50yo returned to violin 4 yrs now after 23 year hiatus - advice...

July 15, 2016 at 03:02 PM · Hi. I am a 50yo returned to violin 4 yrs now after a 23 year hiatus seeking advice regarding my next steps forward.

Can anyone suggest a particular music program or specific high quality violin teacher/instructor in NYC area that is geared toward an adult violinist who plays like a freshman music student of 19 with commensurate experience but is now 50. I have an aged bachelors degree in another field paid for long ago with a music scholarship.

Thank you.

Replies (80)

July 15, 2016 at 03:55 PM · It depends on the kind of repertoire you want to play.

July 15, 2016 at 04:26 PM · Something to keep in mind is that if what you posted in your bio and other threads is correct -- you were at Bruch concerto level before -- you're not equivalent to a typical 19-year-old conservatory student today. The level of playing has changed dramatically in the past 25 years.

You're still at a level where you need a good teacher for advanced students, though. For starters, Raphael Klayman, one of the posters here on v.com, teaches adults in the NYC area.

Good luck with your hunt!

July 15, 2016 at 04:34 PM · A clarifying quetion: In the other thread that you posted in, the context was specifically about becoming a professional-level player. Are you trying to career-switch, or just trying to become a better amateur?

July 15, 2016 at 08:42 PM · Lydia, I think you may be confusing the OP of this thread with the OP of the other thread...they are two different people.

July 15, 2016 at 08:53 PM · The OP of this thread posted near the bottom of that other thread and said their situation was similar to the OP of that thread. Thus my question. :-)

July 15, 2016 at 09:40 PM · This particular OP never mentioned wanting to play at a professional level; I inferred that her "similar situation" was a middle-aged former violinist wanting to return to playing. Which is really neither here nor there, but I do want to point out that even 25 years ago, 19-year-old conservatory students were playing much harder music than the Bruch concerto. I can say this with confidence because 35 years ago I was a 20-year-old conservatory student and Bruch wouldn't have cut it even then. :-)

July 16, 2016 at 05:42 AM · Hi Kevin, Lydia and Mary Ellen.

You can see my playing as it now stands at facebook - public posts that I don't advertise (until this moment) that I do just to give myself something to work toward among my small group of friends who cheer me on because they love me and only a few of whom know classical music.

I have not had a lesson in over 30 years. I did play professionally in part time regional orchestras when I was young -mostly one off sessions - only had one contract and I was about 18 then and the orchestra folded.

The posted videos are far from flawless and believe me I hear every one of the errors - in pitch, in rhythm, in tone, etc, and probably most in interpretation as well (difficult to interpret anything well that is not technically together). This is probably my biggest problem, in general, as a violinist - flaws in performance even after practice.

Three Kreisler movements are posted, Recitativo, Scherzo, and Praeludium are posted (currently working on the Allegro) I mostly post to show very old friends that I am honoring the commitment I made to pick back up the violin - that I am playing again.

Dates of videos on facebook. June 9, July 5 and July 12 2016.


I would like to play at a professional level but I completely understand that top tier jobs are way beyond reach - out of the question - they really always were. I did not even begin playing violin until age 10 in public school group class - but had played guitar before that. I started private lessons at age 11.

I would like to get to the point of possibly a regional orchestra seat in the South and or a gigging quartet.

Hi Lydia - I did post at the bottom of another thread at first, but I don't think my situation is exactly like that of the other poster. There are some similarities. I was simply searching out info and found that previous post, then decided I would be better off with my own post.

I am also trying to decide if there is any point in doing an undergraduate degree (second bachelors) in music at this time of my life.

Thank you for all replies and any advice given.

July 16, 2016 at 05:57 AM · Career switching - Lydia, I currently work part time as an interior designer working with a construction firm. It is a convenient mom job that I do well but work is sporadic and part time. My husband makes a good income and I am a stay at home mom. Also, I handle our real estate investment transactions and of course renovations and staging of properties.

I intend to begin Suzuki Teacher training. This is fine but my question more relates to performance and improved playing and not to teacher training which is a separate field, IMO.

I am seeking input both positive and negative regarding best next steps forward as a 50yo amateur violinist seeking a career.

July 16, 2016 at 01:57 PM · Some very quick observations--I have little time right now, will try to come back later with more helpful remarks.

Frankly your playing is much better than I expected. You might be able to do wedding gigs right now as a 2nd violinist in a quartet if you could get in with the right people and if you are a good sightreader--I would not hire you (moot point as I'm in Texas and I limit my hiring to professional colleagues) but I know of other people playing gigs who are at a similar level to you.

It would be helpful if you could record your videos with the camera at a different angle. The scroll angle makes it very hard to really see what is going on with your technique. I suggest placing the camera where a teacher would sit--off to the side, facing your f-holes, so you are recorded in profile.

Suzuki training is great but if you want to teach beginners you are going to have to do something about your bow hold and bow arm. It would be a disservice to start young students off with the disadvantages that you are working against right now. Many good teachers would take you--you're not an adult beginner and you appear to be serious--I would, if you lived near me. But you can't dig your heels in with regard to your right arm and hand.

More later, I am supposed to be packing.

Edited to add that I think a fulltime seat in a regional orchestra is a gigantic stretch and unlikely to be in your future but that is more a determination to be made by a competent teacher after working with you over a period of at least several months.

One more quick edit, please don't describe yourself to potential teachers as playing at a 19-year-old conservatory level. As pleasantly surprised as I am by your playing, that isn't true. You're playing at the level of my better-than-average high school students who don't have professional aspirations. I think you can fairly describe yourself by the literature you're working on as evidenced by the videos; it is appropriate literature for you and I congratulate you on having good sense.

July 16, 2016 at 02:37 PM · April, I picked up the violin after a 20-year hiatus myself. PM me if you are interested in how I got back into shape though I don't play professionally.

July 16, 2016 at 05:24 PM · Hi Mary Ellen, I actually never said conservatory - this is something someone else said - when I quit practicing/taking lessons I was nineteen and had completed a sophomore recital at a state college. I said freshman music student I believe.

Mary Ellen, thank you for the input - I appreciate it.

Kevin Cheung - I absolutely will. Thank you.

July 16, 2016 at 06:39 PM · Kevin Cheung - cannot find way to PM on here...says contact info invalid and also won't allow me to update my own contact info - website error.

You are welcome to messenger me over facebook if you are on there. Thank you Kevin, April Stevens.

July 16, 2016 at 07:33 PM · I misread the title of this thread and at first thought it was "Yo-Yo" returning to the violin - as I surely must do to my optician in the near future. Now who could "Yo-Yo" possibly be ;)

July 16, 2016 at 08:00 PM · Amanda, sure, if you want to. My contact information on v.com should be accurate. I'm also the only person by my name on FB.

July 16, 2016 at 08:26 PM · @Trevor "Now who could "Yo-Yo" possibly be "

Yo-Yo Ma?

July 16, 2016 at 11:34 PM · April, I was in a similar situation to you, you can read about it on my blog on this site's archives. I am in NYC and can suggest teachers for you that take advanced adults. If you are unable to contact me via this site, I am on Facebook. Congratulations for coming back to the violin. The best thing you can do for yourself is to get a good teacher; do not be held back by bow hold worries!

July 17, 2016 at 01:02 AM · April, my background is somewhat similar to yours, though I quit earlier than you did and I was more advanced then. Now I'm in my early 40s.

I fully agree with what Mary Ellen has said across her comments. I too was pleasantly surprised.

I'll be more blunt, though: Fixing your right hand isn't an option if you want to play better. In your video of the Scherzo, the tension is clearly visible. Your right hand is locked inflexibly on the bow, and that tension radiates up your entire right arm. That, in turn, is making the execution of things like off-the-string strokes clumsy. You can play with a Russian-style bow hand and the higher plane of the arm that goes with it, but your hand still has to be flexible and relaxed, as does the entirety of the right arm.

Feel free to PM me on Facebook too if you want.

July 17, 2016 at 02:03 PM · Amanda, I haven't got your email...did you send it through v.com?

July 17, 2016 at 05:07 PM · If that was my UTSA.edu address, I haven't been able to access that for about six weeks. Can you Facebook message me?

July 17, 2016 at 05:35 PM · Thank you to all for input.

Alice, I will look at your blog and get in touch via FB for your suggestions.

Lydia, Mary Ellen thank you both for suggestions in both this and the other thread and for saying pleasantly surprised.

Mary Ellen, Re Suzuki: I agree that my bowhold as it now stands would be a disservice to a Suzuki Student which is a part of why my daughter has had two teachers who are not me (also because each has had a wealth of teaching experience to draw on and are better violinists than I). When my daughter practices I have reinforced what each of these teachers are teaching and not my own bowhold.

I can play twinkle with my pinky on the stick and a balanced bowhold:)

Regarding my own bowhold I switch around quite a bit depending on the passage. I know I have serious problems but also some of the things I do work for me so I would prefer to find a teacher to adjust and help me fix some problems rather than completely deconstruct and rebuild from scratch.

Mary Ellen, regarding camera angle, I understand. The videos were taken for non-violinist friends audience on FB and not to show teachers or violinists so I selected the camera angle deliberately because I look better at that angle:). I also threw out videos where I played better but I didn't like the shirt I was wearing.:)

You have all given me a lot of much appreciated info. Thank you.

July 17, 2016 at 10:50 PM · April wrote, "I would prefer to find a teacher to adjust and help me fix some problems rather than completely deconstruct and rebuild from scratch."

You're a much more advanced violinist than I, but very respectfully, I would recommend going into things with a new teacher with a more open mind. I'm getting deja vu here, because one of the parallel threads that is active right now deals with "why some teachers won't take adult students" and the statement I quoted sounds eerily similar to some of the reasons discussed on the other thread. I'm sorry if that seems harsh.

I was, realistically, at approximately Seitz D Major level when I took my hiatus. I had serious problems that needed fixing, and it was largely because I had rather inferior instruction as a child, didn't really get a sound grounding in fundamentals, and I had taken a lot of time off -- about the same amount of time as you did.

My new teacher had to tell me (and this is just one example) to completely stop doing vibrato so that he could rebuild it from scratch. I went back to Vivaldi A Minor to fix my shifting and intonation. My bow hold was okay but my left hand position was all wrong, and I was clueless about tone generation. I also thought that my playing would just need some "adjustments" but my teacher told me, with great concern and respect in his voice, that this was not true. (I trusted him already because my daughter was several months into her lessons as a beginner and I saw how much insight and intelligence he put into his teaching.) I'm very glad I accepted his advice because, even though it was somewhat annoying to take so many steps backward, and quite humbling to learn that I wasn't anywhere near as good as I thought, I feel that I am on a good pathway now and limited only by my available time and my own internal motivation and discipline whilst practicing.

July 18, 2016 at 01:21 AM · Pro golfers and baseball players sometimes also completely rebuild their swing.

July 18, 2016 at 01:42 AM · "If you find a good teacher who proactively wants to rebuild your technique, that may be a good sign. It means they take you seriously and see long-term potential. They are treating you like a serious younger student who comes to them with the same issue."

This is excellent advice. If a teacher said that to me (and I am one of those adult learner types being stereotyped and skewered in that other thread), I'd be grateful, and thrilled, and I'd do whatever that teacher said.

July 18, 2016 at 02:00 AM · I would draw a strong distinction between a teacher who simply plays differently than you and wants to totally rebuild what you're doing to conform to what he does even if what you're doing is just fine -- for example, teachers who are adamant that you not use a shoulder-rest even if that's comfortable for you -- and a teacher who wants to rebuild your technique because there are significant problems with what you're doing and the most efficient way to deal with it is to rebuild.

I don't think it makes sense for a teacher to say to April, "You need to switch from a Russian grip to a Franco-Belgian grip." (Or a Galamian grip, or whatever.) That's something of a matter of taste. But they may certainly insist on significant changes which might or might not involve a technical rebuild.

I've rarely switched teachers without major modifications to my technique. I changed teachers in my mid-teens and he did a couple of things -- switched my bow grip to Russian-style rather than Galamian-style (I'd always preferred a Russian grip anyway but my previous teacher had been insistent on Galamian), and basically rebuilt my left-hand technique for a huge boost in agility, precision, and speed. Even though I could have continued as I had been, I benefitted strongly from the rework.

My current teacher has done a couple of significant things for me. He's retrained my bow arm for the proper higher plane of the arm for the Russian-style grip (previously I'd changed grips without all the right-arm modifications that should have gone with it, something that my previous teacher had said he would do but got backburnered to focus on the left hand). He re-taught vibrato from scratch (several teachers had tried and failed to fix a fast, narrow vibrato and I'd been substituting an arm vibrato where I needed a slower speed), on the theory that teaching a slower, better-controlled speed was better done by teaching vibrato the way he would teach it to a kid for the first time. And he's added a new set of shifting tricks and reshaped my hand placement to be able to more easily do extensions and to pivot the hand rapidly between positions rather than shifting (a very useful trick for virtuosic repertoire).

It's important to pick a teacher that you trust enough that you can do as they say and expect that you'll play better when you do what they say, even if that means stripping back to fundamentals and a rebuild.

July 18, 2016 at 02:03 AM · Krisztian is utterly wrong, and here as in most threads that he's posting in, seems to have no idea what he's talking about. The bow does not bend to accommodate the player. The curve (camber) of a bow can change with wear; bows need to be re-cambered occasionally to restore them to their original playing condition.

July 18, 2016 at 12:49 PM · I saw that; I'm hoping to look at it this afternoon when I have more time. Thanks.

July 18, 2016 at 04:10 PM · Paul, Frieda, Karen, Lydia, I completely get what you guys are saying about not digging in heels regarding bowhand and bowarm changes.

I am open to new ideas but they have to make sense to me. As an adult learner I need to know why I am doing something and not just follow orders on faith like a teenager.

I have had one of my daughter's (former) teacher tell me that I should not do a complete change in bowhold even though she found my bow hold shocking, "I have never seen anything like it" but also suggested to me not to let anyone make drastic changes in bow hold.

Lydia, you are right that finding the right teacher will definitely be about a level of trust. What I don't want in a teacher is a clock puncher. Also I don't want someone who is rigid (like you refer to an example regarding shoulder rests) and I'm in complete agreement about that - there is more than one way to skin a cat.

Here is the thing. I read Alice's blog post about how being self taught worked against her and I have had sort of the opposite experience. I did fine/great with teachers when younger but it was only when I learned to teach myself (at 47) that I got past the plateau that caused me to quit in the first place. I kept looking to teachers for answers - ways to fix technique problems but instead have found I have to figure out some things for myself and mostly just practice more.

I would like someone who can prevent me from developing new bad habits on violin, most of all.

I personally think that I need a lot more left hand than right hand technique. I especially am missing a finger vibrato for very high positions.

Also I need repertoire guidance and knowledge of unwritten traditions in repertoire music is very important to me.

I also really need a teacher who can help direct me through massive amounts of practice. Also I need help setting a long term goal/path plan on the violin.

I find I achieve a lot more with challenging material than by trying to accomplish complete mastery of easier material. I think this was another problem that led me to quit when younger. I quit my main teacher when she put me on a Spohr concerto and would not let me off it (to let me know who was in charge - but instead I gave up) and I just couldn't bring myself to practice it so spent a lot of time on Bach.

I am still very open to suggestions regarding a teacher in NYC area.

Lydia - I really appreciate the advice you have given. Most helpful.

July 18, 2016 at 04:38 PM · Didn't Maxim Vengerov have to rebuild his bowing technique following an accident to his bowing arm?

July 18, 2016 at 05:18 PM · April, your right hand is actually a lot more limiting that your left hand. You can play accurately and in tune. But your right hand is impacting the tone that you draw, and your entire expressive potential. Playing the violin is like painting with your right hand. Right now you're limited in the way that a child's expressive potential is limited by holding a crayon with his fist.

Making small modifications to your bow hold can actually be as difficult or more difficult than wholesale changes. For starters, you might try to move your index closer to your 2nd finger. (The extended index is more Galamian-style.) A Russian hold normally places the 1st and 2nd in fairly close proximity, with the thumb across from the 2nd and the balance of the hand centered there. The arm is relaxed but not low (my teacher describes it as the feeling of the arm resting flat on a table).

July 18, 2016 at 06:38 PM · Trevor, Frieda, Paul, Karen,

Thanks for encouragement re-bow hold - I do believe anything is possible with enough practice and determination.


Thank you for further convincing me to find a teacher.

The thing is - what I was taught was not a Russian Bowhold in that the index finger was still touching bow between 1st and 2nd joint, and still is.

But I also was not originally taught to put index finger as far forward as I currently do (you are right that is very Galamian) so very likely I have a mishmash of bow holds.

The closest I have seen looking around at YouTube etc that matches my former teacher's stance and hand positions etc is Ida Haendel, David Garret's teacher.

Here is a link for Ida Haendel.




When I watch David Garrett I also copy many of the things he does that work for him - on the Allegro in Praeludium and Allegro for example I shift my bowhold back to pinky on the stick right before taking notes off the string.

Now you kind of know where I am coming from.

I need to seek out a 90yo teacher, I think:):)

July 18, 2016 at 06:55 PM · Ida Haendel has a Russian hold (taught to her by Carl Flesch, I believe). There are still plenty of current-generation players who use a Russian hold together with its attendant right-arm set-up, even if it's now less common than a Galamian-style hold.

I don't think you should be doing a lot of conscious bow-hold adjustment for certain bow-strokes. Rather, there should be a more natural flow of your fingers, rather than moving from one rigid position to another.

July 18, 2016 at 06:55 PM · Mary Ellen, Amanda, all,

I have contacted website administrator to straighten out problems that I and others seem to be having with updating contact info and contacting others, have received a response, and hopefully this will be worked out in near future.

April Stevens

July 18, 2016 at 07:08 PM · Ok Lydia,

That is where I need to head, I believe, back to my roots.

My teacher worshipped at the alter of Heifetz, so maybe not a surprise.

I think Russian bowhold is less common in the USA than Europe.

I wonder if it is possible to do something in between Franco-Belgian and Russian. (Crimean?:)

Thank you for help on this.

April Stevens

July 19, 2016 at 01:51 AM · @Lydia, Could you kindly elaborate on this?

"reshaped my hand placement to be able to more easily do extensions and to pivot the hand rapidly between positions rather than shifting (a very useful trick for virtuosic repertoire)."

Always enjoy your comments.

July 19, 2016 at 02:38 AM · My teacher has been encouraging me to center the balance of my left hand more towards the second finger, so that the thumb is across from the second finger rather than the index. Because the hand feels more forward, it's easier to reach up to a 4th finger extension or down to a 1st finger extension. It's also useful for playing tenths, where the hand is essentially balanced on a sixth formed by 2/3 and thus the tenth is formed by the 2/4 and 1/3 fingered octaves that are anchored by that sixth.

A pivot shift or "throw" involves keeping the arm in the same position while throwing the hand up or down into a higher or lower position. Normally when you shift the arm moves as a unit. Here you're not doing a full shift and thus it is much, much faster.

July 19, 2016 at 11:49 AM · Can anyone make any sense out of Krisztian's posts? He is either utterly brilliant or a total moron.

July 19, 2016 at 12:48 PM · kd, I don't think name-calling is in order. Krisztian's sense of humor is somewhat unusual. I don't understand his posts either, but I'm willing to concede that as much as 10% of that is my fault.

On the other hand, this isn't CNN.

July 19, 2016 at 11:40 PM · Paul of course you are correct, and I should apologize, but I haven't seen a single constructive comment from Krisztian and his humour is for his own amusement only. It's basically trolling. There are plenty of websites where he can do that with others who will appreciate it more. Pretty much everyone else on this website is serious about the violin and improving and helping others to improve.

Edit: not suggesting that we have to be serious all the time, there is a place for humor, and approaching things light-heartedly is fine. But there is a difference between that and Krisztians comments.

July 20, 2016 at 12:52 AM · (Wikipedia)

"In Internet slang, a troll (/'tro?l/, /'tr?l/) is a person who sows discord on the Internet by starting arguments or upsetting people, by posting inflammatory,[1] extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community (such as a newsgroup, forum, chat room, or blog) with the deliberate intent of provoking readers into an emotional response[2] or of otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussion,[3] often for their own amusement"

The part that directly relates to you is the following:

"Posting // extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community // with the deliberate intent // of disrupting normal on-topic discussion, often for their own amusement"

July 20, 2016 at 01:22 PM · Okay guys. Cool it now.

July 20, 2016 at 05:03 PM · Mary Ellen, will you be commenting more in depth about April's bow hold and bow arm? I am curious to read your input.

April, I liked your videos.

July 20, 2016 at 07:20 PM · I can't comment more until I get a better view. But I agree with Lydia's comments.

July 21, 2016 at 08:48 PM · Dexter, thanks for being nice!

I don't think I'm going to post at another angle because I was serious that I don't think my videos look attractive taken from the teacher angle, I do have the Kreisler Allegro done badly on a couple of videos at a different angle, but prefer not to post anything I consider completely inadequate and unattractive to boot!

Because of life getting in the way I doubt I'll be posting anything for a couple of weeks - too busy. Late August I'll be able to get serious again. Right now I'm trying to solve incorrectly memorized notes in Tambourin Chinois. Frustrating!

If anyone knows of a music performance program that is more diploma or certificate oriented and would not require duplication of academics, I would be interested. The only one I have found is Mannes and it is way too expensive and probably too competitive also.

July 21, 2016 at 08:48 PM · sorry deleted dupe.

July 21, 2016 at 09:51 PM · To avoid duplicating undergrad academic stuff, maybe one route is to find a masters program? Depending on where you go, admission would depend largely on your willingness to "pay the full freight."

July 21, 2016 at 11:05 PM · I just have to wonder: Do any men worry about looking unattractive in their videos posted for the enjoyment of friends and family and/or pedagogical use?

I believe that certificate programs are usually intended for performers, and therefore have a higher bar set for playing level than the master's programs do. However, it may be that the bar here at third-tier schools is no higher than an amateur can manage.

Out of curiosity, I just YouTube'd a random recital from someone getting a performance certificate and was sort of appalled to see someone playing intermediate-level repertoire, badly -- the most difficult work on the program was the Dvorak Sonatina. I'm going to be polite and not post the link.

A reasonable path might therefore be to look at every third-tier school in easy driving distance and see which ones offer artist diplomas or performer's certificates.

July 21, 2016 at 11:41 PM · Lydia, come recital time, I put a lot more thought into what I'm going to wear than what I'm going to play.

July 22, 2016 at 08:40 PM · Hi Paul - totally agree that paying the full price opens up options - but paying full at state school vs private are two entirely different animals, but then state schools have more strict rules regarding academic requirements and my degree is very dated - a catch 22 for me.

This is why I asked for any suggestions. Not sure if what I am looking for even exists in my price range.

I would be willing to travel a good distance for the right fit in program.

Mannes undergrad certificate is $169K according to their site.

Lydia - very good advice and I will research further and not give up. I am looking into a couple of well respected state school programs.

Lydia, Dexter - so us women are not alone in this appearance oriented approach...performers are by and large a vain lot anyway including me, though perhaps the vanity is not necessarily tied to physical beauty.

July 22, 2016 at 10:24 PM · Wow. If you're considering programs in the Mannes price range, go buy an awesome violin and bow instead, get a great teacher, take lessons twice a week, and practice four hours a day.

More broadly, I'm trying to understand what the formal program brings you that you wouldn't get with private, independent study. Is it the piece of paper at the end? That by itself won't open doors. It's the teacher that you need, and the kind of teacher that you are likely to qualify to study with may not be someone whose name opens doors either.

Also importantly, where does that formal program put you, playing-wise, at the end of the one-year or two-year certificate? I don't think that one year, or even two, regardless of private study or a degree program, is going to put you at a level where you'd be competitive for a professional orchestra, even outside of the top-tier. (I assume when you say "regional orchestra" you mean full-time, not a freeway philharmonic or semi-pro orchestra that blends amateur and pro players.)

I leave it to Mary Ellen and other posters with audition experience to comment on whether or not you'd have decent odds of winning an audition after getting a performance certificate from a state school, given your current playing level and how much it might improve in one or two years. I think you're more than a year away from being able to play a credible Tchaikovsky, for instance, and that's sort of the difficulty level expected at a pro audition.

July 22, 2016 at 10:43 PM · I said in my first comment that a full-time seat in a regional orchestra was a gigantic stretch and unlikely to be in the OP's future. I stand by that statement. But she could be doing weddings right now.

July 23, 2016 at 12:36 AM · I agree with Lydia that the rationale for doing a formal MA program instead of private study is very unclear. And for $169,000 you should be getting a PharmD, not a music performance MA.

I used to handle graduate admissions for my (not music) department, which is in a solid state university mostly known for its engineering, architecture, and business programs. Let me say only this: Admissions standards for graduate programs at state universities are often quite lenient so long as you are not asking for an assistantship. Often all you need is a bachelor's degree with a 3.0 minimum GPA from an accredited institution. The degree can be 30 years old -- so long as your institution can still issue an official transcript -- often they can waive the GRE. It all depends on the program. You find out the name of the *staff* member who handles graduate admissions for the department, and you call them on the phone.

July 23, 2016 at 01:21 AM · Clarification: I was curious if Mary Ellen et.al. thought that the performance-certificate program would accomplish more than just serious private instruction and practice, in terms of the likelihood of winning an audition. (My guess was not.)

July 23, 2016 at 06:08 AM · No.

Editing to add that if the performance certificate program has an orchestral component *and* some sort of excerpts class, that might be helpful. But not $169K helpful.

July 23, 2016 at 02:35 PM · I agree with everyone in that the money would likely be better spent on something other than a very expensive performance certificate program. But I don't think OP is really considering a program in the $169,000 price range, which she indicated was "way too expensive." She did not specify her price range, but my guess is that in her circumstances there likely does not exist an affordable program that can help more than terrific private instruction.

If anyone can recommend a teacher in her area who might help her become the best violinist that she can be, that would be a great alternative.

July 23, 2016 at 05:44 PM · Cynthia O - you are absolutely right I am not considering $169K price range - unfortunately private college level tuition is the only I have found with certificate type programs. Bottom line - I'm not going to spend my daughter's future tuition money on myself at age 50.

I am thinking about the Queens College Aaron Copeland School of Music since I was already admitted to undergrad performance there and scholarship recipient there many years ago. 10K per year full time is more affordable I may look into other schools of this type as well - SUNY Stonybrook, poss Brooklyn Conservatory.

Problem would be with transfer credits. My bachelors is from large accredited institution in VA with good grades - 3.5 average and no problem getting transcripts. I also have quite a few music classes but they would be duplicating things I would want to do over anyway - lessons, chamber music, orchestra, sight singing.

I am overall happy with my violin although lower register is weaker but would cost a lot to move off of my current violin - I have no problem projecting sound/ tone production. Recording quality is bad in that regard. I need a much better bow and will eventually shop for a bow.

If anyone knows of a certificate that is not ivy league level private tuition I'd be interested and I'm putting out the word on that here because I have ability to travel up and down East Coast easily.

Also looking for teacher suggestions. I may reach into the past and old contacts and see what I can do in that regard, if necessary.

Thank you all for your contributions to this discussion because all of you are being helpful whether more or less realistic, very helpful, even Krisztian regarding adding levity.


April Stevens

July 24, 2016 at 09:29 AM · S

o true, 5th string is always stronger, but still prefer a strong 4th...

Been there done that, If I preferred Viola that would have happened 30 years ago, as it did for some of my collegues.

July 24, 2016 at 09:37 AM · Fritz Kreisler Praeludium and Allegro:


Here is my lousy allegro by Fritz Kreisler and I don't even look good while playing it but obviously I am unafraid.

I agree with Krisztian in that I want to know specifics: does anyone have a good specific reccom3endation because that is exactly what I am looking for, music program minus the academics?

Thank you,

April Stevens

July 24, 2016 at 05:27 PM · Thanks for posting a video from the proper angle.

Just how bad is your bow? There are, as I noted before, fundamental issues with your right arm, but is the bow bad enough that it's actively interfering with proper playing?

However your right arm gets fixed, a teacher is probably going to end up re-teaching you all the fundamental off-the-string strokes. At least from what I can tell from the video (which isn't clear enough on my screen to really let me see your right hand in a non-blurred fashion, so this is judging by the bow's motion), you are forcing off-the-string strokes to happen rather than letting them happen, which results in clumsy execution and a chopped, choked sound.

July 25, 2016 at 05:23 AM · First - thanks to all for replies. Here is way too much detail.

What I did not like about this particular recording compared to the three previously posted is my intonation was much worse there than other three and also the interpretation was far from my best, IMO. Rather wooden compared to other times I have done the Allegro.

I could have put in a couple more days work on the Allegro recording but did not know when this will happen until Fall. I had a better recording going at one point but was interrupted so I simply settled for this Allegro when it really did not measure up to my own personal standards for my playing, compared to the previous videos I put up.

Frieda: Thank you for helpful suggestions. You are right that I am going to have to contact some of these schools in person. I have some feelers out regarding a teacher. Also have a couple of people I knew I could contact if first passes don't happen.

Lydia: Part of choked sound is that I played very bad violins for many/most years of practice until this one which I got when 17yo. Then this one had a crack in the belly that I was unaware of (since fixed) that ruined it's tone (around when I quit) so was always forcing tone and only became aware of the crack when I picked violin back up.

When I started again I was playing a $125 used Herman Beyer violin which was better than most of the violins I have owned or played regularly but had a bad bridge - instead of this one - and also I was violin shopping before the repair. My Luthier in VA played mine and immediately started hunting for cracks and so lost the sale of a lovely violin of his (which he of course sold easily anyway). I should probably bring my violin by him again for a tune up. He told me that after putting work into my violin that he liked my violin very much - as much as the one he had recently made - and that he puts in a certain amount of extra effort on violins he likes/are higher quality, not student instruments.

Lydia: so anyway, for a long time I sort of crushed/ground out the sound from forcing tone out very bad violins. Believe me tone is far better than it once was. Krisztian is right that video recording quality is also bad, especially the audio, IMO, which is part of the choked sound. I'm always surprised when I hear the recordings because they sound nothing like the violin does under my ear. The off the string is more percussive and sharp on video than in person.

Bow is an FC Neuville factory bow (Finkel factory) I purchased for $1000 around 1983 used at a festival - probably made in late 70's early 80's and has been recently recambered by a bowmaker but I frankly couldn't tell a difference in the playability before or after that recambering, in the bow.

The F.C. Neuville is much better than my Presto/Allegro Carbon Fiber bow which I hate because the Presto feels soft and jittery and uncontrollable in upper 1/3rd of bow and tone is also overall scratchy.

Most violinists who pick up the F.C. Neuville say it feels heavy and also that when fully flexed the stick touches the hair too much (in a forte long bow). I tighten it a bit more for off the string bowing like the Kreisler Allegro

I have no idea if bow is interfering with off the string stroke, frankly, or if it is all just me. I had a bad bridge on another violin that was causing much more serious problems on string crossings- then it was like I was fighting the violin to take bow off the string.

Krisztian - my father has heard me play enough that when he heard my recording he immediately said the sound quality was very bad and he actually has quite a bit of knowledge of the technical side of audio. So I think you are right about camera and recording quality - it's what I have. Had a better one - video disc recorder that unfortunately was misplaced in move - this is just a phone and it is unfortunate because I also like to record my daughter's recitals and school events.

I especially need a camera stand too rather than music stand for camera since camera is too low and too much foreshortening so that is a big part of the angle problem.

Thank you to all.

Semi-pro orchestra suggestions in NYC, anyone? I'm not a doctor so that Orchestra is out. And, I used to play with Queens Orchestral Society but they are now defunct.

Thanks again,

April Stevens

July 25, 2016 at 10:02 AM · I would suggest your daughter attends a regular school, with private music education, and then enroll in a state music high school, near by. sounds ok? sorry for the details. :)

July 25, 2016 at 01:56 PM · April:

In general, I can tell (and probably most of the other experienced players watching can tell) what is lack of preparation and what is fundamental. Everyone's got a certain range of variance where you think "gosh, I wish I'd played better" or "hey, that was better than I expected", but core technical execution is visible.

So for example, you clearly have an ear; your intonation is generally good. Your left hand is organized. You shift with correct basic mechanics (wrist in line, no weird wiggling, etc.). So even if you're not playing a particular thing perfectly, all that is visible; it would be visible even if you were sight-reading and butchering something.

What I see in your off-the-string strokes is that the bow is tightly held and kind of forced on and off the string, with too much movement both laterally and vertically. That leads to that choked, percussive sound. Because you don't really control the stroke in a predictable fashion, it also doesn't coordinate reliably with the left hand, and so you often get more noise than note.

Now, that is definitely an issue of technical execution and not an issue with your bow. I asked about the bow because I'm wondering if your gives you such bad feedback that the correct stroke doesn't feel natural. At the same time, your super-rigid bow hand has cascade effects into everything that you do; I'm not sure you can physically execute the right stroke with that hold.

By the way, holding that much tension on your right side almost certainly has mirroring effects on your left side. You might discover that once you fix your bow arm, your left hand will be more fluid as well.

July 26, 2016 at 05:14 AM · Krisztian - Daughter's music education and general education opportunities are not a problem, well thought out and executed except that she doesn't prefer to practice violin and I can't make her want it. I have no concerns there or would have posted that question elsewhere which would require too much detail.:)

Lydia, the mirroring of one hand to the other is an interesting point as I see this in the playing of young children - difficulty in separating the actions of the two hands.

It is extremely odd to me to hear that my intonation is okay. I always heard how very lousy my intonation was from my teacher and from other teachers and it was the primary focus of most of my lessons.

July 26, 2016 at 05:53 AM · surprise :)

July 26, 2016 at 09:02 AM · April, please forgive my forwardness as I am fairly new to the violin, but it does appear to me that your right hand thumb remains straight throughout, with the joint locked. Is this correct?

If so, it may be the thing you need to address in order to free up the right hand/arm.

July 26, 2016 at 03:56 PM · A wise man once said that your left hand should not know what your right hand is doing. :)

July 26, 2016 at 04:01 PM · I'd meant to reply to Amanda and forgot until now:

If you want to play weddings, your best bet is to make some friends who already play weddings. More specifically, there are a lot of semi-pros out there who pick up spare cash from time to time by playing weddings and other such events. Ask around in your community orchestra. Your first opportunity to do so might come when somebody's regular second-violinist is busy on a particular day and they need a substitute.

Many groups don't rehearse, or rehearse minimally, for this kind of gig. You will know what's going to be played in advance, which will likely come from a fakebook of some sort. The experienced members of the group can explain how these gigs work to you. (You can hang out a shingle online and hope to get work, but frankly without previous experience you're not likely to get hired.)

July 26, 2016 at 07:49 PM · deleting double post

July 26, 2016 at 07:49 PM · Agree with Lydia except that we don't play out of fakebooks, which are collections of melodies with chords notated over the line. We have gig books, which are loose leaf binders containing loads of arrangements of music suitable for preludes, ceremonies, etc., and which can be rearranged in an order to suit the particular wedding.

To play weddings, you need to be an excellent sightreader, a reliable counter, play in tune, and be able to react quickly to the unexpected. Running a wedding (as in being the leader of the quartet) is stressful and complicated, and is why I never recommend that people hire a quartet of high school students. I would not recommend that anyone try to run weddings until they've participated in quite a few as a member of a group being led by someone else.

July 26, 2016 at 09:41 PM · Sorry, when I said fakebooks, I was thinking of the string-quartet arrangement books that are sold by Hal Leonard et.al. (These are what get copied to make gig-book binders.)

The gig-books are also ubiquitous for all similar occasions, including times when you are background music for a restaurant or the like. You should be able to read anything at this level, at sight, functionally flawlessly, even when the world is ending around you. (Anyone who has done this kind of gig will have stories of "crap that has happened around and/or to me while performing".)

July 27, 2016 at 01:23 AM · Seems pretty self-explanatory to me Krisztian. :)

July 27, 2016 at 12:59 PM · nice :)

July 27, 2016 at 02:34 PM · April, You asked about orchestras in New York. There are lots of good all-volunteer orchestras in the city. With all of the under-employed musicians floating around, most of them have a mixture of professionally trained musicians and skilled amateurs. Here are a few you might look into--all have websites:

Park Avenue Chamber Symphony

Greenwich Village Orchestra

The Riverside Orchestra (not to be confused with Riverside Symphony, which is a professional orchestra)

New Amsterdam Symphony Orchestra

New York Repertory Orchestra

I believe that these are all good, although I haven't heard all of them. I play in the New York Repertory Orchestra and think it fits what you are looking for. If you would like to know more about it, I will be glad to answer any questions.

Alice T.

July 27, 2016 at 02:39 PM · April,

I think that the main benefits of being in a music school is being around the other students, provided that they are good. A lot of virtuosos whose interviews I've read, like Milstein, have credited being around other violin students for much more of their growth than their teachers.

On the other hand, a lot of great teachers don't teach in colleges, and you don't have to deal with certain class requirements and school politics that won't suit you. Taking music lessons privately can be a lot more flexible with scheduling and pace, and a LOT less expensive.

Some things you could consider to find a good private teacher:

-Look up local music competition winners and check out who their teachers are

-Go to student recitals at different music schools, find students you like, and find out who their teachers are, or were before they got into their schools

-Find a local trusted luthier / violin repair shop, and ask them

-Trust your own ear - Not all great teachers are the greatest violinists, but I wouldn't want to take lessons from someone whose playing I didn't like

July 27, 2016 at 09:32 PM · There's a lot of advantages to attending masterclasses. Milstein et.al. were taught by Auer in a masterclass-like group setting. This allowed them to not only see how each other played, but to see how other people were taught.

This is really important because watching a masterclass teaches you the observation and analysis skills that are needed by teachers -- and to apply that observation and analysis to your own playing as well. You visually learn how the mechanics of playing affect the sound produced.

Being able to play for a large number of teachers is also very valuable. Usually as an adult, getting that kind of masterclass access requires a formal educational setting, unless your teacher is the sort that has enough contacts to effectively conduct their own masterclass-series for their studio.

July 28, 2016 at 11:14 AM · Krisztian. What level are you teaching at? Is there a requirement to have formal qualifications in the subject in which you teach in America, or can anybody just do it? Here, and in the UK, you would need at least a postgraduate qualification to be taken seriously.

Cheers Carlo

July 28, 2016 at 02:41 PM · April, I like your bravura performances, which you pull off with style even with your technical issues. But based on what you say re. "flaws in performance even after practice," it would be a waste of time and money to enroll in a professional program without addressing your practice skills. As others have suggested, you need to find a teacher who can show you not only what you need to change, but how, along with building a technical base and repertoire.

Natural ability, lofty goals, practice, determination, these are important components, but not sufficient to refine your playing. You say you hear everything, but what do you do about it in the moment? That next step, after you hear a flaw, is crucial and really makes all the difference between sounding 'studenty' and sounding like a pro. Starting with such awareness, you need to develop a system of practice designed to make you notice and refine your pitch and rhythmic sense, quality of movement, and coordination and timing. You need to develop basic practice skills before committing to any kind of expensive program, in which you'll have little to no time to address such things.

I know you're looking for a teacher to do just that. It'll probably take some time and luck to find the best fit, but you have to start somewhere, and you don't want finding a program to take precedence over finding the right teacher. (I don't know if he'd take you as a student, but you might play for Joey Corpus, who seems to be an unconventional, high level private teacher in NYC.

July 28, 2016 at 02:52 PM · (something broke in previous post--can't edit)

cont. ...

www.joeycorpus.com Even if he doesn't take you, he'll likely refer you to someone in his circle.)

If it makes you feel any better ;) I agree with your past teachers regarding intonation. From my very brief observations, it seems like you should be able to play in tune, but you don't. In your Preludium almost every note is out of tune. It's very prominent because there are so many perfect intervals. Tuning perfect intervals is something you should already be able to do at your level, and something you should address before playing for prospective teachers. You move around the fingerboard with some facility, but it looks like your fingers tend to work individually instead of in blocks and patterns, and there's often excessive pressure. (Sevcik Op.8 can help here.)

In 3 to 6 months a competent teacher should be able to rework your bow arm to establish a foundation (depending on your kinesthetic ability,) but not using repertoire and Kreisler, at least not at the beginning. If you do choose to post more video for feedback, I'd like to see Kreutzer 2 in detache at the frog, middle and tip, starting up bow and down bow, medium to fast tempos, and Kreutzer 8. There's a lot to cover before getting to Kreisler's P & A: Secvik Opp. 2 & 3, string crossing in Don't Op. 37, Kreutzer 2-14 (bowing etudes ,) and some rep. including Kreisler Sicilienne and Rigaudon.

I don't think you need to change your grip per se, but you do need to rework your movement and coordination. You like to use a lot of colle and heavy strokes, for which the firmness of the fingers is appropriate. But stiffness seems to creep in for faster detache in the lower half, where the shoulder socket seizes, and for spiccato where the shoulder is tight and the hand and fingers lose flexibility. There is fluidity in the fingers in much of the rest of your bowing, so I don't see a general 'tension' issue. It's more of an issue of release and timing in specific contexts.

Before you address function of the hand you need to learn how to release your shoulder socket during repeatedly changing motions and for string crossing, but also in general. At times it seems the action of raising the elbow pulls your head down sideways toward the shoulder. Even for heavy strokes, at the moment of impact of bow on string, there needs to be a release in the shoulder to allow the the upper arm to rebound vertically, to avoid crashing, which happens when the bow hits the string while the upper arm remains rigid, or even sinks further. For faster off string strokes, the elbow must react vertically with each bounced stroke. To play spiccato with string crosses, the upper arm must cross quickly and discretely between bounced strokes; i.e. each bounced stroke must occur on it's discrete plane. You don't want to be crossing from the forearm. All of this takes time and needs to be trained in simplified exercises before applying to complex passages. If you insist on learning technique from repertoire, you need to deconstruct all technical passages into component parts (simplify) so you can pay attention to a single action at a time, before you add a complication, which for bowing means reducing passages to their open strings.

I think any teacher would be happy to work with you, and clearly your family and friends enjoy your performances. And as others have said, you could start gigging doing weddings and casual performances immediately. But to take your playing to the next level will take time, patience and committed guidance from a concerned teacher (which will be difficult to find in a certificate program.) Find a great teacher. Develop a system of practice. Take courses at a community program at a local conservatory (history, keyboard harmony, ear training.) And see where you are in a couple of years. Good luck!

July 28, 2016 at 03:53 PM · Much to reply to thanks for so much info and so many replies.

K.D. - you are right that thumb should not be locked regarding bow grip. Mine is not. I do bend my thumb a lot (knuckle pressed into hair) when near frog but thumb is almost straight when bow is above the middle of the hair. I have bow issues but frankly thumb is not my big problem.

Amanda Larson - regarding weddings and gigging, you just need to get involved in music locally somewhere where you can create a quartet for receptions, weddings and gigs. I used to do this a lot in VA about thirty years ago - was easy money but a lot of driving and always on the weekend when you want to be off of work. The music is things such as Vivaldi four seasons, Pachelbel Cannon, Handel, Haydn, Bach, Pops arrangements such as Eleanor Rigby, etc. Generally a list of players with backup for each instrument and you read parts and frankly amateurs don't know much and when "things happen" rarely notice errors. You get used to working together and if stuff falls apart you have a couple of go to pieces which the group reverts to. You need at bare minimum and hour of music and usually two hours is better.

We used to do gigs through our local college and I was always on the violin list but sometimes 1st and sometimes 2nd, had four violinists, two violas and two cellos. One of the violins was as good or better than me but no one liked working with him so ended up being me and another woman, a close friend, typically, same viola almost always (he is a pro-studio musician now) and cellist (he is a pro-freelancer with big studio of students and part time pro orchestras but on the other side of the country from me.

The only one who lives near me has quit violin completely.

Anyway, if you want to do this you need the rest of the musicians first so either need to break into an existing circle or create your own circle of musicians. Don't be intimidated by the music - it is usually easy enough but if you don't sight read well then you would need to really learn it before hand.

Just find your people and collect your music and start advertising, caterers and hotels are always a good place to start.

July 28, 2016 at 04:02 PM · Continued replies:

Alice Trimmer - this is excellent and very useful info and I intend to pursue/ use it. Thank you so much. And I will be in touch as I gather more info.

Christian Lesniak - thank you for good general advice. I may end up there and you certainly have excellent info as to how to identify good teachers.

July 28, 2016 at 04:04 PM · Jeewon Kim:

Where do I begin?

Thank you, Thank you, Thank you!

Yours are the posts I have been hoping for.

April Stevens

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