Common Quitting Point
I’m curious to get a better understand as to when people commonly quit violin. At what level repertoire were they working on when they quit, what age were they, and how old were they when they started? Also, what were the main reasons for quitting? Was it due to a busy life, repertoire becoming too demanding, or just the inconvenience of practicing? I am also curious to get a better understand as to how many players are out there that can play advanced solo repertoire?
With me, life just became too demanding. I was finishing high school, preparing for college, and working. There was just no time for practicing and getting to lessons especially since I did not intend to study music in college. I had gotten to the first violin part of Bach’s Double, working from the Suzuki 5 book, but did not have it quite polished out. I had played in a few youth orchestra’s violin as well as viola. By the time I had quit I had a good 7-8 years of learning and had started at nine years old. There was also the looming feeling of more to learn. These days, I find that feeling motivating, but when I was younger, it was frustrating.
All of my friends quit before high school because music was never their priority. I was the complete opposite and music is now more important than ever before. I plan to minor in music in university because I’ve heard that it’s easier to get into medical school if you have music to boost your grades and prove that you are capable of being successful in other areas.
I quit when I went to college. I also played the piano and the piano fit into my social life a lot better, and I didn't really have time for both. (Or so I thought.)
Most kids around me quit before age 16, no matter if piano (like me) or violin, flute etc. Only one kept playing the piano (but just on a low level boogie-woogie to impress the chicks), and another one started at age 15 because he wished to become the organist in his small community's church (what he achieved at age 26 when the former organist retired). Most stopped at a very low beginner level, no matter how long they had played. Music had never any priority, and they were disappointed by the fact that basically you don't "play" an instrument, but you have to "practice" it. And mostly it was their parent's wish, and not their own intrinsic motivation anyway.
I started violin late and never quit unless you count switching almost completely to viola as "quitting", but I might be able to provide some information anyway. My parents started actively pressuring me to quit all my musical instruments -- piano, violin, and viola -- around the end of my first year of college, because it was clear I was not pursuing a career in music. (If this is any indicator of their philosophy, they also pressured me to quit my college soccer team because it was clear by then that I had no realistic chance of playing professional soccer.) It's possible there are other parents who do the same.
I started piano at 8 (my mother was an Conservatorium trained organist and my first teacher - learning the piano was a given in my family . ) . I stopped that at 16 , as had a discouraging teacher , pressures of academic subjects , and I could see I was never going to be nearly as good as my mother . I was at AMEB grade 6 and struggling.
I suspect that, for students who don't just quit in the early years, that the most common point is at the end of high school. Before then, there's a lot of scaffolding available for music, and many students play solely in school ensembles and may actually rent their instrument through the school. So without music in school, that's simply part of the school day, they stop playing.
I'll add one more data point. My girlfriend is an adult returner violinist. She started at 9 and quit at 20 after transferring from a small-town community college to a major university. When she stopped playing she was working on the Mendelssohn concerto. She was concertmaster of her high school orchestra and kept playing as assistant concertmaster of her town's community orchestra while in community college, and then stopped because she didn't feel up to auditioning for a large university's orchestra as a non-music-major, and wasn't sure where to look for a teacher. It came down to a combination of loss of confidence after having been a big fish in a small pond until that point, and needing quite a bit of time to adjust to city life at the same time. (This may be similar to Lydia's experience too, in that moving meant not having a network of contacts.)
I quit in my early 20's. With a career, and then soon after family, life got in the way, and I ended up selling my violin (Huge mistake!).
I've technically "quit" twice: I started at age 8/9 (third grade), quit the first time in the 7th/8th grade due to academic conflicts with the school's orchestra program and an uncompromising orchestra teacher (my family could not afford private lessons in those two years, so I did my best to keep up with the violin by myself - oh was that a disaster). The second time started around spring semester of my sophomore year of college and when I finally got so frustrated with my deskilling, I think the actual "I quit" time was several years later - around 2003. My quitting trajectory, reader's digest version: graduated high school as concertmaster (I worked my butt off to get there, and had been working on the Bruch concerto), then went to very small niche college, got too busy to work with a private teacher, then played in an ensemble in a different college for a semester (rude awakening as to an entire school year without regular lessons and orchestra sessions), then tried to go it alone with sporadic lessons with my original private teacher back home since I had no extra money for regular/expensive private lessons in new cities between being at college then post-undergrad life (I moved to different parts of the country five times in five years).
Never-there's no such possibility. One just doesn't quit, as there are always ways to improve and learn-a neverending, musical journey.
Is the question when or why?
Rocky - the OP is asking for both when and why to be answered.
My guess would be that you see a lot of players quit around the Bruch level, or at least that seems to be what I have gathered from reading this site for a while. I bet that when a lot of kids with multiple irons in the fire are asked to really commit to their practice, they decide that they have other hobbies that are more fun and less demanding.
I suspect that the Bruch is also a reckoning point of sorts. It's possible to get to the point where you can manage the notes of the Bruch, but your foundational technique is too shaky for you to really play it well. So at that point, rather than sounding like someone who is pre-professional, you sound like an early-intermediate player who is playing a really difficult work. Going forward isn't possible because the foundation is too shaky, and rebuilding the foundation can feel like going backwards because of how many fundamental pieces have to be relearned.
Since the difficulty of violin is a logarithmic curve, I do believe there tends to be a "Wall" of sorts where normal humans just can't see the benefit in spending the necessary time/energy to push past that point. They start to ask themselves "is this really going to *do* anything for me" as they are practicing each note of a piece very very slowly and feeling the grind.
Interestingly, Eric, I don't agree with your assessment of a logarithmic curve. I think the steepest difficulties are in building the excellent foundation. And then of course at the very top, the investments in tiny amounts of incremental refinement are immense, in terms of what anyone is able to consciously perceive as a difference.
I would argue that pursuing violin to a very high level requires a degree of committed "obsessiveness" if one is to avoid or just ignore perceived "walls", but that said thing may be at most "rare", not just "not normal" (which suggests there is something "wrong" with the persistent violinist-though I personally do not mind whether others find me "normal" or not.)
I quit piano at the age of 17, just before the last term of school, because after the last terms are the big exams and I knew then I was not going to be a professional pianist allthough I did do the so called lowest but professional exam at 17. There just wasnt time. And I had developed a really bad case of stage fright so I knew that allthough I was good I woudl never be a professional even had I wanted to.
I am not sure if I can say "I quitted" when I have barely started, and probably not officially quitted. It wasn't on violin either.
My suspicion is that many who quit intend at first just to take a break during a particularly stressful period in their lives (transition between schools, exam preparation, having a baby etc.). The more time elapses after they stopped playing temporarily the harder it will be to get back into the routine. And so eventually they end up realizing that in fact they quit.
What I have observed is supported by the previous answers. A lot of students acquire intermediate to advanced playing skills in the grade school years. The majority, correctly, and wisely, choose a major other than music, the lessons and practicing stops.
I've quit twice and come back twice. The first time was after a discouraging experience in college--bad audition, rejected from the orchestra, and then couldn't afford lessons because they were only discounted for people who were in the orchestra. I ended up playing a little bit in college later, and even making the orchestra under a different conductor, but it wasn't the same after that initial unwelcome. I went to graduate school and put it away for the time it took to get my PhD. I started again almost on a whim, after I broke up with a serious boyfriend and moved out into my own apartment. I felt like I needed something new and creative in my life so first I got a cat, then I started playing violin again.
From my perspective "quitting" comes when you no longer get any pleasure from playing and you sell your instrument and move on.
I quit at age 20. It was my last and probably stupidest act of adolescent rebellion. I restarted 25 years later when my children did not need as much attention, and I began to think about what I would do with myself as an empty nester and ultimately, as a retiree. That was more than 20 years ago, and I have had a total of four teachers over the years who have helped me get my technique back. When I retired in early 2014 from the world of work, I took up viola in addition to continuing violin. It has all worked out pretty well, although I regret the hiatus in some ways. I might be a much better player if I had not taken it.
Fun to read the stories above - almost seems as if everyone has a quitting time! I started at age 6. Since we could not afford private lessons (5th of 7 kids) I learned at school mostly in group lessons. Nonetheless, I was leader (concertmaster) of our quite serious orchestra in middle school (age 12) and even played a concerto that our music teacher had written [even at that age I recognized a rather large influence of Copeland! ;) ]. Age 13 I quit because my brother (then age 14) wanted me to play guitar and sing harmony with him so that we could spend summer hitch-hiking round first England but then Sweden and Germany supporting ourselves by playing in bars, restaurants and busking on the street.
I think Albrecht is dead-on when he says that most people just drift off -- they didn't mean to quit.
Interesting question. My gf is angry that I've taken up another hobby. A few months ago she barked "how long are you going to have violin lessons for?" I hadn't thought about it, so I replied "until I die?" She didn't like that answer. If she asks again, I'll reply, "until I find a wife." Lol!
Oh George, I am going to say I drifted from the violin from now on!