Advice for a highschool violinist ?

August 24, 2018, 8:33 AM · 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 :)

Replies (121)

August 24, 2018, 8:43 AM · Something to chew on:

The competition you saw at that summer music program? There are kids like that coming through every year.

The open positions in a major symphony orchestra? People who get those gigs tend to keep them for a while.

So the competition is even greater than you imagine. Thousands of freshly minted music degrees every year, but very few opportunities out there for the kind of gig everyone wants.

That doesn't mean you have to give up on the violin, but I would suggest hedging your bets by considering other career paths, as well.

August 24, 2018, 8:58 AM · 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.

I don't see any solo Bach on your list. Are you just in between right now, or have you not played any?

I think if you can post 2" minutes of playing the experienced people here can give you a better answer. What does your teacher say? He seems to be experienced.

August 24, 2018, 9:15 AM · 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.
It's not that different from many law schools.

Some private teachers at the HS level pride themselves on getting as many students as possible into conservatories, especially as it helps their reputation. And some actively discourage all but the most talented.

August 24, 2018, 10:46 AM · 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.

When you say "big city string academies", what are you referring to? Do you mean a conservatory's prep program -- Juilliard Prep, Peabody Prep, etc.? Those are non-residential programs, which means you would need to drive or fly to them on the weekends. That's an enormous financial commitment, and your level of playing is not comparable to HS juniors in those sorts of programs.

Or are you referring to a residential high school for the arts, like Interlochen or Idyllwood? That's also a significant financial commitment. My guess is if you did that, you'd be looking at an additional post-graduation year there -- i.e., you would finish out high school there and then add one more year to prep for auditions. But your timing is extremely awkward since the academic year has already started.

There's also the question as to whether or not the level of training you're already receiving is adequate. It sounds like your teacher is well-qualified and sending students to conservatory, and you're surrounded by a supportive environment. It's not as if you're in the middle of nowhere without decent teaching and useful peers. (Although a better judgment of your teacher might be found by asking how many students go to conservatory on merit-based scholarship rather than merely getting in.)

I think both you and your parents are right. College auditions are just around the corner. But it's questionable whether a change of teacher now would help you. You could probably benefit from practicing four hours a day, if you aren't already doing so, but your parents would be right if they tell you that you need to do well academically and have other extracurriculars if you're going to get into a great college, so the practice time has to be balanced with other stuff. Your parents are also right that if you're not already at the top of your heap locally, there may not be much point to trying to enter a bigger pond, since your current environment is not holding you back.

It may be worth asking your teacher if you could benefit from two lessons a week instead of one. That's something your parents might decide is reasonable to pay for, if you're going to be more serious.

It's also worth keeping in mind that you're looking at another decade of extremely hard work, the result of which is not necessarily a major orchestral position. If you're talented in other ways, there's a major opportunity cost involved in that.

August 24, 2018, 11:52 AM · 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.

I suggest keeping a well-rounded lifestyle by keeping up all your passions and excelling at as many things as is feasible.

Also, I wonder if attending a lower-tier school with a great teacher and then transferring to or doing a graduate degree at a higher-tier school would be a better option.

August 24, 2018, 12:30 PM · 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.
If you was living in Europe, there would be time to develop, since musical and academic education usually are not (or much less) entangled until university, and entering university of music in your early twenties isn't impossible. But there is only a certain age when you can go to college, where you obviously have to major in musical performance to be selectable for conservatory / music university, as far as I understood the US system. (Please correct me if I'm wrong.) No room for late developers.
August 24, 2018, 12:55 PM · The OP isn't a late beginner, merely someone who started to practice more seriously in high school. In truth, there are many students like that. But then you start to see sharp differentiation in rates of advancement during the high school years.

We don't know how well the OP is truly playing now, or how much of a leap in progress they've made. For instance, were they at, say, a Bach A minor level one year ago, which would make Bruch now extremely impressive, representing really fast advancement (assuming the Bruch is well-played now) and the potential to continue an accelerated rate of learning in this next year? Someone who is taking great leaps forward already is better positioned to catch up than someone doing slow-and-steady.

It's not that the OP can't go to conservatory. They can. The problem is what that path leads to. A second-tier conservatory might pay off in a first-tier grad school, which has a tiny possibility of leading to a full-time big-city symphony job. But it's far more likely to lead to a future of teaching and patching together freelance gigs.

August 24, 2018, 1:08 PM · 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.
Edited: August 24, 2018, 1:23 PM · "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."

This is not accurate. Actually I think the dropout rate among the elementary-age virtuosos is pretty high since these kids are on a soloist trajectory and there is simply not enough room for that many soloists, not even if they "settle" for the concertmaster track. It isn't that they couldn't then audition for a major orchestra and have a fine career; it's that they don't have the ensemble skills or the inclination to play in a violin section.

IMO the OP is on the usual path for future orchestral players but is slightly behind for her age.

"But there is only a certain age when you can go to college, where you obviously have to major in musical performance to be selectable for conservatory / music university, as far as I understood the US system."

This is also incorrect. There is no age limit to audition for conservatory but the reality is that few older musicians are going to be competitive with young people of traditional college age who have few responsibilities beyond practicing.

I actually think the OP has a chance. The problem is that many others are at this same level who also have a chance, and there aren't enough jobs. The OP's teacher seems to be experienced and knowledgeable. The first order of business is for the OP to step up her amount of practicing (if possible) and to step up her quality of practicing (ALWAYS possible). The second order of business is to plot out what a plan B would look like. It's possible to live with a patchwork of private teaching, wedding gigs, and freeway philharmonics, but you have to have the right personality and a killer work ethic. If this isn't something the OP would find acceptable, then she needs to come up with a realistic plan B that will allow her to keep practicing a lot while not shortchanging academics or the opportunities to explore other interests.

Edited: August 24, 2018, 2:17 PM · 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.

ETA I'll second everyone who mentioned keeping academic options open. At some point something has to give. Orchestra, while musically satisfying and social, probably doesn't meet the bar at this critical point in your development (not unless you're one of those rare teens who can be brilliant on five hours of sleep!)

Edited: August 24, 2018, 2:57 PM · Lydia, "late developer". I didn´t write nor mean late beginner.

Lauri, there is tons of truth in Lydia´s words. I realize that at this moment you cannot share my point of view, but by sharing my story I´ll try to tell you something noone told me back then when I´ve been at your age. It´s only one story out of millions, no generalisation, and it´s up to how you will think about it. If you should decide to classify me as a looser who just didn´t make it - then you´re welcome as well.

When I was 16 I was elected for the prep programme of one of the most reputable music universities in good old europe. Never would this have meant a guarantee for admission to this certain university, thousands of candidates from all over the world are applying there every year, but at this time it was the best path I could be on. There were a few folks in this peer with more advanced skills than mine, but in general I was able to keep up with them. I practiced like mad, and there were two more years left for me to close the gap between me (first piano lesson at age nine and a half, practicing seriously since age 13) and these prodigy kids who in average started five to six years ahead of me, with two hours of lessons per week instead of my twentyfife minutes in the first four years and two or three music camps per year. To be honest, the upgrade to weekly full fifty minutes lessons at age 14 already gave my parents quite enough of a financial stretch... I would never have dared to ask them for a summer music camp.

Practicing up to four hours per day (which was the possible maximum besides Gymnasium and the regular ninety minutes trips one way to the prep programme) and attending lessons of priceless quality with teachers who were able to nail a problem within minutes, at first gave me a real thrill. I made progress at a pace I never ever had expected to be possible. It was a stressful but great year! Having rather small hands brought up some issues, but it would have been enough for all the standard repertoire.
The more I proceeded, and the more often my mentors signalised their satisfaction with my development, the more I became uncomfortable with my own perfectionism, but this also isn´t a unique fate.

What finally let me quit and follow a different path was the perspective Lydia mentioned above. You can be on an absolutely top notch level, but this isn´t the only skill you need to succeed. Being a perfect musician is only the basic fundament you can build a carreer on, the rest is networking and being at the right place at the right time, and if you end up teaching kids who mostly have no severe interest in what you are trying to teach them, you are one of the lucky ones. Only a very few will make a living mostly on performance, traveling a lot and being away from their families. And for the big rest, it´s a life in precariat.

Like Lydia, after a long hiatus and a successful career in another field, making music is one of the greatest gifts in life - no matter my playing level. I´m very greatful on how my life went. I´ve got a stable life, no severe financial problems, an interesting job (which unfortunately consumes a little bit too much of my precious time but still allows me to see my family most days), and I am fortunate enough to make music for the pure joy - 100% of my music time, what a privilege! It feels like pure luxury to me not having to make a business routine out of what I love most - besides my wife and my children!

August 24, 2018, 3:01 PM · 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.
August 24, 2018, 3:04 PM · Mary Ellen, thanks for correcting. You filled a few black spots on my map...
August 24, 2018, 3:06 PM · And Lauri, whatever you will go for - all the best from my side! But always have a plan B.
Edited: August 24, 2018, 3:14 PM · 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)
Edited: August 24, 2018, 3:39 PM · No.

The usual age for high school graduation is 17-18. Students need a high school diploma to go to college; most first-year college students are 18 but there is some variation--I was 17, having skipped a grade as a child; sometimes boys with summer birthdays are held back a year from kindergarten and so start college at 19.

"Go to college" is a blanket term here, encompassing all four-year degrees (and sometimes two-year degrees but not in music performance). Colleges, conservatories, and universities all grant four-year degrees. Most people on the pre-professional track get a Bachelor of Music from a conservatory or a university. My bachelor's is from Oberlin Conservatory and my master's is from Indiana University but they are both performance degrees.

There is no such thing as going to college first and then applying to a conservatory--I mean, it could be done, but it would be exactly the same as any college student starting out at one school and transferring to another.

Editing to add that I am aware that in some countries, even English-speaking countries, "college" means something more like what we call "high school." But here the high school diploma is awarded after 12th grade, and then the student goes on to higher education. "University" usually indicates a school that includes graduate degrees; "college" usually indicates a school that is undergrad only, but there are some exceptions here as well. A conservatory is a specialized college or university that is for pre-professional performing arts education (not just music--Juilliard also has theater and dance).

August 24, 2018, 3:59 PM · Lauri,

Do you know any professional musicians personally? If not, I suggest you make the effort. Landing a chair in any professional orchestra is daunting at best, next to impossible at worst.

Most professionals have "day jobs" usually teaching music or their specific instruments. A few have alternate careers that can mesh with an orchestral schedule. Put simply, being a professional musician isn't a normal "job." Long days, lots of travel, irregular schedules, and a success rate that is quite low.

As a few respondents have suggested, you need a solid Plan-B. The good news is that being a musician is a life skill that need not be your paid career but can be an important part of your life regardless of where you finally end up.

My guess is that most of the older people here are in places quite different from where they thought they wanted to be when they were approaching their senior year of High School. Personally, I never imagined that I would be where I am today when I was in High School. Life unfolds in amazing ways.

August 24, 2018, 4:06 PM · 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.
August 24, 2018, 5:14 PM · More thinking on this:

OP, you've said generally good things about your teacher. How's your connection to him? Do you feel motivated/challenged/supported? Does he seem invested in you as a player? Do you trust him?

At your age I had similar dreams. But I also was starting lessons with my 4th teacher in as many years.* This was actually incredibly de-stablilizing for me. If you feel that you are making progress with your current teacher (who sounds like he knows what he's doing) and you didn't get horrid feedback on your fundamentals when you went to IU this summer, don't mess with a good thing.

*Teacher 1 was childhood teacher. Teacher 2, a big step up for me, moved away 8 months after I started lessons with her. Teacher 3 was all about tough love and baseline technique and I'd just gotten used to her when I moved to Germany for my junior year. It was probably always too late...but at that point it was super definitely too late.

August 24, 2018, 6:26 PM · 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.
August 24, 2018, 6:29 PM · And even if you succeed, it has its price.

Obviously I'm too bourgeois and needed more safety and predictability...

Edited: August 24, 2018, 7:45 PM · George Wells wrote: Most professionals have "day jobs" usually teaching music or their specific instruments. A few have alternate careers that can mesh with an orchestral schedule.

It should be emphasized that those "alternate careers" can generally only mesh with freeway philharmonic schedules -- i.e., per-service orchestras, not orchestras that have a full-time schedule (even if the season is pretty limited in terms of number of weeks).

Worth noting: Mary Ellen is very successful by the standards of orchestral musicians, but her location is probably not what you have in mind when you say "big city". That's important because her base (San Antonio) is a place with a reasonable cost of living, which means that modest pay goes farther. Most of the big cities in the US have high costs of living; orchestra salaries are higher in these locations but not necessarily high enough given how expensive the cities are. 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.

August 24, 2018, 8:02 PM · "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."

Yes, we have long had the reputation of being the best orchestra with the worst pay. There is reason for cautious optimism right now but for what it's worth, if you take my first-year salary ('88-'89) when I was not titled and had no seniority and apply an inflation calculator to it, I was paid $5500 more my first year here as a section player than I was paid last year as principal 2nd violin in my 30th season. This is not the desirable salary trajectory. Fortunately I like teaching.

August 24, 2018, 9:06 PM · 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 :)
Edited: August 24, 2018, 9:41 PM · This is my experience based on a (failed) attempt at music performance, as well as my middle-school aged son's trajectory.

First off, I would stay put. The better pre-college programs in my experience don't tend to take high school juniors. They like to take kids earlier. My son's program typically takes kids who are 13 or 14 -- and they are playing at a very high level. Some programs take them earlier; very few will take them as late as 16-17. There just isn't enough time to help them along.

I would prioritize practicing over all the orchestra playing. Yes, orchestra is super fun, and in the younger years, when you are learning to read music and play in an ensemble, it can speed progress. But in most cases later on you are better off focusing on practicing and playing chamber music. That is how to truly improve at a fast rate.

As for your "late" interest -- I didn't even start until age 13, and only then with a fiddle teacher instead of a classical one. I managed to sneak my way into a top music program nonetheless, but I knew almost immediately I would never be able to overcome the lack of technique I should have developed in childhood. Luckily, I figured out I liked music academics more anyway.

I think, however, you likely have much better fundamentals than I did (it would be hard not to). What you need is a little bit more time. Assuming you play the listed pieces well and are very motivated and continue to progress rapidly, you are likely around 4-6 years away from the level you want to be.

These are some of the options I considered that you could do to make up that time:
1) Take a Bachelor of Arts in Music program at a good music school. This is kind of like an academic music degree. It allows you a wider focus during undergrad, but usually the level required for admission is lower. I was offered this option at IU and probably would have done much better had I taken it.
2) Go to a decent school, practice a ton, and work toward an excellent grad school.
3) Do a performance certificate (or two) after undergrad to prepare for an excellent grad school.
4) After undergrad, take a year or two off if you can hack it financially by teaching and gigging. Even in the major city I live in, players who are below my 13-year-old son's level routinely teach in the not-famous kid's music schools and gig in the smaller orchestras, as well as weddings and similar things. And they do OK financially. Of course, the main goal of this is to have more years of practice time, which is a hard balance.
5) Take a gap year before college. Even some of the amazing kids in my son's program do this to be more competitive.

In any case, I think it is potentially doable, depending on how motivated you are, and if you don't mind taking a slightly meandering path to get there.

August 24, 2018, 9:52 PM · Thank you so much for all the advice !!
Here are my answers to your questions: I have actually not played the Bruch yet, I was merely saying I was on the same level as that, as I’ve played Vitali Chaconne and have heard that it is harder than Bruch. I could be completely wrong. I’m sure my teacher will give me Bruch and solo bach in the next few months as many of his students in his studeo are playing them at the moment.
As for improvement rate: I’d say I’ve improved extremely quickly in the past year (after switching teachers). My family, friends, conductors, and private teacher have all said so. Last year at this time I was barely scraping by playing Haydn Concerto In G and Kabelevsky Concerto In C...meaning I could play them, but not well. My technique was pretty hideous and I was not winning anything. Over the past year my technique has greatly improved (my private teacher at camp had barely anything to say about it, besides helping reinforce what I already had) and I’ve been winning things and growing to the top - ish of the orchestra.
As for a career, while I’d love to be in a symphony I completely understand that it’s pretty rough to only live off of that and I fully intend to give private lessons and do private gigs etc.
Many of you talked about having a plan B...id love to do something with paleontology whether or not the violin works out. I will probably minor in it if I end up majoring in music.
One of the main reasons I wanted to go to string academy was to be around passionate people...that really drives you. It’s hard to stay motivated here bc most ppl around me dont really have much passion for their music. I wouldn’t say I’m nearly the best of the people here or that I’m being held back in the slightest, just that a lot of my peers are not passionate and it’s very hard for me.
I am actually homeschooled and I will be finishing up my required highschool classes this year. It’s really nice bc I have much more time to practice than public schoolers do. I’m going to bump up my practicing to 4 hours this school year (and do academic school for 4 hrs as well). I’m aiming for a good SAT score this year. Next year I was intending to focus mainly on music. And I have the freedom to even take another “gap year” before college if necessary, as I am young for my grade.
Katie: you’re right ! I’ve decided to quit one of my orchestras to leave more time for improving my skills.
When I was in elementary/early middle school I was a pretty good player. Usually the best or close to (not trying to brag, just stating where I was level-wise at the time.) even now with my orchestras that have highschool and college students I am able to keep up...I’ve even had some leading opportunities and principle roles. 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 (as well as others). Id say I’m at least a year behind most of them, and a lot were even younger than me !
George: I’m very lucky to be able to know many professional musicians personally and pretty closely from all over the world. We even have a very close family friend who works at the Paris Opera House and plays the violin. I’ve been able to have a lesson with him, as well as other very successful musicians. I have realized the importance of connections in the music world and I’m very fortunate to be making some.
Nuuska: thank you so much for your point of view on the subject ! I love hearing your story. It’s great to hear from all different people who have all gone down different paths.
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 ?
As for my teacher, I trust him a lot. He’s one of the best where I live and I’m really really happy I was accepted into his studio (even though my technique was disguisting lol). He’s very serious about technique rather than musicality though, which is a little hard for me. We have a good relationship but I’m not exactly sure what he thinks of me as a player ... he’s a very held back person. I remember I was wearing a Julliard shirt this one time and he said that it might be a place I could audition for, same thing for the Jacobs school of Music at IU when I got back from camp, but I’m thinking he was more saying that as a very far out idea rather than a serious one. I’ve mentioned college to him several times but he does not seem to think I should be rushing so much or thinking about it so much as I’m still so young. But I’m not sure if it’s because he really thinks it’s too far away for me to think about it now or because he doesn’t think I’ll make it anyway.
Lydia: I definitely hear what you’re saying. Although, like many others, I’d love to go to a big city for under grad, I am very willing to go somehwere like IU/a place that is not really a big city but where it is cheaper to live etc. I’m also very happy to know that it is possible to go to a more normal undergrad school and then transfer to a bigger school for grad.
The reason id like to go to a big city is because I’d one day like to live in a big city and I was told by someone before that you should try to go to college in a place where you are thinking about living and getting a job in. Is this thinking correct ? I am very aware, however, that you do not go to school simply for the city that it is in or for the name of it, you go for the teachers, and I am very ready to accept a smaller school in a smaller area if that means getting the best teaching for me that I can get.
Again, thank you for the responses !!
August 24, 2018, 9:59 PM · 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
August 24, 2018, 10:01 PM · 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 !
August 24, 2018, 10:07 PM · 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!
August 24, 2018, 10:08 PM · 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 ?
August 24, 2018, 10:12 PM · "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 ?"

My teacher at Indiana was Paul Biss, who is now retired. I enjoyed Indiana, and it's one of the places my daughter is considering auditioning for on flute. Whether you should audition there is a question for your teacher, who from your description is knowledgeable and very good for you. My guess is that for you it would be a reach school. Forget Juilliard. You're not remotely close to having the amount of repertoire they expect in an undergrad audition. Anyway, I once heard someone say that if you barely get into Juilliard, you shouldn't go there, and I think that's exactly right.

"The reason id like to go to a big city is because I’d one day like to live in a big city and I was told by someone before that you should try to go to college in a place where you are thinking about living and getting a job in"

Maybe in other fields, or if you're planning on making a living out of gigging where local contacts are very helpful. If your ambition is to win an orchestra audition, you need to go to the best teacher you can be accepted by at the most competitive school you can afford. Where you'll be living after school is entirely dependent on where (and if) you win an audition. I had barely even heard of San Antonio before I won an audition here, and had never set foot in Texas until I was 24.

There are some exceptions to the above, some teachers in major cities whose students are well represented in the local (big) professional orchestras. But I think you are not at the level to get into those studios.

(btw it's "Juilliard")

August 24, 2018, 10:23 PM · 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.

In general, musicians tend to go wherever they end up successfully auditioning, which may have no relationship whatsoever to where they went to school, or for that matter, where they originally envisioned living. (And it appears that lots of them end up moving wherever their spouse finds a job, honestly.)

The Vitali Chaconne is definitely not as hard as the Bruch, and now everything you're working on makes more sense -- it's all solidly intermediate-level. If you were playing Bruch now, you'd be slightly behind. Vitali/deBeriot/etc. now suggests that you're more significantly far behind, especially with the major technical problems that you say that you previously had. It doesn't suggest that you'd be anywhere ready to meet Juilliard audition repertoire requirements in a year, or even two years' time, for instance.

Enter competitions if your teacher thinks it's a good idea. Even if you don't win, it's useful to learn to play under pressure.

August 24, 2018, 11:14 PM · 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 ?
Mary Ellen: Would there be any conservatories that you suggest I try out for ? I wasn’t planning on trying for Julliard, but I was going to try Jacobs. Even if I don’t get in for undergrad, I will still try for Grad.
August 24, 2018, 11:20 PM · George: ***correction. I meant he plays with the Paris Opera. Sorry for the wrong wording
August 24, 2018, 11:37 PM · J*u*i*l*l*i*a*r*d (you keep dropping the first "i")

Yes, the Vitali Chaconne is much easier than the Bruch, and you are further behind than I first thought. This is a long shot for you, and Jacobs is a real stretch. But without hearing you play, I can't really offer any more specific advice. You need to have this conversation with your current teacher. Perhaps he knows of good teachers at less competitive schools who would be a good fit for you. But you really do need a serious Plan B. Just as a comparison, you would likely not be competitive at this point to make the All-State Orchestra in Texas, and they take 112 violinists in three orchestras. Many of those students have no intention of studying music performance in college, but some do, and you're going to be competing with them.

Every piece that is required for a conservatory or university audition must be polished to perfection for the audition. Nobody cares what or how you've played in the past. They want to hear what you sound like at the audition.

August 25, 2018, 2:25 AM · "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 "

Of course this is an experience a lot of people have in any type of pursuit they have. The higher you go the more you realize you're not that special. Unless you're really special.

This is a moment to think whether you want to spend your life teaching Suzuki and living with rather limited means. There's another option. You could make music your minor and major in a subject that will take you further into the world. There's no shame in having a career and playing the violin at night and in the weekend. That way, playing in amateur circles, you would be an excellent violinist compared to your peers. Wouldn't that be fun?

Edited: August 25, 2018, 12:23 PM · Herman wrote: You could make music your minor [...] That way, playing in amateur circles, you would be an excellent violinist compared to your peers.

If you wanted to be an excellent amateur compared to your peers, you still need to work extremely hard in the next couple of years. Many of those highly-accomplished kids that you've met at IU in the summer, for instance, won't go on to music careers. So knowing that you'll choose a non-music career eventually isn't a reason to take your foot off the practice pedal now, so to speak.

You need to reach the level of a comfortable Bruch if you want to even be good enough to play first violin in a big-city good-quality community orchestra as an amateur.

August 25, 2018, 3:30 PM · 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.

Fast forward 38 years and I am back playing. I know I did the right thing by amending my musical ambitions, but I wish to heck I had not stopped playing. I could have continued playing during college. I could not have minored in music because I was stuck going to the University where my parents taught (which at the time really did not have a music program, though it does now), but I could have taken lessons, been in an orchestra, and kept progressing. I very much regret that I stopped.

You are fortunate in that it sounds as if your parents will let you attend a college with a music program as good as its academics. So spend your time now preparing for both aspects of that school. And don't discount schools without name programs. You might well get a lot more out of a less a well known program, where you have a possibility of shining a little. Focus on a good teacher who gets you and find your niche.

Just don't stop. :-)

Edited: August 25, 2018, 4:15 PM · 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.

One of the things you should keep in mind is that your trajectory toward an orchestra violin career will not be in vain if you do not meet that goal. You will continue to develop artistically, intellectually, emotionally, etc., and you will learn discipline. I know violinists -- really good ones -- who have redirected their careers after conservatory and so on. The most common "Plan B" for them is medical school. Not too shabby.

August 25, 2018, 4:24 PM · 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.

Medical schools love musicians, or so I have read, but you have to get the science prerequisites taken care of.

August 25, 2018, 11:32 PM · 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.

That's not to say give up on your musical goals. More like, keep it up but keep your eyes open for other opportunities. I used the violin and All-State to get into a top college, and I used the top college to get into med school. I tell you what, being a doctor pays so much better than music. And being a musician is a rough life. Lots of traveling, low pay, etc.

Practicing while in college can be hard, esp if you live in a dorm (no noise rule).

August 25, 2018, 11:42 PM · And don't post any videos of yourself playing. These people aren't judges, and they're not qualified to determine your musical future.
August 25, 2018, 11:44 PM · The OP has been repeatedly advised to consult with her private teacher.
August 26, 2018, 12:08 AM · May I suggest a parent-teacher-child conference.
August 26, 2018, 9:39 AM · 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.

It's true, none of us can "determine your future." But trying to determine that is as futile as reading tea leaves. All you can do is work hard (harder than you think is possible right now,) be as organized and efficient about it as you can, have good alternate plans, prepare to give it your all and fail, but also to succeed, that is, always be ready to step up and seize opportunities as they arise. And for music performance, it's not at all early to start thinking about a career in your early teens, much like any highly skilled and specialized endeavor.

What we can do, should you want other opinions, and should you be willing to post video, is give you an unbiased assessment of where we think you currently stand, and offer suggestions as to what, in our opinions, and based on our various experiences, you need to do to get to the next level (of course given the limitations of compressed video and the caveat that all things on the internet should be taken with a grain of salt.)

Based on what you've said so far, I would recommend at least one gap year (which won't even be a gap for you) and possibly two. You have nothing to gain by going to university earlier than later, unless you need external structure and motivation. But that doesn't seem like an issue for you. And as others have said, step up your practice in both quantity and quality, cut down on extra curriculars (depending on where you live, orchestra might be a complete waste of your time and can be a hindrance if you have lots of technical rehab to do.) But also, a gap year need not be such a gap. If you've got the resources, take private keyboard harmony and ear training lessons. Take music history and other theory courses.

When you do achieve that next level, and you're actually working on the kind of rep you'd audition with, then you can revisit your talks with your teacher regarding specific teachers and schools you might audition for.

August 26, 2018, 9:44 AM · 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.
August 26, 2018, 10:19 AM · 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.
Edited: August 26, 2018, 10:39 AM · 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?
Edited: August 26, 2018, 10:34 AM · are you 15? asking someone to post a performance video so that a bunch of unqualified people can critique him is demeaning
August 26, 2018, 10:34 AM · "You want a 2 minute clip of his playing to determine his musical abilities in the future?"

Everyone here has repeatedly said talk to your teacher, no one can predict the future, post a video to determine your *current* level. Please read the other posts and stop commenting for the purposes of creating strife.

Also: Some of the posters here are professional musicians in orchestras and violin professors who teach students who will audition for conservatories. I believe one in particular sits on the selection committee for her orchestra. Definitely not internet hacks. Their advice is particularly useful in this context.

Edited: August 26, 2018, 11:12 AM · Nope. 49. What are you 25? Briefly taught for about 25 years. Spent about 10 of those preparing students for college auditions.

2 minutes/skill is plenty of time to determine the state of current ability. I can tell in about 30" the quality of tone production. It takes fractions of a second to determine intonation, a second to determine accuracy of rhythm. What takes some time is trying to figure out what's going on physically underneath it all, but it's pretty easy to spot held or stiff joints, alignment issues, excess tension. When I assisted my former prof. for 4 years, he relied on my ability to see what was going on. Yes, we can, and have in the past, discerned much from short videos. But for the 3rd time, we can see things as they are, not what they will be.

Edit: I believe *you* would find it demeaning. Others who have posted on this site have not found it to be so.

August 26, 2018, 11:11 AM · 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.
Edited: August 26, 2018, 12:27 PM · 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.

But, there's also no pressure here whatsoever. All anyone has said is that we are limited in our assessment by words alone. No one has asked for justification of anything. Just offering advice, the very reason for this thread.

Are you sure you're in med school? Your attention to detail is a bit sketchy.

August 26, 2018, 11:39 AM · Tom--the OP is female. Kinda makes me wonder how carefully you read her posts. . .
August 26, 2018, 12:23 PM · Lauri, these are the kinds of things I wish I was taught at your age:

https://bulletproofmusician.com/?s=interleaved
https://bulletproofmusician.com/about/

https://jamesclear.com/goals-systems
https://jamesclear.com/habits

https://mindsetonline.com/
(for summaries, google "mindset" + "carol dweck")

https://friendlyeyes.com/index.php/about-us/
(google "friendly eyes" + "Jackie Reardon", who coached people like Barbara Hannigan and Roger Federer; checkout Barbara Hannigan's daily warmup routine--intense!)

https://www.verywellmind.com/practice-focused-meditation-3144785 and so much other info and research on meditation and mindfulness

Learning soft skills might not help you win an audition, but they'll help keep the job, make connections (the importance of which you're already aware,) and possibly direct your life exactly in the direction you want:
https://www.wikijob.co.uk/content/interview-advice/competencies/soft-skills

Dale Carnegie, still the standard reference for learning soft skills.

Edited: August 26, 2018, 1:29 PM · "And don't post any videos of yourself playing. These people aren't judges, and they're not qualified to determine your musical future."

Tom,
First, remember that Lauri B. initiated a request for advice. And it's very difficult to give advice without some basic information, such as age, repertoire level, goals, etc. Seeing a video is but one aspect of the total picture. Yes, it is a snapshot in time. It's where she is right now. And that is the same thing college committees will have to work with at auditions, whether live or via audio/video. "How does this person--at this moment--compare to the other candidates? Does he/she demonstrate a minimal skill level and musicality for this institution?"

You've made a remark about "these people." However, "these people" encompass a wide range of opinions. Some are more informed and some less. Anyone posting a video will need to take the comments with a grain of salt, and look for common themes. If everyone says "you're rushing at bar 34" or "you're not vibrating any of the eight notes" then perhaps that's something to look at. It's no different than reading student evaluations after the semester: yes, some are ridiculous and not to be taken seriously. So professors, instead of being offended, should look for common themes. Maybe everyone noted that the professor was 10 minutes late each day, or didn't give explicit instructions for an exam.

Many of the participants are actually qualified to make reasonable judgments, although of course we can't predict with 100% anyone's future. We call them how we see them. That is why I have posted my CV in my profile. If someone wants to know what my opinion may or may not be worth, they can immediately look at my career to see if I might have any kind of expertise.

You, however, simply put "Trying my hardest to play like Perlman."

There are some hints that you are in medical school. Perhaps since you are in medical school you should stick to pretending to be a doctor.

Such generalizations as:

"And being a musician is a rough life. Lots of traveling, low pay, etc." or
"Practicing while in college can be hard, esp if you live in a dorm (no noise rule)"

or for the 17-year-old to "Let him figure out his own life" are neither informed nor useful.

August 26, 2018, 2:30 PM · 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.
Edited: August 26, 2018, 4:46 PM · 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.

The OP also seems to have a competent teacher, which suggests that a frank discussion with the teacher, possibly with parents present, is the right thing to do. Taking the advice to lay out a methodical plan is a very good idea.

If I recall correctly, Tom is already a doctor, and a wealthy amateur with a penchant for collecting expensive violins and bows. He's posted previously about playing advanced repertoire, but without any particular indication of performing it rather than fooling around with it.

OP, all of Jeewon's advice in this thread has been excellent.

August 26, 2018, 5:00 PM · I'm very glad I'm not in the US. Everything seems to be so competitive. Youth orchestras, college and professional work.
Everybody's left out what I think is the most important - a large dose of luck!And I've come across so many players with a first-rate solo technique who can't fit with a section, and can't do a short down bow at all.
I get work because I fit with the section, and I'm trusted. Not because I'm the best player (I'm not).
Somebody wrote a brilliant article in the Strad yonks ago about faking - how a lot of orchestras couldn't work on less than 3/4 days rehearsal, and there was us doing rehearsal/concert on the day. It's not surprising British players have/had the reputation of being the best sight-readers around. We had to be!
There's nothing to beat being in the right place at the right time. And you can't control that.
Good luck!
Malcolm
August 26, 2018, 8:22 PM · 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.
August 26, 2018, 8:23 PM · Jeewon: thank you so much for all your great advice !
August 26, 2018, 8:52 PM · Lauri, is it by any chance posted as from the final string recital at the Jacobs School summer string academy?
August 26, 2018, 8:55 PM · Mary Ellen, I think that’s the video. Everything matches with what she has posted.
Edited: August 26, 2018, 9:26 PM · 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.)

Solidly competent and musical playing at that level, suggesting that the new teacher is an excellent instructor and that the OP should be on a good trajectory. (We have certainly seen students posting Bruch videos here whose technique is less solid than that, though arguably those students weren't ready for the Bruch.)

Also, Lauri, based on city you live in, you're in a major metro area, even though it's not amongst the very largest cities in the United States.

August 26, 2018, 9:32 PM · Mary Ellen: yes
August 26, 2018, 9:33 PM · Lydia: while that is true, there are unfortunately not many great options for young musicians here, especially regarding college.
August 26, 2018, 9:38 PM · I've heard Colorado State is decent if you're interested in pedagogy or chamber music.

My guess is that you're fine for pre-college options though, in your city. (Your teacher seems to be doing a good job for you.)

August 26, 2018, 10:43 PM · 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.

There are some good teachers at CU-Boulder.

August 27, 2018, 12:26 AM · 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.

There is one thing that does worry me a bit though, but I don't want to lead the question too much, so for now I'll just ask, are you comfortable with your violin hold (chinrest/shoulder rest setup)?

August 27, 2018, 7:08 AM · The best advice I've received so far as a student is "only study music if you can't be happy doing anything else".

August 27, 2018, 7:49 AM · 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!
August 27, 2018, 9:21 AM · "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."

Well as the parent of someone who is considering the study of music in college *and* as someone who has been through the wringer myself with regard to the audition circuit followed by a financially unstable job, I don't think a trust fund is necessary to study music. A four-year music degree is still a four-year degree, and at the end of it the student is no worse off than someone with a four-year degree in philosophy, or English literature, or art history, plus the student has a skill. Many people end up in careers that have little to nothing to do with what they studied in college, but their four-year degree was their entry ticket.

What is necessary is a realistic understanding of where you stand relative to the peers you will be competing with, along with a ferocious work ethic. Violin is one of the instruments for which there is a nearly unlimited supply of potential private students assuming you live either in a major city or at least in a place where the public schools have a decent strings program, and also a nearly unlimited supply of weddings if you have an engaging personality and a high tolerance for stress. You may never get rich but you won't starve if you choose this route, but you will be working seven days a week and it is grueling. You don't even have to be a great player, relatively speaking--I mean, you have to be good enough, but for this path to succeed, the work ethic and people skills are far more important. But if you don't enjoy teaching, it is the worst kind of drudgery.

August 27, 2018, 9:44 AM · "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'd be wary of that advice. I'd say to only study music if you love being on stage and performing for people, and have talent to do. As Jocelyn says, there's a whole world out there of things to do.

August 27, 2018, 9:46 AM · 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.
August 27, 2018, 11:06 AM · "a lot of people who graduate with a four-year non-specific liberal-arts degree are also struggling to find decent-paying jobs."

Lydia, No that's accurate. No matter what your major, the graduates who make connections, explore possibilities, develop ancillary skills, take advantage of internships, have good social skills, and are all around go-getters always get good jobs and climb through the ranks quickly. Those who barely got through college, no matter what the degree, struggle to find jobs, period. What exactly is one to do with that generic business or finance degree? If you went to a 3rd tier nursing school, good luck paying back all your student loans because you're going to get a pretty miserable job. Companies will hire the philosophy major who demonstrates knowledge of several programming languages before they'll hire a generic computer science grad. English majors can get marketing, communications, and PR jobs easily. They have better critical and conceptual thinking skills and perform better at their jobs than traditional market/com/pr students. Graphic artists with their art degrees do very well, and if you throw the 3D animation into it, they do extremely well. At the end of the day, the degree doesn't matter anymore. It's the the entirety of what you bring to the table, and what you do with it once you sit down that matters.

My own personal path has been an odd one: my degree is one of those non-specific liberal arts degrees you so frequently disparage here (BTW, do you mean 'liberal arts' or 'humanities'? Those are different things), but I have found more high quality work with that than I ever could have with music side hustles.

August 27, 2018, 12:18 PM · 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.
Edited: August 27, 2018, 12:51 PM · 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.

We do some hiring of fresh-out-of-college folks for our entry-level RA positions, and we are much less interested in their major than if they can analyze and write clearly and persuasively. We worry a little if the candidate seems to have only learned "content" (public health, nutrition, biology, etc.) and cannot demonstrate that he or she has a skill (which frequently includes quantitative skills, usually statistics).

I recently conducted a study of faculty at regional universities and colleges who had received a grant to pursue biomedical research. Part of the purpose of the grant was to train undergraduates. Interviewees were pretty adamant that learning how to make sense of data is a skill that they needed to cultivate in undergraduates. Once otherwise excellent chemistry and biology majors were in an intellectual environment where the answers are not known, some of them floundered without guidance, as the data never speak for themselves. They require interpretation. The ability to identify meaningful patterns in data is a skill.

Paradoxically, someone who has majored in comparative literature is more likely to have had the experience of trying to make sense of data (which will be literary, of course) than someone who has majored in chemistry, but never participated in a research project. The former will have written essays for classes that develop such analytic skills. If the comp lit person can analyze and write, knows the scientific method, and is enthusiastic, I would hire them for social scientific and policy work.

August 27, 2018, 1:36 PM · 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.

However, someone attending a state school like the UC/CSU or SUNY systems for instance, is going to get a heaping of that as part of any Bachelor's degree, regardless of their major.

Edited: August 27, 2018, 1:55 PM · 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.

The point of the liberal arts education was never vocational, and while a broad training in literature, history, philosophy and other humanities is priceless, people I know that graduated with more vocational degrees like in engineering have been treated much better in the job market. I went to school with plenty of kids that came from money and didn't really have to consider the economics of their choice in degrees, because their jobs were pretty much guaranteed by virtue of their family networks, but people who don't have that should deeply consider how they are going to earn their living after school.

In my experience (at school at least), a lot of engineers were pretty bad writers and could use a greater emphasis on non-technical education.

And I'm not trying to say anything about getting or not getting a music degree. My mom strongly advised me not to, and in my case, she was absolutely right. At least go in with your eyes open.

August 27, 2018, 2:48 PM · I don't think that such degrees are common at the better schools. Sounds more like a community college degree.

The good music schools that confer bachelor's degrees will have a rigorous non-music curriculum. I think that anyone graduating from one would be equipped to do many things other than music, esp. w/a minor such as English. :-)

Edited: August 27, 2018, 3:06 PM · 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.

I agree with Christian. Students from families that are more well-off can indulge in a refined education that does not necessarily lead immediately to a high-paying job, but unfortunately, at least in the US, that approach can be financially devastating to students who need to take out large loans to pay for college.

I also agree with Jocelyn, who has made great points throughout her comment.

There is also clear difference between hiring at the entry level and hiring experienced people. No one cares what your degree is once you've acquired a skill, for the most part (with clear exception for, say, research jobs requiring a PhD, and so forth).

Your skills are not your degree, clearly, but most new college graduates don't have skills that are sharply dissonant with their degree. For instance, Julie stated, "Companies will hire the philosophy major who demonstrates knowledge of several programming languages before they'll hire a generic computer science grad." That's by and large true, but how many newly-graduated philosophy majors are highly adept at software engineering, and why would someone who intends to enter software as a vocation, and who spends the time necessary to become an expert programmer, choose not to study computer science in college? (Folks who like philosophy but can code might actually be cognitive science majors, which in some universities combines the logic side of philosophy with computer science. My university offered that option, for instance.)

One of my expert cybersecurity colleagues is a guy who got a music performance degree, and who still performs and records and has written a book about music. I know lots of people with undergrad performance degrees who successfully transitioned into other careers -- sometimes by going back and getting a graduate degree in another field, and sometimes by being lucky enough to have an opportunity to transition with an entry-level job. 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.

August 27, 2018, 3:25 PM · 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,
because very few people take the 'liberal studies' degree. Most will take a liberal arts degree, which could be anything from sociology, biology, history to statistics, or foreign language. Liberal Arts encompasses maths, natural sciences, social sciences, and humanities. That's a huge umbrella!

Liberal arts degrees can appear to have lower salary expectations depending on the way the stats are compiled. For example, most undergrad biology majors are planning to go to nursing or medical school. However, their income isn't counted in the undergrad biology major category because they sought post-graduate degrees. Basically the stat pulls out all the highly paid medical professionals.

With my liberal arts degree, I've compiled and analyzed statistics for the health department (don't have a math degree, but had to take 2 stat classes), written grants for ACA funding, taught public schools (hardest job of the bunch, btw), set up and ran various non profits and NGOs, and now I'm in communications (best paying but most soul killing of the bunch). Everything I've done has been interesting, and I've been able to meet so many brilliant, talented people. I'd hate to have become locked into vocational jobs with no flexibility and lost at the whim of economic downturns and industry changes.

August 27, 2018, 3:30 PM · I'm guessing you missed my post above, Julie. :-)
Edited: August 27, 2018, 3:48 PM · "That's by and large true, but how many newly-graduated philosophy majors are highly adept at software engineering"

So, so many. You don't seem to have much of an idea of what these degrees do and what the coursework looks like. Philosophy is the study of thought and language systems. And programming languages aren't particularly difficult systems to learn. I have a friend whose son's undergrad philosophy thesis is written on computer programming languages. He wants to do AI research at Google and probably will end up there or somewhere similar.

My particular degree is Rhetoric and linguistics (double major) both English degrees. The work I did as an undergrad focused on mental health records and got me an internship with an NGO and later my first job with the health dept. Nothing about books at all.

As for the skills, that's my point. Don't take the easy intro to computer class required for your degree. Take a programming or formatting language. Don't take the easiest maths. If you've already taken Algebra in high school, don't take it in college. Take Statistics I and 2 instead. If you're a music major, take marketing classes as your upper level electives. Build your skills through your coursework. To paraphrase Dr. Who, become the machine that can make machines!

Edited to add: I'm obviously rabidly passionate about liberal arts education :)

August 27, 2018, 3:54 PM · 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.

But I also note that there is a great deal more to computer science, and professional software engineering, than the mere act of coding. That formal understanding tends to be taught in academic computer science programs, though that formal understanding can also thread through related fields -- mathematics, linguistics, and philosophy more so than anything else, I think.

Doing a formal degree program that includes computer science -- certainly anyone who is writing a thesis on programming languages counts in that bucket -- regardless of what the major is named, is still quite pre-vocational. I don't think that all roads should need to lead to STEM.

August 27, 2018, 4:21 PM · "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."

Yes, I agree with this.

August 27, 2018, 4:58 PM · 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.
August 27, 2018, 7:50 PM · Lauri, I love the Vitali, and I really enjoyed your performance! Very poised. I wish you the best!
August 27, 2018, 10:52 PM · Jocelyn: thank you so so much !!!! I’m glad you enjoyed it !
Edited: August 30, 2018, 6:10 AM · 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... :)

BTW, in ref to the discussion above, many conservatories require music-related essay writing courses throughout the degree. Not to the standard of an English major though.

Edited: August 28, 2018, 7:17 AM · 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?

I'm aware Mimi Zweig is very pro left hand support. And I think it's very good training to teach the left hand how to interact with the instrument. I went through a similar period of using only red sponges to learn how to support more with the hand instead of clenching with the head.

I just wanted to encourage you to really find a comfortable setup as soon as possible, as lack of stability can be very detrimental to left hand consistency. I just noticed little left hand blips often coincided with an adjustment at the head. I think you do look more comfortable with the new setup, but you still try to hold more to the center line, over the tailpiece, and I wonder if the new chinrest really allows for that. Maybe a more grippy sponge will help too. (Of course you may eventually adapt to the new position, but some people use the bar portion of a Guarneri or Strad rest to hold over the tailpiece, which allows the chin to hook over the bar.) Your current chin rest (which looks like a Dresden or similar model) seems to push your chin to the left of the tailpiece and you tend to adjust when that happens.

Unfortunately, this is something you have to really figure out for yourself, what works for your body type, and you shouldn't settle for anything less than total comfort and stability. You say you "have a bad habit of wanting to clamp down my jaw," but I've discovered that people do that because the fiddle just won't sit with enough stability, that it's actually being squeezed out due to the shape of the collar bone underneath. For some people the fiddle just sits on the collar and/or shoulder and they don't need to do anything to keep the fiddle in place, and hence, don't need to squeeze. The more the fiddle tends to constantly leave us, the more we feel the need to clamp down (and clamp up with the shoulder, which I don't think you're doing) to keep it in place.

So I completely agree it's important to learn left hand interaction, but I've also come to believe the setup should allow for a violin hold which is stable, and also easy to hold without left hand support, even if the scroll drops slightly without the left hand.

More later.

Edited: August 28, 2018, 8:32 AM · "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.

A little remote from the OP's stated concerns, so apologies for pursuing this. Although knowing about a wide range of options and then making the most informed choice is a good thing...

I think the take away of above discussion of liberal arts, STEM majors, and music majors is that there are opportunity costs no matter what the OP chooses. Along with her teachers and parents, she'll have to weigh them considering her talents, potential, and other circumstances.

August 28, 2018, 9:15 AM · 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: LINK)

IIRC there's someone from this forum who was hoping to attend SJC in Santa Fe shortly.

Anyway, I think teenagers should consider not just where they are now, but how fast they learn. For instance, the OP describes their technique a year ago as a mess, but the recent videos exhibit solid playing for this level, suggesting that they can rapidly incorporate input from a good teacher. Students who are teachable are always in demand, and importantly, are more likely to make good use of their time, and therefore make more progress than others.

I think because your teacher is dodging the college conversation with you, your parents should initiate that conversation. Have them ask for time outside your normal lesson, and offer to pay him for it. You need to have a discussion about where he thinks you're going to be, the kind of schools you could potentially get into, and whether or not scholarship money would be available at any of them, plus what the post-undergrad trajectory would look like (i.e. whether or not it's likely your parents would need to pay for grad school). If he doesn't recommend that you pursue music as a career, or doesn't feel he can judge that for another year, your parents need to know that, too. Your parents need to be able to plan financially. Plus you will need to research schools and teachers.

Your interest in paleontology complicates matters slightly, but not by very much. It's normally a field studied at the graduate level, so you can't minor in it per se. You'd need to minor in biology or geology. A biology minor will be available at just about any university that you choose, but do consider the fact that lab courses can pose serious challenges to practice and rehearsal schedules.

August 28, 2018, 10:17 AM · 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.

My teacher initiated that conversation with me 20 years ago when I'd been offered a place at music college. As a consequence, I went to do a STEM subject instead. (I'm not saying that to be discouraging - the point is that whatever choice you make, it should be an informed one).

Tangentially, judging by the Vitali, you'd be a strong applicant for the UK music colleges.

August 28, 2018, 2:03 PM · Jack: that’s great to know. To which music colleges are you referring ?
August 28, 2018, 2:28 PM · 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! :-)
August 28, 2018, 2:30 PM · The ones in the UK, so:

Royal Academy of Music
Royal College of Music
Guildhall School of Music & Drama
Royal Northern College of Music
Royal Conservatoire of Scotland
Trinity Laban Conservatoire
Royal Birmingham Conservatoire
Royal Welsh College of Music
City of Leeds College of Music

The top four are very competitive and train the bulk of full-time orchestral players, chamber musicians etc in the UK. I think your current trajectory would suggest you'd potentially be offered a place at one of them at least (obviously depending on how good the competition is that year). RCS is good, too, but maybe not quite at that level. The other colleges listed are generally not as highly regarded (although Trinity has some strong alumni) but nevertheless have many outstanding teachers. Students with the talent, drive etc do still come out and get good jobs but just not in the numbers of the other places.

A caveat to say that I know a lot of pro players and teachers who are late 20s up and this info is based on what I know via them: things may be different now or in a couple of years.

Edited: August 28, 2018, 2:35 PM · 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!
August 28, 2018, 4:02 PM · Elizabeth: I will definitely keep this updated ! I’d love to keep coming back and getting advice from time to time.
Jack: oh wow ! That’s amazing. The Royal Academy of Music is one of my dream schools. Hopefully after 2 or 3 more years I will audition there ! I know they give merit-based scholarships there, rather than need-based (a lot of the conservatories here have only the latter) and that would really help my family pay for tuition.
Nicole: thank you so much ! I will definitely reach out whenever I have any questions ! And thanks for the encouragement !
August 28, 2018, 4:09 PM · 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 :)
Edited: August 29, 2018, 8:52 AM · Hi Lauri,

I was looking at your Vitali video again, and I think I'll write a bit more than I thought I would because it's so good. Like people have said, it's a solid performance for the level of the piece, and we can clearly feel your musical expression, but I'll mention some things every one needs to do to take things to the next level. I know this performance is the result of a few weeks at camp, and you switched setup only days before, and I get the impression you've been working more on your bow arm in the past year, which is coming along nicely, but I'll introduce ideas and exercises which are universal, and we all kinda have to do this kind of refining.

Have you been working on your vibrato with anyone recently? Left hand action? At the risk of overstepping, I'm going to suggest an exercise which I think will help with pitch.

By the way, have you signed up for Mimi Zweig String Pedagogy? I'm sure it's stuff you've been working on all summer, but the site is a great resource.

Tuning is something we just have to do incessantly, everyday and forever. You have a great sense of pitch, but working on some mechanics of vibrato and shifting will help with accuracy and consistency. Review:

All passages must be tuned with non-vibrato at first. It also helps to play with very little pressure (some people call this "ghosting") barely enough to sound the pitch. Fingers must be placed with the shape it needs for the pattern being used. Make sure all perfect intervals are in tune: unisons (e.g. recurring Gs in the opening of the Chaconne), octaves, fourths, fifths. For more complicated fingerings, more difficult positions, simplify and play things in easier positions, lower positions, transposed down if necessary, as reference for actual notes and fingerings. E.g. m1, play in first position and compare second position to it. Check pitch with open strings where possible (e.g. m1: A with open A.)

Your vibrato is coming along nicely, but it tends to stay too much on the flattened portion of the cycle. After you're satisfied with tuning a passage using ghosting, work on vibrato by starting with only vertical motion (vertical vibrato,) e.g. m1 (omit chord for now):


place↓G ghost°G, ↓F#°F#, °shift with harmonic pressure until you hear °G/↓G°G, ↓A°A, ↓Bb°Bb; play rhythmically with a metronome, quarternote=60, place finger for quarter, ghost for quarter, etc.


Then play eighths: place for eighth, ghost for eighth;


play triplet eighths: ↓°↓G, ↓°↓F#, ↓°↓G, ↓°↓A, ↓°↓Bb;


sixteenths: ↓°↓°G, ↓°↓°F#, ↓°↓°G, ↓°↓°A, ↓°↓°Bb.


You can keep subdividing until you get close to vibrato speed, but for the sake of this exercise, add a small wiggle to the ghosted portion of the cycle next.


↓⇙G, ↓⇙F#, ↓⇙G, ↓⇙A, ↓⇙Bb (where ⇙=ghost+flattened pitch, released finger)
↓⇙↓G, ↓⇙↓F#, ↓⇙↓G, ↓⇙↓A, ↓⇙↓Bb
↓⇙↓⇙G, ↓⇙↓⇙F#, ↓⇙↓⇙G, ↓⇙↓⇙A, ↓⇙↓⇙Bb


The point of this exercise is to always place the finger at pitch, and lighten pressure as you flatten pitch. Also, this should help you feel the proper finger pattern at all times, which happens at the top of the vibrato cycle, so that if you use a wider vibrato, extending the finger as you're doing, you can always 'snap' back into the proper frame for the pattern. Knowing the proper pattern will help measure distances for extensions and contractions. Hope this makes sense (it's getting late and I'm kinda losing focus ;) Feel free to ask questions. When working on vibrato for a passage, always place each finger at the top of the vibrato cycle, and release pressure on the flattened portion of the cycle.

Next time: guide notes/fingers

August 29, 2018, 4:30 AM · I think this thread wins the award for "longest average post length.". :)
Edited: August 29, 2018, 10:22 AM · Here's an excellent guide to big shifts by Nathan Cole:

The main point is that you must hear every shift, and so most of slow shift practice is ear training. That's obvious for same finger shifts, but the same is true for new-finger shifts, just that for the latter you need to listen for the guide note and the interval of the placed finger.

You already have good left hand mobility, but to take it to the next level of refinement, we all need to do the kind of work Nathan describes in the video.

Some prerequisites:

Nathan's already got great pressure control in his fingers. But if there's any tendency to squeeze, you need to practice a lot of ghost-slides. Take Mimi Zweig's elevator exercise for a ride:

e.g. same finger shift on 1, B to F# on A-str:
°B count 1,2,3,4 until ↓B
count 1,2,3,4 until °B,
as soon as you have harmonic pressure, start sliding up,
count 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8 so that on the count of the next 1, you're at °F#
count 1,2,3,4 until ↓F#
count 1,2,3,4 until °F#,
as soon as you have harmonic pressure, start sliding down,
count 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8 so that on the count of the next 1, you're at °B,
count 1,2,3,4 until ↓B
count 1,2,3,4 until °B

Now do the same starting on F#, shifting down to B and back to F#. For whatever reason, things feel differently starting in a high position and going down (it has to do with getting used to the starting position: contact points, posture of hand, angles of arm, etc.)

You can then count 2 beats to place and release a finger, and slide for 4 beats; 1 beat to place and release (subdivide into 1/4 or 1/2 beats) and slide for 2 beats, etc.

Then, do a full verticle vibrato on the starting note, °slide for 8 or 4 or 2 beats, another full vibrato upon immediate arrival of target note and back down.

Then, do an actual full vibrato (but still released on the flattened part of the cycle), °slide for 8 or 4 or 2 beat, another full vibrato upon immediate arrival of target note and back down.

Then you can do long-short and short-long rhythms on the same shift.

This is tedious work, and you do it small doses, but whenever your finger gets stuck, it commits too soon, or late, doesn't slide smoothly, it's good to come back to foundations.

Big shifts make a great daily warmup. E.g.
1↗1 2↘2 3↗3 4↘4 3↗3 2↘2 1↗1↘1
Choose a key. Choose an interval. Play it measured. Play it ghosted. Play it with fuller sound. Play it in steady rhythm. Play it in rhythms. Play it as a clean continuous slide. Play it with an accelerated slide. Add finger patterns to the bottom and the top (as in Sevcik Op.8.) I've written out an exercise on one string, so you can do the same on each string, or just continue the shifting across all 4 strings and back.

Shifting should always in the end be timed with the bow. When you move the bow slowly, move the arm slowly; when you move the bow quickly, move the arm quickly (or the wrist, if you're doing a pivot shift.) The feeling you should have is a 'meeting of the hands' if you do a shift up with an up bow, 'pulling apart' for a shift down with a down bow, coordinated up/right for a shift up with a down bow, coordinated down/left for a shift down with an up bow. What you don't want is a quick, jerky shift motion when you're drawing a slow bow. If you're practicing quick shifts in fast passage, start slowly and gradually work towards a short-long pattern to feel a quick shift with a quick bow.

You might think all this ghost sliding stuff is for practice only, but that's not true. I once sat 3 feet away from Teng Li, former principal of the Toronto Symphony, at a house concert. She's a wonderful musician and violist, but notable for an impeccable left hand. I could hear every ghosted slide between every played note. In fact I think a finger and her bow were in almost constant ghosted-contact with the string throughout all the nose-bleed passages, of which there were many, in the piece she played (she says she practices 4-octave scales and arpeggios daily... on the viola!)

One last point, all slides along the string, no matter how small or large, whether small, same finger, chromatic slides or big octave slides, have a slight arcing motion to them as the finger leaves the old note and releases pressure during the slide to arrive at the new note. And although the finger must follow the path of the straight string, to enable the finger's trajectory, the rest of the hand, thumb, wrist, forearm, wholearm moves, more or less depending on your proportions and your setup, underneath to get out of the way. All human motion has 3D components to it, unlike machines.

Last time I said I'd talk about guide notes. Basically same finger shifts are the guide notes within new finger shifts, as Nathan mentions in his video. And we must identify, sing, hear, play all guide notes when we practice new finger shifts. Even if eventually you turn it into a romantic shift (a mixture of arm shift and pivot shift) it's good to know the same-finger shift + finger pattern (known as a 'classical shift'.) That means you have to hear the same-finger-shift interval (which you've already been practicing like mad above; try to name the interval too, as an exercise) and the proper finger pattern for the key in the higher position (same finger shifting is in fact a postion exercise for the key.) Sometimes it's useful to shift to a 1/2 position outside of the key, or to use a finger pattern not in the key, but you can get to that later.

Which brings us to... finger patterns, next time.

August 30, 2018, 12:52 PM · Jeewon: wow these are great !! I’ll definitely start implementing these into my practicing !
August 30, 2018, 8:04 PM · Hope it helps!

There are so many great exercises for finger patterns. But there are two things I think we have to address most days, and we can incorporate them into how we practice notes in rep. everyday!

The intervals shrink as we move up the fingerboard, so it's important to do some kind of position exercise, and also to measure out intervals in semitones in various positions. Sevcik Op. 8 combines shifting with finger patterns. Of course we can make up our own shift/pattern exercises, especially using the key, positions and notes in our rep.

I wrote about a useful same-finger chromatics exercise here: https://www.violinist.com/discussion/thread.cfm?page=1712 and a good position exercise from Dounis' Daily Dozen here: https://www.violinist.com/discussion/thread.cfm?page=1624, both of which make for good daily warmups.

Another way to practice position scales is to go up along one string: e.g. G maj on E-str (name the degree of the scale you start on to keep track of the interval pattern)

Start on 1:
F# (^7) G A B B A G F#, shift on 1
G (^1) A B C C B A G, shift on 1
A (^3) B C D D C B A, shift on 1, etc. (where ^=degree of the scale)

you can also start on other fingers, start on 2:
G F# G A B A G, shift on 2, etc.

start on 3:
A G F# G A B A, shift on 3, etc.

start on 4:
B A G F# G A B, shift on 4, etc.

Descend after ascending. You might do 1 finger scales on each finger before adding the patterns.

In the Chaconne, you have a position-scale-along-the-string in the very first measure, shifting F#-G on 1.

In m2, to practice the extension (1 extends from 2nd to 1st position as the hand stays in 2nd, G to Fnat) measure the distance using chromatics. Leave 2 hovering over A, and play with 1: G-F#-Fnat and back; then play AG, AF#, AFnat using 21, 21, 21, then play AG, AFnat using 21, 21 feeling 1 pass through F#. (N.B. you can also just shift here instead of extending)

Another useful exercise is to practice finger substitution. E.g. Play B with 4, 3, 2, 1, 2, 3, 4, making it sound as if you're playing on one finger (as possible.) You can actually shift, but it's also useful to use finger extension (and contraction) staying in one position.

If you decide to do the extension in m2 it's a bit tricky to get the D (P5 down from A) in tune as the frame gets distorted by 1 reaching back. So practice substitution on A with 2, 3. So play A with 2, reach back to Fnat with 1, but before you play Fnat, substitute 2 with 3 on A, to get the feel of the hand snapping back into frame to prepare to play D on the A-str after Fnat.

Haven't really mentioned double stops yet, which is essential left hand pattern work, but you must apply them whenever you cross strings, especially for perfect 4ths, in this case, G on E-str with D on A-str. In one of the threads I linked to above, I talk a bit about the easy setting of the hand (which I'll call neighbor fingers) and difficult setting of the hand (which I'll call crossed fingers.) It's useful to keep track of when this happens across strings, even when there are no actual double stops written harmonically, looking ahead to prepare for double stops played melodically. At the beginning you play a 6th, neighbor fingers, and you stay rotated for the E-str until you have to cross to play the D on A-str. But m3 creates crossed fingers with the G on E-str with the D on A-str. Instead of waiting for m3, rotate and feel the P4 as you play the D after you place the Fnat in m2. Preparation is very useful for tuning carefully.

Dont Op. 37 is good for practicing preparatory fingers.

August 30, 2018, 8:56 PM · 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.

You say there were many who were much more advanced than you at camp. But I'd bet there were only a handful who were actually more advanced. How many played more advanced rep., highly polished? Being a few years behind in 'level' of rep. is not a big deal, but being behind in ability to refine is a handicap which will only grow exponentially as you advance. The reason I decided to say all this is because I can't see any major issues keeping you from polishing a piece, but I am guessing you haven't yet. If you haven't, I'd work on current level rep., or close, to achieve this before you tackle Bruch level rep. You can still tackle next level etudes and show pieces. But you don't want to be learning how to refine on something like the Bruch, or Lalo, etc. (Are you a senior this coming school year, but you're one year ahead, and so your age group is jr. this year in 2018/19?)

So according to age group:
jr. sep18-sep19
sr. sep19-sep20
gap sep20-sep21
audition winter21/22?

August 30, 2018, 9:11 PM · 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.

That included thinking about things like, "In this phrase, when this pitch is repeated, is it exactly the same every time? Are the notes tuned properly for the key so that intonation is dead on and harmonically sensible? Is every note truly completely even and precisely placed? Is every shift totally inaudible (or exactly as audible as desired)? Can you hear every note clearly even in extremely fast runs?"

I don't really have the patience to play that way any longer, but it's what you have to aim for if you want to play professionally at the higher levels.

August 30, 2018, 11:29 PM · Jeewon: thank you so much for all your help and advice !!! Yes...you’re correct about my grade.
Edited: August 31, 2018, 11:26 PM · You're most welcome Lauri!

What Lydia says is exactly the kind of thinking we all have to incorporate into our practice, until it becomes automatic. And her list includes only left hand stuff. (For me, I find I check pitch like crazy in the early stages as I'm learning notes. Then I let it go for a bit while I'm drilling things, getting fluent. Then it's back to a lot of slow tuning during polishing. Then you perform it, whether in master-class or low pressure concert, and you take what worked and didn't back to the drawing board, rework things, keep polishing. Rinse. Repeat, as many times as you can before a first important performance, after which you go back to the drawing board, rework, keep polishing until the next one, etc. Remember, an actual polished performance is the result of several practice performances and several important ones on top of that.) We have to also consider everything to do with bowing, which I'll try to touch on a bit next time. And once we're pretty solid with the technical aspects, including coordinating left and right, and basic phrasing, there's all the ensemble and interpretive thinking to do as well.

But concerning your remaining precollege years, if your parents agree, I think it would be of great benefit to take the extra gap year and aim for auditioning in the winter of 21/22. That extra year will give you a real chance at a school like Jacobs, provided you can work extremely hard at polishing pieces this year, and still give you some breathing space. You'd have three summers left (plus 1 after auditions,) the first of which you can use to display your first year of polished rep. Then you'd have 2 more summers to try a few different camps and play for (make connections with and preaudition for) teachers with whom you'd like to study, using audition level rep. And a fourth summer hopefully with your future teacher. If you were to audition in 20/21, I would recommend spending at least 3-4 mos doing more rehab work: lots of exercises, scales and etudes, and less rep. I think it may still be possible, but you'd likely be burning the candle from both ends.

Also, are you studying piano? If not, I'd get a keyboard teacher this year who will teach you basic keyboard skills and harmony (at the keyboard, which is the best way to learn it.) Often local composers and theory teachers will offer such lessons. Also get your keyboard teacher to do ear training and dictation with you (unless you have absolute pitch, in which case you don't need any training :)

Like I mentioned before, the only problem I've seen with gap years is that some students languish without structure, and they can get lonely being cooped up all the time between lessons and practicing. But I get the feeling you won't have any problem in that regard given your maturity and how proactive you are. As everyone has said, you'll want to discuss all of this with your teacher. I don't know if he's already thinking of a gap year (or years,) but he may have different plans depending on whether he has you for 2 1/2 or 3 1/2 more years before audition time.

September 3, 2018, 9:54 AM · 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.
The reason I’m hesitating about audition the winter of 21/22 is because if I do that, I will be 20 going into college, which I feel is a little old ?
This summer coming up (2019) I will probably try another music camp, and the summer after that (2020) I will hopefully start making connections/getting lessons/meeting some of the teachers id like to study under (like you suggested).
My dad said that I should audition in the winter of 20/21, and if I don’t get into the schools I want, I have the freedom to take another year and audition winter of 21/22. This isn’t ideal for me but I have that freedom.
Edited: September 3, 2018, 11:32 AM · 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!
September 3, 2018, 1:26 PM · Thank you Nuuska !!
September 3, 2018, 8:35 PM · 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. :-)
September 3, 2018, 9:04 PM · 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. :-)
September 3, 2018, 10:11 PM · 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.
September 3, 2018, 10:13 PM · 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.
September 3, 2018, 10:21 PM · 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 !
September 3, 2018, 10:24 PM · 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.

But realistically, even an eight-week camp is not likely to make a huge difference in your future* so follow your heart.

*unless you are so fortunate as to work with a teacher who will open doors for you at a school you would like to attend.

September 3, 2018, 11:38 PM · 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).

So don't necessarily forego that experience for the sake of going to camp.

September 4, 2018, 12:08 AM · 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.
Edited: September 4, 2018, 10:31 AM · 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.'

But that's the kind of breathing space I guess I was talking about. Your summer tour will probably last 2 weeks (?) and will give you lifelong memories and perhaps some lifelong friends as well, whether you choose to make music a career or not. On the other hand, 8 weeks (or going to 2 x 4 week camps) with a great teacher (whether private, chamber, orchestral) can make a huge difference (I'm guessing you had such an experience this past summer,) depending on what you're working on, how open your mind is to new information and possibilities, and on the off chance you do meet your future teacher. So much depends on the teacher. If your current teacher doesn't teach in the summers, I wouldn't recommend spending the bulk of the summer unguided at this crucial stage in your development, though you could at least ask him for summer homework.

It's funny, when I first wrote:
"audition winter21/22?"

I actually made a mistake. I meant to write audition winter 20/21. But then I thought about it and left it based on two things: a) you want to go to a school like Jacobs b) your current teacher seems very good for you.

a) You might be able to get into Jacobs with a very polished Bruch and 2 mvmts of Bach, but I wonder how competitive you will be these days. You don't want to get into a school or class of a teacher, no matter how reputable, as a 'quota-filler.' If you're lucky, you might end up with a teacher who will give you the attention you need, no matter what. But others will leave you with their assistants for the first two years and see you 2 or 3 times a year (which was the experience of a student I know who got into Jacobs with Vieuxtemps 5, and who ended up switching teachers 3 times in 4 years--this was almost 10 years ago.) In two solid years after this one, I think you might be able to get to a polished Bruch + another similar concerto with different technical focus (Saint-Saens 3, Vieuxtemps/Wieniawski, Lalo, etc.) Now I've been out of the loop for a long time, but I'm guessing to be competitive these days, you need to be auditioning with one of the big 3, or Prokofiev, Shostakovich 1 or Bartok 2 or a very, very good, mature Mendelssohn or Beethoven, something along those lines, which you might be able to do in the 3 years after this one, if you work like there's no tomorrow. (Keep in mind, to get there, you'll be doing at least 3 solo Bach: e.g. Partita 3-->Sonata 1-->Partita 1; Mozart 3+4/5; some salon and show pieces: e.g. Kreisler Tambourin Chinois, Caprice Viennois, Recitativo and Scherzo, Viennese Rhapsodic Fantasietta, Kreisler/Tartini Devil's Trill, the usual Sarasate, Saint-Saens, Wieniawski stuff; some slow lyrical works: e.g. Glazunov Meditation, Paganini Cantabile, Tchaik Serenade Melancolique, Dvorak Romance, etc.; sonatas for ensemble work; etudes: most of Kreutzer, some Rode, Dont, Fiorillo, Gavinies, Wieniawski, Paganini.)

As much as is possible, ideally you want to finish your technical training and have a solid musical foundation before you go to college. And so,

b) if indeed your current teacher is highly invested in your development, and is capable of completing your precollege training, there should be no rush to move on, because you never know if you'll find another teacher like that. Yes, there are definitely advantages to moving on with your class, but as I've said, I think that is more important for students who need external structure and motivation to improve (but which, to some degree benefits us all, no matter how organized or self-motivated I suppose.) But, don't discount all the other class work, chamber and orchestral requirements, socializing, etc. which can seriously get in the way, especially if you don't have a solid technical foundation. Smaller schools can be great if you find great teachers who can help give you a solid baseline technique. (I can recommend Paul Zafer at Wheaton College (which, however, is a Christian school--he used to teach somewhere else in Chicago, but I don't remember where) and Edmond Agopian at University of Calgary in Canada to help complete your basic training; there's also Mark Fewer who teaches at McGill University in Quebec, but that's a pretty big and competitive school.) And if you're lucky, you might actually get good work experience subbing with the local symphony.

In the grand scheme of things, a few years here or there won't make any difference. In an orchestral audition, no one will care whether you went to college later than your class. Where it may make a difference is if you want to study in Europe, but again, I don't think one or two years will matter.

In the end it's a tough choice, but you don't have to choose right now! I think your dad is wise. And I agree with Nuuska and Elizabeth that you're very blessed to have such supportive parents.


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