Professionals who still play

January 24, 2017 at 04:25 PM · So, my income comes exclusively from teaching violin and viola in Sacramento, not performing. Perhaps this is why I've wondered why it's SO HARD to get a few capable (professional-level) string musicians together to play chamber music for fun. Yes, "just for fun."

Currently, I occasionally play in a piano quartet (with my luthier as the cellist!) but I'm really looking to expand into other types of chamber music and to play with other people. To me, it's not just about the specific music I've played, but also who I've played it with. Every piece is a unique and organic experience each time it is played, and this is further amplified when playing with different musicians; like adding a different spice to a familiar dish. Of course, everyone knows you don't add paprika to Mozart; but maybe to Beethoven.

I'm also hoping to be able to experiment with the idea of "open rehearsals" instead of just formal concerts. For me, it's a way of sharing excellent music for free and for creating a brand new type of environment where the layman (my students and the students of others) can see how professional musicians practice and rehearse. A mix between the casual nature of playing for fun, and the formality that accompanies the tradition and training that goes along with being at a professional level.

Replies (39)

January 24, 2017 at 07:42 PM · Speaking only for myself, I loved reading chamber music for fun when I was a student. These days, however, my schedule is overloaded with rehearsals, performances, and lessons. If I have any down time at all, I am not going to spend it with a violin in my hands. I'll spend time with my family, or take a walk or a bike ride, or read a book, or hang out on FB. That is, assuming I don't need to be catching up on paperwork or bills, or taking care of necessary chores around the house. I am absolutely not going to take one of my very very very few free evenings and spend it away from my family by choice.

January 24, 2017 at 07:50 PM · Consider finding some amateurs who play at a near-pro level. :-)

My city has a chamber music Meetup group. Some significant percentage of the members have conservatory training but don't perform for a living, and are enthused about chamber music for fun.

January 24, 2017 at 11:49 PM · My wife and I have to plan chamber music meetups these days with individual folks, and make sure that we budget the time to make it happen.

A far cry from the college days, when practically every weekend, there would food, drinks, and many hours of chamber music at my apartment. :)

January 25, 2017 at 08:39 PM · Erik,

You raise an interesting question, particularly by your repeated emphasis on "playing at a professional level." While I know that many professionals form chamber music groups the reality of the professionals is that it almost always becomes a performance platform that creates an additional income stream for the professional musicians.

I don't have any problem with that, and my wife and I subscribe to a few of these series where local and visiting professional perform chamber works. But, the universe of these groups is limited as there are only so many people willing to purchase tickets and make donations that make these series economically possible.

Is that the only way to experience chamber music? In my 40 years of playing and being involved in the local musical community I've come to know many non-professional musicians who have a variety of day jobs from Accountant to Zoologist that simply want to get together to play music together at the best level they can bring to the group.

There are even the "Late Starters" (like me, I was almost 30 when I took my first violin lesson) who form Orchestras and Chamber groups. While some may refer to themselves as the (local) LSO they are just a bunch of happy amateurs making music. No, they don't measure up to top chamber groups or orchestras but they make music and hone their skills. (FWIW: I used to play with some of these until my life situation made late nights unavailable for rehearsals and performances.)

I'll bet there are lot of adult musicians in and around Sacramento who would love to play chamber music. So, they aren't "professional level" but there is an outlet if you want to form a group. Many are simply waiting for that passionate leader to pull it all together.

January 25, 2017 at 10:27 PM · Am I the only one who sees the “catch 22” in this post? The OP is essentially asking professionals (who play for $$$) to play as amateurs (who play for fun)…

January 25, 2017 at 10:43 PM · The OP is a pro, but not a performing pro, but I assume that they play at a generally professional level. It's not wrong for such people to want to find chamber-music partners at a similar level. Certainly pros do play chamber music with each other for fun.

Frankly, most amateurs want to play with other people who also play at similar levels, too. In a city of significant size (which Sacramento certainly would be), it's rare to find people playing with other people with significantly different levels of technical skill and musicianship. (In more rural areas you might have to go with whoever's nearby.)

Anyway, it's hard to get people together to play chamber music for fun, period, because lots of people already have other commitments, especially family commitments. That's why you'll see more retirees being real chamber-music enthusiasts, whether retired pros or amateurs.

January 25, 2017 at 11:12 PM · Lydia, I agree. Perhaps the OP should just ask for people who play at his level or above.

January 25, 2017 at 11:37 PM · I have the impression that the OP is looking for people with formal professional training, to judge from the context of his post. Most professional quartets don't rehearse the way that amateur ones do, for instance. Someone who has spent time at a conservatory learning the craft of chamber music from formal classwork and professional masterclasses is actually materially different from an amateur, even if they have a similar level of technical skill.

January 26, 2017 at 04:00 AM · Hi everyone, I apologize for not responding sooner: I'm new to the site, so I couldn't find my own thread (it got renamed).

Firstly, I want to let you all know how much I appreciate your responses. Whether negative or positive, they all allow me to gain a more broad picture of how string musicians might react to my ideas.

I will respond in order of the posts:

Mary: I suppose I am saddened to hear your response. The sentence that concerned me most was "If I have any down time at all, I am not going to spend it with a violin in my hands." To me, classical music is a gift that we give to ourselves AND to others. We can give it through teaching, performing, or even through listening. But when struggling to feed ourselves, the basic necessities take precedence. So, when given a skill like playing the violin, we might use that to fulfill our basic needs. I certainly started teaching because I needed to eat. But it became something much more important than that once my income reached a certain point (and once I had enough experience to look from the outside in at what I was doing). I realized that music is something that is just as satisfying to give as it is to receive. So, I feel sad that to you, music has only become something you give, and not something you receive. But, perhaps you've been able to replace it with something better! So I digress.

Lydia (1st post): If I could find amateurs who played anywhere close to my level, I would absolutely jump on that. But I'm afraid that's even more unlikely than getting professionals to play for free :) I don't say this in an arrogant way; it's just that amateurs generally don't have the time to devote to building up an equal skill base. I think it's awesome that your city has a chamber music meetup with skilled players. I've noticed that many cities have things like this, but I find it to NOT be the case in Sacramento. Honestly, a big part of the reason I started this post was because I want to start something like that here, and I'm trying to attract interest from any locals who might be on the forum.

Fideli: Time seems to be the biggest issue that professional performers struggle with. I wish I could help that not be the case for them. Currently I am in the process of developing a new form of music school that doesn't exploit musicians, thus giving them more time (and making them happier.... happy musicians = good teachers). But, that'll be a bit in the future. As it is right now, music schools realize that most capable musicians are struggling to make ends meet and will take any music-related job, so they take ridiculous cuts out of the teachers' rates. I'd detail more on this, but I don't want this thread to become about that.

Gene: Your college days sound wonderful. I'm only 26, so I do fear that perhaps my passion for music is only a product of being youthful. But this is nullified by the fact that my interest in it has only grown over time, and I only see it growing more as I age. Anyways, thank you for being one of the people that makes it a priority to schedule music despite the hassles of life.

George: I think you and I are on the same page. We, as a society, are so bent on only experiencing music in only one way. There is the audience, and then there are the performers. They are separate. But what if the audience was the performers? What about open rehearsals where musicians could listen for a while, and then trade places with the performers? Some combination between a masterclass, a rehearsal, and a performance?

Besides all that, I love the idea of pulling many amateurs together and leading them, but truthfully I consider that more lumped in with my "teaching" time. I would be spending most of my effort and time showing them how to play and how to perform properly, and not much time on the playing itself. I desire players who challenge me, and whom I can challenge. And this simply wouldn't happen with non-professional level players. I don't mean to denounce the validity of these groups (I have many students that join them), but it's just not precisely what I'm seeking for myself.

Thank you for your ideas and response, though! Very informed and thoughtful.

David: Are you a professional player? I'm curious of your background based on your response. Maybe a recent graduate of a conservatory?

Lydia (2nd post): I would consider myself a professional that could perform for a living, but I'm certainly not skilled enough to have a solo career.

Unfortunately, Sacramento seems to be the exception to that rule. Our community orchestras, for example, have WILD variations in skills levels. I would like to change the classical community here, and to make a better template for making classical communities spring up elsewhere as well. I think connecting players - both professional and amateur - to each other is the way to do that.

Lydia (3rd post): Yes, I'm definitely looking for those with formal training. Although, "Formal training" might mean different things to different people. For example, I never attended a conservatory so I'm sure some would claim that I lack that training.

I don't necessarily crave the formality in rehearsals as much as I crave players skilled enough to challenge me, regardless of the formality.

Thank you all for the responses!

January 26, 2017 at 02:53 PM · "So, I feel sad that to you, music has only become something you give, and not something you receive. But, perhaps you've been able to replace it with something better! So I digress."

You are making a lot of unfounded and incorrect assumptions about me. I love music--I derive a great deal of joy from my job, and I wake up every morning grateful to be earning a living doing what I love. However, I am a complete human being with a family, other interests, and responsibilities. You clearly have no idea just how much playing I'm already doing; what I do for gainful employment satisfies the music-shaped hole inside me. What I do during my down time is take care of the rest of who I am, along with accomplishing the chores of daily living that most of us have. There is absolutely no need to feel sad for me.

"I would consider myself a professional that could perform for a living, but I'm certainly not skilled enough to have a solo career."

That right there tells me that you have no idea what goes into performing for a living. Very, very few of us are skilled enough to have a solo career. I suspect you would be surprised to learn just how high a level of playing is necessary to get a full-time orchestra job. To be blunt, the way you feel about the possibility of playing with amateurs ("truthfully I consider that more lumped in with my "teaching" time. I would be spending most of my effort and time showing them how to play and how to perform properly") is how I would feel about playing chamber music with musicians who aren't at the fulltime professional orchestra level of playing, say, perhaps, someone like you. And, I daresay, could also describe how the concertmaster of a top five orchestra would feel about playing chamber music with someone like me.

January 26, 2017 at 03:56 PM · I think that there is more of this going on than you might think. I can think of several groups like this in my city, and have done this from time to time, but usually for a specific concert or two. When you are trying to put together something like this, I would try to contact other musicians like yourself, young, new professionals who primarily teach. Your best bet is people with similar schedules. For example, I would only consider such a group if rehearsals could happen during the day on weekdays, as I teach and do paid gigs every evening and on Saturday, the rest of the weekend when I'm not performing is personal time.

You do have to be careful to be clear with what you say when you ask. A colleague of mine was contacted about an "opportunity" that turned out to be a chamber music reading session (she turned it down). As a professional, a "performance opportunity' is a paid gig, chamber music reading is a social event unless you are part of an established group. You might have better luck if you contact some musicians you already know and introduce the idea of a chamber/quartet reading "party" and ask them to bring friends, food, drinks, etc. If you happen to play with some musicians you feel would be a good match, then ask them if they would like to get together more regularly. This would allow you to get a feel for how people play and personalities before anyone commits and can be a good time in an of itself (and anyone who doesn't accept such an invitation is probably not willing to play chamber music "for fun" on a more regular basis).

January 26, 2017 at 04:29 PM · "Mary: I suppose I am saddened to hear your response. The sentence that concerned me most was "If I have any down time at all, I am not going to spend it with a violin in my hands." To me, classical music is a gift that we give to ourselves AND to others. "


I think this response to Mary is a little presumptive, and I'm not sure why anyone would find it sad. For one thing, not everyone is crazy about reading chamber music, especially the difficult stuff that requires real work to be able to play, like Beethoven and later.

For another, what's sad about a professional wanting to take a break and do something else? Would it be sad for a chef to come off a shift and not feel like making a souffle?

Would it be sad for an airline pilot to not want to jump in a plane after a full schedule of flying? Yes, music is a gift, and I'm glad you're excited about it. But it's also hard work, especially for those making a living in orchestras. There are many, many "gifts" to be had in life. Personally, if I had a beautiful sunny day off and my colleagues showed up with a stack of chamber music to play, I'd say "sorry, my bike is calling."

January 26, 2017 at 05:23 PM · I bet if you put out some feelers on social media you'd find some very eager amateurs who would love to play quartets with you. Sacramento is a civilized place. Please don't be surprised if you find "amateur" musicians who can play at your level or even higher. There are plenty of musicians who went to conservatory or studied music in college (and some who got really good by the time they left high school) but they ended up in different careers -- for as many reasons as there are individuals. While I'm only an intermediate violinist, if you were looking for a piano player to round out a jazz combo, I'd be your guy. It also helps if you've got a nice library of decent editions, not just crappy photocopies of PDFs from IMSLP.

January 26, 2017 at 09:43 PM · To Mary and Scott: Yes, I have been presumptive. I'm sure Mary is superior to me in playing. And if I rehearsed/practiced endlessly, I'm sure I'd be too tired to play extra music, too. I suppose my bitterness stems from the fact that there are so many musicians that HAVE the time, but the music inside them has died. So they just don't.

But Mary, I don't have the time or energy to return the passive hostility that is inherent in your posts. I think you need to evaluate why you are angry at a young man who is simply passionate about music. The reality of the music business is that it easily stomps out the inner spirit of the musicians and makes them bitter towards each other. So, I'm sorry for that.

Also, I'm very much aware of the skill and dedication necessary to become a solo artist, or even a concertmaster. There is no room for other life activities in those positions.

Frieda: you are absolutely right; there are just very few classical musicians in general, so finding ones that have the same interest as me (playing for fun) is super unlikely. I fault our educational system and our cultural priorities for the small talent pool that exists. I would like to work to change that over my lifetime.

Relocating permanently isn't really a possibility with me, as I have about 45 students here and it would be difficult to restart my business elsewhere. I've definitely considered it, though.

Ingrid: Unfortunately, young professionals are the WORST. My ONLY success has been with people twice my age, and I'm fine with that. The young ones are the busiest and most miserable of all musicians, in my experience. Because they're usually in a hefty amount of debt, they're struggling just to get by and certainly don't have the time for something with no guarantee of money. Not to mention the lack of maturity in their playing much of the time. I'm not trying to hate too much on my own age group, but, I guess I can't help it.

And of course! I'm very careful about not misleading professionals into a non-paying gig.

Scott: Absolutely, balance in life is essential if you can find it. Maybe I'm just an unbalanced person :P I envy anyone who can just have a nice stroll in the park. My personal intensity doesn't allow relaxing :(

Paul: I'm not well-versed in jazz, although my skill in improvisation has allowed me to dabble in it. I've noticed Sacramento is much more jazz-oriented than classical-oriented. I guess this might be a big part of the problem I'm running into.

I think social media is a good idea. I have considered it before, but didn't really know where to start (very few of my fb friends are musicians). However, your post prompted me to do a search for classical music in sacramento (on facebook) and I did happen upon some interesting things. I will pursue these and let you know how it goes.

If I ever run into an amateur violinist here who can play at my level or higher, I will be very excited!

Thank you all for your replies! It helps my thought process to have ideas bounced back at me and it's always a pleasure to speak with other musicians.

January 27, 2017 at 12:00 AM · "But Mary, I don't have the time or energy to return the passive hostility that is inherent in your posts. I think you need to evaluate why you are angry at a young man who is simply passionate about music. The reality of the music business is that it easily stomps out the inner spirit of the musicians and makes them bitter towards each other. So, I'm sorry for that."


I'm not angry at you and certainly not about your passion for music. I am annoyed at the presumption in your first answer to me and astounded that your response to being called out on it is to double down on the presumption.

"The young ones are the busiest and most miserable of all musicians, in my experience....Not to mention the lack of maturity in their playing much of the time. I'm not trying to hate too much on my own age group, but, I guess I can't help it."

I suggest that you archive this thread and reread it in twenty years or so.

One more suggestion: I'm glad you have a passion for teaching and that many satisfied students have found you. However, the claim in your bio that you were playing at a professional level at 16 (with no supporting evidence) is off-putting to anyone with experience in the professional world. Even the finest youth orchestras (and here I am thinking of the top Texas All-State orchestra, which plays at a very high and polished level indeed) do not quite sound professional to anyone with ears. May I suggest you delete that one sentence? And while I'm on the subject, it would be courteous to name your own teacher in the bio, the one whom you credit for your development as a musician.

January 27, 2017 at 12:03 AM · I think, OP, that you're reading hostility into replies, including Mary Ellen's, that isn't there.

I want to be careful not to slam posters looking for advice, but in your most recent reply, I detect a certain amount of condescension and arrogance, and I wonder if it's impacting your ability to find other people to play chamber music with.

First, in looking at the bio on your site, it doesn't read to me like a pro's bio. As another violinist, I would read it and wonder if your playing level was really up to the standards of a performing pro -- or at least a conservatory-trained pro. If I were another pro looking at that bio, I wouldn't assume that you were up to my playing level. (Indeed, as an amateur reading that bio, I'm not sure you're up to my playing level. I know plenty of amateurs who weren't conservatory-trained who have bios that make it clear that they play at a high level.)

Second, when you refer to other players your age lacking maturity in their playing, it smacks of judgment that I expect that both pros and amateurs your age might easily find offensive.

January 27, 2017 at 12:39 AM · Somewhere on Erik's website there's a rough video of him playing as a teenager-- and he is doing so very well. It is also true that musicians who don't have "at the Conservatory of ..." and "student of Maestros X and Y" in their bio won't always be taken seriously by the tribe.

Back to the topic: if I were looking for chamber music buddies, I would start in a number of spots. One would be universities, especially those with medical schools. For some reason, a lot of doctors have excellent musical training and like to keep it up.

OP did mention community orchestras-- and they will almost certainly be very uneven, even in decent-sized cities. To do better there (and in the first strategy), you might have to reach over to the Bay Area.

A third possibility would be Among other things, they run a directory for amateurs (and others) who wish to play. I've seen instances of self-grading that were insanely inaccurate, but -- nevertheless-- I see that there are a dozen "A" rated players of quartet instruments in the Sacramento area, and one "Pro". The San Francisco area has one "pro" in the directory, but too many to list from the "A" bracket. If SF is at all like Boston, there will be a number of networks of semi-pros and excellent amateurs who stay in touch and play with varying degrees of intensity.

A fourth possibility would be to schedule a break and attend a chamber music festival with a talent pool that will include people from your area. One example would be the Manhattan String Quartet's week in Seattle this June. It will cover six days of coaching on Bartok 1st-- and while the players are not all of the same level, you'll probably get some decent leads. There are doubtless others, in this country and elsewhere.

Good luck!

January 27, 2017 at 12:58 AM · This is the video here: LINK

Erik says on his website that by this time (age 16) he was playing at a professional level. Would you consider this to be pro-level viola playing?

January 27, 2017 at 01:55 AM · "Very well" and "pro-level" are not necessarily the same. :)

Still, anyone who can play like that at 16 might be very good indeed today. Let's start with that until we have more information.

January 27, 2017 at 03:22 AM · The OP did not ask to be evaluated. He is just looking for people to play chamber music at his level or above. Maybe we can just leave it at that.

January 27, 2017 at 03:54 AM · I feel this is becoming a witch hunt (I don't recall asking anyone to go find my personal business website), rather than pertaining to the original post, but if I must:

Mary: if I'm being completely honest, I detected a strong tone of condescension and negativity in your first response, particularly in these two sentences:

"If I have any down time at all, I am not going to spend it with a violin in my hands."

"I am absolutely not going to take one of my very very very few free evenings and spend it away from my family by choice."

They seemed so decisively against music, and there was no encouragement in the rest of your post to offset that negativity . So, it put me in a bad place. But I honestly tried to be understanding rather than condescending in my response. Thus, me saying I was "saddened" rather than "aggravated" or "offended." You haven't been tactful at all, saying things along the lines of "you have no idea what goes into performing for a living" and "... is how I would feel about playing chamber music with musicians who aren't at the fulltime professional orchestra level of playing, say, perhaps, someone like you."

So, at this point, if I'm coming off as very negative, it's because I feel very negative. You've done a good job of taking a heartfelt post about growing/sharing music in a community and turned it into something dark. I don't care about personal offense, but whenever someone shoots down classical music as a whole, it hurts us all. People wonder why classical music has so much trouble reaching a broader audience these days; I think it's largely due to the elitist and bitter attitude too many musicians have (and their lack of willingness to experiment with better ways of communicating with a new generation). I can't count the number of pro musicians who only tried to discourage me growing up, and they all had attitudes like you. So maybe it strikes a particular nerve with me. I know so many budding violinists who quit before they could see the magic of music because of negative players/teachers. And the professional music community just says "well, only the tough survive here." THAT is sad.

Regarding my video - and I honestly don't even know why I'm addressing this, because it's ridiculous - I was 16 years old. The video was one little clip my mom happened to record during a practice session, NOT a performance. The words you are reading are from my BUSINESS website. Of course they're exaggerated, but they bring students in, and I'm an excellent teacher that fosters positive musical growth in both children and adults. So, I don't feel guilty about slightly exaggerating. In addition, if you think I haven't changed my playing from age 16 to 26, then I don't know what to tell you. I have a million things to improve upon still, but I will say this: when I play, MUSIC comes out. Not notes. And to me, this is more important than any other characteristic in a player.

Also, what does "professional level" even mean to you two? "Professional" simply means you get paid to play. I never mentioned "orchestra level" playing whatsoever. There is a very wide range of playing that could be considered "professional."

Ugh, this thread is sucking out my energy. I'm heavily reminded of how harsh the music community could be while I was growing up around it.

Stephen, thank you for your encouragement. Your suggestions are very helpful. I wasn't familiar with but now I am! I highly appreciate your positive attitude and useful content.

January 27, 2017 at 03:55 AM · Well based on his viola playing at age 16, he probably wouldn't have much patience for my violin playing at age 51. I see where he's coming from -- he wants to find chamber partners who are well-matched to himself in terms of skills and sensibilities. But unless one is already pretty well connected with the local music scene, the way to do that is to cast a wide net. Once you have a network of a couple of dozen players, then you can put together your A-team. It takes time and it takes effort. The key is to actually enjoy that process rather than tolerating it as a means to an end. You might meet some players who you don't want to play Beethoven with, but they might be cool people in other respects. Aim for camaraderie and you'll end up making music.

January 27, 2017 at 05:01 AM · Paul, I absolutely agree with the following: "You might meet some players who you don't want to play Beethoven with, but they might be cool people in other respects. Aim for camaraderie and you'll end up making music."

I might come across as a snob, but I enjoy playing with anyone who is passionate about music. Honestly, the skill requirement I have has more to do with the fact that most players simply won't even try to play with me. I simply want musicians who won't be intimidated by my playing and my personality (I'm aware of how cocky this sounds, but it ALWAYS happens). I often have to DRAG people into playing with me, and then their playing comes off as so shy that there's no musical communication between us. So this is why I talk about wanting professional-level players, not because I'm elitist or arrogant in any way.

January 27, 2017 at 05:47 AM · I'm kind of bemused by the OP's response to Mary Ellen. She responded to explain why she, personally, did not do chamber music "for fun". You did ask, after all, why you were having problems finding pros to play with, which would seem to invite the principal response to this thread being from pros explaining why they might not play chamber music for fun. It's not anti-music by any means; not everyone wants a busman's holiday. And you're young; I suspect you don't have any notion how demanding family life can be.

Your posts made me curious what sort of background you had, given that you mentioned you weren't conservatory-trained. I wondered sort of playing standard you were holding your chamber-music compatriots to -- what you considered a professional standard to be. (Given that you referenced your 16-year-old self as pro-level playing, it seemed fair to ask if this was what you were expecting, regardless of whatever level you're playing at now.)

Anyway, I agree with Paul. The best way to find players that you enjoy playing with is to cast a wide net. ACMP is great. Classical Revolution can be excellent in some cities, and tends to be more pro-oriented. Community orchestras are a great way to meet people, though if you want to meet pros, take some orchestra gigs (where hopefully your nerves won't significantly impact your playing). But in general, people want to play with other people who are open, welcoming, and fun, and with whom they have some chemistry. You want to become someone that other people enjoy collaborating with, and that might mean modifying your own personal style of social and musical interaction in a chamber-music context.

January 27, 2017 at 06:41 AM · Erik, there is the old fashion way--you could pay them! With a piano trio, you ( the violinist) would just need a pianist and a cellist. A hundred dollar per hour per musician should get you pretty decent but under-employed, conservatory-trained pros. A weekly session will set you back a few hundred dollars, but it is doable ( for a middle class person) if you really want it!

January 27, 2017 at 08:47 AM · Lydia, I wouldn't be satisfied playing with my 16 year old self. I was not musically mature enough at that point to make good music with other people. I was just starting at that point. But yeah, I can be a douche over the internet. I usually get ahead of myself and then regret it later. My passions lead me and my logical self deals with the aftermath. In real life, though, I have always gotten along with musicians I've played with.

David, lol. I have actually considered that before simply as a means of helping out the music community. But I already have a good piano quartet to play with :) I'll save the money to sponsor local violin competitions.

January 27, 2017 at 02:51 PM · As an uptight Brit, I find the gentleman on the websight too bl**dy pleased with himself, but when reading his more detailed comments, his approach echoes my own. Our lessons are probably similar, despite my 68 years, but in the written word, I prefer more toffee-nosed, plum-in-the mouth British understatement!

January 27, 2017 at 03:56 PM · Here's something that would kill music for me:

having to teach 45 students.

January 27, 2017 at 05:12 PM · Often forgotten, and not just in this thread-- it's not just talent that drives career choice.

January 27, 2017 at 06:32 PM · In the mid 20th century there was a music camp in the UK known now as the Bernard Robinson Music Camp. Participants camped at a place called Bothamsted between Didcot and Newbury. They comprised both professionals and amateurs. One top violinist who came some years was Tessa Robbins, when she led, but other years the orchestra was led by a retired doctor named Alan Richards. When Tessa was there, she played the Frank Martin (a much more beautiful piece than I thought it was at the time, aged under 16), but would also perform sonatas with the then Professor of Theoretical Chemistry (Cambridge - He later went to Southampton to pursue Cognitive Science), Christopher Longuet-Higgins, a first-rate general musician (I don't think he composed, but his Don Ottavio was the most chilling I have ever heard, and he wasn't a bad conductor either). Others there included Colin Davis, John Gardner, John Shirley-Quirk, etc. I forget who played the Berg, but she chain-smoked the entire time, so it might have been a certain top teacher known for that, though my father didn't remember her being there.

Don't think you have to play with strictly professionals to have a rewarding musical experience.

January 27, 2017 at 07:04 PM · Honestly, I got tired by just reading this thread.... this is a sad example of pitfalls of online forums, when a comment or two made in good intention gets misinterpreted. It does not take long before it turns personal and not really nice.

David Z. hit the nail early in - it is indeed a catch 22 situation, also know as The curse of an advanced amateur.

All I can say - do your best to find likeminded musicians on approximately same technical and musical level and at the same life stage. Once you find them, do not let them go!

In the meantime, enjoy the process, respect everyone, and, as Isaac Stern said, thank (your) God every morning for making you a musician.

January 27, 2017 at 08:50 PM · Adrian: you are hilarious.

Scott: I can understand that teaching is not for everyone. But for me, it increases my appreciation for music, as well as my objectivity towards playing in general.

John: I definitely agree that beautiful music doesn't have to come from professionals. I think people got the idea that I was looking for actual professionals to play with, but I really wanted people who were "professional level." Apparently this has many different interpretations, though. I still don't know a good replacement term.

Rocky: what does "professional-level" mean to you, personally?

January 27, 2017 at 10:30 PM · Erik, et al.,

Thanks for acknowledging that we have similar views about the role of music in life. At the same time I fully understand the professional need to monetize their profession. And I also understand that you also need an outlet just like your students.

This raises a question: Just how well connected to the Sacramento professional music community are you? There are all the musicians in the Sacramento Philharmonic as possible people that might enjoy occasional chamber music sessions. Have you made any connections with them either on a professional or social level? If not, why not?

January 28, 2017 at 01:58 AM · Some time ago, I used to check the local concert listings (in print!) and go to ones I was interested in. I don't remember to what extent money was the limiting factor, but I happened to go to many which were free or by donation, and wouldn't have known about without making that effort. I remember going to one given by a group of teachers, and while they weren't up to professional standards per se, I do remember them playing with a good amount of enthusiasm and love for the music (more so than came across from some professional performers). It made an impression.

Perhaps there are or will be some concerts in your area in which you could find other players with your interests. Perhaps other teachers as well. And you might want to turn your idea of open rehearsals into open concerts so that you get others in the same way.

January 28, 2017 at 04:11 AM · Erik,

professional (level) means you are getting paid to play music.

You can be a busker on the steer or a concertmaster of Wienna Philharmonic - you earn your living.

I do not use level to label musicians.... I have paid with professionals (paid musicians) and non-professionals (aka amateurs). It is a connection and communication I am looking for.


January 31, 2017 at 02:30 PM · Erik, how about starting from the other end: invent a precise programme which you would enjoy working at, to be sight-read, prepared for a concert, perhaps recorded, and advertise in universties, music schools, music clubs, bakeries, music stores etc.

You could entitle it something like "Calling all serious amateurs!" but do not insist on how incredibly musical and brilliant you are: folks will realise that when you all start playing, (and appreciate your modesty). The style on your site would make me run 1.609 km (a mile)..

Just my 2 centimes d'Euro (I live in France)

Cheers! The Uptight Brit.

January 31, 2017 at 02:32 PM · Oops!

January 31, 2017 at 05:11 PM · Adrian your 2 centimes d'Euro will soon be subject to a tariff when posting on a US web site. LOL

February 1, 2017 at 12:15 AM · We've ALL been trumped by Paul!

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