Hidey ho! And yet another

July 19, 2015 at 04:39 PM · Hi all! I'm new to the discussion boards here (if you don't count three or so years of lurking, haha) and I always really enjoy the discussions that go on here. They're insightful (and yes, I am buttering you up).

I, like many others that have posted on here, am wondering where I can get in my life with music. I'm eighteen and have played since I was four, but due to my dad's job being outsourced so much, haven't really had formal lessons since I was fourteen or fifteen (can't quite remember). Currently, I'm recovering from a couple loose joints and trying to get back up to the level I'm used to playing at before progressing more. I have a long way to go: I've done Bruch, Mendelssohn, and Zigeunerweisen, and that's pretty much it for my repertoire as of now due to not having lessons for three years. I'm also religiously practicing scales (Flesch is my Bible for now).

I ultimately decided to not pursue music as a career and entered BYU last year as a computer science major. I auditioned into the BYU Symphony after a five hour panic practice session after months of not practicing (it was actually exciting; I played about ten bars of Zigeunerweisen and the professor stopped me and told me I had made it. A bit of a confidence boost, which is really nice because it made me feel pretty good the rest of the week) and that's the only thing that carried me through the second semester there. I'm not returning to BYU this fall for personal and religious reasons (okay, I hated pretty much everything about the school but that's another story), as well as the sudden realization that I wanted to try playing the violin for a career.

I'm heading up to Washington this August to start taking lessons again with a teacher I had a few years back and really felt I progressed with, and I'm planning on spending at least one and a half years doing nothing but work part time (I'll be living with my grandparents, so no rent) and practice my butt off (at least five hours a day. I've done it before, and I'm willing to do it again now that I have an actual goal) before I start trying out for conservatories. I have a dream of making it into a big time symphony, but I'm not sure how realistic that is (although it's a nice thing to work towards) and I'd be ecstatic to be a part of the professional music community.

That being said, I do have a back up plan. I was thinking that after I finish music school, as I build a resume (starting small with whatever I can get into), I would like to get an associates or something in a field that would facilitate supporting myself so I have something to fall back on should I not get into a sufficiently paying symphony eventually.

I'm open to any suggestions or opinions on what my plans are, and while I'd love to get a big break and make it into the symphony of my dreams (cue starry eyes) I also want to be as realistic as possible.

If you need me to clarify anything due to incoherence or the like, I'm happy to do so. :) And thank you!

Replies (41)

July 19, 2015 at 08:47 PM · Wow here I thought I was gloomy about students prospects. I disagree with the majority of the previous posters bullet points. You can take that post apply it to nearly every single field out there. Pretty impressive, least to me.

OP, I think it is great you want to pursue music after leaving BYU, though they do have an alright program or used to. I cannot remember who is there these days.

However, while it's commendable to you wanting to be one of the few lucky ones and win a seat in a major orchestra, I would worry more about first being able to audition successfully into a Conservatory. You mentioned Bruch, Mendelssohn and Zig. Have you studied any Bach, which are required usually? How about Mozart?

If you can get Mendelssohn up to snuff, get a couple contrasting Bach movements then you'll be in decent shape. It really depends which schools you are planning to apply though how and what you prepare.

July 19, 2015 at 10:50 PM · Computer science sounds pretty good. BYU isn't for everyone. Maybe keep going at UC Riverside until you figure things out, taking it at a pace that would allow you to explore violin again and prepare your auditions. If an extra year in college seems unaffordable then re-read Jenny's post.

July 19, 2015 at 11:21 PM · Sorr, I have to debate some of the points made above:

1. You can support yourself if you get into a a full- time orchestra. If...

Some pay better than others.

2. To do the above, you don't have to go to graduate school. You just have to have a good audition.

3. You don't need any particular price range of instrument, just one on which you can sound reasonably well.

4. You may not always like every work on the program, but if you really like little of the repertoire or don't like the warhorses, don't go into the field in the first place.

July 19, 2015 at 11:28 PM · Studied computer science? How good are your computer skills? Start there for building your "secondary" skill set.

You can pick up part-time work as a computer technician, including freelance set-your-own-hours work. You could also pick up part-time tech-support work, although that's more likely to be an office job with set hours. If your programming skills are good, you can take short-term freelance contract work (or take other short-term contracts, though again those are likely to be office jobs). If you have design skills, you could also do freelance Web design. All of that pays much better than any other temp work.

Make your part-time job, right now, a computer job. As long as you're doing well at it, you will probably never need a degree in computer science in order to work in technology. If by "Washington" you mean "Seattle", there will be no shortage of jobs.

If you were doing Bruch/Mendelssohn/etc. at the age of 14, you were on a good path, pacewise, towards conservatory readiness. I'm guessing that you have a good foundation, so mostly what you'd be doing is getting back on track and preparing the repertoire for the auditions. (Hopefully someone else will opine as to whether or not the schools will take your bio into account, and how long you should work and take lessons privately before you apply to conservatory.)

July 19, 2015 at 11:36 PM · Jenny's points about the downsides of life as a pro classical musician may not be everyone's experience, but it is certainly some people's experience.

I had a close friend who worked all her life to get into a prestigious symphony, and once she made it she hated it and made a radical change of career.

Before you devote precious years to the quest, do find out about the realities and make sure it's what you really want.

July 19, 2015 at 11:38 PM · Another voice of experience here; I completely agree with Scott's post.

I have been in my current position in a professional orchestra for nearly 25 years. It pays enough to live on. I teach on the side because I enjoy it and because there is hardly a person in the world who doesn't appreciate having a supplementary income source. I also play weddings, which are mostly enjoyable even if they do involve a lot of Pachelbel. What is so terrible about being part of the happiest day in someone else's life?

Most of my colleagues do have master's but they're not required, and at least one of our principals has only a bachelor's. It isn't the degrees, it's the audition.

It is possible to find a professional quality instrument for less than $20K. I won all of my jobs on such an instrument.

Orchestra politics are no worse than politics in other fields, and I like most but not all of the music we play. Any job anywhere will have aspects to it that you might not enjoy, and people whom you do not necessarily like. That's called life. Most of my colleagues are pretty wonderful people, though.

I have three nearly grown children, a happy marriage, and a stable family life. And no, my husband is not a musician. I have a lot of friends who also aren't musicians. A professional orchestra is not a prison. Good grief.

Yes, a few unfortunate musicians develop physical problems that can be career-ending. Guess what--that happens in other fields too.

Now, as for your prospects, you've already gotten good advice from pp's. Best wishes.

July 20, 2015 at 12:24 AM · I suspect the degree of career satisfaction in performers has a lot to do with what echelon of the profession they occupy. Those who play in musically rewarding circumstances (good conductors, great colleagues, appreciative audiences, thoughtful programming) with stable schedules and decent financial rewards are going to be much happier than those who are scrambling to make a living.

This is going to be true in most professions, though the degree and impact of stratification will depend on the particular profession chosen.

Even where you live can make a big difference. For instance, my guess is that there's not a big pay difference between the National Symphony and the Baltimore Symphony, and they're less than 50 miles apart. But Baltimore and its suburbs have a below-average cost of living, whereas DC and its suburbs have a stratospheric cost of living along with a heck of a lot more traffic. I'd expect it makes a huge difference in how pleasant the lifestyle is for players in those respective orchestras.

Anyway, to get an idea of what it's like to play professionally, freelance as much as possible. You're going to find it is nothing like youth symphonies, college orchestras, or community orchestras, and that might very well impact how you feel about music as a profession.

July 20, 2015 at 12:55 AM · I agree with Mary Ellen that people are absurdly negative about wedding gigs. Really? You perform easy, pleasant music at a very high hourly rate for what are almost always very happy people. You're often tipped and/or treated to food and drink. You get to look at pretty gowns and smiling faces in nice venues. It's hardly a trip to the coal mines.

Even bands who are playing stadiums have to play music they aren't that excited about anymore. The Rolling Stones have been playing "Satisfaction" for fifty years now. They still put on an amazing show because they're professionals, and I seriously doubt they are any more miserable than your average office drone.

There are certainly downsides to the profession, but overall it's actually a pretty good job. That's why so many people want to do it.

July 20, 2015 at 05:18 AM · Oh my. Gigs are not exclusive to weddings. If in a large city, there's studio work, recitals, pits, etc. I think the last time I played a wedding was my first year in school and that was for a fellow classmate.

My wife is a pharmacist. She works a lot more than I ever have. She also went to school for a lot longer with a bigger debt. She was able to pay that off relatively quick, though.

In the end, there's a trick to winning an audition for a symphony. It's called Luck. [joking, kind of.] Same goes for landing any job. You just have to hope you win out over others.

I originally had a huge post disagreeing line by line with what you said, Jenny but it comes down to the individual how successful they are. Not just in music but in other fields as well. Are you old? If so, you can join my team of the old and bitter club!

July 20, 2015 at 05:22 AM · There is not a whole lot of luck involved in winning a symphony job...some, yes, but it is much more dependent on playing in TUNE, in TIME, and in STYLE.

Seriously you would be shocked at how few candidates actually play with consistently correct rhythm and good intonation at an audition packed full of candidates with degrees from excellent music schools.

July 20, 2015 at 01:12 PM · The likelihood of earning a stable, professional salary (let's just say $50,000 a year with benefits) directly in the area of your training is higher in some fields than it is in others. Pharmacists and engineers are at one end of the spectrum; musicians and humanities professors are at the other. While job prospects and average salaries should perhaps not be the biggest factor in choosing a career path, they will likely be among the factors considered by a thoughtful young person.

And if you're going to talk about money, then you should consider how long you have to be in school (how much graduate school you'll need for what you want to do) and how it gets paid for. If you talk to a group of college freshmen who are majoring in chemistry or physics, for example, it's interesting how many of them are not aware that graduate school in these fields is not only free of tuition but it also pays a modest stipend of around $25k per year, sometimes with benefits.

I don't think it's really fair for someone to say, "Oh, I'm a professional violinist and I don't bother with wedding gigs, and my family lives comfortably" ... and then it turns out their spouse is pulling in $120,000 a year while they do their freeway philharmonic and teach a dozen kids. I think the message there is, "You really can do whatever you want as long as you marry into money." Well, lots of people actually do live that way, and there's no shame in that whatsoever (it's "nice work if you can get it," as Gershwin wrote), but I don't think it's a good formula for career planning for a teenager.

July 20, 2015 at 01:47 PM · I don't mind weddings at all, unless the weather is extreme. Seriously--how many other people in our society can sit down for an hour and make $100, then leave?

Jenny, I do think it important to point out to musical hopefuls the negative aspects of the profession, but we need to distinguish between what is the subjective and personal, and what are objective. Personal feelings about weddings or repertoire are subjective, but the job market and cost of living are not, so I tend to talk about those. Politics are part of any organization, and musicians have it better than most because we aren't micromanaged personally. We don't have project deadlines, or budgets to submit, sales targets, etc. relatively speaking,we're left alone to play unless we are demonstrating incompetence or are late to rehearsals.

This autonomy is probably the main advantage of being a musician, and many people chose the autonomy and lower wages over the horrors of regular or corporate jobs. Don't like a brides attitude? Sorry, busy that day. You can set your own rates for teaching, and fire non- practicing students. Don't like to teach on the weekend? Don't.

In general, I've found that the level of egotism is highest in youth orchestra, and diminishes as the level of orchestra rises, and as the musicians grow up, have families, and develop other interests in life, and an awareness of their limitations. I see few professionals warming up on romantic concerti or their latest showpiece.

By far the the biggest plus for being a musician: except for the occasional concert, I don't have to wear shoes ( or even pants) to work.

July 20, 2015 at 01:52 PM · "I don't think it's really fair for someone to say, "Oh, I'm a professional violinist and I don't bother with wedding gigs, and my family lives comfortably" ... and then it turns out their spouse is pulling in $120,000 a year while they do their freeway philharmonic and teach a dozen kids."

Who has said that? I've never seen that on V.com or heard it in real life.

July 20, 2015 at 02:02 PM · I know many musicians who do little gigging or teaching because they're married to high earners. They just don't crow about it online...

July 20, 2015 at 02:08 PM · I suspect that was directed at John A, who mentioned earlier in the thread that his wife is a pharmacist.

Certainly in current times, many musicians are married to non-musicians who hold down corporate jobs that provide a steady salary and health insurance. But frankly lots of households are now dependent on two incomes anyway, so this is hardly unusual.

July 20, 2015 at 02:45 PM · Wow, what a lively, interesting thread! Nothing to add, just enjoying...

July 20, 2015 at 02:48 PM · Of the married musicians in my orchestra, I can think of at most a handful who are married to high earners. The rest of us are married to teachers, other musicians, or others with jobs that pay a middle-class salary.

July 20, 2015 at 02:59 PM · "I apologize if I've in any way made it sound like being a musician is a crap job- that was not my intent."

Thanks for the clarification. Your first post certainly did paint the bleakest possible picture in completely absolute terms.

"Also, I don't think that I had the talent or drive to make it to a top tier symphony. Most likely, I would have been scraping together a miserable living."

For the benefit of lurkers, there is a lot of ground between "top tier symphony" and "scraping together a miserable living." There are plenty of orchestras that pay a mid to high five-figure salary, enough to live on in their markets, but which are not top-tier. I'm in one such orchestra and it plays at a very high level. Most of us do teach and gig, but it isn't necessary in order to pay the rent or to eat--it might be necessary to pay for extras and luxuries though. And even below this level, there are many regional orchestras with a smaller full-time core that pays what is usually a bare living wage in their markets. These musicians also teach and gig, perhaps by necessity, but they are still in a much more stable situation than the freeway philharmonic players.

You don't have to be in New York, Chicago or Boston in order to make a decent middle-class living as a musician.

Having said all that though, these middle tier and lower-middle tier jobs are still very, very hard to win. They should not be viewed as consolation prizes, and they should not be viewed as in any way a safety net for aspirants. The competition is stiff and there are plenty of good musicians out there who haven't managed to land such a job.

July 20, 2015 at 04:44 PM · I only mentioned my wife's profession as a pharmacist due the claim it's an easier, less stressful, less hour type of field. That was it. I certainly wasn't boasting. I still have never played a wedding since my early days as I mentioned. I was lucky to have had a teacher who had a wide assortment of contacts which allowed me to seek other venues for performance opportunities.

I was also jesting about the luck deal. I've read many players claim it was pure luck they won an audition and while I believe there's a little to an extent, I know just how poorly some of these folks auditioning tend to play and have always scratched my head over it but this is another topic.

Yes, there's a due for the club, Jenny. I imagine it [the new found knowledge] does rear it's ugly head unexpectedly, though I've known a lot longer but some of my colleagues were surprised when they received their acceptance letter.

Honestly, aiming to be a professional Violinists isn't for everybody. It's a lot of tedious, painstaking hard and lonely work to get to the point of being able to take to an audition. And even when you get to that point, the auditions themselves can be demoralizing to a lot then you've got the trials and trying to perform under a microscope. But if you get past all this, then it is rewarding and worthwhile. But do not forget, you do not necessarily need to be in an orchestra to be a professional violinist or musician. You might enjoy being in a chamber group, or playing for Celine Dione.

July 20, 2015 at 04:45 PM · I'm sorry if my previous remarks seemed too pointed. I admit that I did have John A's post in my mind when I wrote my remarks about spousal income.

But now let me tell you why John A’s post is one of my favorites in this thread: because he mentioned luck. I see that he subsequently pulled back from that, but I wish he wouldn't have. Now, I would *never* claim that any particular person got his or her position out of luck. I just think back over my own life and career, and I don’t think I could ever even count the number of times and ways that I’ve been lucky, starting with having been born in the United States to parents who were well educated and financially stable, being healthy, having good schools to go to, having music (and other art) as well as math and science all around me growing up, music lessons and instruments paid for and transportation provided, etc.

All that's easy to say. But what about later in life? If I discovered a new chemical reaction, and turned it into several papers and a couple of nice grants (which happened), was that clutch hitting, or was it luck? Pasteur said “chance favors the prepared mind.” But he didn’t say chance doesn't exist. Bobby Fischer said, correctly, that there’s no luck in chess, but he was dead wrong when he equated chess with life. Maybe that's partly why he was so bitter in his later years (likely in addition to mental illness).

Personally I think anyone who says “luck had nothing to do with my success” isn’t being too thoughtful about where they might have been lucky. President Obama said much the same thing several years ago in a campaign speech, and he got creamed for it, but though he could have said it more artfully, he was totally right.

Coming back to the income that one might expect from a career as a musician, I'm sure the range is quite large, but I think the distribution is very skewed toward the low end. Is the median a living wage? Does $60k a year with benefits correspond to the 90th percentile? Or the 99th?

And about spousal income, there's an old expression from the game of euchre, which is "count on your partner for one." In euchre, you need to take three tricks (out of five) to make your contract. I think that's a reasonable way for a young person to approach wage-earning today: Expect to be the primary breadwinner -- and obviously that's regardless of your gender.

July 20, 2015 at 05:17 PM · For the OP, there are some serious future-salary considerations on the table here. If they go finish their computer science degree, and settle in Seattle, their first-year salary is likely to be over $100k, and it will likely come with a bonus, stock, and a lot of additional perks. That'll be true in other major cities as well.

And assuming they don't take a job with killer hours, it would leave them time to freelance if they wanted to. I can tell you from experience that it's a lot more enjoyable to gig when you're largely playing the gig for pleasure and a bit of "fun" cash, and you can take it or leave it, than if you're trying to make the rent.

July 20, 2015 at 06:14 PM · Seattle may be special. Average starting salaries for computer scientists with a BS degree are around $60k (Forbes Magazine quoting National Association of Colleges and Employers data, 9-20-2013). By no means is employment anywhere near 100% though, and all of the zeros of the unemployed, underemployed, etc., are not included in the average.

There's no magic career or easy career. There is competition in every field. But there are better odds in some fields than in others. In the case of computer science vs. violin playing, the difference in the odds happens to be very large. 50% professional employment in the field of one's education with an average salary of $60,000, with benefits, within a few months of earning a BS is pretty darned good. I suspect that fewer than 1% of newly minted BAs in violin performance secure full-time employment as violinists within three months of graduation. That's a factor of at least 50. To some extent it is an unfair comparison because violin playing may be one of those fields that have come to expect graduate degrees for professional employment. A better comparison would be chemists vs. violinists with masters degrees.

July 20, 2015 at 07:46 PM · There's a wide range of "computer science" degrees out there, but an entry-level developer job in Seattle, San Francisco, Boston, New York City, Washington DC, Austin, etc. will generally pay $100k+. Heck, *interns* in those cities will often be paid equivalent to $100k+ annualized.

You can certainly take that degree and get a tech support job somewhere that pays beans, of course.

July 20, 2015 at 07:54 PM · Yeah, averages are what they are.

July 20, 2015 at 10:01 PM · Are graduate degrees really *expected*, or is it that many players need the extra years of excellent teaching and dedicated practicing in order to reach the level where they can win a symphony audition?

July 20, 2015 at 10:06 PM · The latter.

July 20, 2015 at 10:11 PM · I don't see a practical difference there, and I believe the same principle applies to the chemists. A lot of job postings are marked BS/MS.

July 21, 2015 at 06:08 PM · Whew, after all of these responses, I almost don’t want to post… but here I go!

1. A master’s degree looks good on a resume. The time spent studying music is invaluable. However, once accepted to audition for an orchestra, the committee won’t care if you have a GED or a doctorate. They want you to play the excerpts in tune and at the correct tempo. Consider getting a performance certificate instead of a master’s, especially if you’re not planning on teaching at the university level. If you DO want to consider the path of teaching at a university, you’ll need a doctorate.

2. The preparation of actually GETTING into an orchestra is way more daunting than having to play Beethoven’s Eroica for the 42nd time. Consider if this is something you actually want to do. Do you want to practice orchestral excerpts for 5 hours a day, for years, along with a modern concerto, a Mozart concerto (3, 4, or 5), and contrasting Bach movements? If so, make yourself a plan, and go for it! Then, you may spend years (and a lot of money) travelling to audition for orchestra after orchestra. Be prepared for rejection. It will probably happen. Those who make it into the first orchestra they audition for are rare. For the record, there is a BIT of luck to get a job, but it is really mostly preparation. You need to be able to play your stuff in your sleep.

3. Yes, you will probably have to teach, and you will probably have to teach beginners. Even if you get a good-paying gig, you’ll probably still want the supplemental income. If you move out of your grandparents’ house, you’ll probably have to support yourself teaching and gigging while you practice your butt off to get ready for auditions.

4. Some people like playing weddings. Some don’t. I think they’re awful. Brides are a pain. There’s nothing like getting a phone call 48 hours before the wedding, with the bride saying she just HAS to walk down the aisle to (fill in the blank with a random pop song that there is no string quartet arrangement for). It would be a beautiful spring day if only everyone wanted to walk to Pachelbel!

5. My musician friends with families often exhaustedly mention how they haven’t seen their spouse or kids for x amount of days. I don’t have kids, so have no experience with this, but I know that when I’m playing in symphony, and teaching 30 students a week, I’ll go 5 or so days in a row where I barely see my husband. Our hours are just completely opposite, because I work at night. We go on a lot of “date nights” to make up for this, which is nice.

6. Life is easier if you marry someone who makes more money than you do, but I think that is true regardless of what career path you choose. Most of my musician friends are married to musicians. This is probably because musicians are constantly surrounded by musicians. I sometimes tell my single musician friends that they should spend time lurking outside of hospitals, looking for doctors without rings on their fingers... (joke!)

7. If you love the violin, and you get a job, you’ll love most of what you play. You’ll hate things here and there. Sometimes, the things you initially hate will start to grow on you, and it will broaden your love of music. No one loves their job every day. I LOVE playing in symphony and teaching, and still do my fair share of complaining. That’s life.

8. It’s not easy being a violinist. You may never get a full-time performing gig. You may find it hard to build and maintain a large enough studio to pay the bills…. However…

9. Ask yourself if you love the violin enough that you cannot live without it. Do you want to eat, breathe, and sleep the violin? Would it break your heart to pursue something else? Are you willing to eat ramen for a couple of years? Do you have a passion and a drive to fill your whole life with music? Then you should GO FOR IT. Don’t let fear hold you back from anything that you really want to do. You can make a comfortable life for yourself being a professional violin player. It just takes a lot of blood, sweat, and tears to get there.

July 21, 2015 at 07:11 PM · Many university teaching gigs are part-time adjunct positions, including mine, and you don't need a doctorate for those. A master's will do you just fine, and the better your performing resume, the less you need that. There was a tenured cello professor at Oberlin during my time there who never even bothered to graduate from high school, or at least that's what I was told. He had amazing credentials but he didn't have degrees.

July 21, 2015 at 07:53 PM · "Are graduate degrees really *expected*, or is it that many players need the extra years of excellent teaching and dedicated practicing in order to reach the level where they can win a symphony audition?"

I won my first professional audition long before graduate school (or any kind of music degree, actually). Instead, I studied audition material with a concertmaster. The typical two years of masters includes theory, history, hours a week doing time in a student orchestra, and waiting in line at the registrar. Yes, you improve, but mostly on your recital repertoire. It doesn't hurt, just not the most efficient if the goal is an orchestra gig.

July 21, 2015 at 08:04 PM · Don't underestimate the value of the time spent in a conservatory level student orchestra. It's extremely valuable to have played audition repertoire in context.

July 21, 2015 at 09:47 PM · I'm guessing that you can probably get repertoire in context from a community orchestra if need be, preferably one that goes through a lot of repertoire in a season. Or multiple such orchestras if you have the time and inclination (or can cherry-pick which sets you play).

July 21, 2015 at 10:06 PM · Lydia, I think your experience with community orchestras is pretty anomalous. Most of them will not even be close to the level of a conservatory.

July 21, 2015 at 10:23 PM · I suspect it depends both on the community and the conservatory. As a teenager, I spent a year playing in a fairly good conservatory orchestra (i.e., respectable school, but not a top-notch conservatory), for instance. I think the *preparation* level for the string sections was generally higher than a community orchestra, with no really bad players (at worst, freshman music ed. majors coming in at the Accolay level). But it was nowhere near as good as my extremely competitive youth symphony, for instance, and middle-of-the-line compared with the community orchestras I've experienced in three major metros (Chicago, San Francisco, DC).

Although my point is that if you just need to learn the repertoire in order to contextualize the excerpt, I'm not sure how much the skill level of the orchestra itself matters, as long as the tempos are right and the conductor shapes a reasonably musical interpretation.

July 21, 2015 at 11:22 PM · Lydia, I agree with Sarah that your experience has been anomalous. I would also not consider a student orchestra with any violinists at the Accolay level to be remotely a conservatory orchestra. And yes, the level of the orchestra does matter. That's why summer programs such as the National Repertory Orchestra and training orchestras such as New World are so valuable.

July 21, 2015 at 11:44 PM · This is an interesting side-discussion. What constitutes a conservatory orchestra? As far as I know, it's typical for both music education and performance majors to play in the conservatory orchestra. Music minors might or might not. The general university population gets relegated to another orchestra. That's if the school is big. At a smaller school, anyone who can make the audition cut might play in the orchestra. (Where I was, non-majors could play if they placed well in the audition.)

Around here, Shenandoah Conservatory and Catholic University, which produce a lot of the local players (they go up to the DMA level) have orchestras that mix the conservatory students with non-music-majors. I think UMD does as well, although Johns Hopkins / Peabody separates them (to the horrible detriment of the university orchestra).

Conservatories seem to be a really mixed bag in playing level. I recently ran into someone a year away from finishing their DMA who's never played a Romantic concerto.

July 22, 2015 at 12:25 AM · Wow! Thank you everyone for your replies. Sorry I've been offline for a few days; it's been a hectic weekend.

I definitely do love the violin more than I knew I could love doing something. It came as sort of an epiphany last year during one of the worst months where my computer was broken, I realized that the assignments in my major were ridiculous and expected me to know more than was being taught (know-it-alls in the class made that happen) and the only thing that was driving me to get up and do any sort of productive thing in my life was practicing my parts for symphony. I truly think that even the miserable parts of the profession would eventually grow on me, in a "I can complain about this for hours" sort of way, if that makes sense. Just knowing that I'm doing what I love (or have loved to hate, at times) will make it worthwhile.

Yes, I am behind in repertoire, so I'm pretty nervous about getting into a conservatory but I'm going to do two years or so of intensive study with nothing else in my way starting this next month to make that up, and then I'll start looking at schools when I know I'm ready. But right now I'm not ready, and that's okay.

John A, I actually saw your comments on the other post.. "Old and bitter" indeed! Thank you, and everyone else, for your advice and opinions. I appreciate it very much and consider each point you all have made as I move forward with this.

Jenny, thank you for being realistic. I do realize that there will be very difficult times ahead, but I've been dealing with difficult my whole life so as long as I'm not completely homeless I'll be alright. ;) It is a matter of concern, though, and that's why I'm making sure I have a viable backup plan. Also, I've never met a piece of music that I didn't like in the end (except maybe a couple things they made me play in the middle school orchestra a long time ago. That was the most boring thing ever.)

As for computer science, I think I need at least a few years off of it before I can look at the subject without cringing. I might go back and finish a degree in it, or I might try for something else, if music doesn't work out, but as of now computer science is out of sight and out of mind.

Sorry for derailing the current discussion- please continue! It's insightful and I enjoy reading everyone's responses.


July 22, 2015 at 02:42 AM · I don't think we are in agreement on what constitutes a "conservatory." The ones I am thinking of are schools like Curtis, Juilliard, Eastman, Oberlin, New England, etc. These are schools that either do not even have a music education program, or have such rigorous requirements for admission that the music ed majors are not playing at a significantly lower level than the performance majors. Certainly there's nobody even remotely near Accolay.

DMA students are a mixed bag depending on where they are studying, that is true, but you know what DMA stands for, right? Doesn't Mean Anything.

July 22, 2015 at 03:26 AM · "Elite conservatories." :-)

I *think* the common use of the word here on V.com has been higher-education institutions that have dedicated music schools (whether or not explicitly called a "conservatory"), versus schools that just have music departments (whether or not they offer a performance major).

That reminds me: Occasionally on V.com, when searching out info, I run across old threads where high school students make grandiose statements about how they're eventually going to go to Juilliard and become a soloist and darn what anyone else says to them about their odds. I can't resist looking up where they are now, and it seems it's inevitably at some school I've never heard of (someplace with a music department but not a "conservatory", much less an elite one), although they are indeed studying violin performance. The ones with more realistic goals seem to be doing well, though. Something for the OP to keep in mind.

By the way, Amber, your experience sounds like a lot of women entering computer science programs. It's often a discouraging experience, but you should not take it as a statement about your abilities or your potential in the field. This paper is the seminal study on this issue: http://www.cs.cmu.edu/afs/cs/project/gendergap/www/papers/anatomyWSQ99.html

July 22, 2015 at 04:26 AM · Maybe DMA in performance on the gamba or the krummhorn.

July 22, 2015 at 04:26 AM · Nope. Violin performance all the way -- three different respectable schools too (for BM, MM, DMA). I was surprised too. (Not a full story that I should tell on a public forum, I think, but it was a very interesting one.)

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