I've been thinking a lot recently about my musical regrets. Mine are that I wish I had attended a conservatoire junior department (pre-college) or gone to a specialist music school. Practised scales and technical things earlier on that I have.
What are yours?
I wish I would have recognized at a young age that my violin teacher was pretty much just mailing it in. But how could I? My parents and I -- we were all just clueless.
My regret is going into music. My college teachers mislead me into thinking I could be a great violinist, but it was lies to fill their studios. If I could go back I’d go into medicine where I know I’d get a well-paying job.
Marty, I know one violinist who transitioned from orchestra teacher to medical doctor beginning in her early 30s, a couple of violinists who became registered nurses, another violinist who is becoming a radiology technician (these were all excellent musicians btw), and someone who moved from a business career to being a medical doctor beginning in her mid-30s with the science pre-reqs and then started medical school at 40. It's never too late.
It's fairly common to switch careers these days.
My musical regret was not realizing earlier in my life that there were teachers who accepted late starters. I gave up looking for a teacher after being rejected several times as a teenager because I was supposedly too old to start, not realizing that my parents had only been asking teachers who consistently had students winning competitions and getting into conservatories. I then self-taught until age 33, thinking that I didn't have any other option. Given how far I got by self-teaching in spite of having some bad habits that needed correcting, I can only wonder where I'd be if I'd looked elsewhere for a teacher and taken lessons from the beginning.
No Regrets. I was almost good enough. I have always thought that I could play 2nd violin or viola in a fully professional orchestra, but not good enough to win the audition on those really hard first violin parts. My first private teacher, during Jr. Sr. High School, over-estimated my potential. I did eventually find my niche in a non-classical genre that paid better than what my classical colleagues were getting. Then I started a non-music job skill at age 28. It paid the rent, medical insurance, retirement account, little things like that. Many years later I felt much better when I read that Half of the Julliard graduates eventually leave the music business.
Often, having regrets is futile. Only when circumstances actively prevented you from achieving your goals, you may regret that, but even then that does not help much. But regrets of the form "I wish I had done X, I had the opportunity, but still I didn't do it" simply means that it was not in you at the time. Accept it.
No need to be rude thanks
I have a couple ones that really hit me in the gut, but none that I'm willing to share here. One that I am willing to share is that I wish I had established a better technical and practice foundation early on. I was simply not given the tools or guidance for it, so I didn't know better (and neither did my parents, nor were they able with their work schedules if they did). It's okay, I'm making up for that lost time now.
Jean might have been slightly terse but I didn't find his/her comments rude. I was kind of thinking the same thing and it was hard to come up with something that I regretted about my musical life. Maybe it's a personality thing, and I do have personal regrets, but not all that many, because, as Jean says, I just don't find it helpful or productive. The few things I've actually regretted about my past are things I've tried to learn from and overcome, generally successfully. So one advantage of not having myriad micro-regrets is that I can focus on the big ones and thereby avoid repeating them. Regret by itself is not a particularly adaptive response.
Jean's response was neither terse nor rude. It was good advice from a mature person.
+1 to Scott.
My musical wish, not regret, is that I realized earlier in my life that I should learn to play the violin rather than the guitar. My mom even suggested that I learn the violin, but I couldn't care less for it at the time.
I owe my ability to play the violin (such as it is) to my second teacher. I wished I had a better first teacher.
I, like probably many others, regret that I was not born as talented as Oistrakh. I do regret that I was only able to study for one year with Rene Benedetti, instead of three, which would have probably made me a quite good amateur. But, I have had fun as the amateur I am and have no real regrets.
As a young child, I told myself I hated music because I thought playing and instrument was just what my dad does on the piano. I had a good ear for it and actually loved to listen to music, but I suppressed it. I was terribly shy, too, which didn't help at all. I imagine that, if I'd let myself try music sooner, I would be much more advanced today.
I took lessons at 9 years old so I could get out of class twice a week. Subsequently, I was awful and within a year I quit. I didn't touch a violin for the next 58 years, and now I love playing. Yes, in recitals I'm the tallest by a foot or two, and the oldest by several decades, but so what? I'm having a great time. If I'd stuck with it, I probably would have ended up in the junior high and high school orchestras. Perhaps I would have played in college, and who knows what after that? But why go there? It's a waste of time. I look at it this way - if I hadn't quit I may never have experienced learning the guitar, mandolin, and lute. I spent years acting and directing plays and I loved that. I wrote a couple of books. I spent 37 years teaching English and theater and loved it. I've been a photographer for over 40 years. Would I have met my wife if I continued playing at 9 years old? Would I have lived in Michigan, Vermont, Minnesota, and Oregon if I continued? Who knows? Forget regrets! Waste of time. Celebrate what you have.
A friend in high school once tried to get me to try the cello. I played bass and it was completely foreign to me, so I did not, even though it was sitting there for free. I regret disappointing her AND having not taken the opportunity on an instrument that I picked up many years and many dollars later.
Agree entirely with Jean.
“What might have been is an abstraction
One regret that I do not have is NOT becoming a professional performing musician. I was a music recording engineer and worked with professional musicians at the highest levels in classical, jazz, rock, house, gospel, and others. At DePaul, I was always around professionals and performance majors.
I regret having stopped playing not once but TWICE. I also wish that I had been taught to really practice analytically at a much younger age.
Charles - thanks for that. Perfect.
The grass on the other side. . .
I do have musical regrets, but thinking about those regrets can be informative and productive.
Frieda, I agree with the rhythm thing. I am paying for it now
"Celebrate what you have."
Mr. Wizard to Tooter Turtle after every misadventure, (read with 1960’s cartoon Einstein accent) “Always remember Tooter, be what you is and not what you is not, because people that is is the happiest lot.” [I hope that was close, memory does not always serve.]
it Is proof of their resilience that regrets occur and have power over us despite their futility and seeming irrationality.
I regret that I didn't know that one can drop violin for many years, at a have-fun-playing-chamber-music level, and pick it up again and still, after some months of work, play at a have-fun-playing-chamber-music level again. I stopped from age 18 until age 58. I would have picked it up far earlier if I had known how much is preserved. I thought it would be like starting over. I only restarted out of neceesity of a sort, a somewhat desprate attempt to keep my recently widowed grieving father occupied playing duets. Sometimes writing or telling others ones regrets may, hopefully, be helpful to others who may chose to take ones own road not taken.
Sometimes I think about what would have happened had I gotten to study with my current teacher starting as a child, which was an option that could have happened, and then I think about how immature I was and how I'm not sure if I would have been ready to do the work with any teacher. It's best to just do what you can with the situation in front of you. I don't know about your particular situation, but a specialist music school is probably still available to you in the future as long as you practice and bring money.
I long ago adopted a philosophy of "no regrets". I refuse to play the game of "ifida": ifida done this, ifida not done that... My life could possibly have been better, but it could also have been a whole lot worse. I've decided to be happy where I am, and to be careful to stay in a happy place. I often say that I've spent my entire life avoiding success - and my tongue is only partly in my cheek when I say it.
easy to dismiss regrets unless tied to shame, that’s a whole new round of therapy
Well said Edward. But even when I've blown it and embarrassed myself and perhaps my teacher, I still don't have regrets in the long term.
I do regret changing my second (or third) instrument from piano to organ at age 11, against the advice of the school's head of music (E T Chapman). My co-ordination is not good enough to really play the organ (D minor Tocatta doesn't require much co-ordination, but you start paying when it gets to the fugue, and as for the St Anne's, I never managed the last two pages. My favourite two Brahms Chorale Preludes remain out of my grasp). It would have been far preferable to become a better pianist (though nowhere near the standard of two or three of the other pianists in the school) and possibly take up the organ at 15 or 16. Also I came to appreciate the expressive capabilities of the piano compared with the organ far too late.
I wish I had discovered a love for playing the violin (as opposed to love of music itself) earlier in life. I have learned the hard way that nothing can replace the hours of work you need to build a technical foundation.
@Gemma I feel you so hard on that to ge honest