HS junior worrying aboutt the future

December 11, 2005 at 05:36 AM · hi everyone, i'm a 16 year old high school junior.

I started playing violin when i was seven, stopped when i was 11, and picked it back up when i was 14. Recently i just started getting nervous because high school will end in one year.

Now i don't know if i'm qualified, or is it really worth it to major in music. i hope to become a surgeon eventually, so music iis only for college. Right now i'm mendelssohn-bruch level. i'm almost done with kruetzer (ahahh forgot how to spell it). i'll be working on sevrik(forgot how to spell it) double stops soon.

The reason i want to major in music is because i don't want to give up violin, my dream is to play the sibelius, or tchaik concerto. I'm prolly going to double major if i'm considering music. music+econ. So here're my final questions.

1. do You guys think it's really worth it to major in music if i want to go to med school in the future.

2. what are my chances (only played violin for 7 years total)

3. If so, what kind of school would u guys reccomend that has a good accademic program as well as a music program. I'm probably not going to consider conservatories.

Replies (35)

December 11, 2005 at 05:54 AM · Why would you be worrying? You have two goals: To become a surgeon and to play the violin. So, you can do both. But you will have to pick one as a career, and I believe that becoming a surgeon is probably more realistic, if you have the drive. What you need to do is research undergraduate programs for pre-med which also have outstanding music departments. Then you can probably get lessons (even if you have to pay a little more) and play in the symphony, etc., but also pursue your goal of becoming a doctor. You will be able to enjoy the violin and music making your entire life. There are always opportunities for talented violinists to play, perform and be involved at many levels in every community. Good luck!

December 11, 2005 at 06:11 AM · mendelssohn bruch level is extremely high...If you can play those well ot even decently you can get into any just about music school in the country. I know at least 2 people that got into CIM and juilliard playing the Bruch concerto. I played bruch concerto for my college auditions too. Don't worry...sounds like you're doing very well

December 11, 2005 at 07:04 AM · D,

The question isn't so much what they played, it's how well they played it.


P.S. You might know a friend of mine, Mary-Beth Brown...studied with Kaler.

December 11, 2005 at 10:10 AM · i don't see why you're so worried about a music major if you want to be a surgeon. it can only help your broader education to have such varied interests.

the only issue i can see is having a heavy studying workload and not being able to practice as often as you'd like.

December 11, 2005 at 08:53 AM · Major in whatever will let you graduate with a 4.0. Also realize being a music major means things besides violin you might not have any interest in or hate, and also that you can major in whatever you want and still take lessons and be involved with the music dept. You'd be "that guy who's the really good violin player who isn't even majoring in it." Personally I'd want the person slicing me up to have majored in biomolecular engineering or something... But that's probably not the best route to a 4.0. Then neither is a wacko music professor who never gives A's because nobody's perfect. Major in general studies and keep the add/drop slips handy.

December 11, 2005 at 03:39 PM · HOw about becoming a lawyer and getting a bachlor in violin?

December 11, 2005 at 05:45 PM · You don't have to major in music to keep playing the violin, taking lessons and playing in groups.

But one possible problem with not majoring in violin is that I think some schools are not very supportive of non-music majors. You might not get to play in the good groups.

I lucked out. I went to MIT and studied computer science, but played soo much music while I was there. There were no "music-majors only" groups or activities, so I could pretty much do anything, including playing Mozart's Sinfonia Concertante with our school orchestra. MIT had a surprisingly good music department, with some of the faculty also teaching at NEC and other Boston music schools.

I'm not sure how many other schools are like this, but it's something you might want to think about as you're looking at schools. Universities with great music departments might not be so great if you didn't end up majoring in it.

December 11, 2005 at 07:57 PM · Hi,

Oliver, I will try to answer your questions individually and fairly based on experience and what I have observed...

1. do You guys think it's really worth it to major in music if i want to go to med school in the future.

No. Honestly, your academic record is important for going into med school. I would concentrate on that. You could do a minor in music, but I would not major in it if your mind is made up that you will be a surgeon.

2. what are my chances (only played violin for 7 years total)

Means little. It is more about how you play and your potential. That is impossible to evaluate from your post.

3. If so, what kind of school would u guys reccomend that has a good accademic program as well as a music program. I'm probably not going to consider conservatories.

I would go for a strong academic school and major in the sciences (bio chem, neuro, something...) that will prepare your for med school and the MCAT exams to enter. Go to the best possible school for that. Then, you can do your optional courses in music, sign up for lessons with the violin faculty, and play in the community orchestra or college orchestra there if you can to keep playing and be involved in music.

I am not a proponent of double-degrees. You can play the violin and be a major in something else. But, a music degree to be done well is a full time thing and quite demanding. Remember, as you consider your future, you want to invest in where you want to be. That is a commitment. Scattering oneself, though common in today's society rarely creates the long term results that lead to satisfaction.


December 11, 2005 at 08:14 PM · i heard if i minor in music, then there is a 99.9% chance that a graduate student will teach me. Which isn't taht bad, since i'm not considering music as a career. Do u guys have any opinion on that.

December 11, 2005 at 08:50 PM · Here is my $0.02. For purposes of getting into med. school, it probably does not matter much what you choose as a major as long as you take the pre-med courses and do well in them and on the med. boards. Therefore, if you want to major in music, you should. Besides, it will be a lot more interesting to have a break from the science courses. In addition, that will keep the option of becoming a musician open. At the end of college, you can see where you stand. If the music is going well, you can try doing it professionally for a few years. Then, if that does not work out, you can go to med. school. The thing to remember is that at least until you reach a certain age (and I am not sure what that age is; maybe the M.D.'s can weigh in), it is probably easier to keep the surgeon option open than the musician one. At some point, the med. schools may think you are too old to start, but at 22, that will not be a problem.

As people have said, you will want to pick a school that is good for both options. NOrthwestern is a good example. There are many others.

December 11, 2005 at 09:12 PM · these are some schools people suggested. do you guys have any experiences with these schools

Carnegie Mellon University

Johns Hopkins University

Northwestern University

Oberlin College

Rice University

University of Michigan-Ann Arbor

University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill

University of Texas-Austin

Vanderbilt University (blair conservatory)

University of Rochester & eastman school of music

Lawrence University



December 11, 2005 at 09:15 PM · I was in your shoes about 20 years ago. Sounds like things haven't changed much. Here's my thoughts based on what has happened to me between the time I was 16 until now at age 36, in no logical order:

1) If you are going to get a B.A. it does not matter a hill of beans what your major is. Study what you enjoy.

2) Having an area of interest does not mean you will enjoy studying it as a college major. Some programs have a way of putting a subject throught the wringer in such a way as to squeeze every last drop of fun and enjoyment right out of it. I stumbled into my college major (Scandinavian Languages) because I liked the faculty members on a personal level much better than those in my intended major (German).

3) Why do you want to be a surgeon? When I was facing high school graduation I always told people I wanted to be a Foreign Service Officer. Why? I have no idea, other than it sounded very ambitious and glamorous to curious relatives who asked "What are planning on doing?". Never mind I had no idea that FSO's may spend years in the world's backwaters doing nothing other than processing paperwork and swatting mosquitos. Are you truly interested in biology and medicine? Or did you pick surgeon based on projected salary information from the career guidance office at school? Sometimes high salaries aren't worth it. Time and experience will help you clarify if medicine is your true calling. I've met plenty of people with six figure salaries working 60-70 hours a week who are not happy in their work. And I have met plenty people who are happy doing an ordinary day job to subsidize their musical endeavors.

4) Don't get yourself locked into a lifestyles. When planning for the distant future try to keep your options open. This is true for anybody. Live BELOW your means so you can take time to pursue things you really enjoy in life. My wife and I bought a modest townhome when we were 'approved' for a mortgage amount much larger than we needed. This has allowed me to determine how much I want to work in a given month and my wife was able to work part-time for the first year after our child was born.

December 11, 2005 at 08:56 PM · Well, i'm a sophmore in HS, so i definately know what you mean. I'm not sure if a double major would be the best idea with pre-med, because they both would be alot of work, however if you think you can handle it then, why not?

Doing a minor in music seems more realistic to me, that way you get to keep playing and taking lessons :)

But most importantly, ive learned that no matter what you choose, everything will end up falling into place to fit your decision. Just what ever you do, dont give up any of your goals and dreams(like being a surgeon and playing the concertos you want to)! We're still young, we can accomplish anything we set our minds too!

December 12, 2005 at 02:09 AM · if i minor in music, how many hrs of violin do i have to practice? like the average hr. compared to a major

December 12, 2005 at 02:27 AM · I don't know how to answer your most recent question, but...

I don't think you should be asking us which one. I think you should be asking yourself, "What's my passion?"

December 12, 2005 at 02:26 AM · Hi,

Oliver, I know Johns Hopkins University well since I did my graduate degrees there (in music). As a minor, you can get OK music classes, but the lessons are not so good as they are from Prep teachers, and in the past, not very good ones from what I am told. However, Hopkins has an excellent symphony (commnunity orchestra) that is open to Hopkins students, with a fantastic conductor. That is worth it. Plus, the academic component is fabulous and it is still one of the top med schools in the country. The others, I don't know, or what their situations are.

As for practicing as a minor, it's up to you. But, it usually goes as how much you want and what you have time to put in.


December 12, 2005 at 03:24 AM · Christian, I'm guessing that you don't know many surgeons, do you?

Talk to many surgeons and you'll find out that many of them are quite heavily emersed in some form of art. You'll find as many are fairly competent musicians as others are painters and sculptors. Also, med school applicants in Canada who were music majors constitute the HIGHEST acceptance rate of all other disciplines applying to med school (60% of music majors who applied to med school get in).

My parents are both physicians, and both would agree that an intelligent person (who wouldn't necessarily need to do a pre-med or a science bachelors) would greatly benefit from music studies. First of all, being good with your hands has a lot to do with it. A lot of people who have hte brains to be surgeons, do not have the hands to do it, as my dad will tell you. Combine that with an excellent ability to perform under stress, a volumnous memory, and a very strong work ethic, and you have the skills necessary to be a surgeon.

December 12, 2005 at 03:43 AM · Look into Case Western Reserve University. It is an amazing school, IMHO. It is a private research university designed for the really smart student who wants to work really hard. I think the average ACT score among the students here is 31, unless I am mistaken. You'll get great science and medicine courses, plus the atmosphere and teachers of the Cleveland Institute of Music. I am a Case student, but I study with David Russell of CIM, and I have so many CIM friends I almost feel like a CIM student. Case is also really good about getting student's internships, experience, and jobs.

December 12, 2005 at 04:28 AM · wow, i just checked out Case. It looks pretty amazing. I'll practice hard then.

December 12, 2005 at 09:31 AM ·

I am a double degree student at CIM and Case Western. I study with William Preucil at CIM, and I'm doing a B.S. in Mathematical Physics at Case. So Christian, while I absolutely agree with you that "a music degree to be done well is a full time thing and quite demanding," I'm not sure I would completely discount a double degree so quickly. I would, however, strongly caution anyone who wants to do it. First, since I can't count the number of times people have asked me "Why in the world are you doing physics and music? Which one do you want to continue with?", my goal is to be a violinist. I'm doing physics because I love science, I've done it all my life, and I think it has a lot of connection with music, especially composing and music theory. Writing a fugue is just like solving an equation! I do music because I love it, couldn't live without it, and I think it's what I'm called to. So I think it's really cool that you're into science and music!

But, just to give you an realistic idea of what it might be like to do a double degree, this is what I do. (Of course, this varies according to what level of music school you're going to, and what skill level in music or achievement level at school you wish to attain.) Christian has very good advice, and maybe this will help too.

Any serious music major, I think, would have to commit themselves to something like this, or more:

I do about 4 - 5 hours of individual practice a day, more on weekends.(I'll be honest, sometimes that gets blown to pieces, but other than the occasional exception, I've found I'm able to keep it up)

I have 2 hour quartet rehearsals every day, sometimes longer or shorter, and two quartet coaches who give us many coachings, probably averaging out to about 1 per coach per week.

On certain weeks, I have orchestra rehearsals, usually 3 hours long, for several days out of the week (CIM has a rotating orchestra schedule, so some weeks I don't have orchestra at all).

On most weekends, if I've had orchestra rehearsals, I'll have an orchestra concert. My quartet also sometimes performs during the week or the weekend.

On some weekends, I have concerts at home or elswhere, for which I fly back.

Of course, there are 1 - 1.5 hour private

lessons every week, sometimes more than one per week.

Then, I have to take music theory, keyboard/sightsinging, music history(next year, that is), eurythmics(only if you go to CIM =), and in future semesters, things like form and analysis, conducting for non-majors, etc.

For my physics degree, I was fortunate in some respects - Case is really good about giving credit for IB and AP exams, so I was able to enter there as a mid year sophomore, and I don't have to take a lot of the freshman lab courses or english lectures. But I still have three pretty intense case science classes this semester, and a total of 22 credit hours. It's pretty crazy, and you don't get much sleep, to be honest.

So I guess what I'm trying to say is that IMHO, music is a wonderful thing that takes a lot of work. It sounds like you really love it, which is awesome, and that you love science and medicine, which is also awesome! If you're not planning to do music as a career, maybe the university thing with music as a minor might be a better thing. My dad's a doctor, and from what he tells me, pre-med, and especially med school, is an INSANE amount of time and work, which I'm sure you know. Also, the good med schools only take students with top grades, and it might be hard to keep those up if you're also doing a music major. All those schools you mentioned in an earlier post are excellent choices for doing a bachelor of science/music minor thing, and a lot of them are even good choices for doing a double degree in science and music. Whatever you decide, good luck!

-Nick Tavani

P.S. Playing Tchaikovsky and Sibelius is DEFINITELY worth all the hours of practicing scales and etudes. =) They are awesome concertos!

December 12, 2005 at 02:23 PM · Hi Oilver,

I understand your dilemma as I went through it myself years ago. I attended the U of Rochester and did my musical studies through Eastman. I had contemplated a double major but found that trying to accomplish both was stretching me too thin. I agree with several of the posters here that if you have decided on becoming a surgeon perhaps you should minor in music instead. The required courses for pre-med are very demanding.

Just to give you an idea of the courses you will need to take (for the first two years):

2 sem Calculus

sometimes (depends on school) 1 sem of advanced math (diff eq or linear algebra for example)

2 sem of physics with labs

2 sem of inorganic chem with labs

2 sem of organic chem with labs

1 sem of biochemistry

1 sem of genetics

I am not trying to discourage you but as you can see, trying to fit in the courses for a music major as well as fitting in practice times will be challenging to say the least. You need to know what you are getting yourself into if you choose both.

As many of the posters here have said, not majoring in music does not preclude music from your life. Professionally, I am a research scientist but am very active in playing music (mainly chamber music) in my neck of the woods.In retrospect, I was glad I made the decisions that I did as I have a career that I enjoy and an avocation I love.



December 12, 2005 at 03:17 PM · Oliver: Wow, you have really gotten some great suggestions and insights so far. Let me add just a few more ideas:

1. You need to take a very, very realistic look at two things - your violin (as well as general musical) talent and potential, and your capacity to do the level of work required for a career in medicine. For the violin evaluation, your teacher (of course), but then maybe a few other independent opinions from professionals. The opinions on this website are great, but you need to talk to people who can actually hear and watch you play.

2. If you are going to do anything demanding like studying violin and pre-med at the same time, you will definitely need to treat time as a very precious commodity. You would do well to learn and develop the best time-management techniques you can find that fit who you are and your situation. You can start with Alan Lakein's classic book (How to get the most out of your time and your life), but there are certainly lots of others.

3. Get a professional career assessment, including some career testing (aptitudes, interest patterns, personal characteristics, career values). Testing isn't perfect, but if it's a well validated instrument and is interpreted properly by a professional, it can add to your perspective.

4. Look at the end-point. Don't get totally sidetracked by this school or that school, or this program of study or that one. Look first at where you want to end up. Consider carefully all of those opinions you've already gotten (from this website and people you have talked to) on what kind of life they lead either in music or medicine or both. Indeed, match that against where your "passion" is.

5. Give yourself as much time to make this decision as possible. Prepare for making it either way. You are still very young and have lots of time to decide. You don't have to do that right now. Part of your planning should be that if you decide to go in one direction now, what happens if you change your mind 2 years from now? Always check out that possibility when talking to your academic advisors.

6. And do check with your academic advisors. I've worked in Universities, and I've seen many, many students whose "academic advisors" are themselves and their friends. I've seen some bad mistakes made that way. Not that you shouldn't make up your own mind and listen to your friends, but your academic advisors know the curricula and specific requirements.

Hope that helps.

Cordially, Sandy Marcus

December 12, 2005 at 04:01 PM · Of course, if you go to a school that is in need of a more violinists for their school orchestra, you might get a scholarship from the music school if you are a music major. That would leave you with a dual degree, of course. This isn't just double majoring.

December 12, 2005 at 07:20 PM · I also go to CIM along with Nick Tavani, and while that does sound like a typical double major schedule, it's not neccessarilyl as scary as it sounds. I'm not a double major but I may minor in either dance or science (depending on which classes I take my last three semesters). We do have a rotating orchestra schedule so I actually only had orchestra rehearsals a total of 2 weeks out of the whole semester and orchestra concerts are almost always on Wednesdays (very seldomly on weekends or other days of the week). Nick is also insane (in a good way- I've known Nick for about 7 years now) and practices a lot (which most of us do) and also does a lot of quartet. It's a good quartet program here, but you don't have to practice every day (although the best ones usually do).

I would also second the Case Western Reserve University idea, either as a double major or with music being your only major. It's a great school (the music history and early performance practice programs are some of the most well known in the world). Many of the Case students take Eurhythmics, theory, and history with us (which is awesome) and they have a very good performance program. They also have a fair amount of money and give very nice scholarships. You should definitely look into it if you are interested in music. Even those who minor in music here love it.

December 12, 2005 at 07:34 PM · Don't forget to consider the many excellent small Liberal Arts colleges -- Swarthmore, Carlton, Wesleyan, Middlebury, Amherst, and of course my own alma mater, Williams College.

You may find that a liberal arts curriculum offers a much more balanced approach to your dual loves of science and music. One of my great friends in college went pre-med -- but also won the college's concerto competition and, as a Freshman, soloed with the Berkshire Symphony. He graduated to go on to medical school and is now a successful pediatrician.

I chose to major in music, but also studied Computer Science, Geology, Ancient History, and advanced English Lit. In fact, as an Arts major, I was required to take at least two (or was it three?) courses in the Sciences and in the Social Sciences. I also needed at least one language (other than English! :)). The philosophy of these schools is that by studying a broad range of subjects, you're far better prepared for whatever you decide to do once you graduate. And, depending on the school's culinary prowess, you may become a well-rounded student. ;)

December 12, 2005 at 09:17 PM · Oliver -- in considering Michael Peng's very helpful post, one issue may be to what extent you will get credit for and place out of the pre-med courses from taking AP or IB exams. If you will credit for a certain amount of that curriculum from AP/IB tests or other placement tests, it may not seem as daunting as Michael thinks it would be.

December 12, 2005 at 10:31 PM · thankyou guys!!!

yea... i know double major is tough.

i'm taking all AP classes (cept for orchestra)

Pre-med is not a major right? So can i do pre-med , major in economics, minor in music? or is it just not possible?

i have finals this week, i'll post details next week.

thanks again!

December 12, 2005 at 10:50 PM · Hi,

Pieter, I know many surgeons that are amateur musicians and good ones. I did not know about the acceptance thing into med school in Canada. Interesting. I can see why.

I have never said that it wasn't good to major in music. Plus, I know many people now in med school at Hopkins that are fine violinists who did minors in music while majoring in something else. I was a music major all the way to the end, so I am only relating what I observed from people there.


December 13, 2005 at 02:20 PM · Hi there,

When I was your age I was set on doing a double major in music and pre-med or music and engineering. I had no idea that music (violin especially) requires hours and hours of practice. I wound up doing my undergraduate at the New England Conservatory of Music even though I was accepted into University of Michigan's engineering school.

What I found out was that if I wanted to be the BEST in something - anything - I needed to put all my eggs into on basket. I decided that ultimately I was not going to risk doing two things badly or halfway decent at each others' expense. My advice paid off in the long run because it allowed me to chose what I love to do, never turn back on my decision, and go full swing into my career. This kind of thinking would take you far.


December 15, 2005 at 07:11 PM · There are some schools (such as Baylor Univ. where I teach) in which pre-med is a program and not a degree plan. We have had some in the pre-med program who were music majors; however, it has usually taken them an extra year to graduate due to the extraordinary demands of being a music major and having to fulfill the pre med requirements. This includes normal practice of minimum 3-4 hrs. a day, orchestra 6 hrs. a week, 3-4 hrs of chamber music, 2 semesters of class piano, etc.

December 20, 2005 at 02:47 AM · Have you considered the actual reality of a music profession? I'm no expert (still in high school!), but it seems to me that unlike other majors which can be applied to many jobs, music is a unique demanding job for which a livelihood may be difficult to maintain. Although...if you feel you're up to the task of juggling a major in econ-music...more power to you (I still have problems doing math and science homework!)

December 20, 2005 at 04:30 AM · oliver, you remind me of myself. i'm a senior in high school, also seeking to double major and advance much further in my violin playing. the most important thing to keep in mind is not to give up and NEVER be intimidated by advanced players (like I have been). Tchaikovsky and sibelius also happen to be on the top of my favorite concerti list. I think you're on a pretty good level right now. I was playing Bruch last year in my junior year..and started tchaikovsky afterwards since i really wanted to play it..yes..it was a pretty big jump. hehe..Anyways moving on...

Colleges w/ conservatory/academic programs.

Hartford University (Hartt school of music)

Rochester University (Eastman)

University of Michigan (at least thats what i heard)


Johns Hopkins University (Peabody Conservatory) - very challenging to get into johns hopkins even though it's not an ivy league

...there were more i believe but this is all i can really think of right now..these all have amazing music conservatories along with their academic programs

December 20, 2005 at 05:22 AM · Minor in music but major in a more promising field.

December 20, 2005 at 10:48 AM · Ah, you don't need a degree to make a good living. Study what you love.

December 20, 2005 at 11:35 AM · Oliver, You might consider entering a program as a double major (to ensure that you will be able to study with a faculty member, not a grad student) but focus more on the pre-med major, not necessarily completing the music performance degree. My husband, a doctor, doubled-majored in music and biology. He didn't complete all the requirements for the music major in the end, but he did have all the educational benefits of taking the music courses. I know of other students who've started a dual degree and in the end back-burnered the music requirements because they needed to focus on the academics. In no case did they go into the program with the intention of not completing all the requirements for the music major, but that's how it turned out. What mattered in the end was that they were able to study at the highest level available, not the actual second major. This is a variation of the "study what you love" advice. Also: if you do major only in music, it should not affect your chances of getting into med school as long as you complete all your premed requirements and get good standardized scores and recommendations. Some students even complete their premed requirements *after* receiving a BA in a different field. There are specific programs throughout the US in colleges and universities catering to students who need to add pre-med courses to an already-completed transcript.

In the end, this: you can always take those pre-med courses. People enter med school at age 21, 31, 41. But this may be the only age at which you can enter a high-level music program at the undergrad level. Which is not to say that you won't be able to study privately with an excellent teacher once you're settled as a doctor. There are many roads to happiness. Good luck, whatever your decision.

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