Need your advice

September 4, 2018, 10:41 AM · Hi, everyone! My name is Elmira and I really need your advice. I am 22 years old and I graduated from university this year. My speciality is Information Systems(IT).I have been working in a good IT company with a good salary.However, I realized that I’m not satisfied with my job and would like to change my profession. Now, I want to be a musician. I have started to play violin from 5 years and continued it as a hobby in the university. Nowadays my skills are not so good as before but I would like to improve it. So the question is - should I follow my dream and leave my job to become a violinist? Do I have chance to enter in a music college? Isn’t it too late?(Sorry for my English)

Replies (25)

September 4, 2018, 11:05 AM · You would probably be best doing your current job. But you may wish to make it a more serious hobby, if that makes sense? So playing in a community/amateur orchestra, playing chamber music etc
September 4, 2018, 11:22 AM · The questions are:

1. At what level are you playing at now? (Most recent solo repertoire, etudes?)

2. Where are you in the world? (This will determine the difficulty of getting into a conservatory, the cost of attending, and job opportunities for musicians.)

3. Do you want to become primarily (or solely) a teacher, or primarily a performer?

Edited: September 4, 2018, 12:35 PM · As someone who has worked IT type work for decades, and periodically desired to leave, even with its ups and downs economically, it still pays better than a lot of other options, and the funds fuel more heartfelt pursuits.

I think the double road would be good to pursue. Keep doing what you can to boost your music skills, while doing the daily trudge, and see where you land in a few years. However, I have NO experience with music colleges, and what is required to be accepted or advance there.

September 4, 2018, 12:26 PM · I don’t think it would be wise to drop your job and do something wildly different for any reason, more so for violin.
September 4, 2018, 12:48 PM · 22 is quite young in the grand scheme of things. Think about where you'll be e.g. at age 30 if you take either of the two paths. I would also consider why you want to make a change now and do you think music is really where you want to be? What are the chances you change your mind again? In your circumstances it will likely mean lower income and job security. So ask yourself if you're ready for that trade-off. I agree you need to answer Lydia's questions but I don't agree with others here who say it's wise to stay the course if you're unhappy with it. I would say follow your heart if you've thought it through and can find a way to make it work.
Edited: September 4, 2018, 1:05 PM · Uh oh. Full-time and well-paid musicians get bored too.

"The grass is always greener...."

September 4, 2018, 1:47 PM · Part-time and poorly paid musicians might not be bored, but they might like the boredom of a reliable paycheck.
September 4, 2018, 1:50 PM · Something to consider: In IT you may have a nice job today, but if you completely leave the field for a few years your skill set may become outdated within a couple of years.
September 4, 2018, 1:56 PM · I would look at studying with a good teacher privately first. Maybe you can find a professor at a conservatory or other high-level teacher that takes private students. That would give you a more reasonable picture of the work that may be required before conservatory, and this would allow you to put that work in while still earning money.
September 4, 2018, 3:43 PM · Elmira,

Speaking from the other end of the age spectrum, and using an old musical cliché: "Don't quit your day job."*

At some level, all jobs are boring and it is not at all surprising to me that an IT professional would play the violin as the levels of concentration, repetition and focus required are much the same for both.

Are there any good community orchestras in your area? That is probably your best outlet. Where I live there are quite a few community orchestras and the musicians are almost all in highly technical fields and music is there way to relax and unwind as well as touch their creative side and have a more balanced life.

I know more than a few professional musicians and their lives are much more hectic and less secure than you might think.

* As I typed this comment I remembered watching the inaugural celebration for Bill Clinton where he played his sax with a famous band. I, and a few other musicians, were sad that the band leader only thanked Clinton for playing - it would have been an absolute hoot (and probably a laughing fit for Clinton) if he had said, after thanking Clinton, "Don't quit your day job."

September 4, 2018, 4:02 PM · The other saying I've heard is "It's not supposed to be enjoyable. That's why they call it WORK."
Edited: September 4, 2018, 8:33 PM · Speaking as someone who has worked in IT since graduation, and wanted with varying degrees of intensity to find a new career for about the first ten of that...it is normal to look at other fields, but do be cautious. There are better and worse (and MUCH better and MUCH worse) software jobs out there. I had several artistic interests in college and before, and violin has been the only one that really went well as a side hobby with software work.

I never actually considering becoming a violinist, as (at least until recently, possibly still) I was never anywhere near good enough for that to be an option.

Actually, it's wierd, I've even seen a wierd synenrgy where when I advanced on the violin, my career moved forwards. I have no real explanation for this, and your mileage may very.

So while only someone who has heard you play could really assess the difficulty of being a professional violinist, I can tell you that it is probably about 1000x easier to make a comfortable loving in IT (assuming of course you are good at that), and music can make a wonderful side hobby. You may even find that as you advance on the violin, you sharpen parts of your brain that move your day career forwards as well.

But there is a reason that a lot of the best programmers are musicians. I work at a software company, with some killer-smart people, and where I used to sit, I sat next to a violin player who had considered conservatory, and between a violist and a cellist. (The sad thing was that I couldn't convince the other violinist to take it back up, or we'd have had a string quartet just on our team.) Some of the big west coast software shops have full symphony orchestras made up only of employees (I am sooooo jealous).

Edited: September 5, 2018, 5:54 AM · I strongly recommend you to not leave a career you have been able to start successfully, thanks to your preparation, for another one where you are not prepared and have very few chances of being able to live from it.

My opinion is that you want to trade a Job you don't like for a Life you will not like. The second is worse... job is only a part of life.

I say this because I have had friends that have done this Millenial Mantra "Follow your dreams", and left good careers and positions for completely unrelated artistic projects of which they had no preparation. All eventually have borrowed money, stayed in my house (and others) until this, that, blah, blah. They became a burden to friends and family and they suffer for it.

No matter what you do, life is not going to give you 24h per day of Happiness. Focus on getting 16 good ones out of 8 hours that are dull.

September 5, 2018, 7:41 AM · A job can be viewed as a career, or as a way to make money so you can pursue your passion.

There is plenty of time to practice before and after work. Formal training with a good teacher only needs an hour or so a week. And on nights and weekends, playing with friends and community groups will easily satisfy your music addiction.

September 5, 2018, 7:51 AM · Hi Elmira,
If your current job has a nice salary, you could consider retiring early (link on how to retire in your 30s https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/01/style/fire-financial-independence-retire-early.html) and pursuing music full-time. There is at least one violinist on this site who retired in her 40s or 50s and is now pursuing a degree at a conservatory.

If an ascetic life for the next 10 years is not your style, you could scale back at some point to part-time and pursue music more intensively, especially since your yearly salary is likely to grow.

September 5, 2018, 9:28 AM · yes Elmira keep your job and develop a beautiful hobby in music, playing the violin in amateur ensembles, finding music partners, etc, a hobby that will last you a lifetime and you can keep improving in it whole your life. Best wishes!
Edited: September 5, 2018, 10:43 AM · My advice would be: Never burn bridges. At 22 years old you still have plenty of time. You must make a plan.Keep your job until you know if you can cross over.If you can't cross over you still have a job.
Realistically performance as a career is a long shot. Most people who pay for music in events look at it as something added on. Not the main draw.
Women are integral to families. You might not be looking at it like this, but you might be tending children in the future. How will you work around that?

- Will I have enough money for another education?Can I make the time requirements work?

-Am I willing to put in the time it takes to be good?

-What is my backup plan?

-Will I be content to teach music in order to be a full time musician?

-What other ways will I make money with my music? Not pie-in-the-sky methods. Functional plans that really work.

Don't laugh...the military has a music program in the US.

Whatever you do don't burn those bridges. You'll probably be sorry you did. Regular income is a nice thing to have.

Be cordial to everyone if you leave, even those who don't deserve it. In this way you still have the bridge.

September 5, 2018, 10:40 AM ·
September 9, 2018, 5:55 PM · I'm a career-changer into music. A few differences: I had about 5 years on you (more time at the "good company with a good salary" to decide I wanted OUT - and to save money for vague future expenses), didn't have any particular dream, and was already doing music (teaching) on the side. It was only supposed to be a stopgap while I soul-searched but one thing led to another. I'm unlikely to ever make my previous salary but I have enough and am fulfilled with my new line of work. It quite possibly could have turned out differently, then I'd be singing a different tune!

If you want to make a change, plan for it. Play and study on the side, talk to people in the field, do research on options for pursuing further education, etc., but keep in mind there are plenty of "hobby" musicians who make their living outside of music and enjoy the music part of their lives without having to rely on it to eat.

September 9, 2018, 6:22 PM · Do what makes you happy and you will find a way to make the money to keep doing it. That's what my grandfather always said.
Edited: September 9, 2018, 6:32 PM · I like Mengwei Shen's advice. It is sensible, positive without being unrealistic, cautious without being abrupt and negative.


At the end of the day, if you're not happy with what you're doing, you could go ahead with discovering ways into carrying on your music studies and then making music as your profession (however that may work out for you). If this doesnt work out, you always have your other exerptise as a safety net (although granted, with time, the safety net will have larger and larger holes). At least you will not live with a regret, if you feel strongly about wanting to pursue this alternative path.

But this is also a personal matter that is difficult to give advice on. If there are people in your situation who have opted to make a living, humble though it might be, and have succeeded , this then puts in question why, de facto, there would be people who would advice you against pursuing your dream (which given that you have been playing since 5 and you are 22, quite young doesnt seem unrealistic and impossible). There are different people with different sensibilities, different degrees of optimism, different perception of reality, different degrees of cynicism, sense of certitude about one's knowledge, etc. So keep that in mind and I wish you the very best.

September 10, 2018, 7:18 AM · David Burgess has it exactly right.
You're performance of Mahler 1 might be enticing - the day-to-day less so.
Your nth performance of Beethoven 8 for the local music advisor who hasn't a clue less so!
September 10, 2018, 8:26 AM · For the 30 years that I worked in a technical field, my dream was to be independent and make musical instruments in my own shop. However, realistic evaluation came to the obvious conclusion that it wouldn't pay the rent. I even took a few months leave of absence to try it more intensely... but all I did was increase the cash outflow.

Now I actually DO make musical instruments in my own shop, and could likely make a modest living at it... after 30 years of part-time learning and 10 years full time with no income from it. I can't imagine quitting my day job to do this when I was young.

One other thing I thought of doing was to become a professional bowler. I was good enough to qualify for PBA membership, but no matter how seriously I worked at it, I could never get to the level where I could ever get my tournament entry fees back, much less make a living at it.

The main point here is that there is opportunity to evaluate the "dream job" as you go through life making a living at something else. Try making money at it as a hobby with part time gigs or whatever. If you are really talented (and that's a BIG and very serious question which is not yet clear), your hobby will grow and provide assurance that you can safely make the switch. If that doesn't happen, be happy you didn't jump into a black hole.

September 10, 2018, 9:10 AM · Everyone is talking from a classical music perspective, but there’s an entire world outside of classical music that can be far more lucrative and forgiving. But, as was suggested somewhere above, many questions have not been answered: where you live, what kind of music you play, whether you want to perform/teach/etc...

Just don’t forget folks, there’s a huuuuuge world outside of classical music with more opportunities and that is less demanding in terms of technical ability (not an excuse to slack off though).

As a full-time musician, I know the opposite scenario: people who were musicians who quit music (as a career) and got steady jobs in other fields. For my part, i got very lucky (i still worked hard) and am able to make a living doing this, but it wasn’t without hard work

September 10, 2018, 9:13 AM · Making it as a musician is similar to achieving success as a pro athlete. People considering a jump into music in late teens or early twenties should have this analogy in mind.

Consider baseball: I've taken the kids to local semi-pro games. Those guys are really good, and a couple here and there get drafted by the majors. But most will never get to the majors. They'll have to sit on buses day in and day out, play in small towns, make barely enough to get by. Eventually, they'll realize they'll never make a good living and drift into something else. Most were probably stars on their little league and college teams and started really young. Now imagine a "pretty good" player who gets the bug in college and suddenly decides he wants to be a pro ball player....

I haven't done the math, but I wouldn't be surprised if the number of major league ball players approximates the number of professional violinists in full-time symphonies.

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