In high school, I made lots of sacrifices so I could TRY to get into a conservatory. The work paid off, I spent a year in conservatory, but ended up withdrawing for a number of reasons...
1) I felt like the main reason I was there was for the great friends I made.
I found wonderful friends who were also very dedicated musicians, and their work ethics inspired me to step up my game -- but I wasn't too thrilled at the teaching I was receiving from my professor -- this is what DEFINES a conservatory student's experience.
2) As expected of someone at my playing level, I barely received any money.
The teaching I received was definitely not worth the tuition I was paying. Parents were also constantly stressed about taking out loans for a "degree with no ROI."
3) Was not growing with my teacher/did not trust his judgment
At every lesson, he never failed to remind me that I was behind, and that all I had to do was practice all day --- which is fine, but the problem was that he never told me HOW to DO ANYTHING. I would ask him for exercises to strengthen my fingers and other technical aspects, and he would just look at me and say, "Just practice!" I tried to make it very clear that I needed help with technique, yet he would always postpone it and make me go through the motions of repertoire. As a result, I always felt like I was preparing rep without really knowing what I was doing....and when he would scold me for not doing something right, I would have to try so hard to hold back my tears. He's the one who saw the potential in my EXTREMELY raw audition and accepted me into his studio, yet I felt as if he was just taking his sweet time, holding the fact that I was technically behind against me. I felt like I wasn't improving at all!
I just kept dragging along until the end of the year, but I felt like I wasn't completely responsible for my lack of improvement. I considered switching studios, but I couldn't bring myself to do it and now I really regret it because that could've made a whole world of difference --- and might have prevented me from withdrawing from school!
Sure enough, before my jury, my professor echoed the same thoughts I was having: "To be honest, I'm not all that thrilled with the progress you've made this year." Again, like I said above, I was screaming inside because I didn't believe I was completely responsible for this lack of improvement!!! I decided to bite the bullet, practice even harder, and after my jury, my professor told me that my performance was really great and that I HAD to study with him over the summer to really work on technical catch-up. I was pleased, but again, at the back of my mind, I thought, why couldn't we have started reworking my technique at the beginning of the year?!??!!! I had friends whose teachers were working on that with them, and as a result, probably played better juries/had a better, more informed first year!!
Going back in time a little bit:
The first semester I spent in conservatory was total crap. I was depressed because I wasn't used to having ONLY music classes (coming from a rigorous high school background), I missed being the multifaceted, well-rounded student I was, I was bored to tears at the idea of sitting in a practice room for the next four years, and I was discouraged by the amount of apathy a lot of my classmates had --- i.e., they never practiced, yet managed to win the top seats in orchestra, etc., while I always had to put in so so so much more extra work because of my love for music and deep drive to improve despite my limited background. I barely practiced because I was so uninspired. For this lack of practicing, I take full responsibility.
Come second semester, I realized that I had to create my own inspiration --- I woke up early each morning and practiced my scales before breakfast and before my classes. I began to enjoy practicing more and more, consistently practiced 4-5 hours a day, and embraced the fact that I could always be practicing more. This was my turning point, and I felt that I did, in fact, NEED to pursue the violin degree while I had the chance to. The rest is history, and now I'm sitting at home wondering what to do with my life.
Fast forward, and I'm taking this fall semester of my sophomore year off to take engineering pre-requisite classes at my local community college that will transfer into a university this coming spring. I question what I'm doing every day. I'm not taking private lessons, but I am still practicing every day despite my school/work schedule. I joined a local university's orchestra as a visiting member, and I have been accepted to this school for the spring, but their music program cannot even compare to my previous school's level. However, they've recruited a couple of new and very commendable violin faculty members whom I might be interested in studying with, and could still improve a lot with, even if the overall music school level is low. This school is decent across the board in terms of academics, but I consider it a safety. I'm waiting on another school's decision; this school is one of the top public universities in the US, and they have a small but better music department than the aforementioned university.
Maybe it would be enough for me to major in something else and keep up the violin lessons on the side; I don't know. But my biggest fear is that I will not have played enough/learned enough about the violin and music in general while I had the chance to throw myself into it fully.
I'm afraid that I might be missing violin because I'm no longer in the conservatory environment, because I'm back in a purely academic environment. Maybe I miss it simply because I'm not taking lessons right now, not because I should actually be studying music full-time. I guess I should start taking lessons again as soon as possible so I know where to go come spring. If I do end up at the school whose orchestra I'm playing in, I wonder, given the high level of playing I was exposed to in conservatory, would it be worth it for me to "regress" and study music at a much lower level?
I know that even if I elect to study something else, as long as I keep up the practicing, I can do summer festivals, etc. But there will always be a part of me that will wonder what could have been if I stayed at my original school and perhaps just switched studios.
If you have read this far, know that I deeply appreciate your time. This has been an especially confusing time in my life and would appreciate any suggestions, personal stories, etc. Many thanks!
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