“Advice for a highschool violinist ?” Update

Edited: January 10, 2019, 10:30 PM · I am here to update my status since the last thread that I made about 4 months ago - (the original has since been archived so I cannot edit it further, hence the new thread).

The past 4 months have been a whirlwind of ups and downs. I seriously applied all of your comments, critiques, and technique suggestions into my practicing. I used all the instructional videos that were posted, and inclined my practice time to 3-5 quality hours per day (that is, until 2 weeks ago...I was forced to take a break from violin due to a shoulder injury my teacher explained was most likely from practicing so intently for so long. I am now healed and ready to work ;)

Soon after my thread (created in August) my teacher started me on the Bruch, and since I have polished all 3 movements enough to compete in a concerto competition with them (did not place - was, unfortunately, a terrible audition) and for him to give me the next piece (I think he wants me on to more concertos, which is why we left the Bruch so quickly). I will say that I honestly surprised myself with the amount of progress I made during the past few months - I made tons of audition tapes for various things (some good, some not so good). I was selected (based on a 2 round seating audition process for each cycle) as 3rd chair in my youth orch, then, for the next cycle, as concertmaster (squeal !). I was accepted into the top group (a chamber orchestra) at Western States (a slightly less competitive All State like festival for the western states - hence the name - that, unlike All State which does not allow homeschoolers, I was eligible for). Selected there as principle second, as well as 1 of 3 performers for a masterclass with part of the school’s faculty, which was surprising since I had only just started the Bruch a month prior, and basically sight read it for my audition tape. I played the 1st mov for the class, got great critique, and afterwards the teacher pulled me aside and told me he thought I had a real shot at winning the upcoming youth concerto competitions I am applying for. I was moved up to first violin in my quartet after ours unfortunately had to leave - a huge responsibility that is simultaneously daunting and exciting. I am extremely happy to say that I was accepted into the Honors Orchestra of America which I will be attending this spring. As for personal musical/technical improvement: my teacher moved me on to Kreutzer Etudes (which made me happier than it should have lol - a bittersweet victory) and my posture has improved drastically due to a new and loved shoulder rest (@Jeewon Kim ;)), my musicality is growing, and I have received compliments from judge’s comment forms regarding my tone and character. To add to all this fortune, I have been lucky enough to see Pinchas Zukerman perform the Bruch live with the Colorado Symphony, Yo Yo Ma play all the Bach Cello Suites at Red Rocks Ampitheater, Midori play the Sibelius VC, perform Mozart 3 in the orchestra for Jennifer Koh, accidentally come in personal contact with Augustin Hadelich (funny story), and am seeing Itzahk Perlman this week !

On the downside, by the end of the year I noticed myself slacking when it came to practicing technique, and this was reflected by a slew of auditions I lost/butchered. Practicing an hour of scales had a lot more weight on my successes than I thought it did. Break was nice, but it’s back to Kreutzer for me.

I thought I’d share all this because I read through my original post and realized that when I made it 4mo ago I never thought I’d be where I am now. And I can’t wait to see what the next 4mo has in store. I wrote this to encourage some, to thank others - those who gave me so much helpful advice and encouragement, and many resources and tools. It was much needed and pushed me to make a lot of the decisions which led me to the success I have been so lucky to see ... that which I never thought I would see. Although it was small to some, it was massive to me ;) -, and to hold myself accountable. I’d love to continue sharing my progress as I go to stay responsible. Any advice is always greatly appreciated !!

Now, off to practice ! ;)

Replies (17)

January 5, 2019, 7:55 PM · What a wonderfully cheerful and newsy update. Congratulations to you on all your successes!
January 5, 2019, 8:57 PM · Here's the original thread: LINK

Congrats on your progress! You seem to be a fast improver. I hope you posted a Bruch video. :-)

The thing that's the head-scratcher for me is why you didn't start Kreutzer earlier. My past teacher, at least, was of the opinion that a student should be finished with Kreutzer before starting the major Romantic concerto repertoire.

January 5, 2019, 9:07 PM · My teacher wanted me to finish Mazas before I started Kreutzer (which I had already done some of at camp before I started Bruch).
Edited: January 5, 2019, 10:16 PM · Great to hear about your progress. Practice really is overwhelmingly the most important factor!

Don't be discouraged if you aren't immediately winning big competitions. It's a marathon, not a sprint.

P.S. I also think it's an interesting choice to do Bruch before Kreutzer. Most people will have completed 70% of Kreutzer and Rode before attempting Bruch and Mendelssohn.

January 6, 2019, 5:52 AM · This is all great to hear! Please continue posting your news. I enjoy living vicariously through you! :-)
January 6, 2019, 10:28 AM · Congrats on all your accomplishments! I'm going to have my son read your post -- at 13 he understands intellectually the value of scales and etudes, but still struggles to focus on them, as he would much rather play pieces! Which I suppose is true of all of us.

As for the Kreutzer and etude thing, I experienced this with my son's old teacher -- Suzuki teachers tend to do etudes really late. I knew it was an issue and tried to supplement, but he is still finishing Kreutzer -- at the same time (and playing level) as Paganini and Dont.

January 6, 2019, 11:32 AM · Hey Lauri, great to hear from you and thanks for the update! So happy to hear all your hard work is paying off!
January 6, 2019, 11:45 AM · Susan, it's totally understandable that kids want to spend more time on pieces, and I'm like that too. My music teachers give very few etudes and focus more on exercises, scales and pieces. Mind you, exercises and scales are boring too.
January 8, 2019, 4:36 PM · I think of practicing scales like knitting. It is enjoyable (at least for me) in the patterns and consistency, but does get boring after an hour or so. I usually do an hour of scales before repertoire, just to wake my ears, fingers, and brain up.
January 8, 2019, 7:56 PM · I guess I'm not super surprised that a teacher who has assigned Bruch would still have the student finishing up Mazas and heading then into Kreutzer. It does seem rather delayed in terms of studies, but then, a lot of teachers accelerate the concerto progression (hot-housing).
January 9, 2019, 2:57 AM · Just out of curiosity, what shoulder rest did you switch to?
January 9, 2019, 12:11 PM · That's great!

Please don't hurt yourself!

January 9, 2019, 7:37 PM · @Erik Williams I switched to the Bonmusica shoulder rest. I rly love it because it molds to your shoulder and collarbone (I have always struggled with this) and the material it’s made out of stops it from slipping. It’s also higher than the sponge I was using before, so my left shoulder doesn’t get sore from cramming it up to my jaw all day.
January 9, 2019, 8:30 PM · I am Bon Musica fan as well! It takes a bit of fiddling (ha) to get it right for a person, but once you do it's super comfy and feels so secure.
January 9, 2019, 9:44 PM · I find it interesting how American teachers seem to assign repertoire before students are fully ready to do it justice technically and/or musically. Not passing judgement, it's just a very different way of doing things to what some of us are used to. Is this something to do with the amount of competition involved in getting into conservatories?
January 9, 2019, 10:01 PM · I think there are some teachers who push students through a path that might be termed advancing without improving -- they play harder and harder repertoire, possibly convincing themselves and their parents (and maybe even orchestra directors et.al.) that they are outpacing other students, even though their technical foundation is shaky and they are not ready to play repertoire that hard.

I suspect this is partially a result of parents who want to see their kids move ahead, and who judge that by where they are in a repertoire sequence. Also, there's plenty of not-great teaching out there.

A conservatory (or pre-conservatory program) is going to prefer kids that play well, rather than kids who are in advanced repertoire but playing it poorly. So it's not really that.

January 10, 2019, 2:52 AM · Ah, the bon musica! I have students buy that on occasion. I often say that it's not for everyone, but for those it is for, it's game-changing.

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