Top, middle or bottom of the skill spectrum?
I am 17 years old and will be starting the next chapter of my life as a violin performance major in the Fall. I am trying to figure out which university offer to accept. Luckily I've had trial lesson with all my perspective violin professors and have done lot's of research about what the various programs offer, but in all likelihood money will be the biggest factor.
One question I asked each violin professor during my trail lessons was were I would fit in among the overall skill level compared to the other violinists the program. At some schools I was told I'd be among the top, others in the middle, and while others at the bottom.
My grandfather, who is an amazing mariachi musician, has always told me to try seek opportunities to play with musicians who are better than myself. I've done so many times and it defiantly pushes me to give my best.
However trying to complete a college degree, I could see being at the bottom end of the spectrum could be extra stressful. I don't think of myself as particularly jealous, but I can get anxious and stressed out.
I'm inclined to think the middle may be the best place to be ( at least for me, in a college setting) but I'm trying to embrace the idea of just being at peace with myself, striving to get better at my craft regardless of the skills/talent of those around me.
I think it depends on what you're looking for in opportunities, and the overall quality of playing and teaching at the school. You want a school where there are better players than you, but not necessarily LOTS of players better than you -- if you're hoping to, say, win the concerto competition, or sit section principal, or the like.
Good points Ms. Leong, those are all things I'll consider. Thank you!
Schools that offer you a lot of money may be schools who do not get enough musicians of your skill level, hence the extra enticement. But you probably wouldn’t want to be at the top of the heap from the outset - after all, you’re going to conservatory to learn and grow - unless it were the only option that is financially feasible.
Like Lydia says - the worse you are, the better the school, and the better the teachers are likely to be. Your self-esteem may take a hit, but if you have the strength of character to work like hell and not be put off, then it will be a good experience. I don't know how much fees will vary though. And how being in the middle may affect your anxiety is difficult for me to guess. I would assume if you are prone to anxiety, then being in the middle may not help much (you may fear sliding downwards - this will motivate some people and demotivate others). These are all things for you to decide.
Odds are that if you're at the bottom of a reasonably-sized program, you won't be playing in the top ensembles with the best players to begin with anyway, if that's your primary consideration. I'd look at quality of instruction (including second and third choice teachers because once again, the top instructor will tend to grab the most advanced students), quality and reputation of the rest of the school, and external playing opportunities (easier to find gigs in the large coastal cities than in a small liberal arts school in the country).
I think Lydia has nailed the trade-offs. You want to find a place that will take you seriously and not just take your check to fill out the class.
Marie;-- One strategy is to go with the best private teacher for you personally.
I think this is an interesting question which could be applied to many other fields in life. My opinion is that being the best will leave you bored and uninspired, while being at the bottom can be stressful and mentally tiring. Of course we would all like to think that we can all be egoless and can handle being at the bottom but I think very few, if not none of us could realistically handle that.
If you are at the top, the people around you will lower your standards, I was once told by a violist friend who had no ego.
I was pretty close to the bottom when I started at Oberlin and it was the best possible situation I could have found myself in. Great teacher, a more realistic appraisal of my level as a pre-professional than my youth orchestra had provided, and loads of incentive to work very hard. The important thing is not where I stood as a first year student; it is where I stood when I graduated.
Gordon, that's usually true in most workplaces too. The nail that's sticking up...
But it means that if you are in the middle, which may be the best place to be, you should avoid those worse than you.
Joel wrote, "One strategy is to go with the best private teacher for you personally." Having a teacher or mentor who genuinely cares about YOU and thinks that YOU are worth the investment of
Well, the honest answer is that some of the better students will enjoy playing with students who aren't as good as they are. And that there will be some activities where the students are not strictly aligned around who is "better". Not to mention that "better" in music is subjective, anyway. You may find students that are technically inferior to you that are better chamber-music partners, more musically creative, more expressive, more analytical / good with theory, etc.
To a large degree, I would think that many of the associations will be involuntary. That is, you audition for orchestras, and get placed.
I imagine that the savviest students don't place too much stock in their temporary place in some artificial hierarchy, learn from as many of their fellow students as they can learn from, take as many diverse opportunities to play as they can balance with their other responsibilities, find a teacher that they really believe in, and work closely with the teacher to personalize their own learning.
Thank you so much for this discussion. I don't really have much to add, but it has given me a lot to think about as my son is just beginning to navigate the college application process (he's a sophomore).
wow, such amazing thoughts and advice from everyone! I wish I had time to address everyone comments, but I truly appreciate everyone's thoughts on this.
Congratulations on your audition success. The prof that kindly took extra time to talk to you would probably be happy to answer your questions in email, and would probably be pleased if you contacted them!
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