Questions for the future. Help!

January 13, 2016 at 08:38 PM · So I was wondering, I've been playing violin for about a year and a half now. Sometimes I feel that my progress is slow and I wanted to know if I'm advancing at an adequate pace. I've been studying with a member of the Richmond symphony for the time that I've been playing and I've had several meetings with my local collages to make sure that my long term goal as a music major and receiving my PHD in music education is reasonable. I'm currently working on Haydn in G major and am almost finished. After I complete Haydn I was urged to work on Bach in a minor and then the solo partitas by a Proffesor I respect highly. I have major and minor scales up to 3 sharps and 3 flats in 3 octaves. I just wanted to make sure my progress is acceptable and what advice any of you may have? I plan on volunteering at a youth center in February to teach violin and gain experience in teaching.


January 13, 2016 at 10:33 PM · Questions about your future and your progress are really for your teacher. Since you do not tell us your age, it is difficult to evaluate the information provided even if we were in a position to do so. Good luck!

January 14, 2016 at 03:54 AM · 18, sorry!

January 14, 2016 at 04:47 AM · I think the answer is going to be dependent upon how long you're willing to stay in school -- and how good of a program you're aiming for.

A *well-played* Haydn G major in under two years is excellent progress, but without hearing you, no one can judge whether you're just being accelerated through repertoire or you're really getting solid fundamentals and are fully prepared to play that.

Similarly, you don't indicate what you're currently up to -- my guess is that at 18 if you're still in high school, you'd be entering college this fall, and if you were going to major in music education you would probably already have an acceptance into that program and might not have this question. If you're just getting a BA in Music at a non-conservatory they may barely care at all about whether you can play the violin.

Music Education degrees are more than just playing the violin, though. What do you intend to do with a PhD, which is arguably overkill if what you're aiming for is to teach strings in a public school? (and it's a lot of debt to incur if you're going to be earning what a public schoolteacher does)

January 14, 2016 at 07:34 AM · Hello Ms Lydia,The long term goal is to become a college Proffesor I haven't applied for college quite yet because I'm afraid of jumping into college without being prepared musically for the audition requirements.(VCU is the college in question) I had a shadow day and a private lesson with the aforementioned Proffesor. I want to gain knowledge in music so I can share it and my love for it with future generations. I was not given the chance nor oppurtunity to start my musical career till a couple years ago. I spend a lot of my free time reading about theory and watching many videos. I just wanted to make sure I'm on the right path, I don't have a ton of resources that I can go to or people to advise me. A lot of college proffesors don't really have the time to sit and chat with a kid who has a bunch of hopes and dreams and no idea exactly where to go with them. I just know what and who I want to be but I have no clue what the road is gonna look like to get there. I know that there are certain repertoire requirements such as Bach partitas and Mozart concertos to be played. Though quite a bit above my level right now. Thanks for your reply!

January 14, 2016 at 07:54 AM · If you want to become a college professor, you should not be pursuing a PhD in Music Education unless what you want to teach is Music Education specifically -- basically, preparing future undergraduates for careers teaching music in public schools. If you're hoping to teach violin at the university level, you will probably want some different path.

Most universities have people whose job it is to talk to prospective undergraduates about the programs of study. Call VCU and arrange to do that. They can help you understand the preparation required and the path forward.

Spend less free time reading and watching videos, and more time practicing. :-)

January 14, 2016 at 11:54 AM ·

January 14, 2016 at 02:10 PM · Your progress seems good on paper but that's as far as it goes. You've got a very late start, I think you know this already.

Knowing nothing about your academic profile, I would venture to guess that if you want to become a college professor, you have a much better shot at that with a PhD in organic chemistry or electrical engineering than you do with any kind of music PhD. And while I'm on the soapbox, why don't you check out the new interdisciplinary programs at VT like Neuroscience (NEUR) or Computational Modeling and Data Analytics (CMDA). There are good violin teachers available at VT and in the Town of Blacksburg. I should know.

I agree totally with Lydia about talking to some folks at VCU. Please don't assume that college professors won't want to talk to you. The fact that I'm responding to you right now is proof to the contrary. But you should also look for the staff member in the department whose job it is to handle very general questions and to direct you to the right person for the specifics. That staffer will often have a title like "undergraduate coordinator." In my experience, when you hear about a student who has called with specific program questions, the normal response is to assume that the student must be unusually bright and motivated.

About solo Bach, that's really between you and your teacher. Most of the S&P movements are significantly harder than the A Minor concerto, but there could be some value in approaching the few easiest ones. A lot of teachers will prefer you to have a firm foundation, and you get that by thorough study of things like Handel sonatas and the transcribed Bach cello suites (get the edition by Valerie Arsenault), and of course your scales, arpeggios, and studies.

January 14, 2016 at 02:25 PM · Lydia's suggestion to spend more time practicing is a very good idea for achieving your professional goals. Others with the same goal have many years more practice and performance experience at your age. FWIW, you should be practicing at least 4 hours a day, and 6 if you can find the time. If you do that, be sure your stance/posture and mechanics are relaxed and fluid so you don't get injured. Get coaching and exercises to ensure good mechanics from your teacher.

January 14, 2016 at 07:30 PM · Thank you for all your replies! Ms. Lydia, I was not aware that phd in music education would not prepare me to teach violin at a university. I apologize, like I said I don't have many people to contact about this subject. I'm going to contact the Proffesor at VCU and see what advice she can give me.

I try to practice at leas 3 hours a day, by free time I meant aside from this. sometimes not always the "highest quality" practice because having a steady rigid regimen can be very monotonous at times.

In reply to Mr. Deck, I don't have the needed skills or intelligence for something like neuroscience. Nor do I have the love for it like I do for teaching and music. I think if I had to I would rather spend more time working towards something I love even if it takes a lot of hard work and a few more years, than to do something I will struggle with an not have the drive to keep me going and really enjoy.

The easier of the sonatas and partitas are what I had planned to work on with my teacher after Bach's minor concerto. The Gigue from partita no. 2 was one of the pieces I planned to audition with. (albeit far overplayed for auditions) I don't have any orchestra or ensemble experience, so I plan on joining a summer camp string program that's for a week that is hosted by VCU. I think it would give me some needed experience and seeing my peers play might encourage me to work harder.

My teacher suggested that we should soon work on some duos( I can't remember if they were Bartok or not) so that I can learn to listen to another soloist and work on that aswell.

January 14, 2016 at 09:31 PM · Given your need to catch up, you want intense, focused, concentrated practice every day -- you should easily be able to fill a minimum of 4 hours a day, because you have a ton of technique you could be working on in parallel efforts. If you do not love those 4 hours, you want to find some other profession.

There is a significant likelihood that your goal to teach violin at the university level is unachievable. Such professors tend to be highly adept, highly accomplished performers -- a level a late-starter is unlikely to achieve, especially if you're not utterly dedicated to spending as many hours with the violin as possible.

January 15, 2016 at 01:41 AM · If you want to teach, another option would be a social science degree such as psychology, sociology, human development, etc. Then you could forge a career in which your musical interests and skills are intertwined with either your teaching, your research, or your clinical work, depending on the employment sector in which you ultimately alight. A bachelor's level program in psychology should leave quite a bit of room for musical study, possibly even as a double major. And, so long as you emerge as one of the top few students in your degree program, there should be a relatively broad range of options including graduate study.

January 15, 2016 at 04:11 AM · I am guessing that the OP doesn't consider himself to be a likely future academic in another field. Trying to get tenure-track professorship in any field is a pretty brutal and risky endeavor, anyway.

I distrust lifetime loves that are only a year and a half old, especially when that love is only a half-glimpse of what the activity is actually like, and barely a glimpse at all of what doing it professionally might be like.

No reason to delay entering VCU if you're sure that's where you want to go, though. Get your general music classes and liberal-arts requirements out of the way. Transfer into the music major if need be.

January 15, 2016 at 04:52 AM · I don't think anyone has the right to comment on how credible ones love for something is regardless of the time in which they have given to it. Like I mentioned before, I was only able to take up this gift recently because I was not able to do so before. I played for about a year when I was 9 and then my family could no longer afford the luxury of music lessons and the instrument I had on loan was taken away from me. Just because I don't have years of experience does not mean my passion is unequal. I'm very aware of the hard work and time I will need to put into my instrument and I'm willing to do so with a smile. I'm not looking into teaching or music because it might be fun or because it's a whim. I'm trying to plan out my future so that a can have a career doing something that will make me happy and those around me aswell. This "lifetime love" is in fact that and longer than the year and a half I have been moving ahead. Even if it takes me until I'm 50 I'll still work hard. To me it's not really weather not I can get to where I want to go, but rather how and what it is that I can do that I may do it the right way. I was seeking advice not judgment.

January 15, 2016 at 06:38 AM · Then here's some advice about getting a college teaching job:

Start looking at advertisements in the Chronicle of Higher Education and the College Music Society. Then, after you've seen that there are practically zero jobs, take a look at the bios of violin teachers posted on college websites and ask yourself why so many Juilliard and Curtis grads seem to be teaching at tiny little colleges in the middle of nowhere. After you do that, ask some ex-college professors why they quit teaching at small colleges on the middle of nowhere (those are the ones you should be researching because trust me, you will never be teaching at a conservatory or big state university), and they will tell you all about the very special hell of trying to be a violin teacher at a small college in the middle of nowhere, and how they had three students, two of which were on the football team and the third who got her purple violin on ebay for $50 but can't find it so she hasn't had a lesson for three months but still wants an "A." Then ask the ex-college teachers about their other duties,like having to conduct the college-in-middle-of-nowhere symphony orchestra, which "features" three violins,

(two of whom were at practice for the big game and forgot the concert, sorry dude) and one who still can't find her purple violin so is now playing tympani because the wind section (someone who took one clarinet lesson when she was 7) can't be in two places at once.

And ask them how the department chair kept nagging them to recruit fine young violin students from all of the farms, ranches, and feedlots in the county with the zero dollars they were given to offer for scholarships.

Oh, teaching. You'll LOVE it!

January 15, 2016 at 08:08 AM · Hi William, I admire your passion and determination to dedicate your career to teaching this beautiful instrument/music.

It's not my understanding that anyone here is judging you at all, but rather trying to caution you sternly about the pitfalls of what you are trying to achieve out of concern for your career, from their own personal experiences as professionals.

I was in a similar position with guitar when I was heading off to university. I was extremely determined and was not easily swayed, but eventually came to grips with the reality of the situation and only after much deliberation studied engineering.

In hindsight I am so glad that I did as I realise now that it would have been futile otherwise. What's more is (take it from me, someone with a very single tracked mind) your needs, wants and desires change drastically as you get older. No matter how much you love something now. Someone actually said that to me when I was your age and I dismissed it. My passion for music has not subsided or diminished in any way however, I have realised there is more that I want out of life as I get older. Other things that were once insignificant to me has now become very important to me.

I still have a musical life and I even suspect that I get more fulfilment from the time I invest in it than many professionals. I've performed and taught guitar and have many experiences I reflect on very fondly. I also enjoy my career and my career achievements, my family and my life away from music. My career has afforded me a lifestyle and experiences that few will ever get to enjoy. This is all thanks to the decision I made not to pursue a career in music. If I was not at such a major disadvantage at that time, it may have been a completely different story altogether.

I hope you find the wisdom to make the right career decisions that will lead you to peace, joy and prosperity.

January 15, 2016 at 11:38 AM · I agree with David. By the simple fact that you're thinking towards a PhD, I would say that you have a vision, a vision that includes helping other people, that involves creative expression, and that involves a powerful desire to accomplish something personally satisfying. This is all good and important at this particular juncture in your life ~ you get to pick a first career!

Remember that many people (including myself) go through life with a series of careers, almost like different chapters in our lives. Your dream may not be ripe for the first chapter, but it certainly might be possible in the next chapter. Just because your first career isn't "exactly" what you were hoping to be doing, the second just might. Putting that dream off to the second career will give you time to be more fully prepared to enter that chapter. It may also require you to do some creative thinking about a non-traditional route to get there, as so many others have done before you.

We have excellent examples of people who are in their second careers on Don Noon came out of college as an aeronautical engineer, did that for a first career, and is now building some amazing violins and violas in the next chapter of his life. Another person who is in a second career is Andrew Victor, who retired after being a government "rocket scientist" and now teaches violin, viola, and cello.

Rather than soliciting advice on something so specific ~ like getting a PhD in music education ~ I would suggest you find career counseling, so that you can start charting out the possibilities, recognize that this first career is not your last career. There is a high probability that you will have three careers ahead of you, and music education, if not first in that sequence, could be second or third.

Keep the dream alive.

January 15, 2016 at 01:40 PM · Or, if you're diligent and plan well, there are many grants and funding sources that might help you. A few schools have a "no debt policy" for their students, so you're guaranteed grants and scholarships ~ no loans.

Debts are sometimes not financial. For example, I owe a lifetime of gratitude to the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for their generous support.

Keep the dream alive.

January 15, 2016 at 02:18 PM · Completely agree about being realistic.

I suppose my message to William is to remain optimistic that your vision is possible, but you'll have to be a little more creative about how you get there ~ rather than following the more traditional route of high school, undergraduate, masters, doctorate, then college professor. Given his circumstances, a somewhat indirect path might prove more effective. For example: get an MBA first, start a huge company, make lots of money, endow a chair at a conservatory somewhere, purchase a Strad to back-up your del Gesu, etc., THEN apply for a music education doctorate program. All along the way take music lessons, play in community orchestras, take private lessons in composition, harmony and counterpoint, volunteer with the Richmond Symphony Orchestra, join the church choir, volunteer in the public school system to work with music classes, and so on... After all those experiences you'll have a better sense of what facet of music education you're most interested in, based on praxis. Win-win.

I think it's a little early in someone's life to be throwing barriers or to be communicating hopelessness. Certainly don't want to throw caution to the wind. 0% is bit harsh.

January 15, 2016 at 02:25 PM ·

January 15, 2016 at 02:33 PM · William, good for you for aiming high. Nothing is hopeless, but you should look for a teacher and mentor to help you along. I had several teachers and mentors in my young pianist life. I ultimately ended up in another field (with a doctorate) BUT I had the tools to succeed.

The right teacher/mentor will be able to help guide you in the steps leading you the entry of a musical teaching career.

I agree with Lydia, not having heard you play, it's hard to see if your Haydn G Major is played well or just played.

Seek help with people who CAN and WILL help you but who is willing to be stern and tell you the truth so you can improve and achieve your goals.

January 15, 2016 at 02:40 PM · My message to William remains that the traditional route is probably not the best under his circumstances. The vision can remain pure; but the approach to achieving the vision may need tweaking to overcome the current realities. Some career counseling might help to identify Plan B, Plan C, and Plan D.

January 15, 2016 at 03:15 PM · Hi William: One more suggestion in your area is to join the Virginia chapter of the American String Teachers Association, network with them, and attend their annual events. You will find many sympathetic ears and people who are aware of the resources in your immediate geographic area. Old Dominion also has a great program.

January 15, 2016 at 03:55 PM · Most of the responses so far have been about alternative career paths, hedges and contingencies ("Plan B"), and realistic expectations for a career in teaching the violin at a college or university.

When you posted your question, did you really expect us to all say "follow your dreams" or "what a fine lad" or "you're making such amazing progress" or "apply for Curtis now" and such? No, I rather suspect that you already had a pretty good idea where you stand, because you can turn on YouTube and watch little children playing the Haydn G Major concerto in one hand while solving Rubik's Cube in the other.

I understand your passion for music ... I have it too. But, I bet there are a lot of people who play and/or teach music for a living, who don't actually enjoy music as much as I do. Scott Cole has made a much similar point.

You really should be having serious conversations with your violin teacher, your parents, your school teachers/counselors, and everyone in between to sort out your interests and aptitudes. Were you really interested and/or talented in absolutely nothing before the violin came (back) into your life? That seems hard to imagine.

January 15, 2016 at 04:17 PM · William, another thought that I hope will be helpful to you. My daughter studies without someone who studied with "great teachers" who were at Curtis and Juilliard. This teacher has won prizes, rave reviews and knows faculty at the school. She is too young to decide what to do with her music (she is playing Mozart and Bach etc.)

The reason I mention this is to let you know it is very important to have a teacher capable of preparing you for auditions. There are great players who are not much of teachers, but there are teachers who no longer performed actively. Then there are violinist who do both well. What you need is someone who can teach, nurture your development but someone who buys into the short timeline you have.

My daughter played all movements of Vivaldi well after close to a year of study. But she had a teacher who have sent many students onto NEC, Juilliard and Oberlin... or if they don't go onto music schools, are the best orchestras in their universities. I know Harvard and Princeton both have more than one orchestra.

Please take the time to find people who will help you. It may be sad to say goodbye to your current teacher.

It may be you don't have "enough" natural talent, but you will never know without seeking the great teachers.

January 15, 2016 at 04:19 PM · Don't be discouraged. You must work really really hard and aim high in anything you do in life to a level of excellence.

I am an immigrant to the US in my teenage years. To be able to work in English but also in my native language (Chinese). I spend hours each day to this day reading literature and newspapers in both languages and I write and ask for constructive criticism of my writing.

Work really hard, but work smart and get guidance.

January 15, 2016 at 09:22 PM · Thank you all for your time and responses, I will definitely be looking into many areas that can help me advance without jumping into something I'm not quit ready for. I won't gonna give up but I'm also not going to be bull headed and not listen to advice from maby different sources. Anything can be achieved given enough time, hard work, and determination which I still have much of. A local youth center offers violin lessons to underprivileged youth and I have already been accepted to teach there as a volunteer. I am very excited to help the young ones I will meet.

January 15, 2016 at 09:30 PM · I have the option of social security and pel grants for school so it won't be completely hopeless money wise for college, and I'm not sure where I can find a critically acclaimed teacher in my area who would be willing to teach me and I think as of now my teacher is moving me ahead well for auditions.

January 15, 2016 at 09:55 PM · Ive said this before and I'll say it again:

People who don't receive full scholarships to conservatories or very competitive schools of music should NOT go into this profession. If you have to pay full fare (regardless of grants,social security or whatever ) you are there to to fill an orchestra seat, round out a studio so some professor can get their full benefits,and pay for the kids that should actually be there.

Having to pay for music school at ANY level is the OPPOSITE of an endorsement of your talents. It means the market has spoken and those who fail to heed it are there to "feed the beast." It is difficult for college teachers to be honest about this--it is not in their interest to turn away anyone if they can just hold a violin without dropping it.

I'd bet any number of violinists that graduated from even highly-ranked conservatories saw students that had no business being there.

January 15, 2016 at 10:03 PM · First of all - Thank you Eric Won for your endorsement, but I quit teaching over 6 years ago when I found my one remaining student was off on an extended Asian vacation. But I still play violin or viola(whichever is needed) in a local orchestra and cello in piano trios or string quartets up to 5 times a month. I quit teaching because I felt at age 75 that I could not demonstrate (at least on violin) the way I wanted to and I didn't want to just sit in a chair the way Galamian did in his later years.

I was going to write another discouraging statement about the tough row to hoe to get a job teaching college music. But then I remembered a friend from Frederick High School Band and Orchestra back in the late '40s and early '50s. Bert Kester was first flutist in our band and orchestra and he had to repeat a couple of years in HS so he was 20 when he finally graduated. You would think he would have a tough go of it ahead. But he joined the U.S. Navy and got into a Navy Band. I looked him up on the internet a few years ago and found out he had just died - at age 75. He was head of the music department at William and Mary College. He had gone on from the Navy band to get at least 2 degrees and learned to play additional woodwind (reed) instruments. He was about to retire and was scheduled to get a special award at his retirement ceremony when he died and the ceremony became a memorial service. I was very moved, emotionally, to learn that he had made such success of his professional life.

So anything is possible. Fill your life with music and music knowledge - learn all you can, get close to people of music who know more than you do. Try to get involved in music at local community college - there are so many good people in music that many end up teaching there - also many musicians may take such jobs after they retire - and have so much to teach.

Good luck!


January 15, 2016 at 10:07 PM · Scott, you know, you are right about if you have to pay to go to a conservatory, you are not on the top of your art.

But I am sure you know there are plenty of teachers out there who are far from top of their art, and they teach at various school albeit not the "top" conservatories and music programs.

If William doesn't make it to the "top" or "near top", maybe William would be happy teaching not at the music conservatories or top colleges with music programs.

William, don't give up, keep trying a good friend of mine started at Oberlin (yes it is a good school but not "tops" as they say" but his teacher Stephen Clapp recommended him to Curtis (and he went) BEFORE Mr. Clapp when to Juilliard.

If you work hard, and IS talented, you will have the chance of being recognized. Maybe you won't be recognized but you won't have the chance to be recognized if you don't work really hard.

And it is great you will teach underprivileged kids, but frankly, I think you should use that time to practice. And I hope you don't find this offensive, but you should leave teaching to those who are good at the art already. You don't want to be the person responsible for pulling back children who otherwise could have learnt how to hold the bow correctly from the start and avoid years of relearning it. Right?

January 15, 2016 at 10:10 PM · Oh William, by the way, Andrew is so right, you can fill your life with music even if you don't become a pro teacher at it.

I gave up after being admitted to "top" music conservatories. But now I can play some very complicated orchestra score on the piano for my daughters. And her teachers tell her how lucky they are...

January 15, 2016 at 10:43 PM · To add to Scott's rather vivid picture of rural life: Teaching in the middle of nowhere as a poorly-paid part-time adjunct, not a tenured professor with a reasonably comfortable life. Which presumably, in his scenario, also means trying to find private students amongst the cows, and driving/flying elsewhere to take gigs. And by the way, that will impact the type of family life you'll be looking at in the future, too. If you have a spouse with a career, there's a decent chance that they won't be able to find a job that they like near Cow Patty U.

January 15, 2016 at 10:57 PM · I should perhaps have made my earlier point clearer: There is a difference between loving to do something, and loving what doing that thing for a living entails. That delta can be immense. Indeed, something that might be enjoyable in part-time work is not necessarily as rewarding when it's a full-time job. That's certainly true in music, and is true for many other fields and hobbies, as well.

I think that until you get exposed to the high levels of something, as well as the professional experience of doing it, it's hard to really know whether or not it's a career you are genuinely going to enjoy. (I've had this experience in three different areas -- violin, medicine, and computer programming.)

January 16, 2016 at 03:18 AM · As much as I have always respected Andrew's posts, there is a whale of difference between a flautist finding academic work in the postwar era and a violinist finding a tenure stream job in a modern university.

You can fill your life with music while earning a comfortable living some other way.

January 16, 2016 at 06:08 AM · Actually, Andrew's story isn't really inconsistent. People who go into military bands can be very high-level performers. Andrew also noted that his flautist friend went on to get two degrees.

Today, modern military musicians are full-time pro orchestra players, and as far as I know, the standards for the elite bands/orchestras (the Marine's President's Own, etc.) are as high as any pro orchestra. Some of those folks eventually retire from the military and become professors, just like other performers.

January 16, 2016 at 06:32 AM · I personally find it offensive for you to say that me teaching these children is a detriment. The point of the program is to bring music into these children's lives, note factory produce Mozarts. It's something to give these children inspiration, hope, and someone to look up to. Isn't the point of music itself to express feeling and be something to share without needing words? We can learn from it by listening and learn something new each time it is replayed for decades. I'm not meant to bring these children vast pedogagical knowledge, I'm going to be there to help them understand and love music and develop their social skills. I'm no disservice to these children as much as a hand held out to help someone up when they fell.

January 16, 2016 at 07:45 AM · William, your ambition to be a professor teaching violin is not just unrealistic, but also in conflict with your other stated goal of sharing music and helping children discover music. Teaching in a tenured position will bring one into contact with well established developing musicians. Those are not students who need your helping hand - they've very much been there and done that, often with highly charismatic and inspirational teachers.

Have you ever considered music therapy? It's going to draw on vastly different skills than a performer or orchestral musician and will not preclude your capacity to participate in either of those things at a community level. You might even distinguish yourself and have a shot at teaching at a tertiary level.

Not sure what the requirements are to get in to Ph.D. programmes in the states - here in Australia you need to complete an honours year and pass well (very well) or do a masters degree again passing well, and then seek admission for Ph.D. It isn't a done deal just because you want it, and because you can get through your BA or BSc.

January 16, 2016 at 11:34 AM ·

January 16, 2016 at 01:47 PM · (William ~ this is your thread and I applaud your willingness to ask for advice. I, for one, was hoping that your optimism would be enjoined by others.)

So, I am simply appalled at the level of cynicism and hopelessness that is being offered to this young man, who is on the threshold of the rest of his life. His expectations are lofty, his purposes are noble, his willingness to learn and shift gears is genuine, and he is thoughtful. What more does one expect from someone who is at the very beginning of a long journey?

This past week, I've been interviewing college students for admission to one of the more prestigious schools (name mentioned above). Been doing it for 40 years. Despite the difficult odds they faced in getting in, many have been admitted. More than half are valedictorians, and many have perfect SES scores, with A+ GPAs. All have maxed out on AP courses. Most are members of their bands or orchestras (probably concertmaster.) Most are performing public service as volunteers in emergency rooms, delivering food to the elderly, staffing volunteer fire departments, or tutoring underprivileged kids as aides ~ in addition to finding time for studying and caring for siblings in their single-parent household. In summary: they've checked all the boxes for a second look. Unfortunately, all of these experiences are still not enough to be found in the crowd.

A common thread that I find in those admitted is a “spark”, which is a vision of their future. It’s a sense of reaching forward towards something currently out of reach ~ educational opportunities and hard work will help close that gap.

To my mind, being a college professor in music education is not unreasonable, nor unachievable ~ as long as your model is not simply succeeding Mr. Galamian or Mr. Primrose or Mr. Rose. Musical education includes developing new methodologies for approaching inner city youths, perhaps with jazz or pop music as an entree to string instruments. Musical education includes figuring out how and why adults learn differently from children, perhaps due to shifts in cognitive focus. With our baby boomers coming back for music lessons, we had better have the andragogy ready. Musical education includes harmonizing the childhood development work of Piaget and other child psychologists with Suzuki and the Russian School; there is a current disconnect between traditional musical education and developmental psychology that should be examined.

But, gosh folks… We need more GOOD people in music education. Music education is a calling and a specialized discipline; it is NOT a fallback position for performers who don't win competitions.

I am optimistic. William will find his own path and mode of contribution as the future unfolds before him. Time, youthful vigor, and optimism are on his side. It may be in music education; then it might not. However, words of encouragement that there’s a whole world out there to discover and that his path may take a few twists and turns is not a bad thing.

He needs to take the first step and go to college.

January 16, 2016 at 02:16 PM · I very much doubt that anyone at the youth centre would be offended by William's post. I suspect we are talking here about a place that offers services to kids from homes where there is little money for breakfast before school, let alone for extras like musical instruments or lessoons, and where there is quite possibly no stable presence of a male relative. For such kids, the issue isn't whether they can learn a piece in c# minor; it's whether they have an opportunity even to learn what a violin is, and to have some positive interaction with a supportive male person.

As others have noted, William, it would be tough to get from where you are to a college teaching position, but you can still strive to be the best player and the best teacher you can be. I hope you never lose your desire to give generously of yourself to those whose starting point in life makes it very difficult to break out of the cycle of poverty and deprivation. If you help them, you will have done something more valuable than merely teaching tricky scales to the well-fed children of middle class tiger parents. It's easy to sneer at a sincere desire to make the world a better place; it's harder to get out there and try to do what you can, in your own small way. Don't lose your idealism, William, and leave the cynics to soak in their own bitter brew.

January 16, 2016 at 03:16 PM · My comnent about cynicism was not related to William's own chances of getting in to high-level training in violin. I explicitly stated (though more gently and tactfully than some who responded to him) that this might be unrealistic.

My comnents about cynicism have to do with what William is proposing to do in the programme for disadvantaged kids, and I do find it cynical to claim (particularly in the absence of aany information about who exactly this programme is serving) that he is unsuited to doing such work because he can't p!ay a c# minor scale--do you really imagine that kids who don't have a stable home, whose parent (probably not plural) may be an addict of some sort, a child who is subsists on a poor diet is and statistically likely to graduate from high school would be ill-served by any sort of music education, indeed any sort of care from a well-adjusted adult male? Your concern about twenty ways to hold a violin might be admirable in some contexts but I suspect these kids may be very lucky to find the selves holding an instrument at all, or even hearing it played.

Unless William is a bare-faced liar (which I sense he is not) then I would think the extent of his knowledge is known to the folk who run the programme. If they are happy to have him, I suspect it's because there is no long line of highly-qualified violin teachers who want to work with kids who probably have behavioural problems and not get paid for it.

So I do think it is cynical to suggest that no good could come from someone like William doing something like this. It's not about the niceties of violin pedagogy--it's likely to be about having someone who is willing to engage and care for these kids, in any way at all.

January 16, 2016 at 04:46 PM · You'll note that there should be no ambiguity above regarding what William wants to do. He started out by saying that he wanted a PhD in music ed, but later on when I ask him about this, he says that what he wants to do is to be a professor teaching violin at the university level -- he wasn't aware that this was not what a music ed PhD did. No one is denigrating the profs who teach music ed -- but as Eric notes, their principal job is not teaching college students to play the violin.

I agree with Jenny on the volunteering. Being a buddy and a mentor, even being a teaching assistant to someone experienced, and working with underprivileged kids -- great way to get started. Being the sole violin teacher as barely a beginner oneself sets everyone up for failure -- teacher and student alike.

I don't think it's cynicism that's being demonstrated in this thread. It's realism. Eric's earlier suggestion -- start in one career, pursue dream as secondary to that -- is realistic, at least for someone who is highly motivated and able to find/create the resources to do so (and many of the kinds of kids he's talking about are the hyperdetermined super-focused ones who can probably succeed in whatever it is that he wants).

My general observation after having read a lot of these "young person wants advice" threads on over the years is that the characteristics of the person asking draws very different responses. There are many teenagers or young adults who are clearly underprepared for their chosen careers, but their stated preparation attempts and trajectories all come across differently. Some of them are solidly grounded in reality and are executing on what they have to do in order to get to where they want to be, and they generally get a pretty warm reception and encouragement. Others are still in the phase where you want to say, "Hope is not a strategy."

Also frankly, family background plays a huge role in some of these kinds of pie-in-the-sky scenarios. If your parents can support you indefinitely, it becomes much more realistic to chase a long-term dream that doesn't result in a future high income. William's hints about his background suggest that he is not the product of abundantly-resourced parents.

January 16, 2016 at 05:24 PM ·

January 16, 2016 at 05:34 PM · At this point in my life I would rather aim high, because even if I fall just a little bit short I will still have accomplished very much. Whether or not I receive a PHD, receiving my masters is still a great feet and I have my entire life to improve myself and work up. In response to all the negative comments regarding me volunteering at this youth center, if I was ill equipped to teach these students the 3 hour interview I had with the woman who runs the program would surely have ended with her telling me that I was not ready. And surely if a child turned out to be a prodigy he would be passed along as soon as I recognized it to someone much more qualified. my teacher is quite happy that I am taking this oppurtunity and she has expressed that it is a good idea. My teacher is very aware of all of my musical goals.

January 16, 2016 at 05:49 PM · It seems like your mind is already made up. You asked for help on this forum because...?

January 16, 2016 at 05:49 PM · duplicate post

January 16, 2016 at 05:51 PM · William,

I don't think anyone here mean to offend you but are trying to give you sound, well reasoned advice about not teaching the underprivileged kids.

As an financially poor immigrant when I arrived here, my local small time teacher advocated for me to receive full scholarship with the head of a local university and a prestige local school. But this local small time teacher herself has a performance degree from NEC so she was able to recognize my "talent". You don't have that ability. I am sorry but you really don't.

My daughter who is working on Mozart 5 has studied for three years and she is also not ready to see the talents of other kids. And I think she is a bit more advance than you are?

We try to teach her to be humble and listen to those with the life, music, and work experience.

What she does is to donate sets of good strings, rosins, used bows and used (pretty good Jay Heide) violins to public schools and music out-reach programs.

She is well aware each time she has a lesson, the cost is almost high enough for a descent violin outfit. She also knows there are kids who will never be able to have even her old Jay Heide violins which costs a mere thousand plus dollars.

She even knows enough not to talk to her fellow violinists about their technique, she is not able to do that, she is not able to teach them phrasing, she is just still learning.

And as to the lady who interviewed you, I venture to guess she is very happy for your generosity of time, I venture to guess if I have my other daughter who is just six but can play songs on the pianos by ear without any lesson teach there too.

January 16, 2016 at 05:52 PM · Please spend your time looking for a mentor and teacher, I don't mean to discourage you or offend you. You have very very limited time if you want to pursue music as a profession. You need to devote that time into learning.

January 16, 2016 at 05:56 PM · Thank you. I just don't know where to go to find a "world class" tutor"

January 16, 2016 at 06:34 PM · Hi, as someone who read along, is it a kind of generel consensus that someone who can play about grade 8 ABRSM pieces nicely is a beginner? Or do you guys mean, that William is lacking pedagogical knowledge or even just plane old experience?

January 16, 2016 at 06:52 PM · Ah, thanks for the clarification. I was curious because at the music school that I attend, noone really ever gets to that level. And if someone tries to play one of the 'intermediate pieces' at a concert, they never sound good even to my ears.

January 16, 2016 at 07:25 PM · Jenny I commissurate with your frustration. We are trying to advise an individual whom we've never met, whose parents and teacher we've not met, and whose playing we've not heard, and whose stance is defensive to the point of recalcitrance.

Young William has firmly decided to study the violin in college. If that is so (and its his life) then he should research the programs and their requirements, prepare the best audition he can, and start applying. Perhaps to JMU or Radford?

January 16, 2016 at 08:18 PM · William: (This is purely advice ~ no judgement)

No matter what path you choose, just remember that the average life expectancy for your cohort is over 82 years. If you take care of yourself and your parents shared with you favorable genes, you will have enough time for three or more careers. Some paths will be bummers and others will be fulfilling. Reserve the right to change your mind or to reorder your priorities.

Being a music educator sounds like a fine idea to me. If it doesn't work, try something else.

January 16, 2016 at 08:59 PM · Levels vary by country, but for musicians in the USA, the job market is national. For William, living in Richmond, which is the capital of the state of Virginia and a moderately-large city, there are both enough professionals and enough kids playing the violin seriously to have both a real music community and reasonably competitive students. William's picked a school already, as well (VCU).

January 16, 2016 at 09:25 PM · I will continue on my current path. I think I have enough wits to know once I begin teaching these students and I will not let any pride cloud my judgment of I decide that I am in over my head. Yes, people choose many paths in life and this is my choice until I lose any hope, which doesn't seem to be any time in the near future. I believe it was a mistake asking on an Internet forum about what my future holds because I do not know anyone here personally. Those I have spoken to personally have expressed their faith in me. They have not tried to hinder my path by telling me there is no chance but more like Mr. Won and Yeung, have made me aware of the challenges so that I may be prepared and not in utter shock when something proves to be an obstacle. I'm going to work hard with my teacher and the proffesors I am in contact with to further my knowledge so that I may pursue whatever career in music that is in store for me. To those of you who have expressed faith in me I thank you, and for those who expressed negativity and so-called realism I thank you even more for the motivation to work harder as a musician and a person to prove to myself that anything is possible. Ones heart shines truer than their words, and ones actions brighter than their voice.

January 16, 2016 at 10:26 PM · Have you ever met Mrs. Kapeller? The woman who runs the violin shop in Richmond? She's an interesting person to talk to.

January 16, 2016 at 11:04 PM · I have, she's the one who helped me choose my violin.

January 17, 2016 at 01:08 AM · Just curious: do you know for a fact that you can handle stage nerves?

People who are successful either

A. Have a weirdly uninhibited "show off" mentality, general 1//1,000,000 of the population

B. Have taken the years and years of practice experience to find a way to deal with it and have the motor practice from all those years to pull it off even when very nervous

Many otherwise talented musicians are unsuccessful because they:

A. Can not defeat their nerves when an important performance is required,regardless of the years of training

B. Refuse to think about/acknowledge nerves until it is too late

Generally,those that begin in their teens or later can not get over feelings of inferiority because they can never out practice the fact of the late start. It's always there,the elephant in the room. Therefore, they don't get nervous--they get terrified.

I say this not to condemn the efforts of the OP, but rather to point out to all late hopefuls that this must be dealt with first. One can't afford to "discover" after years in colleges that one can't stomach the stage. If the OP is a natural performer, fine. But remember that success is a long trail of high-pressure tests, including college teaching. One may very well have to perform an audition in front of an auditorium of other musicians.

When we see performers playing fearlessly under pressure, we sometimes forget that we are seeing the results of a Darwinian selection: all of the nervous ones simply got filtered out.

It would be like deciding to be a sailor before figuring out if you got seasick. Not a fun voyage otherwise.

January 17, 2016 at 01:29 AM · Is this the right thread for the question about stage nerves?

This is a music education question. That's possibly worthy of another thread...

January 17, 2016 at 01:56 AM · I have quite a few years of public speech so I don't get too nervous, at least it's not enough to be shown outwardly.

January 17, 2016 at 07:08 AM · Keep in mind that outward calm but inward nervousness can still be a serious issue for a performer. I do a lot of public speaking for a living, but little adrenaline things that aren't an issue when speaking will be an issue when playing. Your heart rate, breathing, muscle tension, sweating, focus and concentration all get impacted by nerves. Even the category that Scott calls "weirdly uninhibited" generally experiences some physiological arousal when performing -- it's just that they've gotten to an optimal zone where that helps them more than it hurts them (adrenaline tends to make for more exciting performances).

January 17, 2016 at 10:36 AM ·

January 17, 2016 at 11:14 AM · William: One principle to share is that one's "imaginings" are based one's own experiences. If one's references points have all been negative or hurtful, then one will always expect the worse will happen, and plan for that. If your experiences have been largely wonderful and generous, then your reference point will lead you to always expect the best outcomes. So, why cloud your future with misgivings. If confidence and optimism work for you, then keep the faith.

As for nerves: I'm with Lydia on this. I've spoken before Lydia's company in past years, where there was a sea of thousands of eyeballs looking at me, hanging on every word. It would have been a shaky knee situation thirty years ago, had it not been for some tricks from the experts, and some practice, confidence, and preparation.

Also noted by Lydia, physical changes occur when you're performing that are unique to each of us. My thing is I stop breathing and unknowingly yawn. Going so deeply into the music, I can sometimes forget about what's going on with my body ~ even breathing! When I was an early teenager and during my first orchestral solo appearance, the concertmaster came up to me and whispered: "You're yawning". I wasn't aware, so she showed me some breathing exercises that i use to this day whether playing, speaking before crowds of people, or entering a shopping mall.

Unless you're an extreme and perhaps pathological introvert, this one's easy to conquer. There are enough tricks of the trade for leveraging anxiousness into edgy performance... If not, watch "Mozart in the Jungle", you'll find some other solutions ~ which, though not uncommon, are not recommended. Ask your parents first, of course... :)

January 17, 2016 at 05:36 PM · I'm performing s piece I wrote for my friends funeral in a couple weeks, this will prabably be one of the most anxious experiences of mylife but all I can do is my best and I'm confident I can play my best for her. she asked me to perform a year ago when I met her and found out she had leukemia.

January 17, 2016 at 08:58 PM · You might wish to contact Susanna Klein at VCU and arrange for an interview to discuss your future. Her email is available on the VCU music department website. I play in an ensemble with her mother, and can say that she is approachable, and will give you an honest evaluation of your goals.

January 17, 2016 at 09:23 PM · Susanna known is the Proffesor I had a lesson with at VCU.

This discussion has been archived and is no longer accepting responses.

Facebook Twitter YouTube Instagram Email is made possible by...

Shar Music
Shar Music

Yamaha Silent Violin
Yamaha Silent Violin

Pirastro Strings
Pirastro Strings

Find a Summer Music Program
Find a Summer Music Program

Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases
Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases Business Directory Business Directory Guide to Online Learning Guide to Online Learning

Dominant Pro Strings

Antonio Strad Violin

Bay Fine Strings Violin Shop

Bobelock Cases


Los Angeles Violin Shop

Nazareth Gevorkian Violins

Metzler Violin Shop

Leatherwood Bespoke Rosin



Johnson String Instrument and Carriage House Violins

Potter Violins

String Masters

Bein & Company

Annapolis Bows & Violins

Laurie's Books

Discover the best of in these collections of editor Laurie Niles' exclusive interviews. Interviews Volume 1 Interviews Volume 1, with introduction by Hilary Hahn Interviews Volume 2 Interviews Volume 2, with introduction by Rachel Barton Pine