Need of help with college selection

February 8, 2017 at 07:22 PM · Hello everyone.

I read your good advises for quite some time and thank you all for sharing your knowledge. I am now at the point to ask for specific input. My son is 16 years old, junior. Started violin at 7. His dream was always to play the violin in an orchestra but with 3 continents' relocation had a set-back and until a year or two ago he advanced slowly. In the last few months he caught up speed in understanding HOW to practice, and in paying attention to details.

Last concerto was Bruch- 3ed movement. Still a few intonation issues but way better than 3 months earlier.

Played before 1st movements of Mozart #3, Lalo, Bruch #1, Mozart #4.

His dream is to play in a good orchestra for a living.

So we think of universities and not conservatories.

So my questions –

1. He just started Wieniawski #2. Will this be a good one for college auditions? He studied Bach Sicilian from the first Sonata and the Giga from the Partita #3 What would you suggest to prepare for the college audition Bach requirement?

2. As to schools – I am looking for schools with merit $ and good academics and with good violin teaching,

What do you think of the following? Do you have others in mind?

3. Any summer programs you recommend for his level? He prepared videos for some of them.

Thank you for your time

Any input will be appreciated.

Replies (71)

February 8, 2017 at 08:07 PM · If you're considering UC Davis and UC Santa Barbara, consider UC Irvine also. He may be a bit over qualified but there are good players here and the violin professor (Haroutune Bedelian) is a great teacher who graduated and taught at the Royal Conservatory of Music, and studied with Nathan Milstein and Galamian. I think there's a fair amount of scholarships too. It also has a really good chamber music program which not all UCs I was looking at had. As for double major I am at UCI going for a BM in music performance and a computer science degree, as are several other people I know, but they usually take 5 years to do so.

February 8, 2017 at 08:25 PM · Summer Programs: Meadowmount (pretty competitive), SummerStrings@NYU (less competitive but a fantastic program, I went two years ago)

The colleges all seem like good choices, especially IU, NYU, and Boston U if he wants to play in an orchestra for a career. Wieniawski 2 is good for auditions but I would not count on any merit scholarships.

I will caution you - AP Music Theory is not reflective of a true college music theory class. Neither are most APs. A straight A record is great and it will look great on an application but do not expect him to do as well in college as he did in high school.

February 8, 2017 at 08:38 PM ·

February 8, 2017 at 08:48 PM · Thank you Miles. As to UCI, I just want to take him out of the Irvine "bubble" and I hear that social life is not great, so we keep it in mind but it is not our first choice. Do you know anything about the violin studies in any of the other UCs And Cal-States? I know that San Diego is mainly contemporary and world music, and Berkeley doesn't really have any, So you know anything about the others? Long-Beach? Fullerton? Davis/Santa-Barbara?

Helen thank you. Meadowmount I just found out yesterday and we are post due date. I thought about NYU, so it is nice to hear first hand. Did you feel that they prepared you to the college auditions? How many students were there. Do you know to what schools students from the program were admitted?

I know AP is not the real thing, just wanted to note that he knows the basics, and that he can study. WE need the strong academics for the entrance to good university and the merit scholarships, but for music major it is the audition. I know.....

Thanks again, I hope to hear some more ideas.

February 8, 2017 at 08:48 PM · Perhaps this will seem rather obvious but the only way to see how competitive one truly is, is to compete.

February 8, 2017 at 09:38 PM · Both summer festivals and college choice are questions you (or even better, he) should be taking to his private violin teacher.

February 8, 2017 at 10:13 PM · Hi Irene, we did ask her, somehow, she didn't come up with much. She is a great teacher and we both feel that he improves a lot with her, but she let us do the research...

Paul - I totally agree, the question is to what level of competition.... I know that he is not Julliard level, but I don't know if Indiana, Michigan, USC are the right place or do we need to go further lower, and if yes - what are the third level schools? I couldn't find any convincing ranking system specific for violin studies. Where are BU and NYU in the list, and how about the U. of Washington, UCLA other UCs, Stanford, Chapman?

Thank yo both

February 8, 2017 at 10:34 PM · A straight-A student doing rigorous academics has a lot of life possibilities ahead of him.

How many hours a day is he practicing? If it's not at least 2 hours a day, why not? Does he love practicing? Would he be happy practicing 4+ hours a day?

Has he ever played in a professional orchestra -- for instance, as a freelancer? Does he understand how different pro orchestra playing is from the youth symphony experience? Just because he's enjoyed his youth orchestra experience to date does not mean that he'd enjoy playing professionally.

When you say "good orchestra", I'm assuming that you don't mean a top 5 (not the NYP or Chicago, say) but do you mean still world-class, like the Seattle Symphony? Or do you mean, say, a regional orchestra (like a ROPA orchestra) that has a full-time base of players, which would be good-quality but doesn't pay high wages (call it a start of $25k) -- meaning that a significant percentage of the player's income needs to come from teaching? Does he understand that the choice of music as a profession makes it unlikely that he'll earn an upper-middle-class income, and does he understand the lifestyle implications of that?

Remember that a bachelor's in music is just as useful/useless as any other liberal arts degree for getting a job. Double-majoring in something else pre-professional, like engineering, takes away valuable practice time. Backup plans are good, but not when they prevent the primary plan from being successful.

The professional orchestra world is staggeringly competitive. Practically none of those kids who make the all-state honors orchestra that he wasn't able to get into, will be able to win full-time orchestra jobs in the future, so he's got to ask himself if he's going to manage to become the best of the best when he's nowhere near that now.

There's a lot to be said for music as an avocation. A smart kid who continues to study the violin as a hobby can go on to a satisfying, high-paying job, play in a community orchestra (or several, even), and possibly still have some good opportunities to play the occasional pro gig.

By the way, why does his teacher only teach 1st movements? Or in the case of the Bruch, just the 1st and 3rd movements?

Do you have a recent video of his playing that you can share?

February 8, 2017 at 10:38 PM · Does his teacher routinely prep kids for conservatory auditions? If not, can she put you in touch with someone who does, who can help him? This is really critical.

Does his teacher tend to be blunt, or not? Is there a possibility that her reticence on the questions of schools/festivals/repertoire is her dodging a hard conversation about whether or not your son's dream of playing full-time professionally is a realistic one?

February 8, 2017 at 10:42 PM · This website gives the base salaries of musicians in the top 20 (paying) US symphony orchestras , (there are also at least two opera orchestras that pay within this range)

These are the orchestras that pay enough to live on (more or less) . Stretching it a bit and assuming that there are 50 violinists per ensemble, that's 1000 employment opportunities. Assuming a tutti violinist will retain his seat for 40 years before retiring, that's 25 such openings annually in the entire country. Bearing that in mind and the level of competition for such positions, I think it is critical that your son also consider an education option offering more abundant employment opportunities.

I hate to be a "wet blanket," but living in the SF bay area I have had the opportunity to interact with a number of fine musicians here who make their living in "Freeway Philharmonics" (watch the movie DVD) and teaching - it is a tough life. One cellist I know runs around playing in up to 6 of these symphonies plus the New Century Chamber Orchestra. These are really good musicians having to create a patchwork income.

It would be nice if your son could make his living in music, but I have enjoyed playing music all my life (well maybe not enjoyed it that much from age 4 - 12) - so up to now, and still counting, that's 78 years of playing violin and although I've been paid a little from time to time, it's not how I earned my living. It's not something I had to do, and perhaps that's why I've enjoyed it so much.

February 8, 2017 at 10:49 PM · Based on the data Andrew linked, if you don't get into one of the top ten orchestras, you'll be fine with a BS in Chemical Engineering.

February 8, 2017 at 11:28 PM · Hi Lydia,

I waited for your comment. I will answer your questions by their order

1. He loves practicing but only has 1.5 hour during school days. more on the weekends. During summer and winter break he went 6 hours a day and you could hear the difference.

2.He never played in a professional orchestra

3.Good question regarding what good orchestra is - I guess one he will enjoy listening to, and preferably one that will pay the bills.

4. He was supposed to do the 2nd. movement of Bruch as well, some how it didn't happen, he might come back to it.

5.His teacher is blunt all right.... which I think is good, but she doesn't routinely prepare students to college. It is a good point.

All your other comments are very insightful as well, and I will let him read it. The thing with another major, is to secure a 'plan B', but then of course it might interfere with the main target.

I will try to upload a video, might take me a while, but I will try.

Thank you for your thoughts

Andrew, Thank you for the link. We know that music doesn't pay much, but now we have a practical tool that presents it as it is, as I wrote to Lydia, I will let him read your post. it is important.

Can any one tell me anything about schools you know that are not the top tier, but still good programs for violin?

Thank you all

February 9, 2017 at 12:04 AM · I recommend he apply to some elite colleges. Going to Chicago, Stanford, Yale, etc. and playing the violin as a serious hobby will probably be a happier decision in the long run. It's just too risky to go into music now as a classical violinist unless you are literally playing solos with a pro orchestra pre-college, and even then it's not a sure thing you'll earn a good living. Right now, the odds of your son achieving a US median income, much lower than what he is accustomed to, from playing professionally (vs teaching privately, where it is achievable) are almost nil. Not zero, but less than 1 percent.

You can't stop him, but you need to make it clear he's choosing almost sure disappointment and misery. Better to make peace with a hobby now and enjoy the music, instead of having failure destroy the love.

What you can do is help him understand all of his hard work at the violin thus far has not been wasted, but instead has provided him many opportunities for fun and challenge outside of work that most people only wish they had.

February 9, 2017 at 12:37 AM · Thank you Jason, He will apply to some high level colleges like UCLA, USC and Stanford (which is a huge reach), Yet he will only apply to colleges where he could continue to improve his violin playing, be it as a second major, a minor or maybe just as part of a good college orchestra. So Michigan also comes to mind, as well as Boston and NYU, but I still hope someone can add to our list of good universities with good violin teachers.

February 9, 2017 at 01:01 AM · Hello Lali, you are getting great advice above.

About NYU: There were roughly 40 students in the entire program, so it was pretty small. I went the summer after my freshman year, and I was the youngest kid there. I don't know what colleges the kids went to, because I did not keep in touch with them. But some kids there were students at great music schools like MSM and Mannes Prep (where I also go now). The faculty is phenomenal - most of them have been to major conservatories and some won international competitions. The program is geared toward preparing kids for auditions, and it does a great job of that. All the almost daily masterclasses featured the teacher talking about some aspect of auditions. Also, the schedule includes 4 hours of daily practice. At the end of my time there, I had greatly improved technically but I also improved in my knowledge of music and the music world. I highly recommend the program.

February 9, 2017 at 01:14 AM · Thank you Helen. Good info.

February 9, 2017 at 01:56 AM ·

February 9, 2017 at 02:14 AM · That's nice violin playing. I'll let the pros weigh in because I'm not really qualified to judge.

First of all I think there are often really good violin teachers at universities that don't have top music programs. Secondly if you look around in the surrounding community you can often find really good violin teachers who don't have faculty positions at the university -- because they have pro performing careers instead.

Keeping up with music lessons in college when you're not a music major is not all that easy. You've got to take your violin around with you because generally you cannot practice in your dorm room. And you have to find time. I bet 90% of people who say they're going to do this ... don't.

February 9, 2017 at 02:24 AM · You could also encourage him to think more creatively about the music industry. So many people want to either just land an orchestra job, or be a soloist. How about starting a group? Being an arts administrator? What about conducting ( avoid studying in the U.S. for this one )? Composing? If he has multiple skills, and something truly unique to offer, he is more likely to work.

Also, double majoring, or pursuing another degree altogether doesn't necessarily make it impossible to become a good player. It's all about time management. Robert Gupta, Lucas Debargue, David Aaron Carpenter, and Yo-Yo Ma are examples of musicians who did just that. All of the schools mentioned by the OP are pretty good for this purpose. Perhaps see if your son could get in touch with people who double majored in music and a non-music field and ask them about their experiece.

February 9, 2017 at 03:17 AM · Many of the players who double-major and go on to performance careers, are people who enter university as already fully competitive players -- they can coast a little during their university years because they are already superior.

February 9, 2017 at 04:20 AM · I was a double degree student at Oberlin--violin and mathematics--and I most definitely was NOT a fully competitive player when I entered college. I was, however, basically a B+ student in math there because that wasn't where my heart was. Math was my plan B, and while I have hardly made use of it since, it did land me an assistantship at Indiana that paid twice as much as the violin assistantships (I was a violin grad student, but they didn't have enough math grad students to staff the lower level classes, and the violin assistantships went to people like Andres Cardenes, who was there when I was).

I am a believer in a Plan B. Even landing an orchestra job is no guarantee that the orchestra will continue to pay a reasonable salary. My orchestra went dark during a bankruptcy year, for example. And if you take my first year's salary here (1988-89), when I was a young member of the second violin section (not titled), and apply an inflation multiplier to convert into 2016 dollars, I was paid more then as an inexperienced spear carrier than I am now as principal 2nd with nearly 30 years seniority. But pulling off a double major or double degree program in college requires a cooperative teacher (some won't allow it, mine had to be convinced) and super efficient practicing. It also helps to be a good sightreader as that cuts down on preparation time for orchestra pieces.

I will also say that one's ability to adequately supplement a meager orchestra salary with teaching and gigs is heavily dependent not only on competence but also on personality and willingness to work seven days a week.

I don't know who teaches at Stanford but it's not a name music program at all, not like Harvard and Yale. Indiana is a first-tier music school, not "going lower." I have heard good things about the music school at the University of Maryland. UT-Austin is another strong second-tier school, though I doubt very much they see themselves as second-tier. There are some great teachers there.

I will listen to the videos you posted, but here is my standard advice to those students whom I believe to have the potential to succeed in professional music: "If you can be happy doing anything else, you should do that other thing."

Oh, forgot to comment on the All-State thing. I live in Texas, which also has an extremely competitive All-State orchestra system. Most of the students who make All-State will not end up being terribly competitive in the professional orchestra world. As I have said here many times, you would not believe how well one must play in order to win a job in a regional orchestra.

Editing because I just listened to a little of the Bruch. Please keep in mind that my comments here are based on one snapshot. Other information, which your son's teacher has but I do not, is how quickly he assimilates new technique and repertoire, and what his progress looks like week to week.

Your son strikes me as borderline. If most of this level has been achieved recently, then in another year he might be competitive for a second-tier school, but I don't think Indiana is in the picture. There are some great teachers at second-tier schools and I have known of students who improved greatly over the four years of undergrad, so I'm not going to say a future in professional music is impossible but I will say that given only the one snapshot of his current playing at age 16, it strikes me as a long shot. At his current level, he would not make All-State in Texas either.

Also, I don't know what your son's teacher has been working on with him but I think your son needs to start paying attention to his left thumb and keeping it in a stable position relative to the rest of his left hand. His thumb is all over the place when he shifts, which accounts for some of his intonation issues--he does not have a stable hand frame. I recommend the famous Galamian book, Principles of Violin Playing and Teaching, for a thorough explanation of left hand technique.

February 9, 2017 at 04:39 AM · I personally feel that if you have other interests, pursue them. I don't see why you can't get good at multiple things. I have to agree with Mary Ellen.

February 9, 2017 at 05:05 AM · I listened to both videos. In addition to Mary Ellen's comments, I think his use of the bow needs a certain degree of fluidity that isn't there yet, and he's not properly maintaining a consistent angle of attack or sounding point. That's leading to the sometimes scrape-y sound. He uses a spread-fingered bowhold, which is okay, but it looks like there's very little flex in his right hand. And he rarely uses the lower third of the bow.

At his current level, he probably wouldn't qualify to play 1st violin in a good adult community orchestra (amateur), and I don't think he'd be able to make All-State here in the DC/MD/VA area, either. Where he would be in another year, or after 4 years of a bachelor's + 2 of a master's, is open to question.

February 9, 2017 at 05:18 AM · The Bruch third movement has some issues. The rhythm at the beginning is suspect; the 16th note pickups are played out of time to the point they almost sound like grace notes. The tone quality is inconsistent, as his bow's point of contact drifts all over the place. Staying only in the middle of the bow can be very limiting in terms of sound production.

The intonation on the Bach is "close" but not stable because the whole/half step placement isn't accurate (re: what Mary Ellen mentioned regarding the hand frame), and that hyper-extended tight pinky on the bow hold is part of the reason there isn't a lot of variation in tone color or depth of sound (even coming through a recording).

February 9, 2017 at 05:31 AM · I just watched the beginning of the Bruch. I think your son would have to make some serious sacrifices in the next couple of years in order to have a chance at music school. I seriously wonder though, if this is his achievement after nine years, and you said he has been pretty dedicated, I wonder if any fast progress can be made that will substantially increase his competitiveness. It might be different if you said he had been playing for, say, a year, or that his teachers have all been a gross mismatch. I wonder what this "setback" is you speak of.

I second the other critiques that have been given so far, and would like to add that his bow hold appears rather beginner-like at times, with his right pinky going in and out of being totally erect. It also sounds a bit too slow, as if that were as fast as he could go. Also, the fact that you are posting on this forum on his behalf, and are doing a good deal of the college research for him implies that he may not be a self-starter, which is important if you want to set goals. You both have a lot to think about.

February 9, 2017 at 06:17 AM · One more thought. If you want to hear what the most competitive students your son's age sound like, go to Youtube and look up senior recitals for Juilliard Prep. Not all of those students will go into professional music, and not everyone who will end up in professional music is playing that well at 16, 17 or 18, but most of the latter aren't too far off.

Here's an Interlochen Arts Academy (high school) senior recital that I found on youtube...this is the level player your son would be competing with for schools like Indiana.

Apologies for being blunt but your son is going to have to really, really want this, want this enough to put in several years of extremely hard work and very little social life, and at the end of it all he's most likely to end up piecing together freeway philharmonic gigs and teaching. That's a life that can be enjoyable at 25 but not so much at 45.

February 9, 2017 at 06:58 AM · >He loves practicing but only has 1.5 hour

>during school days. more on the weekends

The students that are going into music careers, aka the folks you would consider "the competition" are practicing an efficient and worthwhile 4-5 hours a day, every day.

For a couple students that I advised who recently went into programs at Cleveland, Rice, Northwestern, and San Francisco Conservatory, that was their reality. Besides having the discipline and aptitude for playing, they made sacrifices in their academic options, extracurricular activities, social activities, and others in order to pursue music. It's extreme, but that is the reality these days! :/

February 9, 2017 at 07:06 AM · Hi Lali, if your son is willing to work as hard as Mary Ellen suggests he will need to, which is far harder than anything he can imagine right now, he will still need to find teachers who can teach him what he needs. As others have already said he has a lot of catching up to do. I'm a little more pessimistic. I think he needs to drastically rework both left hand and bow arm immediately.

It's been a while now, but I spent a lot of time rehabbing kids, as an assistant to my former teacher, preparing them for performance programs. This is what he did after he retired from the local university. If your son came to me right now I'd take him off all repertoire and spend a few months with exercises and etudes to rework his technique before resuming carefully chosen rep to continue the rehab work. His playing doesn't reflect what he should have learned from rep he's already finished. It appears as if he's been going through a checklist rather than building his skills. I can get into more details if you like, but that's all just physical work and exercise. What concerns me more is his lack of musical understanding.

To give you an idea of what it was like in my teacher's studio (he was very dedicated and pretty extreme) students were practicing on average 4 hours per day. Often there were two lessons per week (once with me) and they had masterclass every Saturday morning. Lessons were frequently 2 hours long (with both of us.) They were all doing some sort of ear training and theory, whether privately or through the local conservatory. Many of them were playing in the local youth orchestra. Some of them were doing chamber music. And they attended at least one summer camp. Most kids started with him between the ages of 10 to 13. Though there were a few older and younger.

On top of that, my teacher was very well connected with teachers in the US, Canada, and Europe so he had an idea of who he could send kids to. The more advanced kids went to the States and Europe. They were introduced to the teacher they were to study with prior to auditions, often a couple of years ahead of time. Not all of them got their first choice, but some students are ushered into studios this way. Most of the others went to McGill here in Canada (which is always an option.) But the students were being placed into the studio of a teacher he knew could continue the work. Your priority should be looking for teachers who can prepare him, rather than schools (that is, unless you're also considering the plan B program.)

February 9, 2017 at 07:14 AM · Well....

Thank you all for listening and commenting. Your comments are very important and will go into our coming discussions. For those who asked why I am posting here and not him - I am the one who worries. He does not see the need to ask questions. He just want to play and improve. As I said, he had a huge leap in the last few months... but I have no idea if this momentum will continue. We have a lot to think about in the coming months... Again, thank you all for your time and comments.

February 9, 2017 at 07:31 AM · I hope this isn't too disheartening for him. You might be interested in this thread, where I posted some videos and information about mindset psychology. During my time I also taught the kids on the 'chopping block' so to speak, full time. I became aware of a pattern in their thinking which now I realize is what Carol Dweck calls a fixed mindset. I wonder if his inconsistency has anything to do with his mindset.

February 9, 2017 at 07:52 AM · Might very well be that mindset is one of the issues. My only wish for him is to succeed in what he loves to do which right now is not the case, and to make sure that he has some income in his future... so we need to decide how to continue and where to put the effort, how to get him improved and where to apply.

Thank you for the videos, I will watch them tomorrow.

February 9, 2017 at 08:26 AM · Here are three teachers who can teach a solid foundation:

McGill and U Calgary are both large Canadian Universities. McGill is Canada's largest music school and is very competitive. Wheaton is a private Christian Liberal Arts College with a Conservatory attached to it.

Re. "Can any one tell me anything about schools you know that are not the top tier, but still good programs for violin?"

If the foundation is not there the program will not make an ounce of difference to his playing ability. In fact, especially in some of the larger schools with multiple orchestras, the program may become a hindrance. He needs to find a teacher who can set him up (because I don't think he'll be set up prior to undergrad, unless you're very lucky and find a teacher who can do this in short order--they do exist.) Then he'll need to build more rep. and orchestral excerpts in a Masters Program or Artist's Diploma (better to do 3-4 years doing both,) then, if he can, audition for a professional training orchestra program either in the US or in Europe. Keep in mind, getting into these training programs will be like winning a job.

February 9, 2017 at 12:42 PM · Double majoring in college is a possibility but I would argue very difficult if the non-music major is one that involves a lot of lab courses. In addition to physical and life sciences, engineering requires chemistry and physics with labs, and engineering programs have their own lab-type courses too. Math is doable, but these days there are math-y alternatives with somewhat more practical objectives such as statistics, data analytics, or computer science.

And as for "where/how to compete", that's partly what competitive summer programs are for. First of all to go through the experience of preparing an audition and see if you get in. You pay an application fee for that, but it's not astronomical. The camp itself can be expensive, but you get very good insight into your peers -- not only their playing skill, but their "mindset" as Jeewon mentioned, which includes their level of drive and ambition -- that's going to be VERY high at the top levels, and necessarily so.

February 9, 2017 at 01:49 PM · Jeewon has great advice. (My own childhood teacher is the chair of strings at Wheaton, Lee Joiner. He is also superb at teaching the foundation.)

I wanted to emphasize the teacher issue. If you want to go on to play professionally, you need a teacher who understands how to prepare you for that career. My instant impression upon hearing the first few bars of the Bruch was that he wasn't ready to play it. The kind of skills that he's lacking should have been worked out at the Accolay level, probably, or certainly at the level of, say, de Beriot (7, 9, or Scene de Ballet). The previous sequence -- Mozart 3, 4, Bruch, Lalo -- suggests to me that his teacher may be moving him forward in repertoire without his having mastered the necessary skills, the classic "advancing without improving" problem.

This is doubly concerning when you say that he's improved a lot in this last year. Have his fundamentals really gotten a lot better, or has he just been pushed into more advanced repertoire, giving the illusion of getting better? Perhaps with his more conscientious practice resulting in something that sounds better because he's managing, despite the poor fundamentals, to play less carelessly? Because if someone were really rebuilding his fundamentals, I don't think his present state would be the result.

Even if he decides not to go on to a music career, it would be worthwhile to invest in rebuilding the fundamentals right now. It's the most important thing he can do if he wants to play for a hobby, because fundamentals are most easily worked on young, with dedicated concentration in practice, and an excellent teacher. And fundamentals are critical to first impressions of a player, which will have a strong degree of impact on his future opportunities. I will take, as a chamber-music partner or community-orchestra member, someone with a beautiful tone and accurate intonation, over someone who can play more advanced repertoire, any day of the week. If the foundation is shaky, everything he does will always wobble on top of it, requiring vastly more effort to sound good than if the foundation were sound.

A pro orchestra audition requires you to be an incredibly competent violinist at the core -- it requires superb control, which in turn demands essentially flawless fundamentals. He's got to master those fundamentals. Building anything more on top of the problematic foundation is mostly a waste of time because it's just more stuff to re-learn once the fundamentals are fixed.

That can feel like moving backwards -- less difficult repertoire, skipping all-state auditions and whatnot in order to focus practice time on etudes and exercises, etc. But it needs to be done. "Chair" competition at this age is basically worthless; nobody cares about it other than the kids (and maybe parents) right now, unless you're the concertmaster.

February 9, 2017 at 03:04 PM · Again, thank you all for your input. It is a harsh but important reality check. His teacher does try to correct his fundamentals, and until lately it didn't work. Now for some reason it does. Many of the things you are saying are in process of improving. We have now to sit and think how we continue, and what can be done in one year, which is what he has until college appliations.

I took out the links now, because I feel that they expose him "naked" and I believe that I received enough good feedback that can carry us foreword.

Thank you all.

February 9, 2017 at 03:19 PM · Lali, In addition to having 30 years of experience teaching all levels of violin, I am also a mother (two children currently in college and one in high school) and I very much understand the urge to help your child in the pursuit of his dream.

Your son does not have one year if he is currently a junior. Prescreening recordings (most of the top schools require these)are due in December of his senior year. Live auditions are a year from now, but his repertoire needs to be *polished* by then, not freshly learned.

The lower the music school, the less rigorous the audition requirements, but it is very dangerous to think that he has a full year to get ready. If he's really serious, he might consider a gap year doing the work outlined by Lydia. I posted some audition requirements to top schools on the Audition Repertoire thread.

If he were my child, I would start a concentrated dose of reality, either by watching youtube videos of high school students in prep programs, or by taking him to student recitals at local universities with good music programs. A trial lesson with a faculty member, if his current teacher approves, would be effective if very possibly harsh. I don't recommend trying to set one up at this point with a teacher that he might actually want to study with in the future as he will not likely make a great impression.

I wish the best for both of you, and for your son to find a path in life that gives him a happy, productive, successful future.

February 9, 2017 at 03:29 PM · "If the foundation is shaky, everything he does will always wobble on top of it, requiring vastly more effort to sound good than if the foundation were sound. ...He's got to master those fundamentals. Building anything more on top of the problematic foundation is mostly a waste of time because it's just more stuff to re-learn once the fundamentals are fixed."

Lydia is spot on.

"...skipping all-state auditions and whatnot in order to focus practice time on etudes and exercises, etc."

I would pull him out of all extraneous playing. You can't change fundamentals, habits, without being aware of what you're doing at all times. Playing, performing, putting on airs, will take away from focused, habit changing practice, as all his old habits will just kick back in. Zero sum.

A teacher doesn't 'try to correct fundamentals.' She either does, or the student is asked to move on. That's where I stepped in, for students given an ultimatum. He most definitely will not be able to make any meaningful progress on fundamentals working on Wieniawski. He will be able to audition for schools like Calgary and Wheaton with Lalo, Bruch, Mozart, Bach, so it would be better (imperative actually) for him to work on fundamentals alone now and afterwards recycle works for audition pieces. If he is motivated by the reward of working on a known, difficult piece, that is a sign of a fixed mindset, wanting to work on maintaining the appearance of talent rather than on making real, meaningful progress.

Edit: if auditioning for a school like Wheaton or Calgary, it wouldn't hurt to play for the teacher he wants to study with now, especially if he can show real improvement over the next year.

February 9, 2017 at 03:37 PM · Several of the young women violinists from the California desert town I lived in over 20 years ago attended the University of Arizona at Flagstaff for violin and music education studies. They did this because their high school music director had gotten her degree in education and violin performance there.

Before attending college in Flagstaff this music teacher was in HS in our town and had sat next to me as assistant concertmaster in our community orchestra for 4 years. After she returned from college and took the HS teaching job the community orchestra board held new auditions and she took my CM chair.

She had been good when she left HS but she was REALLY GOOD when she returned from college.

It's now 30 years later so I have no idea how the violin teaching at Flagstaff is now - but it might be worth looking into.

February 9, 2017 at 05:44 PM · I have a slight disagreement with Jeewon. I think that if you fundamentally change your playing -- which your son is going to have to do -- it's very hard to go back to old repertoire. You tend to revert to old habits when you do that.

Your son has practiced-in the awkward shifts, the bad bow distribution, etc. in the repertoire he's playing now. It'll be easier to start a new piece after the foundation is rebuilt, and make sure that it's learned right from the start. That may make the gap year essential.

He should be giving up all social and recreational activities to practice 4 hours a day, and preferably take 2 lessons a week with someone who understands how to fix fundamentals (probably not his current teacher). This type of work is never fun. It's exacting and tedious and necessary.

Moreover, he has to realize that by pursuing this path, he is essentially going to sacrifice any "fun" college experience. He should be practicing as much as possible, which is hard enough on just a music major, but will be brutal with a double-major. And there will be no guarantee of an orchestra job at the end.

February 9, 2017 at 09:10 PM · I guess I was late to the party for the videos?

Regarding what Lydia said about playing existing repertoire, that's exactly right. When I took up playing again, we did not spend much time on things I already knew at first as it was obvious that bad habits were ingrained into that music, and playing it was making bad habits emerge that were otherwise squashed in new music. However, after you make significant progress, returning to music you already know will seem fresh, and the bad habits should not return, because you are so much better you are approaching the music fundamentally differently than you were before.

When that finally happens, it's a great payoff for all the hard work before, because your progress is impossible not to notice, when what was hard becomes easy and what was easy becomes effortless.

Your son could still become very good even if he doesn't major in music. Just set a reasonable goal for maintenance and progress while in college, depending on what he majors in, and then he can start studying seriously afterwards. It's not pro level, but as Lydia demonstrates you can still play very well and not be a pro, and more than well enough that you'll impress anyone you play for.

February 9, 2017 at 10:19 PM · You would be surprised at how hard habits die. I still have problems returning to childhood repertoire without instinctively returning to childhood technique -- not necessarily bad but different (Galamian-ish rather than Russian-ish).

Even repertoire learned when I had just returned to playing the violin again -- learned in a kind of odd way while my memory of how to play the violin properly was still very nebulous -- is hard for me to go back to, because I revert to the way those pieces were originally practiced-in.

February 10, 2017 at 12:47 AM · So, maybe there was more to practicing etudes for technique than just not wanting to desecrate great works (which is what people normally say is the reason)--you don't want to ingrain any bad habits into them, which you'll have to work out later when your technique is more fully developed. I love it when it turns out the stated reason behind a time-honored practice isn't as good as the likely real but not understood reasons; it's proof that tradition has value that often exceeds human reason. Thanks, Edmund Burke! ;)

February 10, 2017 at 02:30 AM · Lali, you've gotten good advice, but my sense is that often with teenagers experience is the ultimate teacher. He'll figure this out. Spending time playing violin for the next year (if he enjoys it) and doing try-outs knowing there's a good chance he won't be admitted in music performance also isn't the end of the world. There are so many worse ways teenagers could spend their time :)

Earlier someone said that music is as good a liberal arts degree as any. He may still find that he loves music but that what he does in it takes a different form.

Sometimes I feel like the forumites get so excited about shoving reality down people's throats that they forget that most will figure it out on their own. I had a brother make a run at trumpet performance 20 years ago, and after various transitions (education--psych--English--law school--teach abroad) he now (surprise!) works in computers and makes a nice salary. It took him a few years to realize that he didn't want to practice 8 hours a day and have a musician's life--but a lot of people have to try it before they know for sure. Your son will be okay.

February 10, 2017 at 02:42 AM · Most do eventually figure it out on their own, true, but when someone asks a question here, they get an honest answer.

I don't run around giving advice to students--even my own--unless they ask. And if one of my children were interested in pursuing a field outside my expertise or that of my husband, I would be grateful if a more knowledgeable adult could give my child good advice and a fair assessment. It could save some spinning of wheels. And anyway, one of the personal qualities necessary for any young person to succeed in music is determination. If the OP's son doesn't want it badly enough to override the discouragement here, then he doesn't want it badly enough to succeed.

February 10, 2017 at 02:56 AM · Time to figure it out is pretty much for the privileged only. Ditto just applying to a bunch of schools and running around to auditions. Many families have to budget for audition fees, not to mention travel to auditions (plane, hotel, etc.). Getting years of education is expensive and many families can't afford to allow their children to meander around until they find what they want to do.

Now, the OP says they're upper middle class, but I'm guessing they don't have functionally infinite money because they are actually concerned about getting a merit scholarship (which seems unlikely if he pursues violin performance).

February 10, 2017 at 03:07 AM · Bless your soul J,

Yes he will be OK, no doubt. First he will fight to get better at what he loves, then he will deal with the successes and the defeats. He is a great person and he plans to take science as part of his double major, so he might have to go with one scientific major and only a minor in music, or even only private lessons on campus and taking part in the orchestra. He has great grades, so we just have to figure out which schools to apply that also have great violin teachers. That was my question as I entered, maybe I didn't ask it very clearly.

Ah, We will figure it out.

Just checked your profile, I am sure your kids will love music when they grow up. I was happy when mine told me that she got tickets to see Midori with the Pittsburgh Symphony for her 21st. birthday.... Then I knew I must have done something right. Enjoy every moment.... they fly out of the nest before you know it.

Thank you for the kind words. :)

February 10, 2017 at 03:15 AM · Mary Ellen and Lydia,

Don't get defensive, I entered this room knowing what I was going into, and asked for your honest input. I got it, now I have to work with it.

I just wish to have more info on good academic schools with good violin teachers, so that even if he doesn't major in music he could continue study, practice and grow.

I sincerely thank you for your advises. I read this forum for a while, I know your backgrounds and I needed it.

So - Thank you.

If something interesting will happen a year from now, I might let you all know.



February 10, 2017 at 03:45 AM · I would start with the list of where he wants to go to college -- choose a school for his likely major, first and foremost. Then, eliminate the ones where there isn't any possibility of good teaching.

I don't think that at this point in his life, that an artist-teacher at a major conservatory (including a conservatory attached to a university) is the right choice. I think he needs someone who is a very effective teacher of fundamentals. That person could be anywhere -- including at a school that doesn't really have a good music program in general. They may be an adjunct or a lecturer, not a full-time prof. Or they might primarily teach in a prep program -- someone who turns out outstanding pre-conservatory players is often someone who is good at conveying fundamentals. (Although rehabilitating a player with bad habits, like your son, is somewhat different than building a foundation from scratch.)

Also, as an alternative, if you can afford it, he could take violin lessons outside of the context of his university. That has the advantage of carrying no obligations -- no requirement to play for juries, in the university orchestra, etc. Not having to earn a grade has a lot of advantages for a player who needs to do a ground-up rebuild and has other academic priorities. There are good teachers in any city that has an excellent professional symphony, and in most major population centers in general.

In other words, he's probably not going to study with a "name" prof, and if he's not going to major in music, he doesn't need to carefully choose a program. But if your teacher is well networked they can probably help you figure out who is a good teacher of fundamentals at the schools he's interested in. If she can't help, then your son will need to call each of the schools' music departments and ask about the violin faculty -- and when he visits the schools, try to arrange to take a trial lesson.

February 10, 2017 at 04:13 AM · Mary Ellen and Lydia really do offer great advice and I'm always impressed by how dedicated people on this forum are. The gap year idea is a good one also, if he's serious. There is also a value in really laying out meticulously how difficult a given route is so that people know what they're going for.

Part of the challenge of high school is that 90% of your time goes into things you won't use *directly* later on. I think of band, debate, that semester of shot put, the science and math classes that I (mostly) enjoyed but won't use, etc., etc. A lot of high school is trying on identities. Being a music kid is a pretty good identity. No concussions, smart friends, makes for a good hobby....

February 10, 2017 at 05:53 AM · Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland is associated with the Cleveland Institute of Music. I don't see the OP's son getting lessons with a CIM faculty member but there are graduate students, and I'm sure there are excellent private teachers who either play in or sub with the Cleveland Orchestra.

UT-Austin has excellent programs in the sciences and engineering, and a large music school that also includes an orchestra for non-majors. Again, I don't see the OP's son getting lessons with a professor but there are graduate students, and private teachers in Austin. The Austin Symphony is not to be compared with the Cleveland Orchestra, however; they are on opposite ends of the pro orchestra spectrum. And it is very hard to get into UT-Austin unless you are in the top 7% of your graduating class in a Texas high school.

There are also schools where the OP's son might get a music scholarship even as a non-major but those are not schools where he's likely to find top-flight teaching or academics. For example, I know of an undistinguished musician who is getting a scholarship to play in the orchestra of a small private Christian college in West Texas.

February 10, 2017 at 06:41 AM · My personal experience is with the California schools. For any undergraduate, regardless of major, I would recommend the Cal State U. system over UC. It's an emotionally safer environment and UC uses the awful quarter system. The best music schools in the CSU system might be Long Beach and Northridge. The UC music campuses have different emphasis. UCLA is famous for Ethnomusicology, UC San Diego does modern composition and technology, Berkley does historical musicology. UC Santa Barbara is the performance school. USC is definitely worth a try. If accepted, they take a real interest in their students. For any young musician, no matter how good, at some point acquire another job skill. ~jq

February 10, 2017 at 07:17 AM · Ah, there are many of us, who have had to choose because of money issues and it is not necessary a bad thing.

In our system, after 18 you really have to choose one major if you want to get a salary sooner rather than later. I still remember the discussions we had at home with my mom, and not with warmth, I can tell you. At 17 I had almost done the exams to qualify to teach my instrument besides doing college with good grades, but the pay would have been low and though I was good, I was not talented enough to play solo, so my mom thought it best that I would get into uni and get a higher paying job. In piano you either play solo or teach. And as I knew that I was not going to get any financial help from parents after moving away from home, I understood fairly quickly that becoming a teacher would have landed me in a worse situation. Here we start university preferably at 18 and I finished it with a higher degree at 23, so there is not really that much time to think if one does not want to drift and needs the money.

And though it hurt and I have regretted it sometimes, it is the plain truth, if one is not exceptional, one has to think carefully whether it is wise to go for a career in music. I do not know how good my daughter will be at that age but I probably stick to the same thinking, if one is not good enough, it is not wise to put all efforts into something one is unlikely to succeed, fortunate are those, who have enough financial support to do as they please but a reality check is a good thing, if that is not the reality.

When speaking of how much people can improve one must always remember that there are others who do the same effort but start from a far higher platform so it is a race that really cannot be won as playing is really really competitive in a non amateur world. And it is competitive from the beginning too, the problem sometimes is that when youngsters have no reference point aka no one that is better than themselves around they really do not know how good one really has to be, and so they dont practise and correct themselves early enough. And sometimes teachers only give those reference points to pupils that they believe have a chance in the professional music business and with others they just try to make the playing enjoyable as a hobby, which I suspect might be the case in this post as I did get the chance to see the videos. But at that age it is important that the student knows what the reality is, allthough it is not nice and it may be crushing. But further on, it will be still more crushing. But going to a few competitions and auditioning to musical education college will do the trick and if the student has good grades he will be just fine. But taking a year off just to play violin I do not recommend if the child has to make living himself after graduating, because it just might make the crush more hard.

February 10, 2017 at 12:44 PM · "Sometimes I feel like the forumites get so excited about shoving reality down people's throats that they forget that most will figure it out on their own."

LOL! We can be an obsessive lot! I guess it kinda comes with the territory.

But on the flip side, I think it's important for young people to find out what it will take for them as soon as possible. Because it's almost impossible to know. Then it's up to them to decide whether they're willing to step up.

My teacher was one of a kind. He was definitely old school in many ways but he was adamant that his main goal in life was to help kids put food on the table playing or teaching (because he didn't always have that as a child.) I think he was happiest when a student got it, whether it was some minute technical detail, or a great interpretation. He might be screaming at the top of his lungs one minute, but then, a beautiful turn of phrase, or a bow stroke placed just so would light up a big, goofy grin on his craggy old face. I think all of his students, whether they loved or hated him, no matter what 'level' they started at with him, would agree he was able to elevate their playing beyond anything anyone would've thought possible. But he had little tolerance for those unwilling to put in the hard work. Had he taught only the gifted, he could've been a world class pedagogue, though he would've had to overcome many demons of his own. As it was, many people did come from the US, Europe, England and Japan to study with him for a time, and many of his colleagues and pros would consult with and play for him. He could really be very difficult, but he had a pretty good track record. Doing a quick survey in my head, I think virtually all of the students who survived their time with him, and many who didn't, went on to be able to put food on their tables, even if some of them went on to do other things. Not every teacher/student combo is a viable match. But a good teacher can help a student steadily improve and achieve a solid foundation over several years. A great teacher can transform a student before your eyes.

I write all this because I have witnessed many kids succeed where most would've thought it not possible. Success really depends on finding such teachers, who will go above and beyond for their students, wherever they may teach. Programs are almost antithetical to the needs of the individual student, because they're designed to be self-serving and 'fair.' An unsympathetic dean can be a nightmare to students who might need to tailor their year for one reason or another. Having a teacher in your corner, who will go to bat for you, can be a life saver.

Edit: having worked with many kids who opted for a gap year, I think it really depends on the student whether it's advantageous to take one. It depends on their organizational skills and motivation. Many kids unable to use their time well ended up languishing, spending the year mostly alone at home when not at masterclass or orchestra. OP's son sounds like he might be able to plan a productive year, given he successfully studied theory on his own initiative. It would be useful to study keyboard harmony and ear training (both privately if possible) and take more classes in theory and analysis at a local conservatory. If a student can find a very good teacher who can make up for time, and provide a solid foundation, in undergrad, it might be better to move on, keep up the momentum.

Edit 2: if he really does want a crack at performance, and if finances will allow, it would be better to apply to a performance program first, and if things don't work out switch, or go on to another field after the first degree. It would be almost impossible to do both at once for someone without the fundamentals, and much harder to do it the other way around. Off the top of my head I can count more than a dozen or so performance majors I know personally who went on to become lawyers and doctors and into business, some after working for a while, others directly after their undergrad. I know one colleague who worked for about 10 years, got her DMA and is now in her final year of law school, with 2 young kids!! Something about obsessive minds perhaps.

February 10, 2017 at 02:28 PM · And, of course, it will be an early, low-cost test of whether he's interested in doing this 12 hours a day. Better to find that out before you're in a situation you're too stubborn to drop out of.

February 10, 2017 at 04:21 PM · Hi Lali, I'm late to the party and didn't see the video but trust the more seasoned violinists here. I wrote a long response to a young woman earlier about my own reality check in high school. I wasn't as advanced as your son but lived in an area with fewer great musicians and didn't fully understand HOW GOOD people were until I went to college and sat in the back of the second violin section (after being the concertmaster of my local youth orchestra in North Carolina).

The great thing about your son's situation is that by doing well in school, he's given himself a lot of options. He should keep all of them open for as long as possible, which actually might mean NOT going to one of these schools with a conservatory-quality music program. I know this sounds counterintuitive but hear me out: I think if he were to go to a university with a famous music school, e.g. Indiana, Michigan, Rice, Northwestern, he might get disillusioned after being surrounded by so many ace violinists. He might not get into the studios of the best teachers, might not get to play in the best orchestra, etc. If you're not admitted into the heart of a music community in college, it's easy to quit entirely. Maybe I'm wrong. But I'll posit this: that although he's excited about this idea now, at some point he will realize that his talents are more evenly distributed than those of the hardcore do-or-die professional aspirants, which means he gets to continue to hone his music while also learning engineering, economics, or some other useful academic skill that will help him find a different but no less meaningful, intellectually satisfying career. For this, I'm going to recommend a different path: go to the best academic program that he can find, which will almost certainly ALSO have great student musicians.

At Princeton, where I went to college, my classmates had studied at Juilliard and won national competitions in high school. They'd been to the famous music festivals and studied with teachers like Dorothy Delay, Roman Totenburg, etc. Of the concertmasters I recall, one of these guys is now a journalism professor at Columbia. One of them works at Facebook. One is a physician. One of them stuck to music and is now living in the mountains in North Carolina, serving as concertmaster of a regional orchestra and working as an arts administrator for a summer music festival. It's not a bad life. But he was REALLY GOOD. He took auditions for years, hoping for the kind of gig that Mary Ellen has. It was not to be.

My friend Stephen, who was probably closer to your son's level of playing when he started college, played in orchestra all four years, took chamber music classes, tried conducting, and went to grad school in chemistry before ultimately switching to a career in finance. He lives in the heart of London, owns a piano that's worth twice the annual salary of a regional concertmaster, and he and his wife host chamber music evenings, coach their daughters as they learn their own instruments, go to Proms, fly to Vienna for the New Year's Eve Opera Ball, and in short lead lives suffused with music but on a grand scale beyond the reach of many professional musicians.

I can't emphasize this point enough: as a non-prodigy, it's important for your son to not only think about how much he loves to play and perform, but also envision the life he wants to lead. I think Lydia is a really interesting example (forgive me, Lydia)–someone who was prodigiously talented and hard-working in high school, but who was also good at other things. She has come back to music at a level that enables her to solo with orchestras in concerti that many of us can only fantasize about playing. And yet I'm guessing that she gets to do so while earning a comfortable living doing something very different. It's a choice that she gets to keep making because she's given herself other options.

Re: colleges, one thing to consider is choosing a university with a really good string quartet in residence. One of the best ways to maintain your music as an adult is playing chamber music. Stanford has the St. Lawrence Quartet in residence and they are fantastic teachers, players, coaches, and role models. My brother-in-law studied with them throughout grad school and attended their summer chamber music workshops and became amazingly good–-while continuing his path toward academia in a very different field. When I was at Princeton, the Brentano Quartet was in residence and played a similar role; now I believe they're at Yale (which I think might fall into that category of schools-with-conservatories-that-might-be-demoralizing). When I was growing up, I benefited from instruction with members of the Ciompi Quartet at Duke (Bruce Berg used to be a member). I'm sure there are other schools with similar opportunities.

In the short-term, I echo the advice about going to a hard-core summer camp and finding a teacher who will do the hard technique work. My last high school teacher (of the aforementioned Ciompi Quartet) was a stickler for technique and also a realist. She took me off the concerto path and put me on a diet of Handel Sonatas and etudes. I complained bitterly at the time; now, however, I'd give a lot to have had five more years with her. If only every high school student were gifted with the ability of foresight!

PS: Lydia, I'm pretty sure Lee Joiner taught at Brevard the summer I was there and I remember students thinking he was really good!

February 10, 2017 at 04:48 PM · He is! I was the first kid he taught shortly after he got his DMA. He gave me a magnificent education by basically saying, hey, I don't have any idea how to teach children, but I can give you the same sort of instruction that my violin majors get. He had me read pedagogy, do conducting and rhythm exercises, get private theory lessons, take Alexander Technique... all sorts of stuff.

And hey, I studied with one of the former members of the Ciompi Quartet, too! Claudia Bloom was my teacher when I started playing again in my late twenties -- she was the principal 2nd in Opera San Jose at the time.

(EDIT: Now I remember you were the poster who mentioned studying with her before. I didn't know Bruce Berg had been a Ciompi Quartet member though -- indeed, at the same time, even, from what I can see online!)

February 10, 2017 at 05:36 PM · Yeah, Claudia and Bruce were in the quartet at the same time. I only studied with her for a year before she moved away but have become close to her again since moving out to California 15 years ago. You should have heard her playing klezmer music last weekend!

My second Ciompi teacher was the incredible Hsiao-mei Ku.

She has rarely said much nice about my playing but was such a wise, warm, funny, caring teacher that her honesty and high expectations just felt like a gift. And we've stayed close. She played the slow movement from the second Bach solo sonata for our wedding processional, stayed with us in Boston when her daughter was looking at colleges, etc. I think I took her critiques to heart because I understood that they weren't personal. She liked, even loved me as a person, and made me feel no less interesting or worthy because I was working on Kabalevsky instead of Brahms. I didn't realize at the time how rare that was.

So, yeah. Duke is a good option.

February 10, 2017 at 06:04 PM · If you're looking at the public school system in California, it's important to differentiate them, and realize that with so many campuses it's not possible to make a blanket declaration about all of them.

The University of California (UC) schools are research universities, with faculty committed to the discovery of new knowledge and training of undergraduates for further studies at the graduate level. Each school has its standouts, like Marine Biology at UCSD, Computer Science at UCI, Law at UCLA, and (among many others) Electrical Engineering at Berkeley. Obviously, UCLA's music department is by far the largest, best-funded, and has the lion's share of notable faculty, but there are gems to be found throughout the entire system. There are nine campuses.

The California State University (CSU) schools are teaching universities, with faculty members committed to pedagogy and preparing students to enter the work force after undergraduate. The CSU is largely free of the "rock star professor" problem where classes are taught entirely by graduate students and the actual professor is never seen. The overwhelming majority of excellent K-12 music educators that I interact with all graduated from and earned their Teaching Credentials at a CSU campus. In many cases, their music departments are actually much larger than their UC neighbor, for example, CSU Long Beach compared to UC Irvine. There are twenty-three campuses, and the cost of tuition is lower than the UC.

From there, we have a massive community college system with dozens of campuses, which offers vocational programs as well as transfer credits into the CSU and UC schools. While lots of folks like to poo-poo the concept of junior college, instructor quality is right up there with the UC/CSU system and transfers into UC/CSU from the CC's have historically had some of the highest graduation rates.

FWIW, I attended UC schools, and have colleagues and family members who teach at UC, CSU, and CC programs.

February 10, 2017 at 08:17 PM · Here's a link to that Freeway Philharmonic documentary that someone mentioned earlier. It's great!

February 10, 2017 at 10:53 PM · "I think if he were to go to a university with a famous music school, e.g. Indiana, Michigan, Rice, Northwestern, he might get disillusioned after being surrounded by so many ace violinists. He might not get into the studios of the best teachers, might not get to play in the best orchestra, etc."

None of these schools except possibly Michigan (I am not familiar with the range of levels there) are in the OP's son's near future.

I don't know the California system at all so I really appreciate reading the thoughts of Gene and others who are knowledgeable about it.

February 11, 2017 at 02:16 AM · I know I'm late to the video party, but here's my thoughts. He sounds okay. I suggest he move the bow more and keep his hold more relaxed, as his tone is a little choked sometimes. A consistent contact point is necessary too. Intonation and vibrato sound okay, though intonation especially can use some work. Unless he really tries, becoming a violin college major would be very difficult in this situation, but even then, chances seem pretty low. I still encourage you to try if you really desire. I agree with many of you. A solid technique is key to success, and he's definitely aways away.

February 11, 2017 at 03:55 AM · Frieda makes extremely good points and these are critical questions. (I did not know to ask those questions when I chose a university, and they are a large part of what caused me to quit playing in college. I play quartets with an amateur violinist who was joint Columbia/Juilliard, but I believe he also found unexpected caveats with that program.)

By the way, a critical thing to note is that at a given level, you're far more likely to have good opportunities as an amateur than you do as a pro. My level of playing, while decent, wouldn't draw the slightest bit of notice if I were a pro. But it makes me a very good amateur, which gives me a lot of opportunities to play for fun that a pro couldn't reasonably take. A pro can't do stuff that make them look, well, less professional, and that means to some degree that opportunities to do music for the joy of it are more limited for pros with marginal playing skills.

February 11, 2017 at 06:47 AM · As before - thank you all for your wisdom.

We had a long talk, with him and his teacher who agrees with all of you (she got him with many problems in technique, some of them are improved some still in work), we dropped repertoire today and went into work on exercises only, and scales, and we will try to pick up repertoire again in a couple of months, will try to find something that will fit his level at that point. He is sad, but decided that whatever will happen next year in the application process, he must fix his problems first. So he enters a period of boring practice, knowing it will make him a better player. I think it is a good attitude and quite proud of him. He knows that he will continue to play in college even if not through a major program, so it is important to get the work done now.

Thank you for all the important ideas on schools, I have at least a plan now of how to do our search, and what questions to ask.

I might come by in a year or two to tell you what happened.....

Thank you all.

February 11, 2017 at 07:12 AM · All the best to you and your son! He's showing real courage and a growth mindset :)

February 11, 2017 at 09:25 AM · Sounds great :)

February 11, 2017 at 01:43 PM · Your son's attitude is rare and refreshing, and deserving of recognition. He'll go far in life with that mindset.

February 11, 2017 at 04:27 PM · I guess we all have to learn to sacrifice. After all, life has its turns.

February 11, 2017 at 07:27 PM · Congratulations to your son on making a very wise and mature decision. He's got great things ahead of him.

February 11, 2017 at 11:21 PM · Frieda, that is what I meant. I almost went to Yale, with a plan of double-majoring in history and music. I remember looking at Rice and Northwestern around the same time. I wasn't planning to audition but somehow naively thought I could show up freshman year, audition for an orchestra seat, and sign up for lessons. I don't think I'd still be playing today had I made that mistake. Accurately calibrating the school to your level is so important. One more thought: if your son has choices that aren't obvious, have him look up the teachers and maybe talk to some students who are already studying. A couple of the Princeton violin teachers were real duds, and some of the Stanford teachers are...not universally appreciated. So getting a sense of his chances of getting into the right studio will be important. I'm glad he's had the come-to-Jesus with his teacher. It's counterintuitive to.hear that he has to go backwards to go forwards and requires tremendous discipline and faith in his long-term plan and his teacher. He's making a solid choice and I'm hoping he will get some good affirmation for that choice soon!

February 11, 2017 at 11:47 PM · Please have him watch Freeway Philharmonic. It's sad, though most of the people seem to be enjoying themselves.

February 11, 2017 at 11:55 PM · just told him about all of your reactions and congratulations, and received in return..... a big smile

Thank you for the encouragement.

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Pirastro Strings
Pirastro Strings

Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases
Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases

ArmSymphony AI Violin Competition
ArmSymphony AI Violin Competition

Find a Summer Music Program
Find a Summer Music Program Business Directory Business Directory

AVIVA Young Artist Program

Antonio Strad Violin

Bay Fine Strings Violin Shop

Bobelock Cases


Los Angeles Violin Shop

Nazareth Gevorkian Violins

Metzler Violin Shop

Leatherwood Bespoke Rosin



Johnson String Instrument and Carriage House Violins

Potter Violins

String Masters

Bein & Company

Annapolis Bows & Violins

Laurie's Books

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