of the research findings. Science is supposed to be about trying to figure out the truth, and although in many cases, this objective is achieved, in other cases it's a lot more complicated than that. Again, I don't claim to be an expert, but the little I've seen has left a very bad taste in my mouth. The original purpose of my post was to refute the claim that all scientific articles, such as that 10,000 hours thing, should be seen as the gospel.
Ho hum. I've been called worse. We all have by students and as students one time or another.
If you do not want anybody to assume you have trust issues, do not post this:
"I haven't told him EVERYthing, because I'm scared of what he might say, and his response, i don't want to hear something like its not possible, especially after how my last teacher made me feel like i was getting nowhere and i was wasting my time, and he almost made me quit violin."
And come back against my post with a sudden turn around:
"I could have very well sat my teacher down and talked to him about this but I just don't see the point in trying to use up my hour of learning for talking. Maybe sometime in the near near future, but not now. Him telling me "how it is" isn't a problem for me, never has and never will."
Your first failed argument. As did the name calling. I'd strongly suggest you lash out at other items I wrote instead such as;
"You're 16. You're working on very early stuff which a majority of music programs would balk at. You have another couple years to work on maybe getting up to snuff, well I guess 1.5 years since you need to start auditioning for music programs your final year of high school, most of which are due by Jan/Feb generally."
An appropriate backtalk could look something like;
"1.5 years is a lot and I can most certainly be able to play Bruch, Lalo and Mendelssohn by then!"
or maybe maybe when I typed "Comparing yourself with two years of experience vs. a girl who has played since they were six and has 10 years worth of technical and performance background is just unrealistic." in response to what you had originally typed "My main motivation is to prove everyone wrong, and to get ahead of some people (specifically this girl who has played since she was 6 and has made all state several times, and has all the positions i aspire for, i understand its a stretch but i like to believe hardwork can get me there)"
This is where you should change your tune and proclaim how I took what you wrote entirely out of context. Just say "Darn, you don't know how to read my posts old man." (I do consider being called old an insult even if I remember when Bach first came on the scene as a wunderkind...)
Or, here's a perfect counter-argument against something I wrote; "Will you ever be a CM of a professional orchestra? Unlikely, however you can still have a respectable time playing in different organisations as well as teaching."
You should state along the lines of "How dare you berate my ability! Teaching is beneath me. I plan to be a a world class Concertmaster in the Philly Orchestra and become a great doctor!" (Somebody please let David know he'll lose his seat soon)
There you go. Feel free to formulate the proper youth minded responses based on what I wrote. I'm sure I can feign being upset after a few decades being a professional violinist. Just try harder next time in both your playing and forum etiquettes.
There's nothing at all wrong with him practicing like mad and seeing what happens. But he specifically asked if his ambition to be concertmaster of a professional orchestra is realistic, and those of us who know the industry know that it isn't. It's not as though we stood up and accosted him in the middle of his recital with our opinions of his chances. He asked; we answered.
This poster is not five years old. No one would tell a sixteen-year-old that it's a realistic ambition to be both a neurosurgeon and quarterback for the Patriots at the same time. But what he's proposing is just as absurd. I think often people simply don't realize what it means to be a professional classical musician. They don't understand that it is a full-time job, hence my student earlier who thought he could play with a full-time orchestra and still have a full-time engineering job. This boy was neither stupid nor ignorant. He was a violinist in the top orchestra at one of the best public schools for arts in the country, so he was certainly not completely uninitiated, but he was still sufficiently uninformed to think that. It is such a cut-throat, rarified industry that most people simply have no idea what's out there even when they're heavily involved on a public school level. The vast majority of successful classical musicians are not just talented and driven, although of course they are that. They're also born into families with a lot of money and parents who are highly educated themselves about music, because that's what it takes to get you where you need to be at a young enough age that it will matter. All of those ingredients are the absolute bare minimum starting point to make you qualified to compete for a handful of jobs with thousands of other people in the same position.
Ok, I want to clear this up a little bit, when I said I wanted to be concertmaster of a professional orchestra, I didn't mean it as in concertmaster of the Boston Symphony or New York Philharmonic, I meant it as in a local or community orchestra, sitting way up there as 1st, 2nd, or 3rd violin. I want to sit first so bad because of how inspired I get when I see a concertmaster performing, and soloing, and leading. It's looks like a true honor to be able to do that.
I truly understand what the majority of you are saying, and how you are giving me the realities of what its like to be a classical musician, and my late start, and how I just won't be able to make it in time. I don't want to go to a conservatory, or Julliard, or Curtis, or anything, I want to go to a University, with an orchestra, that I can play my best in and simply make music. I guess with all this, I really want to say that I just want music to be apart of my life and I want to be at a mastery/professional level so that whatever orchestra I audition or play in, I can play at an adequate level. You guys are right, with Medical school and Music I will most likely put aside Violin to focus on Medical school and succeed at becoming a Pediatric Neurosurgeon. I understand completely that it is impossible to be able to be concertmaster ( much less participate in an orchestra) and study medicine at the same time. I understand that I have a ways to go to get to a professional level, and thats ok with me. You guys are misunderstanding me, and are trying to make it seem like I am a completely naive 16 year old, and I undertstand I may have come off like that in my other posts, but I know exactly, and deep down what it will come to.
I have dreams and aspirations, and however unreachable they may be, I will still be able to say its a wish or dream of mine, I may not attain it the way I see, but I think it will work out for me.
I can understand where I mistook your first post, but your second post is rude, disrespectful, condscending, hypocritical, and sarcastic. I am actually disgusted, but I feel sad for you in the sense that you lack the professionalism needed to come to an understanding and clear up what was simply a misunderstanding. Your telling me that I'm the immature 16 year old and how I lashed out, but you literally just did the same, but attempted to cover it up in your condescending "I'm so much smarter, and more cunning," tone. You are the exact type of person that I will strive never to be, and I hope the students you have taught haven't had to deal with you and ways. You're not only old and miserable, but you lack the simple social skills to adequately solve problems.
Thank you Posters such as Shawn, Jeannie, Sarah, and others, you are the type of comments I was looking for, I was much more receptive of your replies than others.
Also @Lydia Leong,
The World Doctors Orchestra is the exact type of orchestra I would love to be apart, it completely fits the vision of the orchestra I want to play in someday. Not the New Philharmonic or Boston Symphony.
August, come on now. You said you wanted to be the concertmaster of a professional orchestra, play all of the great works, and inspire others! Then you said you want to be a brain surgeon. Now you say you want to be among the first couple of stands in a local or community orchestra. Honestly, if there has been any misunderstanding of your goals in this thread, you're to blame for it.
Since you used the term "professional orchestra", people took you as meaning exactly that -- a professional orchestra, i.e., one in which people get paid to play.
A local professional orchestra is not at all the same thing as a community orchestra. The term "community orchestra" implies a volunteer, unpaid orchestra -- normally made up of amateurs and perhaps music educators (music professionals who may not be adept enough at their instrument to play in a professional orchestra, or who don't want the pressure of doing so).
The Big Five orchestras are nearly impossible to get into, but even getting into your local professional orchestra is not a cakewalk, and being the concertmaster usually requires enormous accomplishment. This is what people are trying to convey -- even rinky-dink professional orchestras that pay paltry per-service sums can be very tough to get into, and you should not arrogantly assume that someday you'll be that good.
The World Doctors Orchestra is an amateur, volunteer, unpaid orchestra. I believe in caliber of typical skill, it's equivalent to a good community orchestra. As far as I know, as a violinist you just need to be an actively-playing physician, of no particular level of musical accomplishment.
Do not underestimate the rigors of majoring in violin performance. Between your ensembles and practice time, you could easily be playing for eight hours a day. Adding even one science class per semester might turn out to be very difficult, *and* you will still need other extracurriculars, research, and volunteer activities in order to be a good candidate for medical school. It may require the ability to bend time and space.
Also consider the likelihood that in a year and a half's time, when it comes to auditions, your likelihood of qualifying for a violin performance major at an excellent university is extremely low, which means you compromise the quality of your pre-med education and the perceived competitiveness of your university in order to go somewhere that will accept you as a violinist... which will make you a much weaker candidate when you apply to medical school.
Even when you're young, there is an opportunity cost to choosing one thing over another. All the hours that you pour into the violin potentially cost you in terms of eventually making you a less attractive candidate for medical school. A lower-quality medical school (if you get in at all) leads to lower-quality residency options, which cascades into fewer opportunities for fellowships, etc., all of which make it less likely that you turn into an amazing pediatric neurosurgeon.
I notice you say you want to be a concertmaster... but you're still focused on chairs, wanting to be 2nd or 3rd if not 1st. That suggests a competitive fixation, not just the desire for the concertmaster's role. If you intend to play in community orchestras, lose the competitive attitude; it will never be regarded positively, and that attitude will almost certainly mean that you would never be considered as a community-orchestra concertmaster, where friendly collegiality and a non-competitive attitude is normally prized even if seating is by audition. The concertmaster is much more than just a good player; he is the implicit liaison between the orchestra and the conductor, and also needs to have an easy working relationship with the other string principals as well as the violin sections.
By the way, you are not winning any points with your salvo at John A.
Do post that video.
It's perfectly fine to not know what to do with your life at age 16. It's probably the perfect time to explore options. There is absolutely no need to attempt to save face or get too serious on an online forum though. I don't think the personal attacks are necessary or good by any means. I think people are just trying to help. Some of them might seem to you, rude or insensitive, or overly intense, but that's just what one should expect from people who come from different backgrounds - and let's be real, violinists are pretty intense people!
This is the only online public forum that I actually still post on, and the primary reason for that is because the discussions are relatively civilized and in most cases, not too idiotic compared to other websites(although I do wish there was a little bit more humor and less passive-aggression/indirect jabs at people). At times, the arguments can get frustrating, but I think most people who post here would agree that excessive drama is unnecessary.
Shawn, you want more humor? , I am an unending source of amusement, (at least to myself)
Assuming that the newest version of your goals is the correct one, then I don't think that is necessarily unrealistic if by "local and community" you mean volunteer rather than per-service. I personally have never lived anywhere where the community orchestras require the Beethoven Concerto and a professional-level list of orchestral excerpts from their members, but apparently those are out there, so I guess it would depend on your area.
However, I agree with the other posters that it's important to question your motivations for playing violin. "Proving everyone wrong" isn't a very good one, and while chair may have meaning to you right now, it won't later in life. Beyond the titled chairs, it doesn't mean anything in a pro orchestra; in fact, playing in the back is considered more difficult since you're farther away from the conductor and possibly at a disadvantage acoustically. And as Lydia so eloquently explained, an excessively competitive attitude won't get you very far in a community orchestra (or, I would argue, any orchestra other than a student orchestra) because the point of ensemble playing is to work together.
But going even deeper than that, I think that in order to really reach the top in classical music, you have to be the kind of person who eats, sleeps and breathes your instrument no matter what anyone else thinks or says. For example, an old friend of mine was just appointed principal bass in Atlanta. That's a huge gig. From the age of eleven or twelve, all he ever thought about was bass, and I do mean that in the most literal way possible. This dude literally sprang out of bed in the morning to play bass and is still that way. While most of us had other interests growing up, he really didn't, to the point that I would sometimes have to tell him I didn't want to talk about bass anymore. He's matured enough now that he's able to have a conversation on other topics, but he still basically thinks about the bass from dusk until dawn, and you can be sure that the bass is in his hand even before he has breakfast. He would do this regardless of what was going on around him. He would do it whether he was first or last chair. Even if he were working at the gas station, I have no doubt that he would spend every spare minute with his bass, because that's how intrinsically important it is to him. I actually consider it a kind of gift, separate from ability, to be that single-minded. A lot of people wax poetic about their passion for music, but in my experience there are very few who actually choose to *do* music at literally every possible moment during the day. Colin was and is one of those people. That's why he has a six-figure job playing bass now. (Well, that and the many fortuitous family factors I was mentioning earlier, as well as innate talent and a certain measure of luck.)
But bass is even a different game than violin in that nobody starts playing bass at three years old, and there are very few bass soloists touring the world. Amazing, world-class classical violinists aren't just a dime a dozen. They're more like a dime a 1200. It reminds me of that old tale of the writer who was asked if he thought universities did enough to encourage young writers, and he replied that he didn't think they did enough to discourage them. The market for classical violinists is already so over-saturated that I don't know how it hasn't collapsed. I think there was a good point way back in the thread, though, about styles other than classical. A violin in a jazz band, for example, is a special thing. Same with a bar cover band or any other number of styles. Those kinds of opportunities might satisfy your need for the limelight better than orchestra will (although please don't go thinking that they will be lucrative). And certainly mastering something like jazz is just as difficult as getting to the point where you can play an earth-shattering Beethoven concerto, but the challenges are completely different.
I don't know what the word "professional" means to you, exactly, but since you keep using it, the rest of us feel compelled to tell you that you are not on the track to make a full-time living from classical music performance, and it's not a train you can board at any point in life. But if you mean that you want to achieve a high level of playing for your own personal enjoyment, you have a whole lifetime to work towards that goal. Enjoy the process!
I believe it is quite realistic to major in violin performance at University and still go to medical school. However, it may not be such a direct path. My wife has a very competent neurosurgeon, but he spent 2 years getting a Master of Public Health (MPH) degree after college to get fully prepared for medical school.
If anyone wishes to become great, in any field, he or she has to learn to take criticism in the right spirit. The teacher who has marked a student's essay down has done it so that the student has an idea of what good standards are like and also so that he or she can change and adapt content & style and get better marks next time. Teachers who never correct & simply pour praise on whatever their students do are not helping these students to progress - their most gifted students least of all.
I read a lot of biographies and find that a common pattern is that the subject did not allow himself or herself to be put off, but that they *did* go away and think about what someone had said, and worked hard on making the necessary adjustments.
Medicine and music are both great ambitions. Taking part & doing well in both means planning your time and setting yourself detailed goals which are both challenging and achievable - breaking it down into bite-sized chunks. Be prepared for setbacks, and be courteous to anyone who takes the trouble to try & help you with realistic and/or constructive criticism.
As regards your musical goals, your violin teacher should be able to help you set the right goals for short term practice and long term ambition.
Since it is absolutely true that the music world is extremely competitive, and that most high-achieving violinists start playing in early childhood, it would be a good idea to have a 'plan B'.
But medicine is also extremely competitive...
Do you really have the time, the energy, the ability, the humility, and the application necessary to do amazingly well in both fields?
In all honesty, it seems unlikely.
Enjoy the journey. Do your best to prepare, but don't waste time on envying other travellers. Not everything will work out the way you plan, but often people look back & feel pleased that a setback made them take a different path.
You are very lucky that music is part of your life and that you have recognised this while you are young.
I wish you all the best.
A few more general points:
A wise conductor/CM/string section principal of a community orchestra will place a couple of the stronger players at the back of the section where they are really needed.
When I moved over from the cello section to the violins in my chamber orchestra some years ago, I was placed towards the back of the seconds. This was an important ear opener, for I was now hearing a lot of important detail from all sections that, as a cellist, I had never really been aware of.
It is most important to remember that the seconds are not second class! (This notion probably arises from school junior orchestras in which the violins are simply divided into those who can play higher than the first position and those who can't). In any orchestra what would the overall sound be like without a strong second violin section? In community orchestras the firsts are always grateful for the backup of the seconds playing an octave below!
Having played both in the firsts and the seconds I can say I prefer playing in the seconds as being a little more interesting, and just as demanding, than playing in the firsts. There is a lot of satisfaction to be had in providing a solid and essential harmonic and contrapuntal alto line. If you're in the first desk of the seconds (as I am in one orchestra) you find you are usefully working in close collaboration with the first desk of the firsts only a couple of feet away.
"I don't agree with this statement, as I believe that there's no such thing as native talent. Of course we may agree that genes may help or not, but we all come to earth with no skill except vital ones."
If you don't believe talent doesn't exist, then you haven't spent your life teaching.
By the way all, if one of my kids ever needs neurosurgery, I'm going to look for a doctor that's 100% committed to pediatric neurosurgery and little else. ((And has natively talented fingers)
I can understand where I mistook your first post, but your second post is rude, disrespectful, condscending, hypocritical, and sarcastic. I am actually disgusted, but I feel sad for you in the sense that you lack the professionalism needed to come to an understanding and clear up what was simply a misunderstanding. Your telling me that I'm the immature 16 year old and how I lashed out, but you literally just did the same, but attempted to cover it up in your condescending "I'm so much smarter, and more cunning," tone. You are the exact type of person that I will strive never to be, and I hope the students you have taught haven't had to deal with you and ways. You're not only old and miserable, but you lack the simple social skills to adequately solve problems."
I simply told you which points to argue instead of what you tried with. You've already stated you never want to be like me originally. That's excellent. I wouldn't want you to. You seem to have a chip on your shoulders or a sore spot for what I wrote towards me. I have a lifetime of playing professionally. You have just begun playing. Yes, you're young and naive to think how you've typed. We've all been there. This is not an insult. It's plain truth. But if you expected everybody to sugar coat your unrealistic aspirations you originally posted before changing your mind then I'd advise keeping to one story instead of going all over the place.
Your teacher is your confidant. Use him. HE will be the one to make a game plan for you to help you realize your potential. Not yourself. Not myself, not Mary Ellen or anybody else on this forum. Why this is so offensive to you is a wonder. And changing your story to claim you do not want to waste an hours lesson talking about expectations and what is realistic is the silliest, misguided idea I've read. I really hope when you started with him, you laid out the fact you will do what you want, regardless of what he says since that is what you sound like. I 100% guarantee if you showed up with Bohm, you most likely would not be accepted to mine or the majority of many programs around. Even a poorly played Mozart will not help you very much.
It's admirable you want to be a pediatric surgeon and a CM for a professional orchestra (your words, not mine or anybody else's). However it's unrealistic and misguided thinking. Feel free to once again call me any names you want for a third time, but facts are facts. I, and the majority of professionals who teach at conservatories and top music programs around the country are not ones for sugar coating expectations. To get from point A to point B in a years timeframe is more ideal than trying to "prove everybody wrong" and wanting to get from point A to point Z in a short minute.
And by the way, my second post was purely sarcastic and a lesson for yourself on which points you really should've gone against.
I once had a student with the same chaotic thought processing as yourself. They wanted to be this, do this, go there, etc. This student became so wound up when one goal or another did not happen trying to prove everybody wrong he ended up quitting altogether. He played fairly well. Needed to work on a few minor technical issues but instead of playing the etude specifically selected to help him overcome a technique, he wanted to skip ahead of it all. Did not do himself, nor anybody else any good. The point is, you need to sit down [with your teacher] and flesh out a game plan to be able to play as best you can. But time is short with you graduating in a year or two, so being real about it has to happen.
Also, please for once pick better names to try degrading me though you get a gold star for calling me old AND bitter. Maybe I should take that and be grateful.
I'm actively training to be old and bitter...it takes hours and hours of practice...;)
I feel a need to point out that while it's a lot of fun to decide what kind of doctor you want to be...most medical students change their minds while in school.
One doctor I know started off wanting to be an Immunologist, and is now happily doing Rural Medicine in a small community...
Another medical student I know started wanting to do Family Medicine and is now contemplating Emergency Medicine...but has come to realize that might still change too.
My point is...while planning is wonderful - and necessary, you also need to be open enough to realize that your journey through life might take you down a path you hadn't anticipated.
You should print off this entire discussion when it's done...and stick in your own personal time-capsule. Open it when you're retiring...
I respectfully disagree...
Talent is defined as a natural (or innate) aptitude or skill.
I can't sing. I have no talent for it. This is not for lack of trying. I sing all time.
Now...with training...I am sure I can get better, but that won't provide me with talent...just improved ability.
I do have a talent for drawing. Now...if I worked harder at that...I might improve dramatically...because that innate ability is already there.
Hard work can only take you so far - if you don't have that innate ability to begin with.
I also disagree that talent isn't real. It certainly is, and it's no insult to successful people to say so. It doesn't mean they didn't work hard. But I have seen people who were the first ones in the practice room and the last ones out every single day who never got much better, and others who were terrible practicers that improved greatly just from group rehearsal.
Buri you used spellcheck!
While talent does appear to be real in many ways, I do not believe that it is the only factor, or even the main factor that affects how fast or efficient someone can learn things. Learning speed is at least in part affected by the current level of competence. For example, if a professional violinist has never learned twinkle before, he/she probably would not need to practice at all to play it very well. A beginner who has never touched the violin before would need to practice a lot harder to do the same thing. Similarity, in a hypothetical situation, someone who has poor reading skills would need to work much harder to get a good grade on a reading quiz, but as he/she gets better at reading, the amount of effort is decreased.
There most certainly is such a thing as talent but it requires hard work to fully express itself.
When I first started teaching, I was fully convinced of Suzuki's idea that there was no such thing--this despite my own experience of doing somewhat better than my childhood practice habits should have determined. But I cannot deny that hard work is not 100% of the equation. Some students are naturals while others, equally bright, must work harder for less. I have seen this in my children as well.
I think the issue with "talent" that we have in our field is that too many people assume that it is the primary thing that is responsible for success, rather than it being only one of many factors (the primary one being thousands of hours of efficient practice).
I had a freshman student recently make a huge leap forward in his practice strategies and quality of playing, because he is open to new ideas and change and makes informed choices while working on his assignments. To his own surprise he did very well in the major youth orchestra auditions for the next season, and the response of most people to him has been "it must be so nice to be talented." Grrrr...I put this kid through the wringer at lessons, he did well because he worked his tail off!
I'm one of those people who enjoys the violin very much but has to live with being a slow learning. I lack talent. To some this statement is an "excuse" or whatever. If you're thinking "darn right it is," then [expletives deleted by upper management]. But, I have a great teacher and I work hard to use my available practice time effectively with scales, studies, and carefully chosen repertoire. And still my improvement is glacial. There isn't any point complaining about it.
Fortunately, I do have talent for other things. One of them is jazz piano. Why don't I just give up the violin and focus on jazz piano, you may ask. Well, because I LIKE the damned violin, that's why!!
To claim there is no such thing as talent is to deny that there is such a thing as differing levels of intelligence. Smarter kids will generally learn faster; higher IQ also typically grants better memory. Even if you don't believe in violin-specific talent (and I would disagree, since I learned the violin easily, but piano feels like torture), you have to take into account the raw intelligence factor (or at least kinesthetic intelligence). However, you'll often find that the same kids who seem to learn the violin easily seem to learn almost everything more easily than other kids.
Family finances play a huge part in how much of an opportunity cost there is to doing a performance degree versus immediately preparing for some other career. If your family has plenty of money, is willing and able to support you for more years post-high-school, and can afford to send you to more years of education, sure, you can go get a performance degree, and if your plans don't work out, you can spend some time taking courses and prepping for your MCAT and then applying to medical school, or doing some other master's, or even getting a second bachelor's in some other field. All it costs you is a few years of your life. Maybe you end up marrying later than you otherwise would have, get started on saving for retirement late, etc. (but if your family is affluent enough to support those dreams, you may eventually inherit enough money that four extra years of savings at the age of 22 won't make much difference anyway). I've met a number of amateur players who have performance degrees in their instrument, and then eventually became physicians. And a ton of others who diverted into other very successful careers.
But if your family isn't one of means -- and I'm guessing that from OP's mention of getting a job and struggling to afford a $2,000 violin, their family isn't affluent -- then they may struggle to just send you to college (or you get saddled up to your eyeballs in debt) just to get your undergrad degree. The cost of dawdling over a career choice starts to become extremely high, and might not be financially feasible.
Yes, talent exists, but I believe it is kind of overrated. Actually, even hard work seems overrated at times. Sometimes it's just about doing things the right way, and having the passion/desire to get better.
In my case, I'm not the one to judge whether I am talented or not, but the first time I switched teachers, I probably made more progress in the first 4-5 months with the new teacher than the previous teacher for 6 years combined. Granted I practiced a lot more with the new teacher, and the teacher switch make me actually like playing the violin.
I went from struggling to play church hymns in tune, and not even playing the first line of lalo correctly at slower than snail speeds, to being able to memorize and perform the first movement of Mendelssohn at the appropriate tempo(not amazingly but acceptable by my standards at the time, and maybe even now). This type of progress is most likely because my first teacher was horrible, but I'm just trying to say that other factors besides talent affect progress. Did my talent change at all during this time? Probably not, but my passion and desire to get better at the violin changed exponentially.
After I went to college, I literally left my violin in the closet for several years, and didn't even pick it up when I was home for spring break.
I started playing again in early 2015, I haven't studied with a teacher in almost 5 years. It's not only that my progress without a teacher that is slow, but there are still some technical things that I'm still trying to relearn. I feel like there were lots of tonal and technical aspects of violin playing that I was doing well before, but not consciously aware of when I learned it the first time, and now, I have to be more focused when trying to learn it(especially without a teacher). For example, I'm having trouble with articulation and timing on double stops and spiccatos right now, and I'm always puzzled at how these things weren't that much of an issue before. I hardly thought about struggling with these things actually, because my teacher seemed to make everything easier with the way he taught.
Thus, in my case, my progress differed a lot depending on whether or not I had a good teacher, or if I had a teacher at all, and how much I actually cared about getting better. Thus, there are other things that determine the speed of progress besides hard work and talent.
I don't really understand the eagerness to deny talent. I agree that it is over-emphasized and over-mystified when it comes to the arts. But I wonder if the same people who don't believe in talent don't believe in varying levels of intelligence at all. That's all "talent" is--a particular type of aptitude.
One thing I find fascinating about this discussion and other similar, is, nature – you have to have at least above average aptitude, and; nurture – you need outside support and drive from (parents usually) the time the rest of us were dealing with thumb sucking. I can’t come up with another example of this extreme situation. Future brain surgeons are not dissecting at age 5 with a tutor. Athletes? Maybe, but probably not running splits with a coach. No 5 year old can set this in motion by themselves and by the time they are old enough to do so by themselves, economics, cultural values, competition and opportunity seem to eliminate a “professional classical violinist” as a possible future. Very unique situation but seems to be increasing in race car drivers.
August – I hope that you are not a troll. If you are, shame on you for tugging at our hearts with your OP. I believe in karma, good and bad. In my musing I hope that your main rival does not remember you when you have to audition for her. You have asked for and received sage advice from professionals and very experienced amateurs, and some who are in charge of teaching and hiring top notch professionals. They have the first-hand experience. These are the people that you need on your side if you are going to act on your dreams. I’m not one of those elite but I will opine that it’s not a race or a wrestling match or a tennis match where beating everyone will put you on top. If your attitude is to annihilate every violinist along the way, no one will want to make music with you. Against you? Maybe, but they won’t pay you for it. You will need to cultivate lots of allies and supporters to pursue your dreams. To your credit, you are very young and likely most of your peers don’t have a “plan A” even picked. You have a plan A and A1 either one alone very difficult for a genius, let alone us mere mortals. And each requiring extreme support, assistance and mentoring. Any budding neuro-surgeon knows the amount of brain growth that is expected after age 16 and it is a point in your favour to have a solid conviction at this young stage. I don’t have any advice on the nuts and bolts of getting to where you want to be. That should come from someone you trust. At this point, of over 2 dozen responders, I doubt you have enticed anyone to hire, teach or play music with you based on the attitude of your subsequent posts. If you and I were in a jam session together, I would concede and you could do a solo for the rest of the session. We all understand angst and frustration and discouragement. It’s part of being human. We’ve all been there. 16 is hard and forgivable, if you ask for it.
About athletics, yes, they start em early. Think gymnastics, figure skating, soccer, chess. Yes, with professional coaches. Look on youtube and theres some kid who can shoot 50 free throws in a row. Going to argue thats not talent? What about savants? Is a kid who can multiply 10-digit numbers in his head in under 5 seconds not talented?
I included chess just so I could bring in that old chestnut: skill at chess is the surest sign of a wasted childhood.
Coming from someone close to your age (18)- it is NOT a waste of lesson time to discuss your future plans with your teacher. They are, after all, the ones who you are relying on to get you closer to where you want to be, and if they don't know where you want to go it will be pretty darn hard for them to know to push you harder, or talk about what is and isn't realistic.
Also, all of the previous responses to your OP have been thoughtful and are from people that have a great deal more experience with music than either you or I. Recognizing and appreciating their wisdom, whether you decide to heed their counsel or not, is important. But you asked for advice, and advice you got. What you do with that is up to you (and you should REALLY discuss everything with your teacher), but name calling and disrespect for others' clearly concerned and well-thought advice to you (which took time out of their day) is going to get you nowhere.
August, I have been following this thread and am deeply moved and inspired by your eloquence, displayed in spite of your youth.
To me, personally, whether you become a first chair violinist or a pediatric neurologist is secondary. What matters is whether you can say, at the end if your life, "As a human being, I have won - and have no regrets."
We can be confident there are many examples of people who have accomplished either dream (or perhaps both) who, at the end of their lives, are human wrecks, leaving a trail littered with the detritus of shattered relationships and bitterness in spite of a an apparent sterling record of accomplishment.
As suggested by many replies to you, we do not always win every battle. But your job as a young man is to carry on with that spirit to never give up - that you display so beautifully. That, rather than specifics on a resume, is what defines a victor in life.
Thank you for opening up your dreams to this community. Please know that, of the infinite possible responses to your hopes - a few of which have been expressed here - our battle is always to change ourselves first, to never give up, and to advance with joy NO MATTER WHAT.
You strike me as being a young man who is as active as he possibly can be. Rather than living a life of blank pages, you are creating a life crammed full of memories - of battles well fought and wonderfully diverse experiences.
Being a victor in life includes challenging our own tendency toward resentment even when we do not get the kind of support we'd like from total strangers.
I am totally cheering you on, hoping you cherish huge dreams (as small ones guarantee a small life) and that, at the end of your life, you too can confidently say, "I have won. I have no regrets."
Thanks again for encouraging me.
I am truly shocked, you described me perfectly! Thank you for followig and bei inspired by this post, I've always been extremely stubborn and I don't give up even when all the elements needed for giving up are there. Although this whole discussion has changed some of my views of what its really like and the competition, and the life of a musician, my dreams, I wont and cant just throw them aside and say they are probably right, I shouldnt move on, I should stop. It's not in me, I am always looking (and seriously always) looking for a way to inspire and challenge myself and others and I really am an active person. Violin will always be apart of me and I will still keep those dreams of being a Pediatric Neurosurgeon and Concertmaster in a professional symphony, and I very well may never acheive the Concertmaster one, but I know that wit the hardwork and determination and motivation I have, the level I will get too will be satisfying enough and I couldnt be more excited for it. Thank you for following and thank you for allowing this to encourage you, it means that my dreams/hopes are/can happen.
Was that towards me or the above???
No need to get up in arms, only commenting on how long this conversation thread has gotten in a short time. The fervor rivals shoulder rest debates....
Whoops. Said that out loud, didn't I...
Scott, when I wrote "The negative comments above come from ignorance. Which is a pity." I was only referring to the 10k thing, not to the many sincere warnings on this thread from you and others.
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July 14, 2015 at 08:21 PM · You need to find a healthier mindset that will still drive you to practice as much as you need. Comparing yourself to others can spur you, but you need to think about intrinsic motivations and keep in mind why you even like playing, or else you will be highly at risk for burning out. You might catch up to people where you are and then move on to a conservatory and be surrounded by other wonderkids, and start the whole cycle again. I mean, it really might work for your motivation to work really hard, but that kind of attitude will probably kill your love for music. I have no idea whether your idea is realistic or not, but make sure to not make your life miserable in order to fulfill some obsessive goal.
Really, getting better is a lifelong trip, and you shouldn't forget that high school and college are periods of time, but music is an activity that can sustain you for a lifetime, as long as you don't grow to resent it. Short and medium-term goals are important, but don't lose sight of the entire path.