Yet Another Am I Too Old For School Post

Edited: May 17, 2021, 7:04 AM · Hello guys,

I am in my late 20s, thinking of going to music school. I have worked as a software programmer since I received my master's, but I really don't like the tech industry and am deliberately considering going back to school for my passion. I can say my life in engineering and tech has been horrible. I literally made no friends since I went to college, and I couldn't even hold a conversation with most of my colleagues for longer than 10 minutes.

Here's a brief profile about myself. I've been studying violin since I was 6 and I've been actively taking private lessons for the whole time (except for the 2 years in my junior-senior year of college). I practice for at least 2-3 hours every day.

A brief repertoire list I have on hand (only listing the recent ones):
Concerti: Tchaikovsky, Sibelius, Brahms, Shostakovich, Wieniawski 1, Prokofiev 1, Korngold
Sonatas: Bach Sonata 2, Partita 2, Ysaye Sonata 2, 3, 6
Paganini: 1, 5, 6, 9, 13, 16, 24

My teachers said they wouldn't be worried if I were to audition for a bachelor's program with any of the combinations above, but I've been hearing mixed feedback (I have 2 teachers). One encouraged me to do so if I truly love it, but another told me she would be worried about my living after graduation - she'd rather encourage me to go into a Ph.D. program that combines data science with music (e.g. music psychology or music therapy) instead of doing a performance major. As far as I know... such programs are still rare and are not fond of people from the computer science major.

My goal is to become a teacher that can teach intermediate-advance students instead of only beginners. I'll do piano accompaniment as a part-time job if possible (I have dipABRSM in piano). My assumption is that it's probably not as in demand as in some Asian countries though.

I hope to get some advice from fellow musicians, whether you're a professional or are just playing violin as a hobby.

I'm mostly aiming for European schools because many are tuition-free, and the study periods are usually shorter (3 vs. 4 years for BA and 1 vs. 2 for MA). So I would highly appreciate it if anyone can share their audition experience with EU conservatories.

Replies (37)

May 17, 2021, 7:35 AM · You may want to get some experience teaching, even if it's working with one of your current teachers, before making the commitment to teach. Violin may be your passion, but teaching is completely different.
Edited: May 17, 2021, 8:02 AM · If your goal is to become a violin teacher -- hanging out a shingle, so to speak -- then you should definitely go for it. With hard work and some hustle and a little luck, you can establish a lower-middle-class lifestyle as a Suzuki/intermediate/advanced violin teacher.

If your goal is to become a section violinist in a salaried orchestra, well, you're not a teenager any more, and you know that's a risky proposition.

If your goal is to teach in a university then you might need a doctorate and even then those jobs are VERY scarce. Most of the smaller schools just hire adjuncts to teach violin.

If your goal is to make money on the side by performing as a piano accompanist, I know someone who does this. She is a fine pianist and I take my daughter (a teenage cellist) to rehearse with her every other week. She charges $45 for the hour (I pay her $50). Most of my friends who have kids taking violin lessons would not do this, partly because of the extra expense, but mostly because it's another thing they have to drive to (the pianist's home is an hour's drive). To me it is worthwhile because this pianist is also a fine cellist so she knows the whole repertoire. This pianist has a day job managing a store, so most of her accompanying work is through a local university.

Note that if you want to make money accompanying students at a university, there are two models. One is to hang adverts in the hallways with your phone number, and students will call you, and your business will grow by reputation for quality and for being easy to work with. The music department might also maintain a list of "approved" external accompanists. The other canonical model is where the university actually *prohibits* students from bringing in their own hired accompanist into their lessons and in-house performances, but rather the university hires the accompanist and then meters out their effort to students (how they recover that cost is not entirely irrelevant because it affects the sustainability of the model and the hours that the accompanist will get). When I was in college, I was hired by the music department as a piano accompanist under this latter model -- at $6.00 an hour, which was twice the minimum wage in 1983 -- and the university where I teach now just switched to this internal-accompanists-only model also. (I know because my daughter's accompanist was asked to join the list.) The "student pays" model is probably better for the pianists. The "college pays" model is more equitable.

One thing you probably won't get away with is charging extra from your own violin students to accompany their performances. First of all it represents a conflict of interest, and when parents learn that you are skilled pianist, they will wonder why you can't just "fill in" that role for free. My violin teacher (who was also my older daughter's violin teacher) is actually quite a skilled pianist but he will NEVER perform as a student's accompanist. Instead the student is required to hire one of the music school's piano teachers as an accompanist (the fee is absurdly small). I get a call when a student needs someone on very short (e.g., two days') notice, or when none of the staff piano teachers is available. I get $10 for Suzuki Book 3 or lower, $20 for Suzuki Book 4 and up. This fee includes showing up at the performance AND one lesson to run through the piece with the teacher. That's what I mean by an "absurdly small" fee, but for other things like audition tapes and full solo recitals, the fees are obviously higher. I do it because (a) I enjoy it, and (b) I'm not undercutting anyone who depends on that work for his or her income.

In either case, your best bet for getting accompanying work is to set up your violin teaching business in a town with a state-run college or university. Such places have the right demographic for building your violin-teaching business AND there will likely be work through the university for your accompanying. Juggling all that with family -- should that be in your future -- will be very hard, but you already knew that. By that time, however, you'll surely have a rich spouse.

May 17, 2021, 8:09 AM · I just want to warn you that you will have to check about shorter study periods. I'm currently finishing my bachelor in Germany and while the education here is free, the bachelor for both the artists and the pedagogues takes four years at my conservatory, afaik, and I would be very surprised if it were different at other regular conservatories. Now, the usual uni studies are indeed shorter (meaning that my old classmates mostly finished before me), but that's just something to keep in mind. And while studying is a lot cheaper than in the US, Germany is one of the very few countries where it is mostly free.
In short, all I'm saying is: check your information for the specific country you'd be going to to make sure you don't miscalculate on either time or money. Best of luck!
May 17, 2021, 8:54 AM · Rebecca, I will consult my teachers further on this. I'm a really fast learner, so there are indeed many occasions I could not see what the students' problems are. Like, I learned 5 scales in my first piano lesson right after my teacher just demonstrated the C-major one. When I was trying to teach my brother, he just couldn't understand the ``math pattern' I was trying to teach him.

Paul, thanks for the details about the accompaniment job. In my late 20s, I don't think getting a place in an orchestra is my top priority. Totally got what you're saying about the free labor; been there and my mother was one of those parents asking violin teachers to accompany for free.

Benjamin, thanks for the info. Aside from the lower cost and the shorter span factors, Europe just has something special to me. I just really want to study over there, even without additional benefits.

May 17, 2021, 9:47 AM · I’m not sure where you are but in the US, you don’t need a degree to hang out a shingle and start teaching, not even for more advanced students. Plenty of people with fewer qualifications than you already have are doing just that. Whether they should be is another question, and I think many of them are doing their students a disservice, but nobody is stopping them.
May 17, 2021, 10:11 AM · Mary, I think I know some people claiming they are celeb teachers on YouTube/Instagram, and they charge prices most people wouldn't even imagine... It's even worse when it comes to the piano - so long as someone can play the notes right most people wouldn't be able to tell whether s/he is playing well or not. Especially with the whole pandemic situation, many lessons are now taking place remotely.

The main motivation that made me want to go to a music school is that I do enjoy practicing 8 hours a day (lol), and I really want to spend time polishing major works from a higher point of view instead of just following what's written in the sheet music. Resources such as masterclasses and performance opportunities were out of my reach, even though my undergrad & grad universities both have fairly good music programs.

May 17, 2021, 10:27 AM · Also something I would like to add on. My teacher does offer me straight admission to do a master's in music education program if I'd like to, even without a bachelor's degree in music. However, he's currently only teaching at a small private college even though he's a famous soloist. So I doubt his school has those resources I mentioned.

Is this "offer" even worth considering?

May 17, 2021, 10:37 AM · You certainly have the advantage that most people here don't, which is that you have a fallback career completely at the ready.

I can't comment on the particulars of your strategy, but overall, it sounds like you should go for what you want, and it sounds like you have a pretty good idea of what that is.

I don't know about the social side of this, given what you have written - It sounds like you need quite a bit of training in pedagogy. Is working with students, adapting your teaching to their needs and psychology, and all the very relational work that is inherent in teaching, something you like, want to do, and are prepared for? I'm asking because you mentioned not making friends in school, so is such a social and relational job really something that will make you happy?

I also wouldn't want to make friends with engineers if I didn't have to ;-)

May 17, 2021, 11:56 AM · Christian, I think I do enjoy teaching, but I gotta admit that I am actually not a very good teacher. I think it's definitely something I will need to work on, even if I take the science Ph.D. route and enter academia instead of teaching music.

I've done several teaching assistant jobs before, and the general feedback I got from students was that I went over the content too fast and omitted too many intermediate steps so they couldn't understand my solutions.

I'd say the social difficulties I have are really because I really share no common hobbies or topics with my colleagues.

May 17, 2021, 2:39 PM · On the assumption that your repertoire reflects your playing level, I suggest that you not do a bachelor's, which would force you to repeat a lot of your undergrad core curriculum, which would be a waste of time. Instead, directly apply for an MM program. You should be able to do an MM performance if you want. If you're interested in teaching, look for an MM program with a strong pedagogy component, or an MM Pedagogy, rather than an MME. (The MME, afaik, is specifically for those interested in a school teaching career, whereas pedagogy programs are aimed at those who want a studio teaching career).

If you stay in the US, you might be able to get enough financial aid to cover much if not all of the cost of the MM.

However, before you make a life-changing decision, I suggest that you try doing some teaching to make sure that it's something that you'll actually enjoy. Teaching kids is very different than working with college students. You might be able to do this in a sort of apprentice format -- perhaps working with one of your current teachers to tutor one or more of your younger students. Or you could get some basic pedagogical training (say, Suzuki training) and then teach as a volunteer in some program.

I find it interesting that you don't say that you dislike software development. Rather, it seems you dislike the people you've met studying computer science and in your job. This might have been the result of the nature of the university your attended, the particular company you work for, or even the culture of the particular portion of the company you're in. You might find that a change of work environment (and possibly a change in cities) might be a happy move that requires less drastic changes.

I think it's nice to have friendly conversations at work, but most adults today have their good friendships primarily outside work. (I am, however, familiar with the fact that Silicon Valley brogrammers rove in packs, and if you're in that culture it can be hard to get out.)

I find (as someone who has a computer science degree but is also a serious musician) that when I'm conversing with people in a casual work context, that I focus the conversation on "things where our common ground is both being human", i.e. small talk. I ask about people's kids or dogs or what they did this weekend or on their vacation or if they tried an interesting new restaurant. I talk freely about my music but don't expect them to take a deep interest, just like I might take a casual interest in the rock concert they attended.

I wouldn't see either the psychology of music or music therapy to have any correlation to your computer science background at all. They are unrelated to "data science", beyond the fact that academic scientific research uses data, and if you have a data science background, some of the statistical background will be useful.

Edited: May 17, 2021, 4:28 PM · That response was getting a little long, so I'm putting my comments about masterclasses and performance opportunities in this separate reply.

You're still under the age of 30, which means that you are still under the age limit for many festivals, masterclasses-by-audition and programs, especially right now in this weird virtual time. You don't need to be in an MM program to audition for any of those opportunities.

Similarly, your teacher(s) could insert you into masterclass opportunities that aren't explicitly restricted to their university students. You should ask them about this. (Of course it's possible you live somewhere that masterclasses in general are scarce.) As for polishing major works, why aren't you doing that with your current teachers?

Performance opportunities should be abundant if you live in a major metropolitan area -- at least to the extent that things recover post-pandemic.

Are you playing in a community orchestra? If so, why not? In most areas you'd be a great candidate to be a section leader.

Are you playing in one of your local freeway philharmonics? If not, why not (and have you ever prepared a professional orchestra audition if not)? Note that those orchestras generally rehearse outside of regular business hours, and you can use a PTO day to cover the occasional daytime rehearsal, so they're compatible with having a "day job".

Do you play chamber music? If not, why not?

Do you hang out with friends from these musical activities, and if you do, why is the lack of work-colleague shared passions creating a difficulty?

What I'm wondering is if you're currently actively engaged in your local musical community, and if you're not, if becoming more involved would be sufficient to satisfy your thirst for more musical connection.

May 17, 2021, 2:58 PM · Hi Mavis -- I too, work in software and have the violin as a (serious) side hobby. In 2016 I was laid-off from Hewlett Packard Enterprise and found myself out of work for the first time in my then 24 year career. I had serious doubts about returning to the software industry and did consider if violin was something I could make into an actual job. After 1 1/2 years of not earning a paycheck, I landed my current job and it has changed my perception of working in high tech. I am thankful to say that I love my job now, and fortunate that I can still play violin on the side. The culture of the company you work for can make all the difference.
May 17, 2021, 3:05 PM · Given the rep. you have studied, you are probably more qualified than most teachers currently teaching.
May 17, 2021, 6:17 PM · Lydia, thanks so much for the long replies!

I will have this BA vs. MM conversation with my teacher next week. I think it depends heavily on the schools that I plan to apply to and study at. My teacher has been saying that I play better than many students in his school, but even I can tell that there's still a gap if I were to compare myself to students at one of those top conservatories. I am not really looking into admissions to one of those top-tier conservatories, so I guess direct MM could be a feasible option if I can pull off a great audition.

I'm very used to being lonely already, so I guess not having friends is only part of the reason I want to change my career. I do not really necessarily "hate" software development, but I guess I can say I really don't like coding; it's just not something I can devote 10 hours a day into. I enjoy more doing a research job than a development job, but such jobs typically require you to have a Ph.D., especially for my field (i.e., machine learning and AI); it is extremely competitive nowadays. That said, unless I can find the right Ph.D. program and manage to get into it - I'm pretty much stuck with software development.

There's actually an emerging trend of using machine learning techniques to analyze EEG/MRI data to find the linkage between music and language, which is a branch of music perception/cognition, I believe.

I am not playing in a community orchestra, but I had always played in orchestras while I was in school. I guess it is because I have been relocating a lot over the past few years. I did my BS in Illinois, went on a 1-year exchange program to Kyushu Japan, then I did a short research assistant job in Boston and did my MS in Ireland. After that, I started working in Portland Oregon. I think it's a good path I can look into after COVID is over.

I did play chamber music with other students at my teacher's school when I was in Chicago, but no more after I got my BS degree. I can't really find a group of people to play with me now.

I have been polishing the major works with my current teachers. However, we've been doing online lessons for a while because I'm not based in Chicago. My teachers have explicitly mentioned that they'd hope I can travel to Chicago to take in-person lessons if I were to polish a piece seriously for auditions or performances. Many technical limitations will stop them from seeing/hearing the details. I guess what I mean isn't really just about polishing the performance but instead studying the historical background, style, and theoretical analysis behind pieces.

May 17, 2021, 8:52 PM · I think there are plenty of jobs for data scientists who have skills in applied AI/ML -- and some of those applications may be in the arts, especially if you've got a background in applying AI/ML techniques to audio or video. Companies are desperate for anyone who has the ability to work with ML models right now. If you can, say, use Amazon Sagemaker + PyTorch + torchaudio, I would figure you'd have good odds of finding a job in that space. You don't need a PhD, especially not for applied corporate work.

(More broadly, remember there's a lot more to tech jobs than software development, and even software development is hugely varied depending on the company. You could sidestep into, say, technical product management, or project management, or any job that welcomes people with a technical degree, including management consulting. I sidestepped into product management, then into middle-management for engineering, and then finally into an industry analyst job.)

Most major tech hubs have a thriving community orchestra and chamber-music scene. I will bet that a little research that you'd find people. (ACMP's not a bad place to start, if there's no Portland chamber music Meetup group.)

Chicago... your teacher is at Northwestern? DePaul? DePauw? Roosevelt? If you're playing well compared to a BM student there (especially at Northwestern), you should be decently competitive for MM programs (especially in pedagogy) at a reasonable number of schools.

If you're interested in music history, theory, and analysis, you could certainly take coursework in that space without entering a degree program. Much of what you study will basically be background, though, and arguably you can learn a lot just by reading books (or papers) relevant to the works that you're playing.

May 17, 2021, 10:07 PM · You might look into one of the programs that combines a master’s degree with Suzuki Teacher training. This seems like it would be a great way to meet your goals of being a teacher while allowing you time to seriously study performance. You don’t necessarily need to be exclusively a Suzuki teacher to benefit immensely from the training. If you are trained for all 10 books you will also gain many of the skills necessary to teach beyond book 10 if you know the repertoire.
May 18, 2021, 12:06 AM · I walked away from software development and technical writing at the tail-end of the dot-com boom to go back to school to study music.

Two decades later, I have found the balance I am looking for--I conduct orchestras, play quartets, teach both at a wonderful high school program, and mentor students in programming and data science.

It's never too late to change your mind--but make sure to come up with a plan so you aren't randomly chasing non-tangible goals.

Edited: May 18, 2021, 12:33 AM · Interesting.
You did not mention anything about orchestral playing. The majority of violinists spend most of their time in orchestras.
If you can play those pieces you are already at the Master's degree level in Violin. The only courses at the undergraduate level that would be useful would be pedagogy and and maybe theory. As a pianist you probably already have enough theory.
I once knew one pro-level violinist who deliberately did Not socialize with other musicians. She wanted more balance in her life, got tired of the shop-talk and the petty politics.
Some musicians will do private teaching to supplement their performance income. Some will do performance income to supplement their teaching, and a third group will wait until retired, after the skills decline, to start teaching. In the USA , the degree in music education is preparation for a public school music teacher's position. That job can be frustrating. It is more of a teaching job than a music job.
May 19, 2021, 10:26 PM · continued,--
"When you come to the fork in the road --Take it." --Yogi Berra
May 20, 2021, 10:24 AM · The last thing I'd do is is a PH.d in some weird subject that has no well-defined career track. I'm not convinced you need a degree. Based on your repertoire--if you are playing at a reasonably high level--I'd suggest:

A. find an audition coach, practice the repertoire for a year, and take a few auditions. If you're consistently getting out of first rounds, keep going. If you never leave the first rounds, reconsider.

B. get a Suzuki certificate, even if you aren't a believer. Parents look for Suzuki teachers, often because it's the only thing they know to ask for.

Frankly, this is a very difficult time to make predictions about the state of the orchestral and/or teaching markets. Maybe waves of musicians will retire. Maybe bigger waves of those looking for jobs will come out of the woodwork. Who knows?

May 20, 2021, 3:12 PM · I've also looked into studying at conservatories in Europe. Here are some things that I think you should also consider, if you haven't already:

Language - In my opinion, you have to learn the country's language that you are going to be studying in. It's not only going to be useful in classes but it also is very useful when communicating with the local administrative authorities (e.g., taxing administrations, local DMV, etc.). From what you have said, all the countries that you have listed are all English speaking countries. Not sure how good your German is but you should start learning now or narrow down schools that have similar language requirements.

Taxes - I assume that you are an American citizen and that you will have to open a foreign banking account. 1) If you plan on funding your tuition and living expenses with retirement or tax advantaged accounts (e.g., 401k's, IRA's, HSA's, etc.), you should probably consult with an international tax attorney and/or accountant, since not all European countries have a tax treaty with the US on these accounts. You may fall into a grey area of double taxation when you withdraw from these accounts. This possibly could apply to capital gains as well. Again, consult with a international tax advisor that specializes in your particular country that you will be studying in. I would mention to your tax attorney and/or account that you will be full-time student as some of double taxation treaties (like the UK, although they aren't part of the EU anymore) will exempt you from paying twice. There are also wealth taxes that should be considered when looking at some of these conservatories.

2) For US citizens, if you have more than or equal to $10,000 in your foreign bank account, at any time, you need to file an "FBAR" as part of your tax return. In addition, take a look at the IRS website for more information on the forms that would need to be filed. You may also want to consult a tax advisor on what other additional forms you may need to file during tax time.

From what I've been reading, it seems to be very difficult for a US citizen to obtain a foreign bank account because of FATCA requirements. But since I haven't done it, I don't know how true it is. I only bring it up for your awareness.


May 20, 2021, 3:24 PM · I walked away from the tech industry a number of years back to pursue a career in design. One of my other passions. Much less stability, but peace of mind and loving what I do every day is priceless. My only advice is to not take some halfway compromised route. The only way to really achieve success in the arts, is to put all your eggs in one basket and take that leap. Whatever route you take, I wish you the best of luck.
May 20, 2021, 3:27 PM · I'm lucky to have fantastic colleagues at work, and many of them are friends, and a few of the close friends. But the closest friends are those with whom I share my dearest hobby -- music. Thus, with rare exception, I only "friend" on facebook with family and with local musicians or other musicians I've met in real life.
May 20, 2021, 4:20 PM · I think the wisdom of leap-taking very much depends on one's financial safety net and overall tolerance for risk.

I can think of lots of people who have hybrid careers. Since OP hopes to be a teacher, not a performer, they can ease into things bit by bit as they build a studio.

May 21, 2021, 1:58 AM · Lydia is completely right about my situation to be honest.

I had two chances of swapping out from engineering to music. My teacher offered me free admission into Roosevelt's BM when I was doing my BSc, but I backed out eventually because I worried about money and living. Even for now, the financial pressure is still the same for me (or else I wouldn't be looking into possibilities in European or Asian conservatories).

I'm perfectly fine with being just a teacher, and possibly start a YouTube channel and do covers - even though too many people have done that. I definitely wouldn't take the talent show path though :')

May 21, 2021, 9:36 AM · I surmise that whether your YouTube covers go viral will depend on factors other than how well you play the violin.
Edited: May 22, 2021, 3:35 PM · If you're studying with one of the violin faculty at Roosevelt still, they should be very well equipped to advise you on your odds of a good master's program. Unless you're absolutely set on studying outside the US, your teacher should be equipped to advise you on what programs would likely offer you a scholarship.

Ingrid and Scott's advice to get Suzuki training (which is region-specific) is good. There are master's programs that combine an MM performance degree with long-term Suzuki teacher training. Notably, Roosevelt has such a program. (I know people who have been in that program, and it's apparently a good one. I also have acquaintances that speak well of the programs they graduated from at Hartt and CIM.)

Or if you want to ease into it, the SAA is currently offering online training which you could take without quitting your job. If you look around you can probably find a course which is given on weekends, or is in a limited enough period of time that you could cover missed work hours with a day or two of PTO. I think the SAA allows apprenticeship-style study, too, if you could find a local Suzuki teacher to work with (I've no doubt there are a bunch in a city like Portland), so you could get some actual teaching experience and find out if you have any liking for it.

That would help you figure out next steps. I also suspect that it's very hard to get intermediate or advanced students without growing them up from the beginner stage, unless you're a member of a major symphony.

May 22, 2021, 3:57 PM · Several of my best intermediate/advanced students have come to me by referral from their previous teacher. Sometimes it is a high school orchestra director whose private student is moving from middle school to their own high school orchestra. They are ethically forbidden from teaching their orchestra students privately.
May 22, 2021, 4:26 PM · What about doing a dipABRSM in violin instead? My teacher has a diploma from RCM and did not study violin at University
May 22, 2021, 6:16 PM · I don't know what the point of doing a DipABRSM would be, given that any parent in the US shopping for a violin teacher probably doesn't know or care what the DipABRSM (or the Trinity College or RCM diplomas) signifies. OP is presumably well beyond the level necessary to pass the diploma exam (but might have to brush up on their theory, and I think the ABRSM might require a piano exam as well as the diploma level? In any event, likely not useful.)

May 22, 2021, 9:35 PM · Phil, no, just no... First of all, dipABRSM in violin is too easy. I did repertoire at that level in my early 10s.

I'd also recommend you to watch a video of a 5-yo winning the "best performance prize" in grade 8 of ABRSM violin. You'd expect a Sarah Chang-level of performance, but it's nowhere close. I passed piano dipABRSM in only about a year since I started learning it, and I clearly know that my interpretation is nowhere close to the level of piano students in conservatories or even music pre-college. The qualification just isn't that accurate in reflecting one's true ability to perform and teach.

I have a few friends who studied at the Royal Academy of Music (which is one of the schools that started ABRSM), none of them did any qualification examination offered by their school. It's a joke to them because they were asked too often if they needed to pass ABRSM to get into RAM.

Lydia, students were not allowed to take any dip or above level exams without first passing the level 5 music theory exam, so I do have that qualification. This prerequisite has been waived recently I believe.

May 23, 2021, 10:28 AM · I know that ABRSM also has teaching qualifications, but I don't know what the process for getting them is like or how much they're respected. (Certainly in the US, no one would care, I think.)

All that said, I think your level of risk involved in all of this depends in part on how perishable your technical skill set is. If you're a general software engineer, you can take two years out to get a master's degree without being likely to experience a substantial challenge in getting another software job if you need to return to that career (either part-time or full-time). If you do something highly specialized in a fast-moving field -- AI/ML, cloud services, etc. -- it may be harder to get another specialized job after two years off. You could mitigate that somewhat by doing the occasional contract job during your master's degree.

There's another American on this forum, who is living and doing remote contract work in Germany while she pursues music education. She might be a good resource for what that's like, although your experience might be vastly different because you're essentially already playing at what is likely a professional level, and she is not. But her experience also likely demonstrates the need to be fully fluent in German even though some academic coursework might be taught in English.

You could have a chat with your teacher(s) about whether you've got repertoire in your pocket that you could play for a master's audition prescreening in the fall. (Presumably you could be properly prepared for live rounds by next spring.) And, of course, just as importantly, what programs to apply to, who you might target to study with, etc. The results of auditions and your financial aid offers would give you more concrete information on which to proceed.

And if you didn't take at least the first year of the undergrad music theory/analysis and history sequence previously during your bachelor's, you might want to enroll somewhere to take that remotely in the upcoming year.

Edited: May 25, 2021, 2:13 PM · I'm pretty sure you can already teach beginners and intermediates with complete confidence given your repertoire in hand, and probably some degree of advanced students as well. The lacking factor will be the experience with teaching, but college isn't going to give you that. I recommend you start teaching now if you want that to be your profession. And if you're worried about being a "poser" of sorts, just adjust your rates to reflect your lack of teaching experience until you feel that you're doing an appropriately good job.

Editing to add: when I said "complete confidence," I really meant that your skill on the violin won't be the limiting factor in those instances.

May 26, 2021, 10:43 AM · "just adjust your rates to reflect your lack of teaching experience until you feel that you're doing an appropriately good job."

Charge at least market rate in your area. Trust me, there are plenty of long-time teachers in any given area that charge plenty and are marginal teachers.

Do NOT be the cheapest in town. You'll just attract the bottom -feeders.

May 26, 2021, 1:28 PM · True Scott, but the OP may have a personal/ethical issue with charging full price when they don't have a lot of teaching experience. They seem to be under the impression that they need a degree in order to teach, so I wanted to give them an alternative to that thought process.

Of course, with OP's playing skill, they should definitely not be the cheapest in town. But perhaps putting their price a bit lower than other advanced teachers would be a nice starting point just so they don't feel too guilty to even begin teaching. Honestly, the students aren't going to care about a $5-$10 per hour price difference, but it may change the OP's mindset.

May 26, 2021, 3:13 PM · Guilt should not be a factor in pricing one's services.
May 27, 2021, 1:24 PM · Of note is the fact that the OP has said that she doesn't think she's a good teacher. That suggests that simply hanging out a shingle and teaching is not a good idea -- especially not if she intends to stay in her current city or return to it in the future. It's a better idea to build a good reputation from the start, even if one will become more skilled in the the future.

Also, I think it's demoralizing to do something that you realize that you're not doing well at. Teaching is a genuine skill. Some people have an easier knack for it than others. There's value in studying how to teach, observing those who teach well, etc.


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