Keeping Up Music-making After High School

January 11, 2020, 7:17 PM · Hey everyone,
To those who you who started violin as a child and continued to pursue it as an amateur after high school, how exactly have you made music an important part of your life? Did you join any community orchestras? Did you find friends to play chamber music with? Did you take lessons after high school? What sort of solo/chamber performances/gigs have you done, and in what sort of venue? Please share your stories.

Replies (24)

Edited: January 11, 2020, 8:40 PM · I played both piano and violin from a young age. I enjoyed piano more and found it more social and collaborative within the context of my skill levels. In college, I formed a jazz trio with a bassist (my own brother, a very solid player) and a trumpeter (who turned pro later and is now the leader of the US Army Jazz Ambassadors), and we played occasional gigs. And I played in the college jazz ensemble and carried a small scholarship for that. To make extra money, I served as a staff accompanist in the music department, where my assignments were mostly voice students (music-ed majors), work that paid twice the minimum wage and was very easy work since 18-year-old voice students are basically beginners, as their instrument does not mature much before then. I did not do much with music during graduate school (just a few gigs the whole time I was there), which I regret. After earning my PhD I moved to Evanston (Northwestern U) as a postdoc. There was a good music scene there and I was able to take lessons (from Jack Hubble) and rehearse with jazz singers and play some jazz-trio gigs. One of the singers told me right away that she just wanted me to rehearse her -- she had already a pianist for her performances who was too expensive to rehearse with. That was okay with me because I wanted to hone my jazz-singer accompanying skills (that's kind of a specialty, and I admire players like Paul Smith and Michael Kanan who are great at it). When I got my tenure-track job I again set music aside for quite a time -- also I regret doing that -- but about 10 years later we hired a new professor who is a good sax player and we formed a quintet, and we had a great monthly gig at a local restaurant for several years until the owner decided to jettison live music entirely. We made a CD back in 2012. But even with decline in the local live-music scene, I still have about as many jazz gigs as I can handle, because I pick up a fair number of private parties. Around 8 years ago I also returned to the violin (with lessons, which have now tapered off to once in three weeks) and I now play the viola in three local orchestras and I have performed a solo piece (Beethoven Op. 40) with one of the orchestras (the non-audition one), and I have done some chamber playing and made some forays into jazz violin as well, building up enough skill to have played about a dozen gigs so far.

The key, I've learned, is finding the right people.

Edited: January 11, 2020, 8:46 PM · If you pick the right college, it's actually pretty easy to keep up with your music in college -- you can take lessons, play in the campus orchestra, etc.

I made a mistake -- I was not aware of how lacking the music experience was at the Ivy League school I chose. I had to go off-campus to take lessons, which I gave up on doing after my freshman year. The orchestra had three rehearsals a week for 2.5 hours per rehearsal; the conductor wasn't great, and the music was fairly difficult, and it was time that I could not afford to burn, gave me no musical satisfaction, and I really did not enjoy despite how much I love orchestras, so I dropped out after a semester despite a promise to make me the concertmaster the next year.

That essentially is what led me to quit playing. I did pull the violin out on occasion to play pit for shows on campus, which basically let me play for roughly two weeks a semester without any other commitments. (And without needing to practice outside of the rehearsals.)

And then I put the violin away after college. When I started playing again in my late 20s, I had burned out on my career and was looking to get back some sense of my life. So I started taking private lessons again, went through a painful rebuild of my technical capabilities, joined a community orchestra, met some people through the orchestra with whom to play chamber music, and met more people through Maestronet to hang out and go to concerts with. And the contacts helped me get gigs, and I played quite a bit of pit orchestra, too.

I was living in Silicon Valley at the time, where community orchestras have generous budgets and tend to play in big halls -- often local performing arts centers, college auditoriums, or high school auditoriums. So, for instance, I won a competition and got to play a concerto with orchestra in a thousand-seat hall.

Then I moved cross-country and quit playing again when my efforts to find a private teacher foundered. My timing was bad for auditions, and back then there were many fewer orchestras with websites in the area where I live, and I did not have the network to know where I could go.

A decade went by, and one of my friends from another hobby persuaded me to consider joining the community orchestra where she was a violist. I wanted to play again, and so I did. I struggled looking for a teacher, though (eventually I called my teacher from high school, who tugged on his network of contacts to help, but in the end I chose someone recommended here on v.com). A strong set of chamber music networks exist here, which sponsors a lot of introduction of players to one another, which helped me get groups.

I auditioned for a performing society, which gives me opportunities to play recitals in nice venues to good-sized audiences. I participate in other chamber music series and in charity chamber music events, too.

I've played with a lot of the local community orchestras, played pit for a show, and gotten decent contacts for gigging but haven't really wanted to take most gigs. I've been the concertmaster of my orchestra for four years now, and also sit on the orchestra's board.

In this area, churches, community centers, and retirement-home halls/chapels dominate the performance venues. There are also historic museums, homes, and halls that were built a long time ago specifically for the purposes of hosting chamber music. I miss playing orchestral music in big halls, but I think the intimacy of the historic chamber music venues is very pleasant. (Thus locally there are lots of chamber music series that are sponsored by historic venues, and that get good audiences.)

I reckon that I'm doing about as much music as I'd like to (at least within the constraints of having a busy family life in addition to a demanding job, or I'd probably be out playing almost every night of the week) -- one night a week to orchestra, two nights a week to chamber music, which doesn't leave enough nights to practice, really. Indeed, since I have the freedom to do pretty much the music I want to do, when I want to do it, with the financial freedom to own nice equipment, afford good private teaching and coaching, and take advantage of opportunities like camps and workshops, I reckon that I'm better off than many professionals.

Edited: January 12, 2020, 6:18 AM · Ella, for me it was (1) having children who learned to play various instruments, which inspired me to pick up the violin again, initially to be able to play duets with them but eventually also just motivated to improve my own playing; (2) this site v.com which helped me tremendously, I am good at learning by myself, but at least you have to know what is there, for that v.com is invaluable; (3) joining a community orchestra. All the best to you.
Edited: January 12, 2020, 8:00 AM · By far the most satisfying thing you can do with your violin is to play chamber music with friends--or at any rate with people. There are resources that you may or may not have heard of:

ACMP (Amateur Chamber Music Players, acmp.net) which has various resources plus a member list with names from all over the world whom you can try to contact. You may find people through that. Costs you $35 a year.

There are local resources in many places, such as chamber music coaches who can help form a group (a bit of google searching might get you something where your are); specifically in the SF Bay Area there is CMNC (Chamber Musicians of Northern California, cmnc.org). They are organizing work shops in the area. They are usually during one weekend. You join (i.e. sign up a few weeks ahead) and will be assigned to a group which will be assigned piece or two. Then you will get coached at the work shop in your group. The price is approx. $250 for a weekend plus a yearly membership fee (exceptions for those who can't afford this). The coaching is excellent. They have been doing this for years and they have developed some interesting formats for coaching sessions. I have enjoyed the work shops I participated in.

January 12, 2020, 9:25 AM · I think what hopes for is chamber music with musically like-minded, similar-ability people who are friendly and good-natured. If they are friends, so much the better, but you will enjoy chamber music with well-matched folks more than friends who are less well-matched, in my opinion.

I have gotten to be friends with chamber music partners, but in many cases have been merely friendly. I always hoped to marry a pianist, but my husband tragically plays tuba instead. :-)

January 12, 2020, 11:57 AM · The short answer to your question is that I have considered myself a professional since age 19. I don't do unpaid gigs, not because of greed, but I discovered that as soon as I accepted a non-paid event someone would call me to do a paid gig at the same time slot.
At my college, I look for any opportunity to bring up this issue. There are a lot of high-school musicians with intermediate level technical skills that want to continue playing in college and after. They wisely choose another major, and when the time commitment of a full load of classes hits, they stop playing and practicing. Even the typical 1-unit college orchestra can turn out to be too time consuming. What is needed is a Music Minor in performance, that includes private lessons and ensembles, instead of the usual history and theory music minor. None of the public Universities in my state do this. A few private schools do that. Prof. Berg's school in Texas has a program like that. So, look for a college that might allow private studio lessons for non-music majors and open enrollment in the orchestra. Alternate tactic: Start as as music major, with lessons, ensemble, and required general ed. courses, then switch to another major later, 2nd or 3rd year.
January 12, 2020, 2:39 PM · Thank you all for the responses so far. They are very inspiring. It's a unique situation for everyone, but hey, at least I have some idea of what to do...
January 12, 2020, 4:36 PM · I kept up with lessons in college (in Philadelphia area, no less), and moved to Boston after that. No shortage of community/semi-pro orchestras there, and I found one of the better ones because of a colleague of my father who was a cellist. Stayed in that for longer than I like to think, and studied a few years with the guy who was persuaded to be the concertmaster in that time.

I had to give it up for a year or so when family health issues became pressing, but began going to chamber music workshops (the Manhattan String Quartet, before their latest personnel change), and then found another teacher through a contact at MIT. I checked into the old orchestra from time to time, but also found an excellent all-volunteer summer group, and made contacts with a few other orchestras out of that.

Now I am lurking around Oxford University, where there is no shortage of music. The main trick here is figuring out how to narrow it down to the highest-percentage payoffs. I have one orchestra I am closely attached to (the best of the university-sponsored groups, IMO), and am trying to get some chamber music going. There are always pop-up gigs that need volunteers, so I try to stay open to that, when I have time or need the relief in evenings.

Edited: January 13, 2020, 10:29 AM · Freshman year of college I took lessons with my private teacher whenever I went home for a visit, after being rejected from a neighboring college's orchestra program. I practiced as much as I could whenever time allowed (at first it was 2-3x/week, then only 1/x week! It was best that I did not get into the orchestra - I had so much schoolwork I barely slept my freshman year.) Sophomore year I was at a different college and I was in a chamber group there but had fallen so far behind re: skillset (which, upon reflection, was never great to begin with) that it was not enjoyable for me or my group. I continued to struggle in my attempts to keep up any kind of practice schedule, but I was floundering. Two years after college graduation, I put my violin away "for good"; it was a painful experience. It took another 13 years before I was in a place in my life where 1. I could afford private lessons on a semi-regular basis that I knew I needed because, let's face it, I needed to start all over again, and 2. I had/have a bit more time and schedule stability to regularly practice (albeit at reduced time than what I need to be a better player).

I've done a community orchestra performance in the 2nd violins, in a big hall (600 seats) which was an experience.

I wish I had a more cheerful and helpful response to this. For me at this point, I feel like it is a miracle that I returned to the instrument at all so I count my blessings that I can practice daily (barring factors out of my control), and take lessons 2x/month. My teacher has encouraged me to find another orchestra to join, so I'm looking into it...

January 13, 2020, 11:07 AM · I had joined my college orchestra as an undergrad freshman, non music major, found the evening rehearsals too draining, and didn't continue after the first semester. I'm not sure why anymore but also had one semester in the college choir. At the time, I preferred piano and took a few semesters of organ private lessons. (I tried to get into accompanying but actually had more of that while in high school.)

My non teaching, music activities that are not directly for making-a-living are: help out in a college orchestra, play in community orchestras, take a very occasional lesson in a secondary instrument, arrange music for and lead a church ensemble (not anymore; no one is left there who has an interest). I still arrange a lot of music but most likely wouldn't if it weren't for students. Finding a chamber music group never worked out (not that I tried very hard), and I've played exactly one solo/chamber gig for a fundraiser, one holiday tea event with a friend at her church (cello), and not a large number of weddings both business/paid and friend/favor. Now and then I accompany (piano) Suzuki group that's not mine, which is nice because I just follow the teacher and don't have to make any decisions. I can't imagine life without teaching now, but if I had managed to stay in my previous career or something, I might have kept the piano preference and might be on the Piano World forum instead.

Edited: January 13, 2020, 3:01 PM · I have played more or less continuously since high school, although there have been years with more or less activity. But I can think of several life choices/experiences that made this the case, as well as things I might have done differently.

Here are some recommendations:

1) get as good as you can before college. I found the structure of high school much more conducive to taking lessons. You can practice without having to reserve a time, schlepp through snow to a different building, or risk annoying your dorm. Your parents are ostensibly still paying for lessons (although this is common in college as well). And high school teachers often have structured studios with regular performing opportunities, etc.

My experience with college teaching was different: I was not on a professional track (obviously) and I wasn't being guided along a well-trod path of repertoire progression and technical studies. I didn't get to pick a teacher–I auditioned for the group of teachers and was assigned someone (who frankly had no real interest in teaching and was obviously cobbling together a profession from various gigs). We didn't click and I quit after a semester and since then haven't really had consistent coaching. So I never made the leap from advanced intermediate to real repertoire and while I've continued to develop through playing orchestral and chamber music, there are real gaps in my technique.

Also, this meant that even in college, given my skill level relative to classmates, I missed out on some of the best opportunities (including Princeton's excellent chamber music program) because, well, there was an oversupply of good violinists. (I did play viola one semester in a piano quartet, which was fun.) Of course, someone with more motivation/chutzpah might have elbowed their way into a better teaching studio or chamber group. But I had by college lost my sense of direction with violin. I knew I would never be a professional and I wasn't really sure what I was supposed to be doing with it. No one was going to force me to practice or work and all the guidelines and pressures of home were...gone...and replaced with new pressures (in the form of college-level coursework, social life, etc.)

Your mileage may vary. But regardless, stay the course in high school as long as you can.

I kept playing anyway because the Princeton orchestral program was a) solid, b) embracing of non-professional-track students, and c) accepted me. Had I gone to Yale (which I almost did!), I'm pretty sure this wouldn't have been the case, given the elite caliber of their music program.

So this brings me to my second point:

2) If your goal is to keep playing in college but not pursue music as a profession, choose your college wisely. Many schools have orchestras. Many schools offer private lessons. Many schools have chamber programs. But all are not created equal. Dig deeper! Here are some things to look for:
a) Has the conductor been with the orchestra for a long time? And if not, has there been frequent turnover? This could be a sign that the program is struggling.
b) Do students typically play in orchestra throughout their four years of undergrad? At Princeton this was definitely the case. At Stanford, where I've played off and on, I never saw quite the same culture of continuity (even though the caliber of student musicians is high).
c) How good do you have to be to get in? Is the orchestra comprised mostly of performance majors? And on the flip side, do the good students play in the orchestra?

Re: teaching, is there a quartet in residence, and do they teach individual students in addition to coaching chamber music? (at Stanford and Duke this is a big benefit) Are lessons subsidized? Is there a variety of teachers, and could you change studios if the first pairing doesn't work out? Will you be able to access practice rooms as a non-major?

Re: chamber music, is there a strong chamber music program with performance opportunities and coaching? is there a quartet or other chamber ensemble in residence? Is the program accessible to you at your level, or are they mostly working with pre-formed groups or (again) performance majors?

3) Get as good as you can–or at least keep playing–during college (an echo of my first point).

College is such a great chance to define who you are, away from your parents and family. I think for many kids who dutifully embraced classical music throughout their childhoods, it's also a first opportunity to do something different. This is fine. Just know that it's never going to be as easy to learn as it is now, and that it will never be as easy to learn after college as it is during college. As Lydia can attest, even a virtuosic player will struggle to get their fingers moving again after years of not playing. So take advantage of college to keep playing in some capacity, even if you're no longer in private lessons or moving along the repertoire continuum. Most colleges offer a variety of musical outlets (I haven't even touched on musical theater or other non-classical formats of violin-ing–but those can be a great and relaxing alternative to more meticulous pursuits).

My brother-in-law is a case in point. He, unlike me, kept taking private lessons throughout college and grad school and managed to go from advanced intermediate to a capable Tchaikovsky and Chaconne, all while still pursuing studies seriously enough to land a tenure-track faculty job. But then, away from the structure of orchestra/chamber music class/friends who play all the time, and subject to the pressures of junior faculty life, he stopped, and now only plays a few times a year. I think in some ways it's hard to be THAT good and maintain your chops. His standards for playing are really high, so it's less rewarding to just join the local adult community orchestra (I think this is honestly also a mindset issue–one can surely derive joy from making music with people even if they aren't as capable, right?) but regardless, there just aren't any forcing mechanisms that induce him to play. I think perhaps if he'd married someone who also played music, it might be different. And this is my 4th point:

4) It helps to have a partner who also plays. My last serious relationship before my husband was with a non-musician, and I was crazy about him. The fact that it didn't work out, and that I sought out orchestra for solace, and eventually (in orchestra) met my husband, a cellist, is probably why I still play as an adult.

But that last point, and many of the ones before it, will be more worth contemplating when you're older. For now, max out on high school opportunities. I really do believe that for 99% of us, maintaining music as a fruitful hobby and doing something else for money is an optimal choice.

Edited: January 14, 2020, 7:57 AM · I think Katie B.'s recommendation about getting as good as you can before graduating high school is an excellent one. Unless you major in music, or don't have to hold a job as an adult, you're never going to have as much high quality time available to practice.

I wish the OP had said whether she wants to know about continuing violin while in college, or while working, because I think those are very different circumstances.

In college, I played in the university orchestra. My university had no performance majors, although composition and ethnomusicology were very strong programs. Rehearsals were a reasonable one time per week. There were chamber music opportunities, but I couldn't manage extra rehearsal and practice. The repertoire was pretty typical orchestral repertoire and we had a concert quarterly. I took occasional lessons during college, but really had no time to prepare for them. I think my skills as a violinist peaked at age 16-17 before college, and then took a downward turn.

Until recently, I'd been pretty single-mindedly focused on my career, which required some back-and-forth travel to South Asia, and I hadn't touched the violin in more than 25 years. I don't "regret" not playing violin those years because I didn't have the mental bandwidth for any hobby more difficult than knitting!

The first year of restarting was pretty excruciating. I don't think I'm back to my high school level (certainly not at my former levels of endurance, facility, or sight-reading), but I feel more ready to participate. We'll see how that goes!

Edited: January 23, 2020, 8:38 AM · Yes, I definitely peaked in senior year of high school! :-) I am probably at 30% of that level now, sadly. Feeling dusty and rusty.

Both my kids take music lessons (viola, flute) and I joked that one of them must marry a cellist so we could complete our "family group" ...

I had stopped playing regularly after college, although in those years I did always diddle a bit, played for a couple of years in our community orchestra, and I also studied the classical guitar. As much as I love its beautiful sound, playing alone all the time bothered me a bit.

What triggered me to join a chamber group recently was playing a piece for trio (viola, flute, violin) with my daughters during the holiday break. We then played it for my daughter's teacher and got a short coaching. I enjoyed it so much, and forgot how great it was to make music with other people!! So I sought out a chamber group and we will begin meeting next week. So far we only have 3, but I hope it will grow to 6 or 7!

Besides playing classical violin, I also play a bit of celtic fiddle and I play folk / classical guitar, I like to sing, and I mix beats/tracks on Bandlab! Music has been a constant activity in my life since I was little ... I would describe it more like a Need. The "form" it has taken has changed through the years, but it will always be there.

And one last "note" - making music with my teenage kids - I felt "in harmony" with them in a way that I rarely am in Real Life. It was therapeutic.

To the OP:
Relish your musical time now and practice, get good! Once you're working a fulltime job and raising kids, there isn't a lot of time and energy left over. But where there is a will, there is always a way...I do believe that if I had been determined enough, i could have played continuously until now.

January 23, 2020, 12:49 PM · Thank you all. I will really try to make music a key part of my life in adulthood. At this point in time I don't really want to have kids so that will give me that extra time...
January 23, 2020, 1:04 PM · Having been firmly against having children earlier on, and being persuaded rather late in life to have one, I wouldn't necessarily make the assumption that you won't change your mind. I am now in my forties and wearily juggling a preschooler at a time when everyone else my age is empty nesting and has plenty of time to play chamber music. ;-)

To Katie's comment about her brother-in-law: I notice that many musicians that switch careers simply stop playing; they do not become amateurs. I think the transition from very high-level music to more amateur playing is indeed very difficult and requires a shift in mindset that not everyone can be satisfied making. It's not just a question of personal skill but also what you're surrounded by in your own musical environment. I've had to learn to be satisfied by a "good enough" is not necessarily at a level that I feel is really all that good, but is a level that an audience can enjoy. I am lucky to be more process-driven in my satisfaction than driven by absolute outcomes, though.

I've had some more recent events in my life that have left me grateful to be able to play at all, which was a brutal but vital reminder that to be able to play the violin at all is a demanding skill and that even small things can really alter what you can do.

If you get to a level where you can play in a freeway philharmonic, you have much more of an opportunity to maintain some professional-level music as a semipro player, which may ultimately be more satisfying.

January 23, 2020, 1:22 PM · Lydia writes: " I notice that many musicians that switch careers simply stop playing; they do not become amateurs."

This pretty much describes me. I was a free lance musician on another instrument in my early 20s. Eventually, finances dictated I get a real job. Then school and career and family intervened, and once I had time to return to music I quickly became frustrated - I used to be good, I wasn't good anymore, and I'd never be as good as I used to be.

So instead, I switched instruments (to violin). I had enough background in music to advance quickly, but I couldn't possibly compete with my younger self. I don't want or need to achieve a professional level - just playing in a community orchestra and playing some chamber music would be fine.

What's odd is that we encourage children to try as many activities as possible to find something they enjoy doing. Then once we hit adulthood, we stop doing this. Why? Aren't adults allowed to do things for fun, too?

January 23, 2020, 2:32 PM · Yes, adults are allowed (and encouraged!) to do things for fun and exploration.

But adults have several strikes against them when they either resume an instrument they used to play or start a new instrument.

If they used to play, they remember how good they were when they quit and are upset that they don't just start in again almost as good. They forget all the baby steps they took along the way when they began in 3rd or 4th or 5th grade, nor how gradually the process was to get to where they were when they stopped. I remind my adult returning students that they have to think back to their beginning, not their ending, and they need to take time to retrace those steps.

All adults, whether beginners or returners, know what the professionals on their instrument sound like, their idols they listen to all the time and hope one day to play like. And they know how far their own abilities are from the professionals. I remind them that if they were in 4th grade they would simply have been happy learning a new song and wouldn't be comparing themselves to a 50-year old person who's been playing professionally for at least 30 years. Just turning the page to some new material used to be sufficient, and they need to get back to that level of innocence if they want to succeed.

Be glad for the sounds you *can* make and don't be upset about what you *can't* do yet!

January 23, 2020, 2:58 PM · Maybe it's an artifact of living in the suburbs instead of the city, but all adult leisure is of secondary importance to kids' activities. The best times at the pool are taken up by kids' swim teams, most teachers who could teach advanced students don't want adults as students (or will only teach them during times the kids are unavailable) etc. The messages in my environment suggest it's a guilty indulgence to want to do these things.
January 23, 2020, 4:05 PM · Ella, et al.,

I'm one of those late-starters for reasons I've explained many times.

Personally, I found community orchestra to be the outlet I needed and provided growth. If you are going to college and have a major that will allow some extra-curricular activities (something other than Pre-Med, Pre-Law or Engineering) you might find a good outlet in the college or the college town.

If you are going into a career that doesn't require college you can find a community orchestra in just about every town or county in America.

I can speak to the child-free decision. First of all you are not alone, and even though you will get pressure from family and friends there is no reason you cannot have a full and fulfilling life without being a parent. There are too many children in this world with pressured parents who aren't happy at being parents.

FWIW: I made my decision at the age of 14, met the "right" woman in my late 20's and we are child-free and in our 70's and happy. Also I teach and work with young musicians but they all go home, none of them live in our house and that makes it ok.

January 23, 2020, 5:21 PM · I think that there's a distinct separation between adult leisure and children's resume-building extracurriculars. Which is weird because the whole reason that colleges seek students with with great extracurricular activities is to enrich the life of the campus, so they hope that the students will continue to do those things even once they've served their college-admissions purposes. (Though in the case of violinists and pianists, at least, many of them stop playing the instant they get that acceptance letter.)

So you get kids who were sports stars and artists and actors and musicians and whatever who never do that thing again in adulthood once the college support for it goes away, which is a little sad.

Things that are more easily done as an individual or which are supported by a common group allegiance (like corporate-sponsored baseball teams, or church choirs) tend to be more likely to be carried forward into adulthood. With the increasing adult disconnection from communities, adults are less likely to find the leisure outlets for their hobbies unless they are the Common Popular Ones (like golf, say). Young adults are far more likely to find people via something like Meetup, and venues are more accommodating when adults can group themselves for activities (making efficient profitable use of a space).

Edited: January 23, 2020, 6:00 PM · The moment I started college, my parents started overtly pressuring me to quit all my extracurriculars -- it got to the point where I actually pretended I'd quit both music and soccer just to get them to stop calling me. They literally saw both piano lessons and soccer as being purely for college applications. They found out only when I graduated from college that I'd been on the soccer team for three years (missing one due to injury) and participated in almost every musical activity on campus (orchestra, concert band, glee club, chamber music program).

In fact, I was a much more active musician in college than in high school, mostly because I started on strings only in my last year of high school and was self-taught. My college orchestra was my first orchestra experience. It helped immensely that I could actually get in; I went to a school with no music majors at all, so none of the musical ensembles were selective. For me, playing in community orchestras after I graduated was a natural extension; I never really viewed orchestras as a school extracurricular because I didn't get into one until college.

Edited: January 23, 2020, 7:50 PM · It's easier to keep up with music as an adult if you live in or near a larger city, preferably one with lots of people in STEM. Your chances of finding other musicians/ensembles, as well as teachers open to teaching adults, go up when there are more people.

I also agree that former professional or very advanced musicians often stop playing. It's not always due to frustration with their own playing (although that is a reason for many). I know of those who tried to keep playing, and they did that when they found other musicians with similar skills and goals. But then they quit when they couldn't find that; their group disbanded, or they moved to a smaller city.

January 23, 2020, 8:03 PM · Frieda's comment speaks strongly to one of the reasons I stopped playing. I went from being very active musically to moving cross-country. To another major city, but one where all of the community music was word-of-mouth. The orchestras, for instance, did not have a web presence. Finding them was nigh-impossible. I'd found one orchestra in the process of transitioning from being community to professional. So they went to a single audition date and I hadn't yet moved by the time of the audition, and missed it. I called a zillion teachers and the extent to which I found anyone willing to teach an advanced adult was limited to someone recommending a newly-graduated student of theirs who had no previous teaching experience. I just couldn't get hooked into the community and I had no motivation to practice and in short order had stopped playing entirely.

When I came back, it was via a non-music friend who hooked me up with her community orchestra, and via my former teacher from high school who kindly reached out to his network for me (and thanks to v.com), and a Meetup group for chamber music. I got hooked back into the freelancer community through subbing last-minute for a semipro orchestra.

Edited: January 23, 2020, 8:26 PM · I've had similar challenges even having only lived in cities with active community music scenes.

One of the reasons I've still only ever had a single-digit number of lessons is the difficulty of finding someone who 1) teaches advanced students, 2) teaches adults, and 3) has evening or weekend openings. I've found many teachers who fit two of those three criteria, but none who fit all three. I took a handful of lessons in 2016, with a teacher who accepted advanced adult students, but was never able to find a regular lesson time because all her evening and weekend time slots were occupied by children -- it typically took multiple emails over up to two weeks just to arrange a single lesson, because I had to wait for either times I was available during the day, or other people canceling evening lessons.

Also, chamber music in my area is entirely arranged by word of mouth. There's a fairly large coached amateur chamber music program, but it has literally no web presence and I only found out about it last year after being invited by an orchestra friend.

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