At what age did you really know you were going to be a professional?
Hi, I want to know how many of you, current professionals, and by that I mean you, violinists, that are making a living with violin in your hands, whether it's teaching, playing, making violins... had their ideas clear and knew wanted to be musicians or work in the classical music industry.
When you were starting to make your own decisions (+18) did you have a clear view about yourself in the future as a musician?
Didn't you have tremendous doubts about if you really wanted to be a musician, between age 18-30 (vague range, I know, but you get an idea), when you are normally still not stable and everything can change, your friends are studying science, social, etc, degrees?
I guess this post won't be seen by kids or teenagers that really were into classical music and at the 18's, 20's, they decided to do a completely different thing, so I'm missing all of those.
I think you'll find that most people who turn pro put the wheels in motion long before age 18.
Thanks for pointing that out, Stephen. You're right, but for example, all my violin teachers have started their career at 24-25 when they had a major and all.
I wasn't thinking about soloists, not really. Frank Almond was my concertmaster one year, and there are others who wound up in the Boston Symphony and similar gigs. But only one biggish solo career with a recording contract, from a pianist who changed his name a couple of times.
An interesting follow-on question: For those who were serious but didn't go on to music, when did you know that you weren't going to make it a clear, when did you know? And if you trained as a professional and then left the profession, when did you make the decision to do something else?
When did I decide I *wanted* to be a professional musician...mid-teens, probably. Certainly before I applied to Oberlin.
Performing, teaching, and “making violins” are three different professions.
Performing and teaching are connected in many cases.
Yep. The highly reputable luthier I go to for repairs plays viola in a church orchestra and in a quartet that meets regularly to read music, but would never be mistaken for a professional performer.
How is it possible to not make a decision at 18? In fact how is it possible not to make the decision at the age of 17 or even lower as you have to plan for the tests to get into the uni or lower uni? If you get in, you will be a musician unless you want to quit, but that would be really problematic as how would you be able to get a living then?
An important related question: what was your age when your parents decided to support you becoming a professional musician?
Jocelyn, that is an interesting question and probably answers my wondering.
It's a funny question about parental support. Mine were a little dubious, unless I was clearly interested in only that. I had enough irons in the fire elsewhere that (a) a life free-er of stress was an option, and (b) knowing about this option might reduce my commitment or success. Music generally requires that it be your first choice.
The principal violist of the San Francisco Symphony has a bachelor's degree in chemistry and did not decide to pursue music as a career until he was 21. The principal violist in the West Coast run of Hamilton, who also holds titled chairs in at least two regional orchestras, has a bachelor's degree in marine biology. There's a regional orchestra violist in my area who went back to school for a viola performance degree at 45 after more than 20 years of playing in community orchestras.
For my response I'll give the title question of this thread a slightly different perspective.
When I was a young person people kept telling me I was "talented." I toyed with the idea of becoming a musician around age 14. Then two things happened. One, I saw a performance on public TV of some tiny child playing something that was still years away for me. Two, I got a piano teacher who I thought was an amazing pianist and a great teacher (he's the one who actually taught me all my theory and all my practice techniques) but who was actually living in poverty.
Most students who entered a conservatory were making the decision to PREPARE for that level of playing much earlier than age 17, even if they hadn't committed to a career yet.
I remember being told around the age of 15 or 16 that if I wanted a career in music it was now or never, and my violin teacher (flawed as he was) told me I had it in me to make a go of it in the music world. I said no, that I loved playing but I did not want to mar it by having to make money from it. (I never got to discover if I had "it" or not, I never went to Tanglewood, or any other camp, because my parents would not spend the money on it. Judging by what I see on youtube, I made the right decision!) So, I decided well before the age of 18 that I was not going to pursue it.
"How is it possible to not make a decision at 18? In fact how is it possible not to make the decision at the age of 17 or even lower as you have to plan for the tests to get into the uni or lower uni? If you get in, you will be a musician unless you want to quit, but that would be really problematic as how would you be able to get a living then?"
I believe that it's not unusual for people to embark on a luthier career after retirement, or sometime mid-career. I think the same is true for bow-makers.
Also at age 19, second year of college. I was having real trouble with my math and physics courses, but got promoted to concertmaster of my college orchestra. I changed majors, to music, and transferred to a big city music school. I will probably never know if I made the right decision.
I got a math degree simultaneously with my bachelor's in violin performance; the double degree program at Oberlin was what drew me there in the first place. I liked math but I didn't love it. I loved playing the violin. The math degree was only ever there as a backup plan, and more importantly, because it pacified my parents.
“The principal violist of the San Francisco Symphony has a bachelor's degree in chemistry”
Yes, but the point is not about late starters. I was responding to Maria Lammi, who said: "How is it possible to not make a decision at 18?" The people I named did not make the decision at 18, which is what the original question was about.
I'm 21 years old and made the decision to career-switch into performance less than 2 years ago (the fall semester of my junior year). I got my bachelor's in biochemistry (graduated a month ago), and spent my first two college summers doing bioorganic chemistry research at the NIH. I enjoyed it, but realized during my second summer there that I really wanted to be making music. I had been diligently preparing for my orchestra's concertmaster auditions and preparing a fall junior recital that summer and practiced for around 2-3 hours a night. My sophomore spring had contained academic disappointments (I felt that I lacked the intuition necessary to thrive in biochemistry courses), and I began to ask myself, "Why am I working so hard at this (i.e. the violin) if it will become a secondary activity in my life 2 years from now? And why do I want to work so hard at this?"