Standards for Music Performance Major?
I’m just wondering approximately what level a violin student should be at in sophomore year of high school to even consider majoring in music performance in university. What repertoire should the student already have played?
Disclaimer: I am not planning to go this route for many reasons. I’m just another curious soul who is running out of time for violin. *sigh* only 2.5 years until university. I probably won’t have time for violin :(
Thanks for taking the time to read!
It depends. The required repertoire even to audition for acceptance at a top conservatory is quite rigorous. However, there are second-tier universities that offer performance degrees that are much more accessible.
And to add to what Mary Ellen said: In general, also an etude. In top schools, that's expected to be a Paganini Caprice.
I would say if you haven't played a Bruch or Lalo level piece well by that time you're behind.
At a minimum, a standard concerto (romantic era and beyond), some solo Bach, some Paganini.
It's important to understand this process. Sure, they can tell if you've got good technique if you can play the Sibelius Concerto flawlessly. But mature and subtle interpretive prowess is important too. Hence the Paganini and the Sarasate. The solo Bach is mainly a test of your hubris and ambition: At that level you're not really ready for it.
I think one has to make a distinction between the minimum standards necessary to get admitted to a performance program, and when it's actually
What Lydia says is true about college in general. If you can just barely gain admission to a B-level engineering program, do you really think you're going to be competitive, when you earn your degree, with graduates from Carnegie Mellon and Virginia Tech? Now, one could argue that an engineering degree is generally a little more versatile, as there is more depth and range of career choices available, but that's not the issue here. The issue is whether a student with so-so performance in high school subjects like math, physics, and chemistry can expect to leapfrog his or her peers at the undergraduate level. From what I have seen, students coming in the gate with the best skill sets are the ones leaving with the best prospects. Diamonds in the rough are few. The rich tend to get richer. If anything, university undergraduate programs are polarizing -- not equalizing -- in terms of skill and knowledge distributions.
People are so different from one another. It depends on where you are now and how much WILL you have and how hard you plan to work to reach what goal. Set goals and get all the help you can achieving them.
J Ray, I think that's possible, but the people who are successful in music as a profession are incredibly motivated and, if they remain happy in the profession, remain incredibly motivated throughout their life. If someone isn't already convinced, by the end of high school, that playing the violin is the one thing that absolutely
Paul, I think the thing about college is that it's more specialized, and careers can be even more specialized. I wasn't a great STEM generalist in high school, and I was a really mediocre computer engineering student, but I turned out to be great at various IT skills used in the business world.
@Lydia Leong @Andrew Victor @Mary Ellen Goree @Ryan Smith
I probably wouldn’t choose to pursue music professionally unless I can get into a top school and know that I’m capable of landing a spot in a major professional orchestra. I’m much stronger academically so it wouldn’t make sense to give up all that for a shaky career in music.
Enchanted Violin: if you can be happy doing anything other than playing the violin, you should probably do that other thing. The road to a professional music career is difficult, stressful, even brutalizing, and I can't imagine going through all that without the drive of feeling that THIS is what I wanted to do, no matter what. I feel very fortunate to have ended up with a good, solid, but not great career in music, but what it took to get to where I am now is something I could never encourage another person to go through. You have to want it beyond all reason.
I would probably argue that by most measures, Mary Ellen qualifies as having a "great" career, just not a "star" career. She's a section principal in a major-city US full-time orchestra (i.e., tenure, salary, and benefits), though the season doesn't go the full year (I assume that this is to some degree made up for by summer festival pay and such). Those positions can open up only once every couple of decades, and hundreds of candidates can apply. You have to be staggeringly good to get that job.
Lydia, I think one advantage of a basic accredited engineering degree is that there is a minimum level of critical thinking and general cleverness that you come out with, and the program is designed very intentionally to provide a foundation education for a broad spectrum of careers. Also -- sorry, this is hard to articulate -- but there are periods in the history of technology where there are more opportunities for those who are keen to carve out alternative career pathways, who might not have been academic stars but have a few clever ideas and at least some tolerance for risk -- what we commonly call the "entrepreneurial spirit" even though I believe this term does not really capture entirely what I am trying to convey. The dot-com boom of the 1990s is the leading example of such a period.
Paul, I agree, though I will note that there are always pathways to great things for people who have some degree of street-smarts plus good charisma. At the very least, they can always be salespeople. :-)
Coming back to the discussion, it's quite possible for someone with less than truly stellar technical ability to extract MORE enjoyment out of life as an amateur musician (i.e., a day-jobber). I know a terrific person who teaches a certain instrument every day (full studio) and for whom playing two or three gigs per week on the same instrument started to wear on him a little. His solution was to learn a related instrument to put more variety into his gig calendar. I do not have this problem. For me, every gig is something I look forward to, like a vacation or a night out. Meanwhile as a state employee I enjoy great job security and marvelous fringe benefits in addition to a decent salary. Occasionally I do get a gig that was contracted by someone else and the other players are not fun to work with, but I'm pretty adaptable and I find a way to enjoy those gigs too.
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