Characteristics about some of the top music schools in the US...

March 23, 2005 at 05:32 AM · I am looking for some information on some of the music schools in the US. some school i have in mind are... Curtis,Eastman, U of Michigan, Indiana, Julliard, Northwestern, etc...

Doesnt have to be particularly those... so if you know more, please share!

How do those schools differ... like teachers, programs.. facilities..

and in order to get into schools of that kind of level, what level do you have to be at? Experience in one of the Major Youth Symphonies in the US? a Competition title? High school all state orchestra? Or can you tell me some repertoire level, assuming that you can play it fairly well enough that normal listeners enjoy.

Replies (85)

March 23, 2005 at 05:45 AM · Northwestern is a large University - you will have to complete all of the "liberal arts" reqauirements. And if you try to do a double major (i.e. violin and math or science, forget it). My cousin graduated from Northwestern (English degree) and her roommate was a violin/math major. He had to drop the violin. So, why would you pay $45,000 a year to be indoctrinated with liberal arts crap when you only want to study the violin?. Go to a conservatory or go to a state school for 1/5th the cost! (Just my opinion). I am sure the Vamoses are great teachers. Just not worth the cost and angst about entrance requirements and keeping up with the violin when you have to keep up a high GPA in all other subjects. Plus, Evanston is very expensive.

March 28, 2005 at 05:02 PM · For admission to most major music programs or conservatories, the only real criteria that they look at is how well you play at the audition. They don't care if you played in a youth orchestra or won any competitions. Many of the best students have obviously done those things, but having those experiences and playing a poor audition won't get you in anywhere.

In addition, some school have academic requirements as well. These vary from program to program and it really depends on whether the program is a seperate conservatory or part of a larger university program. You would have to check with each school to find out what their academic requirements are.

March 28, 2005 at 09:08 PM · J.P.,

I respectfully disagree. A liberal arts education is very valuable. I've found so many conservatory educated students who are not rounded individuals. Their focus was so much on music that everything else became unimportant. I know a couple people who even decided to switch careers after conservatory and then had to go back and start from scratch because they had no Gen. Ed. courses to back up on.

I dropped out of Mannes for many reasons...this being one of them. A liberal arts education really prepares you for the world...including the music world...a conservatory education prepares you for music and leaves a whole lot of the other stuff out.

Many of the liberal arts music colleges are so separated from the rest of the university that once you get your Gen. Ed. courses out of the way, you basically find yourself in a conservatory setting anyway for your last 3 or 4 semesters.


March 28, 2005 at 11:05 PM · Preston is exactly right. I'm about to finish my 2nd year at McGill, which is a top ranking university in liberal arts and sciences. Here you have a lot more to do than just music. However, if you work hard, you can finish your non musical requirements and have your last 2 years to really dedicate yourself to playing. I chose this route vs going to a conservatory because I agree with Preston, you don't lose out as a musician or as a person by choosing to round yourself out rather than tie yourself down in a practice room for 10 hours a day.

March 29, 2005 at 02:14 AM · I don't know all the schools, but in Philadelphia the Curtis School of Music is highly regarded and seems to have considerable scholarship money available. Around Boston the Longy School, the New England Conservatory of Music, and the Berkelee School of Music.

Harvard used to have a bad reputation years ago as obsessed with pedantic historical scholarship rather than performing skills, but there may have been changes in recent years. Some Harvard undergrads go on to distinguished careers as musical performers, but they mostly got their performance skills across the river in Boston or in Europe or somewhere.

March 29, 2005 at 07:16 AM · Yale is better than Harvard. No question.


March 29, 2005 at 07:37 AM · I dont think Harvard even has music performance... I dont know of anyone who went there except for Yoyo...

March 29, 2005 at 07:41 PM · Yale only has performance for graduate students. Harvard does now have a dual degree program with NEC.

March 30, 2005 at 04:28 AM · My advice would be to search for a teacher, rather than for a school. It's of no enormous consequence whether the dormitories, the building facility, the Music Theory course or the orchestra is a little better or a little worse. What is crucial to your development and your future is the kind of violin teaching you receive. So find out about various teachers and try to go wherever the teacher you want is located.

March 30, 2005 at 05:50 AM · I don't agree with that. You need a good environment too, and a teacher alone, who you will see at a maximum of two hours a week cannot be the sole determining factor in choosing a school. There are other things to consider...

March 30, 2005 at 06:07 AM · I thought Hannah Chang goes to HArvard

March 30, 2005 at 06:25 AM · She does, that's right, though it's questionable how much cello teaching she needs right now.

But I think it's important to remember that you have to be able to get a job, and finding a school with a good ensemble training and enough liberal arts to make you marketable in various contexts will help with that. Also, there are many great teachers, and it's almost impossible to know in advance who would really be "best" for you. Why not find a great teacher AND a great school? Granted, if it's one or the other, you should probably go with the great teacher and the not-so-great school, but at least make sure that music theory+history courses will be worth something, chamber music coaching is available, orchestra is taken seriously, and you won't be miserable for four years. Happiness in the moment DOES matter. We are all mortal, after all.

March 30, 2005 at 07:39 AM · Hey, I went to Northwestern. Majored in music and journalism. It is a nice place to go if you have broad interests; which I did. I guess I still do! I could not study music to the exclusion of everything else in the world. My only problem with NU was.....brrrrrrr!

March 30, 2005 at 07:57 AM · I know someone headed for Northwestern this fall.

Playing-wise he's very solid (He was finishing up Vieuxtemps 4 when I was with him in high school; he does have plenty of advanced repertoire up his sleeves in memory); I believe he won a nice Schubert club standing and got to play with the MN Orchestra. Interestingly he did not join the All State Orchestra (he was better than most violinists in it :-D).

As for me I did go to All State for two years (I made a massive seating jump from the back of the seconds to the front of the firsts) and did quite a bit of Solo/Ensemble. Violin has helped me more as an extracurricular in my case, given that I've created my own practice regimen and did not apply specifically for music.

If you can play the Tchaikovsky Concerto smoothly from memory you should be a good candidate for most of the schools listed.

If you can play the Elgar Concerto really well... I guess that's a given.

April 10, 2005 at 02:20 PM · I don't think that it is as black and white as being able to play the Tchaikovsky concerto smoothly....Teachers at these schools look for someone who they can mold into a good player...the best thing that you can do for an audition is to find pieces that emphasize your good points and diminish your bad; something that makes you look like you have tons of potential. A lot of people could probably play the Tchaikovsky Concerto smoothly in highschool if they worked on it, but if you played another concerto, like say the Bruch, with a conviction that goes beyond a simple "smoothness", I think that that will show both maturity (to know what you are capable of playing really well instead opf simply playing according to some regulation of what you think a great teacher or school is looking for...)and musicianship on your part, and I think that that is what a lot (but not all) schools look for in music students.

April 11, 2005 at 03:10 PM · Although it's definately important to be in an environment where you're not completely surrounded by music ALL the time, I think your best bet is to look for the teacher that's right for you. I just finished up my first year at McGill in the performance department, and will be transferring next year to SUNY Purchase, in the metro NY area. At first, I didn't apply, because I thought: state school? Eeew. But I realized that one of the teachers I really wanted to study with at MANNES (also an awesome school - you can also take class anywhere within New School University, which includes the well-known Parsons school of design) also taught at Purchase. I had a lesson with him in December, and really, I don't think I'm going to regret the switch. Definately look out though to see that you're not in an environment where it's ALL music ALL the time. Even if you went to Juilliard, at least being in Manhattan would make room for you to explore other interests. It helps you develop into a well-rounded artist, and a happier person.

April 11, 2005 at 04:06 PM · Going to a state school would probably be fine if you take along some Clorox Wipes to clean the grease from the commoners off the desk you have to sit in. Or perhaps you could have your Valet carry a folding chair to each of your classes for you. You also might want to invest in some sort of personal air filtration device.


April 12, 2005 at 03:02 AM · If you have the means and can afford it, you should take the opportunity to visit the schools to which you'd like to apply--it's a great chance to both take in the environment and the city, and have a lesson with a teacher. Try to get in contact with teachers you're interested in ahead of time via phone or email; introduce yourself and send a tape/video of your playing. I am of the opinion that the teacher is the most vital part of the decision-making process, but of course the environment will affect your lifestyle. It may sound corny, but you might get a certain "vibe" about a city, and while a lot of rational thinking and weighing pros and cons is good, sometimes it's best to go with your instincts. My reasons for going with the teacher you think is best for you are because he or she will undoubtedly (unless you have an otherworldly conductor or chamber coach or something) be the most important individual in your musical development for the entire time at whatever school you're at. You may have just a one-hour lesson a week, but the fact that you will be practicing every day for hours each day with the mini-goal of improving at your lesson each week makes your relationship with your teacher tremendously important. Don't underestimate the effect an inspiring or uninpiring mentor will have on your progress.

January 28, 2008 at 03:42 AM · I could have done without most of the liberal arts stuff myself. It's a personal thing.

January 28, 2008 at 04:57 AM · I did a double degree at Oberlin, violin and math, and even though I've never used the math much beyond tutoring my colleagues' children when asked, it's given me peace of mind. My orchestra went dark for a year due to bankruptcy and I got ready to look for a job as a high school math teacher. Thankfully that was never necessary, but some of my less well-rounded colleagues were a lot more stressed than I was about our unemployment. Not to mention that it's fun to know stuff beyond how to play the violin.

Regarding the original, three-year-old question about playing level to get into a top school, you need to be playing major concertos at a polished level. Youth orchestra experience, all-state, recital honors--most aspirants have those but that won't get you in. Playing a fine audition for the teacher you want to study with is what will get you in. And the level these days is unbelievably high--yet another reason to aim for a well-rounded course selection. The jobs are few, the competition is fierce, and you don't necessarily know what skills are going to end up helping you earn a living.

January 28, 2008 at 12:57 PM · ----However, if you're like me, and truly believe that everything else (aka college-level non-music courses) IS unimportant, then a liberal arts education is a complete waste of time. I got more than enough knowledge out of high school to be a "rounded individual." ----

that is a pretty bold statement.

January 28, 2008 at 02:03 PM · He's a senior in high school.

January 28, 2008 at 07:37 PM · Haaaaaaaa!!!!!!!!! Boy do I remember the days when I was young enough to think that CONSERVATORY meant I would be learning important things like music history and dication rather than liberal fluff like "science" and "math."

Now I'm old enough to regret going to a conservatory in order to avoid liberal studies. No worries, I rectified my education as soon as the real world bit back.

I agree with Oliver - find a teacher who is right for you and don't worry too much about how good the orchestra is etc. It doesn't matter what school you go to as long as you make the most of your education. Conservatories are great, but they're not right for all people and should never replace a well rounded education.

January 28, 2008 at 09:21 PM · To me musical knowledge (at least 90% of what you learn in music school) is boring and useless. People have been quite successful with burying their heads in the sand by just going to conservatories, so I know I cannot make an absolute judgement about that. However, there's a more recent trend for really great, talented performers to go to real schools instead of just conservatories. I think it's a shift in a way of thinking.

I know that two of Perlman's most successful students (Rachel Lee and Caitlin Tully) are at Harvard and Princeton respectively, taking the train to Manhattan for lessons. Ryu Goto goes to Harvard, and so did Stephan Jackiw. Now, they're much better than 98% of what you'll find at conservatories, and they certainly haven't found liberal arts educations useless. There are also many others who get very good on their instrument and have a much normal life. Then again what do I know.

January 28, 2008 at 11:51 PM · Greetings,

Pieter, I think a lot of what you say is spot on here. Music institutes often serve as a time when the artisans of our craft learn the job thoroughly. But for the really major talents I thnk they might not be the best option at times. I have hear Mr Goto on and of since he was young and praciticng fourteen hours a day. He has all the tehcnique well under control. What I heard in his most recent playing is a genuine nee dfor broader horizons to expand his artistry even more. Opening up to new and intellctually stimulating ideas in other worlds is precisly what artists of his level can really benifit from at the right time.



January 29, 2008 at 06:34 AM · Studying a broad range of subjects is to expose kids to things for them to possibly take an interest in, not especially to broaden them.

That's the answer to why do I have to study chemistry when I'll never need it. No, you never will need it. But some kid in your class will find he has a knack for it and persue it because he was exposed to it.

There's so much available that no four years, amounting to about the first 2/3 of a dozen textbooks, is going to broaden you much. You could read the book yourself in a week and teach yourself, instead of taking half a year. And you will have to... :)

January 29, 2008 at 06:41 AM · Josh, I don't recall questioning your maturity.

Anyways, talk to me after a huge block of ear training, theory, some profs version of "music history", and whatever other crap they force down your throat.

I also think studying different parts of history, or art history without a musical focus informs your aesthetic decisions quite a bit. Instead of having to list the "10 factors that led to romanticism", or some 4th grade level crossection of european history, you can come to those conclusions yourself. Most of the music education I've seen at various schools teaches you to do, not really to think.

Part of the other reason that I'd go to a liberal arts school is to not have to be around music people 24/7... at least to me many of them are a bit too geeked out, but I some people like being at music camps all the time. So, it's not only the courses but the people you want to be around.

January 29, 2008 at 07:45 AM · Pieter, you didn't question Josh's maturity - I did. I think.

Josh, I actually didn't even mean it like that. But I've tended to view my experiences (high school, liberal arts courses, etc.) quite differently once a bit of time has passed. It's perfectly all right to make 'broad statements', as Al Ku put it, as long as you remain open to the possibility that they could change or you could see things differently later on. By the way, there's nothing wrong with being a specialist, either - it just isn't quite the same as being well-rounded.

January 29, 2008 at 10:05 AM · "I don't mind theory and ear training, and I do have an interest in music history (much more than chemistry, at least)... I'd just rather not spend a year learning about Gregorian chants and the like... I'm a little afraid of that."

You're gonna hate you first semester/quarter of music history then.

Keep in mind that a B.A. in Music (as opposed to a B. of Music) is much more versatile and gives you something to fall back in the event something happens. It doesn't necessarily have to be a lack of interest, it could be an injury. The concertmaster of Symphony Silicon Valley (the reformed San Jose Symphony) got into a bike accident a couple years ago and wrecked her shoulder, wrist, and fingers. I don't know how she's doing now but I can't imagine that your chops will ever be the same after that.

Nice concert by AYS by the way.

January 29, 2008 at 04:02 PM · go around to a bunch of 40-50 yr olds and do an informal survey: did you envision yourselves in the exact position you are in with life and career when you were in high school?

then ask: looking back, what do you wish you had paid more attention to, instead?

here is my bias. i think some violinists will say: i wish i have learned to develop better people skills, cultivated more relationships, may be paid more attention to some money management skills... sure the covalent bonding in organic chemistry is senseless but i have learnt to deal with tough situations and think outside the box... in a nutshell, more open minded...

you can be the most perfect driver, never had a problem cruising at 120mph,,,,you still need crash insurance.

January 29, 2008 at 04:36 PM · Teenagers think they know everything.

January 29, 2008 at 04:40 PM · Josh... gregorian chants. I remember that well. Melismas... organums... strophes... madrigals... motets... pallestrina... zarlino... josquin des prez...

You're going to be innundated with a wall of $---you don't care about. If that's what you like then have fun. I don't know where you'll end up going but if they actually take music academcs seriously, it should get pretty annoying.

The best advice I can give to anyone doing music, if you're like me and can't stand some of the classes you have to take, do them in the summer. I did a lot of my theory stuff in the summer and it was great. It's more intensive but you get it over with. I don't think conservatories have summer courses though, but all universities do.

January 29, 2008 at 04:35 PM · I am not the biggest fan of what passes for a liberal education in the US but given the small number of careers (provide a living jobs) for violinists one suspects that a broader education is more viable than a narrow education for most.

So here is a criteria to consider: If you have received some measure of career success in high school (performances with professional orchestras, multiple memorized concertos) consider a top conservatory. If you already have a career as a high school student (like A. Weilerstein, Y. Ma) consider univerity and a non-music degree in the liberal arts. If you are a solid concertmaster, occassional solo performer with youth orchestras, reliable chamber musician, consider a university with a very solid music school. All the rest take the best you can get with music and whatever else you can do that broadens you.

January 29, 2008 at 04:56 PM · Marina, teenagers do know everything. They just haven't figured out what "everything" is yet...

I really enjoyed learning about early music. Josquin was a wonderful composer! And since I don't make a living with that part of the repertoire, I am grateful I got to learn about it.

I also really liked my English classes outside of Conservatory. It was such a treat to get As (of course!) reading Shakespeare, Blake, and those chaps. It was nice to "escape" from violin every now and then...

January 29, 2008 at 06:31 PM · At U of Maryland, where I did some work, the undergraduate music majors had to take things like "introduction to western civ" and the like which were designed for people who were asleep or stoned in high school. However, at Eastman, I took quite a few courses at the main campus and found that they were a crucial break from the isolation and sameness of my day at Eastman. As a young musician you need social and intellectual input to fuel your music (unless you're autistic...)and I think that the conservatory atmosphere can be a real killer unless there is enough of the necessary extra-musical input around you, either in the form of a great city like NYC is for julliard, or a high level university, like U of Rochester is for Eastman.

January 29, 2008 at 07:47 PM · I don't know why people are knocking music schools on here. I tend to agree with Josh on his points. Everyone should follow their own path when it comes to schooling. In regard to Ryu (who I went to school with) and Stefan Jackiw used as examples to go to universities, they are the exception, but even then so, they both attended music pre college programs and had extensive training from a very young age. Most of the people winning major competitions, recording contracts, and orchestral auditions have had conservatory training at one time or another.

January 29, 2008 at 09:21 PM · I tend to agree with Oliver on picking a teacher. But I think it applies to the liberal arts as well. A thoughtful student will survey the faculty at any school and choose teachers of demonstrated wisdom and capacity. If you are interested in the liberal arts as a complement to a music education you need to start with the basic understanding that music was created almost completely by dead white males "DWM". If you don't have any regard for the culture that produces DWM including Bach, Mozart and Beethoven then you should major in rock music or something else (Fill in the blank "_____ Studies"). If you do have a great regard for music then your liberal studies should be guided by men and women who have a respect for the culture of DWM. If they don't believe that DWM is a worthy start for the continuation of modern culture then you'll be wasting your time.

January 29, 2008 at 10:26 PM · I think there's a big difference between a competition winner and the run of the mill conservatory student. The run of the mill conservatory student does not NEED to do music only to get the same result... they could easily just do liberal arts if it interested them.

I am just saying that conservatory training really isn't necessary. You need to practice 3-6 a day if you want to be a pro. That leaves a huge amount of time for other stuff. It's up to you what you fill that time with. The idea that you have to be in a conservatory just because a lot of people have done it doesn't really make sense, it's just the conventional wisdom.

January 29, 2008 at 10:31 PM · Greetings,

unfortunately there are still many things one does need at conservatoires. It has long been a bugbear of profesisonal orchestras that young applicants for posiitons can play major cocnertos well but have inadequate training in orchestral playing. Conservatoires need to be dpoing this better but it is still better to have had some decnet orchestral experience than not.

SEcond on my list would be chamber music. Its hard enough trying to get a group together (and coached!) in a conservatoire. Outside that pool of players the diifculty increases tenfold.

Last would be stimulus. When I was at college I could hear astonishing levels of playing the moment I walked through the door. That is a very powerfulfoece working on ones drive .



January 30, 2008 at 03:26 AM · "Adults think they know every teenager."

Can't disagree with that...

January 30, 2008 at 03:50 AM · Teenage life is a test towards the life that most others inhabit: oft dreams go awry,just try to accomplish appropriate goals,according to your oppourtunities,as they are presented to you.

Realize that numerous mistakes and errors will occur along your path;as have occured to everyone.

Tons of happenstance regularly occurs in a lifetime:the people you associate with,your school,your outlook on life.All of these conditions may change--even day to day.

Really,no one has any answers to many of the questions of your endeavours or choices of occupations.

So,just do the very best you can--in all regards.

Everyone sails in the same boat--make damn sure you have an understanding of how to sail under all directions of courses taught to you.Delete inappropriate courses and instill the appropriate stuff to your repitoire of knowledge and if you can assume same--then teach others your gift and be satisfied you are knowledgeable in the most important facet of life--music........

January 30, 2008 at 05:02 AM · Joshua,

Just today I was watching my 15 month old daughter walking around. At one point she tried to pull a box of books that was clearly to big for her off of a shelf. She didn't realize, she COULDN'T realize because she doesn't have enough experience yet, that a box with that many books is probably to heavy to hold, especially when held over the head, and especially when approached on the tips of one's toes. So....I stopped her from doing that, because I know from dropping a few things on my head what she can't possibly know yet.

So, Joshua, you are certainly your own man, and you for sure don't have to do what "adults" tell you, but do watch out for those books, ok?

January 30, 2008 at 07:33 AM · The original poster probably forgot about this since he wrote made this post about 3 years ago. Don't feel too guilty.

January 30, 2008 at 07:58 AM · And to expand on what Howard said, stuck myself with a pin, dropped a bowling ball on my foot, been shocked by 10,000 volts...

January 30, 2008 at 10:24 AM · "I got more than enough knowledge out of high school to be a "rounded individual."

This has to be (please forgive me for posting these words, as they are neither diplomatic or collegial) the MOST ARROGANT and IGNORANT thing that I have ever read.

To answer the three-year old question: the Shepherd School of Music at Rice University has to be the perfect combination. All of the courses in the university are worthwhile, and the conservatory - well, Cho-Liang Lin, Sergiu Luca, Kenneth Goldsmith and Kathleen Winkler, can one say any more? I've watched, played for and/or coached with three out of the four.

Regarding the undergraduate curriculum - sometimes there are just courses that we have to take, depending on the school. None of the undergraduates at the Shepherd School with whom I am still familiar lamented their academic load - in fact, the Shepherd School happens to have the honor of graduating the FIRST Rhodes Scholar from a major music school.

January 30, 2008 at 02:34 PM · Hey Joshua,

No problem.

January 30, 2008 at 03:44 PM · I would just go to a school where there is a violin teacher that you like and where you have to pay the least to cover tuition.

January 30, 2008 at 09:10 PM · I think Buri's highlighted the major differences between major conservatories (in the US, at least) and good music departments at universities...average level of playing is higher, chamber music is more serious/easier to get serious about, and the school orchestras are generally better.

Almost all the major independent conservatories have close relationships now with great universities. Juilliard/Columbia, CIM/Case Western, Peabody/Johns Hopkins, NEC/Harvard, and Curtis/UPenn (to some degree). The opportunity is definitely there for conservatory practice-room dwellers to branch out (which is essential)...why not go to a conservatory, then?

[EDIT] I realized my statement about "conservatories (in the US, at least)" could be misconstrued as being extremely arrogant. I just mean that I'm not familiar with the quality of university music schools vs. conservatories outside of the States, so I don't want to make claims about them.

January 30, 2008 at 11:28 PM · you have a nice violin there Josh.

January 30, 2008 at 11:33 PM · ..

January 31, 2008 at 01:12 AM · Dearest Josh:

Being 37, having played many concerts and having spoken quite candidly to many people who have attended the wealth of schools in the United States - those schools including conservatories, schools of music that are associated with universities, and "others" - as well as having done extensive research during the time that I was applying for university admission, I think I can say that yes, I have had enough experience in the world and through interacting with other musicians to make such a statement.

January 31, 2008 at 02:23 AM · Socrates was pondering the mysteries of the universe one fine day. While sitting on the riverbank, he came to the sudden and unpleasant realization that, plainly and simply, NOBODY KNOWS ANYTHING. Poor Socrates was profoundly shaken by this revelation, and was in a gloomy mood for the rest of the afternoon. Until that evening, he had another revelation that made him feel much better.

It was quite true that nobody knew anything, thought Socrates, smiling smugly to himself. But Socrates, KNOWING that he knew nothing, therefore knew SOMETHING, and was therefore the smartest man in the world.

January 31, 2008 at 02:30 AM · Mara - thank you for being philosophical and for reminding us all to remain humble...

January 31, 2008 at 02:42 AM · Yea, dang. I hear that Heifetz and Szigeti watch these boards but I can't find any of their posts?!...

January 31, 2008 at 02:52 AM · Ouija Hour, starts every Friday at 8pm PST

January 31, 2008 at 03:01 AM · Joshua you belong in a conservatory. You remind me very much of some people I went to conservatory with. Best of luck navigating the world wearing blinders.

January 31, 2008 at 03:05 AM · When did this site become so dramatic?

January 31, 2008 at 03:15 AM · That was dramatic, I do apologize for that. It's just so difficult to swallow that in America there are people who believe education is a waste of time. I have never met any great musicians who would support that and I find it intolerable that young people hold our future in their hands with this sort of attitude.

January 31, 2008 at 04:04 AM · Marina, what do you want him to know that he doesn't know? The disdain makes me suspicious. Who won the 1923 World Series? Who's buried in Grant's Tomb? I thought so!

You're in one of the most specialized professions there is. I saw a TV show and they quizzed neurosurgeons, I think it was, and they literally didn't know who the president was. It was like Howard Stern when he would give those quizzes to models.

January 31, 2008 at 04:05 AM · marina, the people who hold the future don't think like this. They simply exploit and use the many people who do. Everything shall remain as it is.

Also Ms. Fragoulis, if you haven't met any great musicians who cannot be bothered to go to a real university then I think you need to meet more musicians. Josh doesn't know everything but he's right that a lot of really fine violinists never went to university and hardly care that they didn't.

If Josh wants to go to a conservatory then let him. Yea his opinions might seem arrogant but whatever. I'm starting to think people are jealous of him for his high goals. I have no idea whether or not he's good enough to attain them, but I think it's reasonable to expect that if he's applying to the top conservatories, he isn't doing it because he thinks he has no chance.

Get over it...

January 31, 2008 at 04:02 AM · hehe

January 31, 2008 at 04:09 AM · I personally believe that an education is very important. I had some great teachers who taught me many great facts, showed me how to better think, read, write, and communicate, and most important, opened up my mind up to learning even more in the future. The biggest barrier to education is an unwillingness to be open-minded and continuously learn.

Most of my education has come from my own voracious appetite for information AFTER I left college. As Thomas Jefferson once said, "I cannot live without books." One key is to read when you have downtime, rather than dumbing down in front of a TV, and be curious. You may be surprised at what you learn over time. I'm sure that what I just said about education could have been written by many of us.

Now with that said, a general education does not make employable skills. You need to work hard on developing your employable craft, whatever that is. There are people with undergrad degrees in psychology working as cooks and PHDs in philosophy who are driving cabs. I know two people with sociology degrees who are bartenders. I'm not saying those are bad jobs, but they are not what they had falsely expected when they invested all that time.

And again, developing you employable craft does not stop when you leave school.

I guess the ultimate for me would be to attend a college with a good liberal arts program where I would take two years of liberal arts classes while simultaneously taking two years learning a skill, such as violin playing, nursing, accounting, etc. Then I would become more specialized, such as studying violin at Juillard, Indiana, or whereever.

I've always thought it was a mistake to invest all four years in liberal arts, when you should study two and two.

Then again, maxing out just skills, such as attending Curtis followed by Juillard, would be killer!

January 31, 2008 at 04:17 AM · Life is a poker game;you can bust out at any given time.

Life is a wheel,a roulette wheel--if you happen to beat the odds,then life is good.

Sometimes you may be at the top but suddenly meet an early demise--as,sadly,Jacqueline Du Pre did at the age of only 42...

No one knows the answers to life.

So play the very best you can while your heart still beats in rhythm to the notation in your mind...

January 31, 2008 at 05:05 AM · Nicholas, you seem to be conflating university-based music schools and university music departments.

That sounds like a semantic detail, but it matters: I doubt you mean to lump the Shepherd School at Rice and the departments of music at Cornell and Penn, for example-- excellent departments, but poor choices for the sub-world-class performer-- into the same category. The difference in level of conservatories versus university music schools like Rice, Oberlin, USC, Indiana, Northwestern, or Boston is much eroded. While you might be able to argue that the level at Juilliard, CIM, and NEC is higher than at any of those, the difference in level of those university programs and just about any conservatory in the country is small.

January 31, 2008 at 05:24 AM · Minor correction: Oberlin actually is classified as a conservatory, not a university music school.

January 31, 2008 at 07:48 AM · There's probably little to no difference between Indiana and Juilliard. There might be a few more soloist level players at Juilliard and NEC, but average person out of Indiana is just as likely to get orchestra jobs or whatever. Also, the very highest level students are fairly equal accross the board.

January 31, 2008 at 06:23 AM · I saw a sheet (which I've never been able to find again) which showed where the string players in a dozen or so U.S. orchestras came from. Judging by eye, I didn't count them, well over half came from Indiana.

January 31, 2008 at 05:55 PM · IU has produced a lot. I would classify their music school as a conservatory more so rather than your typical university music program.

January 31, 2008 at 07:48 AM · Jim, there are 5 orchestras at Indiana, so you can get a lot of experience with that kind of playing.

January 31, 2008 at 08:31 AM · If you played in all 5 you would :) I had a friend from there, so used to visit all the time. At that time I think there were 3, and that they were ranked. The top one might as well have been the Chicago Symphony.

January 31, 2008 at 12:08 PM · there was once a kid as a freshman in harvard and wanted to drop out to pursue something else. his parents were upset and set him up with a prominent businessman to persuade the kid to stay in school...

turns out, the meeting was a failure...not only did the businessman fail to persuade the kid to stay in school, he had decided to invest in the kid's venture.

thus microsoft was born.

i find j's statement bold. i don't know j, thus i cannot tell if it is a stroke of genius or a shade of mania. it basically states to the universe that... i have arrived,,,already. i don't know how the violin world is like, but i am interested to follow the never know,,,

January 31, 2008 at 02:20 PM · I am finding this thread particularly interesting since my son is in the early part of the process of deciding where to go. (He's 15.) I think there are several things to consider. Please correct me if I what I have to say seems wrong.

The primary consideration is what one's ultimate aim is.

I think you want to find a teacher who sees promise in you, who is willing to "make a project of you" so to speak.

I am guessing that the institutional support and connections a prominent place offers could be very important, especially if you aim to enter one of the major competitions at some point. For someone who has been a part of a pre-college program at a prominent place and who is already established with an esteemed teacher, this would not be as important. In this way someone like Ryu Goto and the others mentioned might be free to attend Harvard while someone from Fayetteville, North Carolina might be better off going to a major conservatory. The decisions you may have made up to this point could influence where you would be best to go.

The other part of this, I think, is whether you are at a stage technically where you will need an expert pedagogue or whether you really need to have the inspiration of a performer as your teacher. I am sure both qualities can be found in some teachers, however, I can think of several famous teachers who are primarily pedagogues.

Given that violinists are generally people with lively, curious intellects, I really think it is probably healthier to be somewhere where one can find intellectual stimulation as well as a serious musical atmosphere. It might be suboptimal, however to be somewhere where the teacher is great and the academics are great, but the other music students are apathetic. I would think that there could be nothing more exciting than to have a whole school of wonderful musicians to collaborate with and challenge you.

As I understand it, several of the great quartets came out of relationships built in conservatory. If you have aspirations in chamber music, this might be a consideration.

January 31, 2008 at 05:53 PM · Good point Jennifer. Ryu has already developed technical proficiency on the violin. Most of the college conservatory population does not have that natural ability, work ethic, and development.

As far as IU goes Jim, in terms of violin performance there, I think it is important to point out that Joseph Gingold was really the one that put the music school on the map. Most of the well known violinists that went to IU studied with Gingold. The amount of major violin careers coming from IU now is significantly less.

January 31, 2008 at 06:26 PM · Yeah, him and Janos Starker for the strings department. I don't remember NEC being a big deal for strings in those days, like it seems to be now. But it might have been. I met a french horn player girl from there who was bumming around the county in a VW microbus :) She had a problem with her teacher, just a small one, and a certain conservatory president said lets just forget it and I'll teach you myself. I'd guess I.U. is still big in terms of filling up orchestras though. Although it's just a guess.

January 31, 2008 at 06:42 PM · I don't think that's necessarily going to be true much longer. Laredo and Fuks have a number of students who will be quite successful in competitions and with solo engagements, I don't think it's too defficient in that category. In any case, there's only a handful of violinists graduating high school every year who even need to consider that fact, it shouldn't matter to anyone else.

January 31, 2008 at 08:21 PM · I heard that Alexander Kerr ( ) and Joshua Bell ( ) recently joined the faculty at Indiana.

January 31, 2008 at 08:25 PM · Mara, I suppose you're right, in that the Oberlin College admissions department has no say in conservatory admissions, whereas Indiana students, and many others, must be admitted both by the general admission procedure and the music school. But by that criterion, Northwestern and Rice are conservatory programs, too, in all but name.

I think the more meaningful question is whether or not the music students share a campus and take liberal arts classes with non-music students. At all the schools I mentioned, the answer is yes. But at Eastman, which has the same relationship to the Univ. of Rochester as Oberlin Conservatory has with the College, the answer is no. Therefore I would venture that Oberlin belongs in a category with the schools discussed in my previous post, while Eastman and Peabody, despite technically being part of universities, should be classed with "free-standing" conservatories.

January 31, 2008 at 10:14 PM · I would prefer to be on the campus of Univ. of rochester so that I'm not always around gifted peeple...

February 1, 2008 at 05:07 AM · Joshua (or is that "Mr. Hong"?), the issue isn't so much your arrogance or lack thereof as your belligerence and combative defensiveness. Take it easy on the ALL CAPS, for starters.

February 1, 2008 at 06:02 AM · Josh,

I know a lot of people who did and are doing the conservatory thing, and most of them really like it. There are some people who feel like life is great if music is all they do. It's usually kids you find at ENCORE or whatever, so if you liked Encore you'll love music school because those are the types of people you'll be around. I was saying that in general I think there's a perception that going to a conservatory is a necessity to play your instrument well, and that there is a trend away from that mentality.

There's certain kids who thrive in a closed music environment. Typically, that's how they lived in highschool. Kids like me who didn't hang out with classical musicians at all growing up, aren't really into the whole conservatory thing.

So good luck and I hope it works out for you. Where are you auditioning?

I'm gonna be at IU tommorow and Saturday.

February 1, 2008 at 06:15 AM · Well, perhaps if you stated your opinions a bit more civilly and calmly, and didn't bellow so much about people "attacking" you, people might be more inclined to respond calmly and civilly in kind. I've seen some of your other contributions to these discussion boards and it is my humble opinion that you need to chill out a little.

February 1, 2008 at 10:09 AM · "-'He's a senior in high school.'

I consider that rude."

Hee hee!

February 1, 2008 at 01:25 PM · Relax Joshua, nobody here hates you. You're full of teenage angst. I do not question your intelligence or your priorities and I admire your passion for the violin. I have been in your situation and was simply stating my advice which you clearly think is bad. No matter, you have your own life to lead and your own mistakes to face like we all have. is a place where violinists can discuss issues openly. If people never disagreed there would be no need for discussion. This is not some random site where anyone can express an opinion, we're all musicians here and we all face the same issues and therefore each of our opinions is valid.

You need to brace yourself for what's coming because we here are not the only people who are going to question your decision to scoff any liberal arts. I would strongly advise you not to throw a tantrum if one of your professors advises you to learn something beyond violin. I do not necessarily need to know all about Einstein etc, but you need a couple of good writing courses (nobody's going write your bio or resume for you), a few good history courses (to see what was going on in the world while our precious music was being written), and definitely some math (which should be easy for any violinist or abstract thinker.) Also most importantly and the most regretful decision I made back then was not to take any business classes. Music is a business and you must learn how to function within it. Playing Paganini really well will only open doors, it's your business sense that will give you a lasting career.

The point is that a complete violinist is not lopsided. Take it or leave it, that's not the only time you'll hear this advice. If you are as smart as I think you are you will eventually come to your own conclusions about what is important and what is not. Good luck with your auditions, this must be a stressful time of year.

February 1, 2008 at 01:58 PM · ar·ro·gant [ar-uh-guhnt] –adjective

1. making claims or pretensions to superior importance or rights; overbearingly assuming; insolently proud

Synonyms 1. presumptuous, haughty, imperious, brazen

Having or displaying a sense of overbearing self-worth or self-importance.

Marked by or arising from a feeling or assumption of one's superiority toward others

having or showing feelings of unwarranted importance out of overbearing pride

extremely proud; thinking that one is much more important than other people

February 1, 2008 at 02:48 PM · Just my $0.02:

Relax, Joshua - you're completely normal. What high school student doesn't think that most of what he's learning is "a waste of brain space"? A few people are already really passionate about becoming well-rounded individuals in high school, but most find themselves out "in the real world" suddenly wishing they understood economics more fundamentally, or wishing they could remember more about world history. Even if you're getting straight A's right now, in four years you'll likely find that you can't remember half of those facts you so carefully memorized. My Mom always said she received her true education as an adult, helping her four kids through elementary school, middle school, and high school! Wait until you have kids asking you science-based questions - they'll send you running for an encyclopedia just to keep up with their curiosity! I was an A student in high school and finished college at a liberal arts school (with a degree in music performance) magna cum laude, but daily I find myself looking up facts I can't remember from my formal education. And I think it's those times, when I look something up for myself out of curiosity, that the information sticks with me in a different way than it would have were I studying for an exam.

If a conservatory is what you want, I'm sure you can find an environment where you'll thrive. For me, a small liberal arts school was the perfect fit - I studied with a conservatory teacher while having all the benefits of a smaller environment rather than a "violinist factory," if you will (and I'm not saying that such a place is a bad thing - it just wasn't for me). For example, I found myself with far more leadership opportunities in orchestra, soloist opportunities (including soloing with orchestra on several occasions), and chamber music opportunities because the program was smaller and there weren't 200 violinists competing for each chance to do anything.

That said, conservatories have their own unique opportunities to offer that many liberal arts universities may or may not have. Find what's best for you and pursue it wholeheartedly as I know you will.

On a final note, my husband and I are both musicians but thank God we have a myriad of other interests. I truly do discover new things about him all the time, and find myself thinking that he could just have easily been a lawyer, an electrician, an engineer, an architect... the list goes on... with his vast set of interests and his wide base of knowledge in so many subjects. I myself thought for many years that my career goal was to be an astronaut before finding myself immersed in the study of philosophy and the classics for several years after that. And here I am a professional violinist, loving every minute of it. I am so glad my husband and I - and our musician friends - are aware of life beyond music, because our other interests both inform and enrich all that we do.

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