Advice for a highschool violinist ?
I am currently a junior in highschool, and my violin is extremely important to me. My dream is to become a professional with a symphony in a big city someday. I take private lessons every week (my teacher graduated from Curtis as a student of Galamian and his daughter went on to graduate Julliard and become part of the NY Phil. He has many students go into big schools) and am part of 2 youth orchestras (one of which was awarded the American Prize in Orchestral Performance, as well as other awards last year while the other is conducted by a Juilliard alumni and music school professor) and a serious quartet. Music became important to me the summer before my freshman year when we got to play in Carnegie Hall. It was then that I switched teachers and began seriously working. Over the past summer I was thrown into an entirely new and scary world of amazing players at the IU summer string academy, and it was there that I discovered the immense amount of competition that there is out there. I am very serious about my music, however I’m afraid that I’ve begun training too late, as many of the amazing performers I saw were much younger than me and much more advanced. My current level is the Bruch violin concerto, Legende by Weinawski, Chaconne by Vitali, and Scene de Ballet by De Beriot. I haven’t even stepped foot in the world of Mendelssohn or Tchaikovsky yet. I’ve been struggling with the mindset that it’s too late for me since I didn’t even know I wanted to go into a violin career until I was 14. I brought up the idea to my parents to audition for some string academies in big cities around the U.S. where I could go and train and study under the best teachers, but they said that I needed to prove myself where I live now first by winning competitions and “setting myself apart from the crowd” that is already here. However, while I do see their perspective, I think that I don’t have enough time to spend “proving myself.” I’m already a junior in highschool and college auditions are just around the corner. So I am just wondering if anyone have any advice for me ? Would you suggest for me to audition for the string academies and move to a different city to train hard and catch up to the others ? Or stay where I am and strive to be the best I can be where I live now and with the teachers I have now ? I’m just nervous for the future and I feel pressured to make these decisions as quickly as possible. Sorry for the long winded question, I’m grateful for any advice :)
Something to chew on:
It is difficult to give career advice to someone who's playing we can't hear and see. It's difficult to judge people by their repertoire. You might be pretty good (which is a trap, by the way), or you could be a transcendent talent waiting to be discovered. You may play your listed works with a natural musical style and a beautiful, compelling sound and sparkling intonation.....or not.
Just my cynical view about conservatories: Their first goal is not to get you a great gig. Their first goal is to keep their doors open, the teachers teaching, and the orchestra playing. Even in the big conservatories, they need to take X number of students who are marginal (and paying tuition) just to keep things going.
I agree with Scott. Post a video; 2 minutes of Bruch filmed with a smartphone and posted to YouTube as a private link would be plenty.
Great advice above. What would you really love to do? What else do you love doing besides violin? What do you see yourself doing as a professional musician? Many orchestral musicians have other duties like teaching and chamber music because it's very hard to live solely off orchestral playing alone.
It's not that you couldn't make it - it's the system. Unfortunately you are living in a country where you have to be extremely competitive at a very young age, a little virtuoso in primary school and a kind of complete musician in late high school, and careers are founded on decisions made at pre-pubertal age.
The OP isn't a late beginner, merely someone who started to practice more seriously in high school. In truth, there are
I'm very happy with my career in organic chemistry. But I sure do wish I could play the violin a whole lot better. Lauri should engage fully in academics -- APs, DEs, IBs, etc. -- and in violin if that's what she wants. Odds are she will end up in her Plan B. My point is that Plan B can be a very rewarding career, especially if you've prepared for it. She could well find that special field, as I did, where she can enjoy her work and earn a stable (if perhaps not spectacular) living, meanwhile continuing to enjoy the violin on her own terms. My mistake was putting my violin away for 25 years the year I left for college. I continued to progress on the piano (jazz) but I wish I had kept up with violin lessons too. I thought I was busy in college. Truth is, I didn't know what "busy" even meant.
"Unfortunately you are living in a country where you have to be extremely competitive at a very young age, a little virtuoso in primary school and a kind of complete musician in late high school, and careers are founded on decisions made at pre-pubertal age."
OP, I'm picking up on something here: you are part of two youth orchestras and a serious quartet? That sounds like a lot of time that you could be spending practicing studies and repertoire. Given the need to increase your quality/quantity of practice time, I'd seriously consider dropping some of these ensemble commitments.
Lydia, "late developer". I didn´t write nor mean late beginner.
You don´t have to follow my footsteps. Not at all. But we always offered mostly the heroic examples of the few "who made it" as a role model. Seldom we hear the perspective of those who eventually might have been giftet enough, but actively decided against a professional music carreer and never regreted. I could add some examples, even from people who have a violin performance grad from one of the top universities.
Mary Ellen, thanks for correcting. You filled a few black spots on my map...
And Lauri, whatever you will go for - all the best from my side! But always have a plan B.
Mary Ellen, please make it clear for a european guy - I thought in the US you would go to college at age 16, major in music, and only then could apply for conservatory? (which would be equivalent to conservatory or university in my Country)
I am exactly where I thought I wanted to be, but I will be the first to say that along with hard work and talent, a fair amount of luck was involved.
More thinking on this:
Mary Ellen, thank you again, for enlightening me a bit (still confused but better), and for your honesty. Yes, being a musician has its rewards, and as a professional it does offer you opportunities an amateur doesn't have. Both has its advantages. But to succeed as a professional musician is so awfully hard as far as I can judge. There are other fields which are similar as competitive, but usually with a broader base of "safe jobs" for those who do not succeed. I'm glad that there are still enough people who wish to follow this path. Otherwise the niveau of performance wouldn't be what we are used to.
And even if you succeed, it has its price.
George Wells wrote:
"And San Antonio's symphony has gone through a great deal of financial difficulty in the past few decades, which is unfortunately not uncommon for symphonies these days; that can impact the stability of the jobs."
I am very much in a similar boat to you, as in I realised I wanted to do music later than most other people (I was 17). Which is too old really to get into a conservatoire. So I have myself a job, glt myself the best teacher I could find and my goal is to go to a normal uni first and get my undergrad in music, then go to a conservatory for a masters in violin/viola performance. This may be a possibility for you :)
This is my experience based on a (failed) attempt at music performance, as well as my middle-school aged son's trajectory.
Thank you so much for all the advice !!
Susan: thank you SO much for all those options !!!! Wow thats exactly what I was looking for. I started when I was 6 and was trained with the Suzuki method (im not sure if you have heard of it) so I have been playing for a quite a while, but I still feel very behind. Although I know it will be difficult, I wouldn’t mind taking a less straight path towards my goal. As for while I’m IN college , would you suggest for me to give some private lessons then too ? To make some extra money on the side and help prepare me for becoming a private teacher with a studio later on
Jake: I’m defintiely seeing that that is probably going to end up being the route I take as well. I just wish we had been prepared earlier lol. Good luck to you !
I would recommend that while you are in school take Suzuki pedagogy (either through the school or in the community or even in the summer) -- you can start this when you are 18 even before college. I did this during college even after I gave up on performance and had a small studio (~10 students) through my last year of college after completing training for books 1-4. This plus a gig as a principal in a community orchestra earned me enough money to live off of during these years. Eating rice and beans, mostly, in a tiny studio, but it definitely helped!
Also as an added note: I will be entering in more competitions this year and hopefully win or place in some of them, if not get a lot of experience on stages and in front of judges. Hopefully it will spread my name around. Is this a good idea ?
"Mary Ellen: I love your perspective ! I also absolutely love Indiana University...it’s amazing that you went there ! Did you get to study under Mimi Zweig ?? Would you suggest I try out there ?"
In order to take Suzuki teacher training, you need to have a high school diploma equivalent, and be at least 17 years old. I think it's a good thing to do during college if you intend to teach, though.
Lydia: when a college has repertoire requirements does that mean you have to have those pieces decently polished and have the ability to play them if asked at the time of the audition, or that you have just had to have played them at some point ?
George: ***correction. I meant he plays with the Paris Opera. Sorry for the wrong wording
J*u*i*l*l*i*a*r*d (you keep dropping the first "i")
"It was just that when I went to the IU summer string academy, I realized what a tiny fish I was in a big pond, and how I frankly wasn’t very good compared to the year-rounders there "
I worry that all this will discourage you, so here's a story. I probably wasn't quite as good as you in high school, but I was very dedicated. My goal was conducting, but I worked hard at the violin and made good progress. Then I spent a summer at a well thought of music camp. I knew my friend Janet was better than I was, but at camp it became clear that most people were. At theory and conducting, as well as violin. I kept playing, for another year, but the fire was gone. I had hit the stone wall of Reality. I eventually stopped playing and went to college and grad school in English, which I also loved.
Lydia wrote, "but [Mary Ellen's] location is probably not what you have in mind when you say 'big city'." Perhaps not, but in fact, San Antonio is the 7th most populous city in the US.
San Antonio is the 7th most populous city in the US only if you are strictly looking at what is inside the city limits. We are #24 in the list of major metropolitan areas.
Here's the god awful truth, kid. You're 16 or 17 years old. You havn't experienced enough of the world to know what you want to do with your life. Out of all the things you've experienced, maybe violin tops the chart, but there are still many, many things you havn't experienced yet.
And don't post any videos of yourself playing. These people aren't judges, and they're not qualified to determine your musical future.
The OP has been repeatedly advised to consult with her private teacher.
May I suggest a parent-teacher-child conference.
I agree with Mary Ellen, you need to have a frank discussion with your teacher, not necessarily about the specifics of which schools to pick, or in what city to base yourself for university, but rather, what it will take now and over the coming months and years for you to have a chance at pursuing a career in music performance, if you're not already doing all you can.
Jeewon's suggestions are good, esp regarding the gap year(s). I would only add that it would be a good idea to take one or two core classes per semester at a junior college if possible. When you eventually do end up wherever you do, having all your basics done will put you that much further down the road.
Prime examples of internet hacks overextending their abilities. You want a 2 minute clip of his playing to determine his musical abilities in the future? Put it in proper context, outside of the internet. Not even his teacher can predict his musical future. Learning is a process. Some get to the end faster than others. The prodigies may get there at age 16. Others after college. A few may even learn to dance while playing the violin, just to stand out. Let him figure out his own life.
You're starting to rant and ramble Tom. And you haven't read the substance of any of the advice given. You also haven't been on this forum long enough to realize that despite our frequent disagreements and lively debate, for the most part, we are a community of violin nerds and music lovers, not really 'internet hacks' here, whatever that is. Are you speaking for yourself?
are you 15? asking someone to post a performance video so that a bunch of unqualified people can critique him is demeaning
"You want a 2 minute clip of his playing to determine his musical abilities in the future?"
Nope. 49. What are you 25? Briefly taught for about 25 years. Spent about 10 of those preparing students for college auditions.
Don't post any videos of yourself playing, man. A blog site is not an audition. You'll find lots of purported authorities in the field. Many who don't realize, there are some things you can't do to other people. It's one thing to post a video on your own will, asking for feedback. It's another thing entirely to be asked by bloggers to justify yourself and your abilities. They don't understand there's a place and time for this. This is neither the place nor time for it.
That's the one good point you've made so far, Tom. This may indeed not be the right time to solicit advice from strangers, especially if OP trusts the teacher implicitly. OP has mentioned uncertainty of the teacher's true opinion, but teachers don't really function that way. There's a time for assessment and a time to just keep your head down and do the work.
Tom--the OP is female. Kinda makes me wonder how carefully you read her posts. . .
Lauri, these are the kinds of things I wish I was taught at your age:
"And don't post any videos of yourself playing. These people aren't judges, and they're not qualified to determine your musical future."
If the OP or anyone else wants to determine my qualifications for offering advice, my name is unique enough that doing a search on it + the word "violin" will turn up more than enough information to determine the experience and education underlying my comments.
I think the 2-minute video request would probably have been much more useful at the beginning of the thread, but the OP's given enough context at this point that it's not really necessary -- Vitali/deBeriot/etc.-level intermediate repertoire now, Haydn a year ago, and an admission of major technical problems coming into this. I imagine that the video would just confirm these things, unnecessarily.
I'm very glad I'm not in the US. Everything seems to be so competitive. Youth orchestras, college and professional work.
If you look up “Lauren Vitali Chaconne” on youtube my most recent performance should come up. I am wearing a red dress. The film quality is very low as it was filmed on an iPhone.
Jeewon: thank you so much for all your great advice !
Lauri, is it by any chance posted as from the final string recital at the Jacobs School summer string academy?
Mary Ellen, I think that’s the video. Everything matches with what she has posted.
Search "vitali chaconne jacobs iu" on YouTube for that video. (I didn't watch it in the entirety, but glanced at the other videos as well.)
Mary Ellen: yes
Lydia: while that is true, there are unfortunately not many great options for young musicians here, especially regarding college.
I've heard Colorado State is decent if you're interested in pedagogy or chamber music.
I agree with Lydia after having listened to a couple of your videos. Very solid playing for your level. I think you are studying with the right teacher for you at this time. I also agree, especially considering that you are young for your grade anyway, that you should give serious consideration to a gap year if you are hoping to get into a good conservatory.
Hey that's great stuff Lauri! All your hard work is paying off. I can see steady progress in your videos. If you'd still like some comments I'd be happy to give my thoughts. I can write it and save to my Google drive for you to download if you'd rather not have them posted here. I don't think I'd write much though, because I don't want to meddle with what your teacher is already doing with you, but there are a few things, e.g. elliptical motion on repeated down strokes for chords, which are universal enough that it shouldn't mess with your work.
The best advice I've received so far as a student is "only study music if you can't be happy doing anything else".
The problem with that advice, Gemma, is that all but the most worldly teenagers have no idea the full range of careers possible, or even the diversity of subjects you can study as an undergraduate. I could not have guessed the trajectory of my own studies and career when I was a high school student. This may provoke an outcry, but I think most people could be happy (and excel) in more than one profession and discipline. That said, I think it's important to try to do what you love, but unless you possess a trust fund, you may need to combine the study of music with something else. It doesn't even have to be medical school!
"That said, I think it's important to try to do what you love, but unless you possess a trust fund, you may need to combine the study of music with something else."
"The best advice I've received so far as a student is "only study music if you can't be happy doing anything else""
I agree with Mary Ellen, but I would note that a lot of people who graduate with a four-year non-specific liberal-arts degree are also struggling to find decent-paying jobs. However, at the very least, professional-level violin ability allows someone to have a pretty nice side-hustle.
"a lot of people who graduate with a four-year non-specific liberal-arts degree are also struggling to find decent-paying jobs."
I'm curious who in the world graduates with a "non-specific liberal arts degree"? Everyone at a liberal arts college or university has to declare a major their soph year. No one graduates with a "non-specific" degree. It is not "non-specific," but in fact, highly specific, to be an English major, a chem major, a Russian major, or an early childhood ed major. None of these are less specific than a music major. Finding this a little baffling.
I do not agree that a music performance major is the same as a liberal arts major such as philosophy. Studying philosophy, art history, gender studies, anthropology, etc. as part of a liberal arts degree ought to develop a specific skill: the ability to assemble and analyze data and then write a persuasive, cogent argument about what it means. You will not develop this skill with a music performance major. I will not disagree that many people who graduate with these majors will not be able to discern patterns across phenomena and write persuasively about them, but it is the goal. Unfortunately, small classes and high standards help--meaning that graduates of SLACs, the Ivys, or other selective institutions are more likely to have developed those skills. AP English does not develop this skill.
It depends on the school. Someone who attends a conservatory program may not get the kind of breadth in their curriculum for writing, research, math, social science, philosophy, history, physical science, multicultural studies, etc. There always has been criticism of programs that focus solely on music performance and very little in the way of anything else in the liberal arts.
Elizabeth, there is such a thing as a non-specific liberal arts degree. I'm sure it goes by different names, like "interdisciplinary" or "humanities" or "liberal studies". These degree programs themselves are the major, but may be more general than the ones you've cited. I don't have a strong opinion about the value of a liberal arts degree, but we live in an ever more specialist economy, so in the economic sense, I wouldn't study something in the liberal arts unless I was willing to do quite a bit of grad school or had a good hook-up for a job when I was leaving. I studied engineering and still had trouble finding meaningful work when I graduated into the recession, so even the highly fetishized STEM degrees aren't always a guarantee.
I don't think that such degrees are common at the better schools. Sounds more like a community college degree.
I used the word "non-specific" in this case to indicate degrees that do not specifically track into vocational paths, rather than to denote the lack of a major. A general business major, or a biology major, for instance, may not necessarily be significantly more competitive in the job market than an English major. Note that I'm not disparaging those degrees, either, but I am saying that it is tougher to get a job with them, and those jobs generally pay less than the degrees that track directly into jobs.
Christian, There is a degree some schools offer called 'liberal studies.' It's the degree you get when for instance, you've transferred around a lot, have tons of credit hours, but not enough to get any specific major. It's basically a here's your diploma, now please leave. It's not a particularly structured degree, and I agree, it's somewhat useless. I'm not exactly sure what Lydia means by non-specific-liberal-arts degree,
I'm guessing you missed my post above, Julie. :-)
"That's by and large true, but how many newly-graduated philosophy majors are highly adept at software engineering"
That's why I mentioned cognitive science, Julie. Or for that matter, symbolic systems, which is another way that philosophy (and sometimes linguistics) intersect with computer science.
"The people who have what it takes to do music at a high level generally have the discipline and smarts to be able to switch careers if they want to."
Jeewon: yes I would love to hear your comments !! Thank you for offering !! As for my shoulder rest set up: my private teacher at the camp had actually just changed both my shoulder rest and chin rest just 2 days before this was filmed, so i Was still getting used to the set up. I actually much prefer the set up she gave me, but the sponge was more slippery than my previous shoulder rest and that’s why I was adjusting so much. Also, I have had a hard time with shoulder/chin rests for my entire life because I have a bad habit of wanting to clamp down my jaw on my violin to hold it up rather than using my left arm. The main point that all the teachers were harping on while I was there was that it is wrong to hold the violin that way, so I was trying to be conscious and keep reminding myself of holding the violin up with my arm.
Lauri, I love the Vitali, and I really enjoyed your performance! Very poised. I wish you the best!
Jocelyn: thank you so so much !!!! I’m glad you enjoyed it !
I think my comment was misinterpreted. The person who gave me that advice meant, "try to avoid studying music unless you really feel you must". I also think it was one of you who gave me that advice a year ago, when I made a similar post... :)
Yeah I noticed you switched between the last 2 videos. Glad you're addressing it already. So your own teacher is not very particular regarding setup?
"Generic liberal arts"--don't all graduates of St. John's College in Annapolis and Santa Fe get a BA in liberal arts? I've always been very intrigued by that program, but have never met anyone who attended or teaches/taught there. It's a very selective program and seems very intense--I imagine their grads are pretty formidable intellectually and probably quite versatile.
I know St. John's graduates. It's an excellent program and school, or at least it was back in the 1990s, and I think a lot of the students go on to grad school. A certain type of student chooses a program like that, though -- the kind of student who really wants to engage. (Far too many students choose a college for the lazy river experience, so to speak:
I can't contribute too much to the college conversation as I'm in the UK. However, I agree strongly with Lydia about having the college conversation with your teacher.
Jack: that’s great to know. To which music colleges are you referring ?
All other things aside, Lauri, I really hope you keep us posted on your progress, where you end up, and what you do. I, for one, will be really sad if you do not! :-)
The ones in the UK, so:
Lauri! It is never too late to be a professional violinist! I myself started at the age of 8 and have done so well with my career. I am willing to share any advice you may be interested in. Talent, hard work and consistency are what it takes in this field and I strongly disagree with age being the number one factor. You are so young with a lot of experience ahead of you. Seeing what you've been able to accomplish already is great for starting Mendelssohn and Thaikovsky. If you feel yu aren't ready yet then I would recommend to you a load of exercises that will prep you for these pieces. Good luck and if you have any other questions I'm here to answer for you!
Elizabeth: I will definitely keep this updated ! I’d love to keep coming back and getting advice from time to time.
Lydia: I will definitely be having that chat with my teacher soon :) I have looked and many of the schools I’m interested in here actually do have paleontology minors...surprisingly ! I was thinking the same as you, that I’d have to go with biology, but apparently not. Unfortunately, though, I might have to forgo it since -like you said- lab sciences can interfere a lot. I will keep thinking :)
I think this thread wins the award for "longest average post length.". :)
Here's an excellent guide to big shifts by Nathan Cole:
Jeewon: wow these are great !! I’ll definitely start implementing these into my practicing !
Hope it helps!
So I've just started to scratch the surface of tuning and the kind of attention we must pay to the left hand. And the reason I wanted to spell things out a bit is that this kind of attention to detail is what separates the contenders from the wannabes. It's very difficult to polish a piece, and that is the reason why I say you'll have to work harder than you've ever thought possible. Most of the difficulty is mental. But I decided to say this to you now (hesitated a bit) because I think you have to try and see if you can do this over the next year, and if this is what you're willing to do for the next 10-15 years or more.
Jeewon makes great points. I learned to truly polish after I'd already worked on the Romantic concerto repertoire for a few years, and it really necessitated a technical back-to-basics and perhaps just as important, an intense attention to detail from the beginning of learning a piece.
Jeewon: thank you so much for all your help and advice !!! Yes...you’re correct about my grade.
You're most welcome Lauri!
Actually I forgot to mention...I’m a Junior this year and I will be finishing all of my required highschool credits this year. That means that next year, my Senior year, will sort of be a “gap year” where I will focus on my music and have very little school, and then I’ll take the next year off too so I’ll probably audition in the winter of 20/21 instead of 21/22. Sorry if this is confusing, but I’m basically trying to say that i’ll have 2 solid years of hard work after this year.
Wow, that's cool, and generous. You're lucky to have such supportive parents! In two years you can achieve a lot, if your goals will be the same until then. Best wishes and fingers crossed!
Thank you Nuuska !!
Yeah--your parents rock. :-) Someone correct me if I'm wrong, but I very much doubt that anyone will care a bit if you are a little "old" your first year. Better to be sure you are playing your absolute best. But you have time to work all that out. :-)
Someone like Jeewon or Mary Ellen will hopefully answer this, but: There is a certain point where you might be better off getting a performance degree at a second-tier school so you have a supportive environment rather than studying on your own, and then moving up a tier for grad school. Taking one gap year would be reasonable; starting the program at 20 suggests that it might be better to have gone earlier to a lesser school. But I'm not sure about this, so I defer to someone else. :-)
I have long felt that there is more learning in polishing from 95% to 99.99% than there is in getting to the 95% level on a piece. That's because, I think, polishing also improves your ability to tell the difference. Think of the judges at a major competition. What do they hear, that you don't? Probably one whole hell of a lot of stuff. So that's just it ... you can't fix what you can't hear, so for most students, I think it's better to be working on repertoire and studies where the fine polishing is actually possible, taking into consideration, of course, that what someone might be capable of at, say, the Accolay Level or the Haydn G Major Level is going to be different from what should be possible at the Mendelssohn level.
No, I think Lydia's idea is correct. There are some excellent teachers at second-tier schools and I think it would be better to go study with someone like that with the thought of getting into a first-rate graduate school than to wait two years at home.
Alright that’s great to know ! Since we’re here, I have another quick question: would it be more beneficial for me to go to a good summer music camp next summer or go on tour with my orchestra to various places in Europe where we’ll get to play on many amazing stages and see amazing people perform. I can’t afford both, so I’m just wondering which I should pick :) so sorry to ask so many questions !
If you want to have a nice vacation, go to Europe. If you want to continue advancing as a violinist, go to a good camp and practice like a demon for eight weeks.
I still remember my tour of Europe with my youth symphony as one of the best experiences of my life. I had never been to Europe before, or traveled internationally at all, and it was eye-opening and marvelous. Indeed, I don't think it's the kind of experience you can ever have outside of that little window of time, even if you end up with a globetrotting career eventually (whether inside or outside of music).
Yeah, I was just thinking along the same lines as Lydia. My youth orchestra's proposed foreign tour was canceled due to the economy tanking at the time (mid-1970s) and the fear that too many students weren't going to be able to afford the trip--and this was in affluent Montgomery County, MD. So I never got to go on that kind of tour. My daughter went to Spain with her youth orchestra this past June and had a blast.
Everyone has great points and there is an opportunity cost for everything, so while my younger, assistant-to-a-hard-a**-teacher self would say 'practice like a demon', my older but-probably-not-the-wiser self would lean towards 'following your heart.'