Violin Teachers: How long do students study?

August 3, 2018, 11:25 AM · In your experience, with all the students you have, how long do students stick with it? I know many students study violin for years, but I suspect that isn't the case with most. So, how many stick with it for a year? Two years? Three? Also, if they do leave, why are they doing so? Thanks.

Replies (13)

Edited: August 3, 2018, 1:14 PM · It depends on the kinds of students one attracts.

My students usually leave because they graduate and go to college. I don't teach that many students (maybe 10 in total each week), and a number of them have been with me for 5+ years, one now starting his tenth year as he prepares for his HS senior recital in the fall.

I do get the occasional new student that comes to two or three lessons then never returns. It's been more commonplace that students and their families are unwilling to make the kind of daily commitment that playing an instrument at a competent level requires. I'm not asking a ton here either, at minimum I think 30 minutes a day of focused, productive, practice allows most people to enjoy making music (especially for orchestra or chamber music), provided they aren't planning to be music majors.


August 3, 2018, 10:15 PM · What Gene said.

Most of my students are with me until they graduate high school.

August 3, 2018, 11:53 PM · I think you're probably referring to *adult" violin students, OP, since you are one of those.

Luckily, I have lots of experience with adult beginners, so perhaps my viewpoint here would be beneficial.

I have always wanted to make myself a graph that gives an accurate idea of the percentages of adults and their related endurance with learning the instrument, but alas, I have not done that yet, so my answer here will be purely guesswork.

I'd say about 90% of adults that have an introductory (Free) lesson with me actually begin lessons afterwards.

Of that 90%, I'd say about 50% quit within one year, but it's almost ALWAYS due to some life change (job change, moved, relationship issues, etc...), and rarely due to a perceived lack of progress. In fact, many of the ones that quit before the one year mark were making very nice progress up to that point, so I'm always super disappointed when they end up leaving.

So, of the remaining 45% that make it past the one year mark, perhaps 50% make it to 2 years, and of that 22.5%, perhaps 50% make it to 3 years or longer. So we end up with roughly 10% of adult students that last longer than 3 years. However, once they get to the 3 year mark, it seems that they can last indefinitely, regardless of their progress up to that point. They just keep on chugging.

If we're talking kids, the statistics change immensely. Most kids stay with me for a much longer time (unless they're starting in high school, in which case they usually take lessons until college).

I think the biggest indicator, though, is Gene's point about the type of students one attracts. For example, I'm #1 on Google in my city (and that's where most of my clients contact me from) so you can imagine that my average student is far less committed than another student who might've gone through the trouble of contacting the local orchestra to try and pick the best teacher for themselves.

I consider myself a good teacher, but the simple truth is that if someone picks you simply based on you being the 1st google link and never even tried other ways of finding teachers (such as searching further through google, looking at reviews, or contacting local orchestras and asking for references), then that student is going to *tend* to be less serious about learning.

I'm actually pretty disappointed in how much more often I get students simply because they saw my google link first, as opposed to the amount of students I get that mention seeing my *reviews* on google, yelp, and facebook. Very few of my students even know that I have good reviews online, apparently.

It's sort of like they're saying "you were the easiest to click, so that's why I picked you." Luckily in recent times, I've been more picky about who I select as students and I really try to discourage people from starting who just aren't serious enough to make satisfying progress. Example: recently an adult student came in for her intro lesson and had very long nails, and I told her in the nicest way possible that if she wasn't going to be willing to clip them down to nothing, then there was literally no point in trying to learn the instrument. It turned out she was a big "nails" person so she made her choice right then and there. This was excellent because it saved us both the discouragement of having to half-ass learn the instrument and have it die a slow death over time. No feelings were hurt; just a nice honest exchange.

August 4, 2018, 1:07 AM · If you look at the committed adult students who regularly post here, they all have been taking lessons for a long time and will go on indefinitely. I myself have been taking lessons for two years (as an adult) and fullly intend to go on until I can no longer make progress.

It is admittedly a very small and highly selected set of data.

Edited: August 4, 2018, 10:37 AM · I agree with David. I have been taking lessons since returning to violin 2007 and I'll keep going for as long as I can afford. I took some short breaks due to injury, loss of family members, etc. during the past 11 years. My lessons usually are hourly once per week or once every 2 weeks when I didn't have enough time to practice. Lately I've been taking one and a half hours/week because I have more stuff to cover. Of course one has to practice to progress, but with the right teacher(s), the improvement of one's playing can be seen on a day to day basis.
August 4, 2018, 5:29 PM · My adult students come and go. It's not that they aren't committed, it's that life gets in the way sometimes. We are just grateful that they are able to get "in the saddle" on the journey of playing the violin, and that it is no longer limited to just very young children.

One of my former students started with me at age eighteen, having wanted to play violin her whole life but not having the opportunity. Her parents bought her a violin for her graduation present! Few students have been as dedicated, and she regularly put in two hours a day of efficient, focused, practice. We started with Twinkle and tone production basics, and four years later we were working on the Bach D Minor Partita, Lalo Symphonie Espagnole, and parts for chamber music she was participating in summer festivals on before she wrapped it all up and left for law school. She even played in her university orchestra, and folks assumed she had been playing since her single digit years. While she doesn't play anymore, whenever we connect she reminds me of how significant the experience of being a musician was, how it uplifted her and kept her sane despite a challenging double major at her university. To this day she is a strong supporter of music education and someone who attends concerts regularly.

As a teacher, this is the student I want to work with at any age, whether they are five, fifteen, or fifty!

August 4, 2018, 6:41 PM · Actually OP, I forgot to mention: my adult starters who start in their 60s or 70s almost always seem to stay indefinitely. I think it's because many are retired and their lives are very stable.

It's younger adults that tend to come and go, since their lives are always changing.

Edited: August 5, 2018, 3:05 PM · Some high school students drop out of the music scene when they get into organized team sports. As a youth orchestra director I found it puzzling that they would find time for multiple practices per week and weekend tournaments, but not have time for one lesson and one rehearsal per week. I suspect that some of the girls were hoping to win title 9 athletic college scholarships. Then, unless they are actually music majors, more stop playing in college. A minor in music performance might help; none of my Cal. public universities do that. And then, the distractions of adult real life leave little energy left over at night for a practice session.
Edited: August 5, 2018, 2:30 PM · Stability comes when a student treats violin and music-making as a way of life. Passion, motivation, goals and dreams are useful, but none of them is as reliable to sustain over a long time as integrating violin playing into one's way of existence and means to express who we are.

When I was younger, I explored different paths with passion and enough commitment. Mostly it was goal-oriented so I did get results, but my path was ever-changing and life was not deeply satisfying. Now in my late 50s, I have the time, means and mostly the clearer understanding of what's really matters to choose this violin thing as a way of life. This is why I would never call violin as a hobby, and this is why I will take as many lessons,courses and other violin educational activities I can for as long as I am able.

August 17, 2018, 7:28 AM · My main teaching was two years at a very low SES high school in a high migrant area where I bought and loaned the instruments as well as learning to teach.

Since the girls' worlds were very circumscribed and playing music far outside their experience, I consider one of the big gains not the number of girls who came but the sixty or so girls who were curious enough to try something not modelled by a cousin or a celebrity. They would usually last about month before deciding it took too much effort but it didn't usually end there. Although I only had 15 girls in the ensemble when I left (11 are still playing three years after I left; some gave saved up to buy their own instruments), most of the girls who tried for a few weeks kept up enough interest to check in every few weeks and see how it was going. Quite a few came to our performances, even though they didn't necessarily relate to the folk/easy classical music we played.
Sometimes it's not just about lessons bevause there's lots of ways to participate in creating a musical culture - it might be as simple as raising curiosity about how it works or what it sounds like, but there's s chance music will be normalised and passed to the nect generation.

Currently I only teach beginners and pass them on to a paying teacher around grade 2/3. If they're going to leave they usually do this around 6-8 weeks in or at the first point where progress begins to plateau - a little into learning lower 2nd finger.

August 17, 2018, 6:43 PM · Thanks for sharing that story, Anish. You're right about needing more than just players for a musical community to exist; what's a performance without an audience?
August 17, 2018, 11:57 PM · I think my most dedicated students are those who do not have the greatest opportunities elsewhere. They are not the most likely to be picked out for sports, they may not be the tallest or the most fashionable. They may not strive to be performing in front of a crowd on their own. They are not overly competitive but they may be quietly and inconspicuously nerdy and have their nose in a book while waiting for lessons. They may be the ones who get the musical citizenship award for contributing teamwork to their school orchestra regardless of how talented they are.
These are usually the most focused and the most appreciative of the attention that they get. They may be late bloomers that nobody sees coming around the corner at graduation time. They may not be competitive musicians but they get the scholarship to play in the music program at their college while they Major in something else. And sometimes they may surprise you and decide to major in music, either performance or education.
You can not know what your students are going to do with what you give them. Whether it is for a short time or a long time. You can not always know what is hindering or distracting them. I pray that the ones who have the most difficult time learning something or sticking with it learn something about themselves and learn to be more patient with themselves and empathetic with others through their music.
Edited: August 18, 2018, 7:03 AM · In formal education, it depends on curriculum and the number of years.
In informal education, it depends on the budget (or a dependency) of a student.
Ideally until they "internalize" their teacher - in other word, develop an "inner teacher" and become self-standing musicians. Alternatively, a great teacher would declare "There is nothing else I could teach you. Search for another teacher!" or ... "I have done my job. You are ready to start your own path. "
Learning process never ends.... and a matured musician will, in essence, keep teaching him/herself.
May I ask: why are you asking?

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