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College Audition Repertoire

Edited: December 23, 2021, 6:50 PM · My current orchestra director has recommended that I start preparing a list of possible College audition pieces( Like Violin Concertos, Showpieces, and Caprices) so I have an Idea of what I'm going to learn in the few years I have before college, and I was wondering if you guys have any suggestions.
A lot of major music colleges require
1. One movement of a Standard Violin Concerto including the Cadenza if applicable
2. One Paganini Caprice
3. 1 movement of a Mozart Violin Concerto
4. 2 movements of unaccompanied Bach
5. A Showpiece

What recommendations do you have for each category? I plan to audition for a bunch of major music colleges with the hopes that one of them will accept me, so any input on repertoire(both for the audition and what I should learn before hand) is gladly welcome.

Thanks for your time!

Replies (112)

December 23, 2021, 6:57 PM · Also, if you have the time, please provide the reasoning behind your suggestions. You don't have to though.
Edited: December 23, 2021, 8:05 PM · College auditions? Really, it depends very heavily on how you are defining "College." To what kind of program do you aspire?
December 23, 2021, 8:09 PM · I'm auditioning for the Bachelor of Music Program for each of the schools I aspire to audition for.
December 23, 2021, 8:11 PM · Sorry, what’s 5. A Showpiece?

Like Ysaye, Ernst, etc?

December 23, 2021, 8:11 PM · The Examples given were Kreisler's Tambourin Chinois and Ravel's Tzigane
December 23, 2021, 8:13 PM · Do you guys think the Hindemith Finale would count as a showpiece?
December 23, 2021, 9:13 PM · No. Show pieces are a fairly well defined genre. Wieniawski, Paginini, Ernst etc. This includes being able to titillate a less than musically nerdy audience.
December 23, 2021, 9:17 PM · Well the majority of those pieces would be too difficult for me to learn even given the time I have, so I'm trying to find alternatives. What would be an easier "showpiece"?
And as for Paganini, I already have to learn a Caprice so I'd rather not do another Paganini piece for the same audition.
December 23, 2021, 11:27 PM · Which schools are you planning to audition for? This will determine what repertoire is appropriate.

Easier showpieces that come to mind: Sarasate Romanza Andaluza or Zapateado; Kreisler Liebesfreud, Caprice Viennois or Preludium and Allegro; Wieniawski Scherzo Tarantelle or Polonaise Brillante op. 4. The two Wieniawski pieces are more difficult than the others I mentioned but I don’t think any of them will get you into Juilliard.

December 24, 2021, 9:29 AM · I am just trying to work through this with my son (junior year), though your list of requirements doesn't quite line up with the list he has made. All of the US programs require one mvmt of a concerto (occasionally 2), 2 mvmts of Bach, and most require a Paganini or other caprice. After that, it varies quite a bit from Mozart to virtuosic to post-1960 to even a BIPOC piece.

The first thing I would suggest is nailing down your list of schools to definitely no more than 10. That may reduce the number of pieces you need to learn. I would recommend the book College Prep for Musicians -- they have detailed instructions on how you can figure out how many schools to apply to and keep track of all the audition requirements.

After that, re-use as much repertoire as possible. The one exception to this is likely to be your concerto, which you should be starting soon. You want your concerto to be the highest level you can play well, which usually means a recent one.

But all of the other stuff will be better if you can reuse it. For example, my son has completed 5/6 Bach Sonatas and Partitas. He will be picking from those rather than learning the last one for auditions. Same with Mozart (he's played 3, 4, and 5) and Paganini (he's played 13 of the 24).

The last thing I would suggest is to pick something that will overlap categories if possible. If you pick a post-1960 virtuosic piece by a BIPOC composer, you can hit three categories at once! Of course, that's not an easy find, but maybe you can hit at least two of those categories.

For the concerto, stick with Romantic or 20th Century. On the lower side of the scale, you can do Mendelssohn, Wieniawski 2, or Saint Saens 3 (or Bruch if you can't play anything higher). Most of the higher level kids play Tchaikovsky or Sibelius, though I've been told by a few teachers that they are sick to death of Sibelius at auditions. Other common choices are Dvorak and occasionally things like Glazunov or Prokofiev. Barber, Walton, Vieuxtemps, and Shostakovich are also possible. Avoid Beethoven unless you can play it perfectly in tune and style.

For the Bach, play two of the harder movements if possible. Sonatas are generally looked upon as higher level than Partitas. Don't do any of the movements with doubles because you have to learn twice as much. Don't do the Chaconne. In general, avoid Partita 3 unless that is all you can play. Sonata 1 and 2 are probably the most commonly played for high level students.

For Paganini, it's more about what not to play. Don't play 16 or 5. Generally not 24 either. 13 and 14 are routinely the "easy ones" so don't play those if you can play others. There are a few other really etudey ones to avoid. Note that it is really easy for Paganini to go very wrong, so generally pick one that is not at the top edge of your technical ability.

Mozart - any are fine (3, 4, or 5). It's all about style. Play the first movement unless asked otherwise.

Sonata - any are fine, but you are best off keeping it simple. Bring back something you know or play Mozart or Beethoven.

Post-1960 piece - anything unaccompanied. Generally, make it BIPOC to satisfy other categories.

Virtuosic piece - this isn't asked that often or is optional. If you have some in your rep like Tzigane or Intro and Rondo Capriccioso, pull those back out. Otherwise, you have gotten good suggestions above. Again, keep it simple. Something you have played before and not at the edge of your ability.

Hope that helps!

December 24, 2021, 9:46 AM · Well, I was planning to audition for the top tier music schools like Juilliard and Curtis, not because I think I'm good enough to get in, but because I think it's better to have at least tried and gotten rejected than to not have auditioned at all.
Besides those schools, I want to audition for the New England Conservatory of Music, The Manhattan School of Music, Colburn, Northwestern, and a couple others.
I know my chances of getting into any of these schools are pretty low, but I hope I make it in to at least one of them.
December 24, 2021, 9:57 AM · Thank you for the advice Susan!
May I ask what college(s) is your son planning to audition for?
Which Mozart Concertos are auditioned with the most, so I can choose a different one?
Why not Paganini 16?
For the Unaccompanied Bach, Which movements do you recommend? The one I've had recommended to me are the Fugue from Sonata 1, the Allegro Assai from Sonata 3, the Chaconne(only because it counts as the entire category and I wouldn't have to play another movement along with it,) and the Adagio from Sonata 1.
As for Violin Concertos, would Lalo be a good option or is that too easy?
December 24, 2021, 12:57 PM · My son is still narrowing down his list, but his current choices include what you would expect: CIM, NEC, Juilliard, Colburn, Curtis, Rice, Indiana, Michigan, Oberlin, San Fran, and maybe Eastman, Peabody, and Mannes. He will likely cut about 5-7 of those from his list by fall.

I would say Mozart 5 is most common followed maybe by 3 and then 4. To be honest, any are fine. If you want to stand out on Mozart, write your own cadenza.

Pag 16 is too straightforward and one of the easier ones. It's the Paganini that is chosen by people who can't really play anything else in the book.

For Bach, first two movements of Sonata 1 or first two movements of Sonata 2 are great. If you aren't up to a fugue yet, you can do the slow movement and then the last movement. Some kids do the 3rd and 4th movement of Sonata 3 which are relatively easy (unlike the fugue in that Sonata). It's also totally fine to do Partita 2, though it is considered easy apart from the Chaconne. I really would not recommend the Chaconne because it is not only hard, but people have STRONG opinions about it.

I think Lalo would not be one of my top choices for auditions. It's not considered that hard (first mvmt) and doesn't actually show that many skills. For a lower level school, Lalo would be fine, but I bet Lalo isn't going to get you past a prescreen at a lot of the places you listed.

Edited: December 24, 2021, 1:42 PM · Tchaikovsky concerto always goes over well for auditions-I agree with the others that you should stick with a Romantic or 20th century concerto for auditions. The choice obviously depends on your own strengths-what would you consider the strongest aspects of your playing? Try to choose a concerto that highlights these features within the first few minutes of the exposition, because the panel will most likely only hear that much of a first movement, and maybe some of the cadenza. Along with Tchaikovsky, other options that may have a good chance of getting you past a prescreen round are Wieniawski 2, Prokofiev 2 or 1, Dvorak, or even Vieuxtemps 4 or 5. If you can, I would avoid Bruch or Lalo, and do Saint-Saens 3 only if really necessary-these three are generally known as some of the easiest of the advanced violin concerto repertoire and are really hard to sell. For the Mozart, definitely the 1st movement of 4 or 5 would go over the best. Agree with the other comments not to do Paganini 16, 13, or 14, because these are known as the easiest ones. I personally think either #5 or #20 would be a great choice. For the Bach, I would do two mvmts from either Sonata 1 (like the Adagio & Presto), Sonata 2 (Grave or Andante & Allegro) or Partita 2 (Allemande or Sarabande & Gigue). Again, depends on your level of comfort with each, and what you feel your strengths are as a player. Showpieces that could work are a fast movement from an Ysaye solo sonata (first mvmt of #2 is great and not too long), a Sarasate piece like Zigeunerweisen or Romanza Andaluza, or something like Saint-Saens' Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso or Wieniawski's Scherzo Tarantelle. Hope this helps, and good luck!!
December 24, 2021, 2:10 PM · I don’t know about college auditions, but for professional auditions that require a Mozart, 5 is the most common followed by 4. 3 is a distant third.

May I respectfully suggest that given what we can surmise about your playing level from your posts, that you trim most of those top level schools from your list and add more realistic schools from lower tiers. There is absolutely nothing to be gained by wasting an application fee and your time making a prescreen for a school that you already know is beyond you. Sure, keep a couple of reach schools on there, but those should not make up your entire list.

There are some really excellent teachers at lower tier schools. Here is one that comes to mind:

All of this should be in consultation with your current teacher.

December 24, 2021, 2:29 PM · This is a great thread. Susan (and others), as always so helpful. (Screen shooting and filing this.)
December 24, 2021, 2:42 PM · I have to give credit where credit is due -- my son's scholarship and mentorship program has been amazing at providing information on the process, and the huge number of seniors in the class above him at his music school have taught us a ton of lessons on what to do and what not to do.

Also, one more shout out for the book I mentioned above, College Prep for Musicians. There is a whole section on identifying what level player you are and then they have an actual formula for figuring out how many reach, match, and safety schools you should apply to based on your level. The OP in particular would benefit significantly from this.

December 24, 2021, 2:54 PM · Mary, I do have a couple less prestigious options on my list, but more recently I've improved enough that my directors say I have the potential if I work hard enough for the next 2 and a half years to make it into some of the colleges I listed previously.
I'm currently in between teachers, although this coming summer I'm supposed to start taking lessons again, although they're coming from another high school student. I've been assured that she's qualified and judging by her achievements, she is. Also, one of the seniors from my high school who made it into Northwestern is advising me on the audition processes for Colleges. And of course, if I deem that I'm not going to be ready for the audition when the time comes I won't do it, but there's no telling how much I'll improve in the time that I have. I will take your advice into consideration though.

Susan, I'll look into getting that book, it looks like it would be a good for me to have.

December 24, 2021, 2:57 PM · Would the Glazunov Violin Concerto be a good option?
December 24, 2021, 6:20 PM · Yes on Glazunov
Edited: December 24, 2021, 6:51 PM · Your idea about applying to Northwestern is a good one. Lots of CSO players teach there. Some of my brass friends have opted to go there over major conservatories to study with the CSO brass members who teach at NW.

If your academics are really good, look into some of the Ivy League schools like Harvard, Yale, and Columbia. These 3 have good music programs or affiliations with conservatories. Also consider IU. They have a really excellent music school, as good as many conservatories, and if you want to take a class outside of music in an academic subject, you can do that as well. Plus, you can enjoy campus diversity at a university - something you don’t always get at a conservatory.

With regard to repertoire, I don’t recall ever being asked to play a showpiece at an audition for a school I attended or got into like MSM, NEC, IU, or Yale. I never auditioned at Curtis, but I know from friends who got accepted that they ask for a full standard concerto plus a full Mozart Concerto, an entire sonata or partita by Bach, and a Paganini Caprice. They also hold multiple rounds of auditions. The auditions at most schools are usually 15 minutes maximum and they ask for your standard concerto plus Bach. I was only asked to play Paganini Caprices at one of my auditions

December 24, 2021, 7:11 PM · Another question, How long should I be practicing?
On days when I have school I practice 1 hour and 30 minutes per day at minimum, and on days when I don't have school I try for upwards of 2 hours and 45 minutes. Should I be doing more? Less?
Edited: December 24, 2021, 7:16 PM · Nate, I'd rather not go to an Ivy League school, because although my academics are good, they aren't THAT good. I will look into IU, because what I've heard of it makes it seem like a good fit for me.
December 24, 2021, 7:20 PM · I was doing about the same thing with my teacher last year (but I was preparing for BA and MA auditions at the same time), so I'll share my 2cent on this:

1. One movement of a Standard Violin Concerto including the Cadenza if applicable

I would recommend something that's at least not overplayed like Wieniawski #1, Shostakovich, Prokofiev #1, Dvorak, Glazunov, Nielsen, or Paganini concerto #2. If you can pull of Brahms VERY well, that's also a good choice for me. I certainly do not recommend using Tchaikovsky or Sibelius given the schools you plan to apply to; almost everyone else will be playing either of these two, so it's hard for you to stand out or be remembered. Lalo is most likely not going to get you into Curtis or Julliard unless you're María Dueñas.

2. One Paganini Caprice

Anything among #1 to #12 (except #6 and #9), or #17 if possible. My teacher mentioned that #6 is too long and dull for the committee and is going to put them asleep, and #24 is again, highly overplayed - it's extremely difficult for you to impress the committee with it, even if you play every single note perfectly (well, the only exception to me is the case that you choose Paganiniana as your showpiece, and you're performing it right after #24, then it sounds doable to me). #9, #13, #14, and #16 are the easier ones, which will potentially make you less competitive against other applicants.

3. 1 movement of a Mozart Violin Concerto

Play #5 if possible.

4. 2 movements of unaccompanied Bach
5. A Showpiece

For solo Bach, I think the G-minor Adagio & Fuga or the A-minor Grave & Fuga are some good combinations. I would avoid the C-major one and Chaconne if possible; the C-major Fuga, to me, is not only harder technically but requires a much more mature musicality and mentality to rendition well. My reason against Chaconne is pretty much the same as others.

Many schools don't require a separate showpiece because you're doing Paganini caprices already, but if you need an extra one, some more popular choices I've seen are Ysaye sonatas #2, #3, #4, #6, and Ernst polyphonic studies (extremely hard). Wieniawski also has some showpieces like op. 15.

December 24, 2021, 7:33 PM · Mavis, what did you play for your college auditions?
Edited: December 24, 2021, 9:39 PM · I played:

Concerto: Wieniawski concerto #1 (for BA I played the first movement, MM the whole concerto)

Paganini caprices: #1 and #11 in contra bowing (some MM programs asked for 2)

Mozart: schools did not ask for a Mozart

Bach: C-major Adagio and Fuga

Showpiece: Bartok Sonata (1st movement, Only for MM programs)

Edit: My list of repertoire is probably not a good reference, to be honest. When I applied, I was in my late-mid 20s already, so I've had a few more years of experience. I am someone with a master's degree in STEM already and was looking for a career change.

Edited: December 24, 2021, 9:43 PM · I'm sensing a disconnect here. The OP is not currently taking lessons but wants to prepare for conservatoire in 2.5 years. (S)he is "between teachers" and not expecting to take lessons again for another five months, whilst practicing 90 minutes on school days. When lessons restart, the teacher will be another high school student -- did I read that correctly? You need an established, reputed, credentialed violin teacher who has prepared students for conservatoire before -- successfully and repeatedly. And you need one now, so that your playing and repertoire can be properly evaluated and your aspirations calibrated and normalized accordingly.
December 24, 2021, 11:09 PM · It is a bit like trying to dig your own grave in a grave-digging competition, using a trowel instead of a shovel...
December 25, 2021, 12:36 AM · What Paul said.
Edited: December 25, 2021, 1:09 AM · I totally agree with Paul-finding a teacher with experience getting kids into conservatories is priority number one at this point. As you continue to consider repertoire, a different approach for a concerto that would set you apart among the hundreds of Tchaikovskys might be to choose a very modern, not very well-known work. Of course, depending on the place/faculty, this may not work to your advantage-but it really helped me in all of my conservatory auditions (I graduated with my masters degree from SF Conservatory in 2018, and played William Bolcom’s Violin Concerto for my entrance audition). I also did get past the prescreens at Rice, Juilliard, CIM, and a few others with this concerto. Totally up to you, and again, you need to assess your strengths as a player to see if this kind of piece would benefit you most. Just another suggestion :)
Edited: December 25, 2021, 1:15 AM · OP, your high school orchestra directors are not to tell you, but here it is: if you cannot play the equivalent of Paganini concerto #1 at some sort of local competition level by the time you are 15, you probably should not be thinking of going into music schools.

At some point, some people are going to bring up the example of Carter Brey....try to ignore them.

December 25, 2021, 8:25 AM · There are many good and strong recommendations already on this post. Allow me to add a few additional items to consider.

My son auditioned in 2020 just before the pandemic stopped auditions. He auditioned at NEC, Rice, Juilliard, Colburn, Eastman and Oberlin. The Curtis audition was cancelled. It would be VERY challenging to audition at more than 6 places. He was criss-crossing the country for about 5 weeks taking auditions. Thankfully, it was a mild winter and traveling was possible at each audition.

Several places require playing with a pianist. At NEC and Juilliard you will be paying for this time with a pianist yourself. So, picking pieces in the standard repertoire that can be easily rehearsed was crucial.

Two schools asked him to play the cadenza after the exposition of the concerto (Brahms). A few friends were caught off guard with this request. If the requirement is the first movement of a concerto plus cadenza, make certain you learn it all and have it prepared.

Most schools did not ask for Paganini, but they all asked for concerto and Bach. Concerning Bach, it is not necessary to play a Fugue to get into a top school. My son played the last two movements of Bach a minor sonata.

Playing an unaccompanied 20/21st century piece is very wise. However, playing the piece in the audition will, likely, not happen.

The first hurdle is the pre-screen audition which will be due around December 1. Give yourself plenty of time to record this music. (weeks) You don't need to be in a professional studio, but try to get the highest sound quality you can get. Most people listening to you will be wearing headphones. Listen to your recordings with headphones on to determine how the sound is coming across to those listening.

As a point of reference, my son played the following pieces during his five weeks of auditions:
Brahms Violin Concerto
Mozart Violin Concerto #4
Paganini #20 and #4
Beethoven Sonata #4
Bach a minor Sonata (last two movements)
Ravel Tzigane
Schoenfeld, Samba from Four Souvenirs (this was the challenge for pianist and not a good audition choice)

He is currently a sophomore at NEC, and we all believe he made a great choice.

December 25, 2021, 8:33 AM · David, I am a professional musician, and while I may have been able to make it through Paganini concerto #1 at 15, I wouldn't have been able to perform it respectably, let alone in a manner that would've impressed a conservatory audition committee. With the right attitude, drive, and focus, you can move from where I was at 17 (a very good player but not super impressive, full of technical flaws that made many top music schools not want to take me) to a much more competitive place. I am currently on or near the level of violinists who could have played circles around me at 15. I realize this type of improvement is not very common, but please do not tell the OP which advice to value and which to reject. There's a difference between impossible and unlikely. There's a middle ground between "never gonna happen" and Carter Brey.

As for the Paganini discussion above, I really don't understand this mindset of "You shouldn't pick the easier caprice because people will be less impressed." Pick which caprice you can prepare well and sound the best on. I guarantee that any committee will be far more impressed by a great performance, regardless of the repertoire, than by a more difficult work with more tentative execution.

An audition is not the time to be pushing your boundaries and trying uncomfortable things. Play what shows you off the best. A recent winner of a professional audition performed Prokofiev 2 for their concerto, no one's idea of a super difficult concerto. It doesn't matter. They played the best; they won. If it's respected repertoire, it's fair game. I would give very little relative weight to the "will the difficulty of the piece impress the judges" question. We don't judge performances by how difficult the piece is, and in fact, it's usually not a compliment when someone listens to you and says "wow that's a hard piece!" because it means that you didn't make it look easy, which is your job.

December 25, 2021, 2:17 PM · It seems like this student posted before about not having or being able to afford? a teacher.
Seems like the orchestra leader adult in his life could be helping to make that happen if they are encouraging them to apply to better programs.
To the OP, there are far less worthy things people do fundraising for, Gofundme etc.. Maybe shorter lessons half hour, and there are great people, accessability online. Another HS player might be talented but that has nothing to do with teaching.
I may be conflating the OP with someone else.... just some ideas.
Edited: December 25, 2021, 3:35 PM · Evan, while I agree mostly with what you said, I do think the evaluation process of a conservatory/college audition is highly subjective and most BM/BM auditionees are not mature enough (well, there are definitely exceptions like Susan's son) to give performances up to a professional level.

That said, most BA/BM auditions are more like discovering potential instead of selecting a Menuhin winner. The problem with auditioning with easier pieces is that it will give the audition committee a tough time to evaluate one's maximum capability. Sure, if one is really able to play like Christian Li or Chloe Chua, then even simpler pieces like Vivaldi's four seasons will do the job as no one will doubt whether they can do an Ernst caprice similarly well even though the techniques they demonstrated were simple. However, until then even an "excellent" performance of easier pieces won't be sufficiently impressive for most professors, and beyond that, they don't know what ELSE you can do.

I had this discussion with a few professors I know from prestigious music schools, and the thing is many do prefer taking students who can do an okay rendition (without major mistakes) of harder Chopin etudes, Liszt, Scriabin, and Rachmaninoff than students who did good (but not THAT good) renditions of easier Chopin etudes (like 10-5, 25-2, 25-9). The conversations were mostly about piano auditions, but I guess they apply similarly to violin auditions.

December 25, 2021, 5:16 PM · Evan, the kid doesn't have a teacher and when he/she gets one, the teacher is going to be another high school student! With all the resources available to you (which the OP does not have) in high school, did you end up studying music in college? Perhaps you can share with the OP why you made that decision.
December 25, 2021, 6:35 PM · If I recall correctly from past postings, Evan went to Yale and didn't major in music, but continued to take lessons (and he was the concertmaster of the non-music-major orchestra, I think?). He was able to make a late-in-college decision to prepare to take an MM audition directly without a BM, and was successful in getting into a decent program. That suggests that he came into college already a very good, well-taught player, and continued to receive excellent instruction even though he wasn't a performance major.

The OP's previous posts suggest that they're not currently on a high-commitment track. OP, you should be practicing at least 2 hours a day. More time on non-school days is good, but it's rare for students to be able to get through the amount of exercises, etudes, and repertoire that needs to be learned in under 2 hours a day (and honestly, if you can get through assigned material in less time, most good teachers will just stack more material on you).

The teacher is vital -- if you want to go to a top conservatory, you need someone who routinely gets students into such programs. If possible, they should facilitate contacts with teachers at such schools (and if possible, you should be going to high-level summer camps that allow you to meet and take lessons from those teachers). You'll want to take trial lessons from the teachers you're interested in. You are not merely (or even primarily) choosing an institution; you are choosing a teacher. You need to ensure that the fit is right.

Most students limit how many programs they apply to, not just because of the need to consolidate audition requirements into a manageable list of repertoire, but because it's impractical to attend a ton of different auditions. Even if you have infinite money to spend on flights, hotels, accompanists, etc., most students (and their parents) cannot take that much time away from school (and work).

I hope someone is saving this thread. Lots of good advice on it.

December 25, 2021, 6:42 PM · On the subject of repertoire:

I would question considering the Glazunov. One, if your level is Lalo, Glazunov is going to be too difficult by a very large margin. The difficulty is going to be closer to Tchaikovsky than it is to Lalo. However, problematically, the Glazunov is a single-movement 20-minute work; if you choose it for your audition piece, you have to learn the whole thing. (It's longer than both the Tchaikovsky and Brahms first movements, which are already unusually long.)

Worse, the Glazunov escalates in difficulty over its course, with the really difficult stuff coming in its cadenza and psuedo-"third movement". That means that in any audition where they don't hear the whole thing (and AFAIK the norm is that they wouldn't hear the whole thing), you probably get stopped before you have a chance to show off what you're capable of. Unless you get the opportunity to play a virtuosic showpiece, it doesn't afford you the chance for fireworks. Plus you'll have flushed a ton of practice time into Glazunov bits that you probably won't get to play but you cannot afford to risk not perfecting.

Prokofiev 2 (and 1, also) is a mid-difficulty concerto -- more difficult than the first-tier concertos (Bruch, Lalo etc.) but less difficult than the Tchaik/Sibelius/Brahms.

December 25, 2021, 8:51 PM · Matthew, what other kinds of fundraising do you suggest? I don't think it would be right to start a GoFundMe for my own personal gain so I most likely won't use that route. The only teachers I know of that have gotten students into conservatories that are within a decent range of where I live charge a very large amount. My parents sadly do not see the benefits of me taking lessons and tell me I have to pay for it by myself but then won't let me get a job. Another thing, wouldn't it be better for me to save up money to take lessons long term rather than on a short summer camp?
Lydia, I don't have enough time to practice more than I do on weekdays, what I do now is stretching it. My stepfather works from home and is in meetings almost all day long and he doesn't allow me to practice during those meetings, even without a mute. Plus I get home late from school 3 days out of the week. I can't practice in the mornings before school because I have a younger sibling that my parents don't want me waking up. I'm stuck in between a rock and a hard place right now and it sucks. However, now that I'm on Christmas Break I have been doing 3 hours and 45 minutes every day since my stepfather took off from work for the break.

My final question for today is this, currently I have a beginner ($300) violin that really isn't working for me anymore. Would it be better for me to continue saving up money for a better model or to use the money that I have saved up for the violin to take lessons instead?

December 25, 2021, 9:37 PM · I really feel for your dilemma. I'm just not sure how you are going to do any of this without family support. If you at least had that, there are organizations that could help you financially with lessons and instruments. But without family support, it is near impossible.

Looking at what you have posted, it's going to be really challenging for you to even apply to music schools. For example, you are going to need to make prescreening recordings, which means you will at minimum need to hire an accompanist and buy a microphone. (Many students will hire a recording engineer as well.) If you pass prescreens, you will need to travel, likely by air, to audition in multiple cities across the country. You may need to hire an accompanist for some of your auditions. It will be costly, and if your family won't pay for it, there is no way you will be able to cover those costs.

I'm not sure how to advise you. Perhaps your best bet is to either take a gap year once you reach 18, work and take lessons, and then apply. Another option is to enter college as an academic major and minor in music, taking lessons continually, in hopes of then going on to get a master's. Unfortunately, if your family won't support you, you are pretty much out of luck until age 18.

December 25, 2021, 10:41 PM · I have the accompanist figured out, my cousin has a degree in piano and she's willing to help me. I'm sure my Orchestra teacher would let me use the microphone we use for All-State recordings, he's done that for some of his past students, and as for the travel if I get past the prescreening I'm not 100% sure what I'll do about that yet, but I have ample time to get that figured out so I'm not too stressed about it.
The gap year actually is a really good suggestion, it would give me time to attend some masterclasses as well which would definitely help me prepare for College auditions, I might just do that.
December 26, 2021, 12:40 AM · You're getting good advice, and it may take some time to process. Here are a few thoughts:
1. Is your Northwestern friend already enrolled there or have they just been admitted? They seem like someone worth getting advice from. Who helped them get to the level they are at? How did they feel about their future. The piano cousin sounds promising also, if they have a performance degree. Maybe they could help you? What's your relationship like with the orchestra teacher? Can you talk to them about your instrument, lessons, etc., and see if they have advice? Maybe they could intervene with your parents.
2. A lot of the talk here is about developing plan Bs for if you can't make a competitive conservatory. That is worth listening to. A gap year is a possibility, less competitive schools are a possibility, and working hard at music while doing something else is a possibility (music ed or a music minor, a school where you could take lessons, etc.).
3. Where do you live? Folk here may be able to advise you on possible plans depending on your location. This might be good state programs, regional networks, less expensive camps, teachers, etc.
Good luck!
December 26, 2021, 3:23 AM · Okay, I guess I understood the whole situation now and I completely agree with what Mary and Susan said.

Not trying to be discouraging, also not trying to say that your family needs to be rich for you to have a successful music career. However, your situation does sound far from being even suboptimal.

Aside from the financial issue, you don't even have the time and space to practice violin adequately.

I'd seriously reconsider this path if I were in your shoes - if you really want to apply to Curtis and Julliard, your competitors might be someone who's well-trained under some world-renowned violinists for over a decade and has been practicing steadily for 3+ hours per day.

Please, instead of spending 200$ on the application fees for Curtis and Julliard, which looks like a black hole, it might be a better investment to save them for a new instrument.

December 26, 2021, 5:05 AM · Do you have any videos of you playing?
Edited: December 26, 2021, 8:21 AM · For a more accurate idea of the level of the competition for admission to Juilliard/Curtis/other top schools, please go to youtube and search Juilliard precollege violin senior recital.

You seem to have the idea that if you apply to enough top schools, you might have a chance of getting into one of them. Unfortunately it doesn’t work like that.

My heart is breaking for you. You have the passion and the work ethic. What you don’t have is any shred of the family and mentoring support necessary for success. Lessons with another high school student, no matter how accomplished that other student is, aren’t remotely adequate.

Your best bet is to enlist your orchestra director’s help in finding a local *qualified* professional teacher who will teach you for little or nothing as a personal kindness or outreach, or who has connections to a scholarship program that will cover your lessons.

Don’t waste your time and money applying to Juilliard or similar schools. Look for excellent teachers at schools where you are likely to get a large academic scholarship. Columbus State in Georgia, as I posted above, is one such. If you live in Texas, even reasonably high SAT scores will get you a large scholarship at North Texas—might still be a reach school for a performance major but they also have a BA - music program that could get your foot in the door.

Go to a good teacher at a lower-tier school and practice like a demon. You can always audition to transfer after a couple of years, or set your sights on a higher-tier grad school. In the meantime, take classes that keep other paths open to you. You may discover a passion in another field that will give you a good life while you continue playing for your own joy and satisfaction.

Plenty of my formerly professional musician friends have moved on to careers in computers, law, medicine, or education and are happier and certainly better off now than they were as struggling musicians.

December 26, 2021, 8:35 AM · In my own field, I see young people all the time using GoFundMe to pursue apprenticeships, residencies, etc.. But respect your personal feelings about this. It is the donator's choice about the value of your request and the use of their money.
Have you made it clear to your parents the situation? Do they understand that your plans for music school are likely not achievable under the current situation? Do they clearly get it? Have you had the orchestra leader approach them? No need to answer, just trying to think of ways to approach the problem. No church basement or other public space you can practice?
My daughter has asked for and is allowed to use study hall time at school for practice.
As Susan says most kids trying for this have families supporting them and making sacrifices financially.
The kids themselves are not likely playing other sports or focusing on other activities. (at least at a the same high level).
It is something I have struggled with, the class element to violin. Yes, you can likely always find a path to being involved in music professionally or otherwise. But the instruments, lessons, camps, travel, intro lessons needed to reach a successful application to the top tier really does limit who can do it.
There are some great organizations like Sphinx and From the Top trying to address how this plays out- especially for minority groups. On a broader scale, the vast majority of schools in this country don't even have decent music and art programs.
Edited: December 26, 2021, 8:55 AM · I did not understand the full situation of the OP earlier, and did not see the comment where they indicated that they were being taught by a fellow HS student. I have to agree with the other posters here. Your situation is heartbreaking. If music is something you are super passionate about, I would take Mary Ellen's advice. She lays out the most realistic path for you.

David, I did not have all of the information earlier, but I still do not believe that arbitrary statements such as "if you're not playing Paganini concerto by 15, you're done" are helpful to any student. What makes the OP's situation worrisome is not their current level; they have the drive and passion to overcome that. It's the lack of family support (both material and emotional). I had not realized the extent to which the OP is not being supported at all by their own family. I've never heard of a dedicated violin student being told by their parents to not practice at home. If anything, most violin parents complain that their children don't practice enough.

To the OP: hang in there. I know you've thought deeply about this and wouldn't even consider such a difficult path if you didn't feel consumed with passion for it. Listen to the advice of wise professionals like Mary Ellen who have seen many students through the college audition process. Whether you end up in music or not, you'll end up where you're meant to be in life if you push yourself and also explore other paths on the side. It's a wild journey, and I wish you all the best.

December 26, 2021, 9:00 AM · Again, just trying to throw out ideas.
I would make an appointment with the orchestra director. Print out this entire thread. Say, "This is what I am being told is necessary. You are suggesting that I begin to prepare for college auditions. Is there anything you and the school can do to help me?"
December 26, 2021, 9:01 AM · I have nothing useful to add. Just wanted to send some virtual hugs to you, OP. I cannot imagine not supporting a child with that kind of passion for anything.
December 26, 2021, 9:13 AM · Just to throw out a wild card (not knowing your family's financial status or their support of your choices)- and as an addition to this helpful thread for others-
There are boarding schools like Walnut Hill and Interlochen. There is financial aid, sometimes fully funded if the family income is low enough. Walnut Hill compresses academics into morning, the rest of the day for music and sends student to NEC every Saturday for lessons and orchestra. There are likely west coast versions I am unaware of.

Edited: December 26, 2021, 1:23 PM · "if you're not playing Paganini concerto by 15, you're done"

Evan, That is NOT what I said!

Most of graduates of the top 2 music schools in the country left music after college. I know at least one former concertmaster of the Juilliard Orchestra(of performance majors ) is freelancing. I am sure you know why.

When giving advice, you (1)should take the time to read the whole situation and (2) should not misquote!

December 26, 2021, 1:45 PM · What Mary Ellen said. This is the reality.
Edited: December 26, 2021, 2:19 PM · "I've never heard of a dedicated violin student being told by their parents to not practice at home."

I had not yet started learning a string instrument at the time, but was a serious piano student and, although my parents were willing to pay for lessons, I was told by my parents to refrain from practicing at home while they were home. Unfortunately this doesn't give me any special insights on how to make it work, because I just practiced less. (Which was enough to get a DipABRSM in piano performance and play piano in university chamber ensembles, but not enough to get into schools as a piano performance major.)

I think Mary Ellen's suggestion of going somewhere you can get a large academic scholarship and take lessons from an excellent teacher is a good one.

Edited: December 26, 2021, 4:06 PM · Have you talked to your parents about college? If you apply to 10 places with a $100 application fee, that'd cost $1,000 plus the cost of travel if you pass the prescreening(s). Depending on where you live and where you plan to audition, that's going to be a big expense. I'm thinking if your parents won't get you a better violin & bow at this point, are they going to support you throughout the audition process and pay for their share if you decide to major in violin performance?

If you haven't had this conversation yet, it's time.

December 26, 2021, 4:45 PM · While you're at it, make sure you have checked with the school guidance counselors (or other source of info) about financing. There are different ways to afford college-- as some have mentioned, there are schools that will give you a ride on academic 'merit', however that is defined. Conservatories and other professional schools will do something quite similar also. It's actually part of the salary package for better professors that the school will bribe top students to join their studio and lure them away from free rides at Curtis and elsewhere.

By contrast, many of the older, wealthier colleges will explicitly not compete on that level but will admit classes they like and give aid (bursaries in the UK) to students whose families can't afford sticker price. Obviously, their vision of affordable may be different from your parents'.

Different games played in different locations.

December 26, 2021, 7:37 PM · Some really good advice here. I would say with your situation you should be looking at non-conservatory level schools that have really good teachers. This will give you a better chance of getting into a school. In the Meantime you really need to find a good teacher. They don’t necessarily have to have a record of getting students into conservatories, but they need to have experience of getting students into music schools or at least the background/credentials to do it.

Schools wise I would echo Mary Ellen’s recommendation for UNT (North Texas) and not just because I went there for my undergrad. For teachers they have Julia Bushkova who has been mentioned on this site a few times and also has a YouTube channel where she makes teaching videos. Even if you don’t audition there her videos are a goldmine. There’s also Philip Lewis who is who I studied with when I was there. He was a good teacher for me and I would’ve continued to study with him if I hadn’t gotten into SMU. SMU (Meadows school of the Arts) would be a good choice because they not only have Diane Kitzman who plays with the DSO, but they also have Alexander Sitkovetsky (who I study with right now) and Chad Hoopes. Look up Sitkovetsky and Hoopes they both are on the performing track soloing and playing concerts. Hoopes recently performed Mendelssohn with the Frankfurt Radio Symphony. Here’s a link:

Of course these two recommendations are only relevant if you either live in Texas or are willing to pay out of state tuition, but that being said both schools would potentially give you scholarship money. UNT has a scholarship undergrad quartet where they give you a full ride in return for playing in the quartet. SMU is a private school meaning they have a lot of money to give out scholarships.

December 26, 2021, 8:13 PM · To the people who say I need to get a better teacher, I'm working on that. The director of the Youth Orchestra I'm a part of knows my financial situation and is trying to get in contact with some of his Colleagues who might be able to give me lessons, as well as find people willing to cover the costs of my lessons. My friend who got into Northwestern just got admitted and I believe she starts next term.

Stephen, my academics are okay, but I'm not a top student so I don't think I'd get any offers like that.

I live in Texas, but I can't really specify where because my parents don't want me giving out too much personal information online. However, I'd prefer not to stay in Texas once I graduate because I've had bad experiences here. That's why I'm looking elsewhere for college. Of course I'm not completely unwilling to stay in Texas for College, but I'd rather explore all other options first.

I looked into Interlochen and Walnut Hill, and they both seem like wonderful programs that I would love to be a part of. However, I'm not sure if my parents would be as enthusiastic as I am about it. I will talk to them though.
Maybe with financial aid and a bit of luck I'll be able to go to one of them. That would definitely help me improve largely and get me ready for College. That brings me back to audition pieces though. Interlochen has a list of suggested repertoire for auditions so I'm set on that one, but
Walnut Hill says: Two or three contrasting movements or short works. The works should include selections from at least two different musical periods (ex: Baroque, Classical, Romantic, 20th Century, Contemporary).
What recommendations do you have for those?

December 26, 2021, 9:06 PM · We don’t really need to know where in Texas you live. The state was enough to recommend schools. I understand wanting a different environment, but since you do live in Texas I would keep UNT and SMU in mind as back ups if you don’t get into the other schools you audition for. In state tuition is very helpful as it’s cheaper than going out of state.

That being said there are plenty of other schools like those that are not in Texas. However, Texas is a hub for classical music.

Now for repertoire that’s pretty much up to you and your future teacher. Especially in regards to the different musical periods. For Baroque you can never go wrong with Bach sonatas and Partitas. Classical era is usually Mozart Sonatas and Concertos. Romantic can be most standard violin concertos and sonatas as well as showpieces. As for 20th century and contemporary there’s always stuff by Prokofiev, Bartok, Hindemith, etc.

December 26, 2021, 9:13 PM · The UNT academic scholarships, as far as I know, are 100% based on SAT scores. I know a student whose scores were solid but not spectacular, and they were offered the second highest level scholarship.
Edited: December 26, 2021, 10:14 PM · Mary Ellen twice named Columbus State University in Georgia, and she's got a very interesting idea there. The academics at Columbus State will be solid but not bone-crushing. Often times, teachers in places like that might not have all that many students as eager and hard-working as you. (On the other hand this school seems to emphasize performing arts more than most smaller state schools. They do have two violin professors, one of whom seems really exceptional). What's more that's not a super expensive school. Your current situation really doesn't look super promising for the straight-and-narrow path through a top conservatoire. The path to getting there is just SO expensive.

It's not without risk -- but NOTHING worthwhile in life is without risk. Sometimes in life you have to zig when everyone else zags.

December 27, 2021, 12:10 AM · Just for clarification if needed, the UNT Scholarship Undergrad Quartet is awarded by the College of Music at UNT, so it largely depends on your audition whether you get that or not. As for other scholarships from them I think they give most of their money to postgrad students (MM, DMA, etc.), but that doesn't mean it's impossible to get undergrad aid from them. I do know that UNT themselves have a program called the Emerald Eagle Scholars where they will pay for your college for up to 4 years given to people whose household income fall under a given amount. I was able to get this scholarship when I went to UNT and because of that I have no student loans from my undergrad degree.
December 27, 2021, 1:21 AM · These are the UNT scholarships I was referencing:
December 27, 2021, 1:31 AM · Oh I was just talking about the scholarship I mentioned earlier. Those are definitely SAT/academic based
December 27, 2021, 8:23 AM · Looks like February 1 is the Financial Aid application deadline for Walnut Hill. Early admission and financial aid has already passed. Without financial aid, and including boarding, the full price is close to Ivy League college tuition. All on their website.
Don't know about Interlochen, or what their violin faculty is like. Or financials. At Walnut Hill, you study with NEC pre-college faculty. You can find those on the NEC website.
If you are a diversity application, sure that would be a bonus.
We were told Bruch for HS freshman (but not rigid), certainly more open than the college discussion. This year's Menuhin Junior winner is a day student there, but I know there is a wide range.
It is common to start at WH as a Sophomore or even Junior. Chamber, theory and practice time during the week, Saturdays lesson and orchestra at NEC.
It's good to hear your Orchestra director is working for you.
Edited: December 27, 2021, 2:06 PM · If you live in a major city in Texas, chances are that there are abundant teachers around you. Given your passion, you might have some luck finding a teacher through the MusicLink Foundation.

At the very least, you need someone to professionally assess your current level of playing. There's a good chance that if you haven't had great private teaching to date, your level is not what you personally think it is. (I'm wondering whether you're playing the Lalo at a competitive level, vs. managing to just more or less get through the notes, for instance. Have you made All-State in Texas?) Erik's suggestion to post a video was a good one; you can use many video editing programs to cover your face with a cartoon head, for instance, if you don't want to be recognizable.

Mary Ellen's advice was very good. Keep up your academics, so that you have a wide choice of possible colleges, raising your odds of finding one with an excellent violin teacher that you really click with. Get an undergrad degree in something practical, while taking lessons and practicing a lot, and then apply to get an MM.

One possible wrench in this is that you might not qualify for financial aid or free teaching because you haven't said your parents can't afford to pay for private lessons (or a school like Interlochen). You said that they won't because they don't see the value in it.

This sounds to me like you either haven't shared your ambition to be a professional violinist with your parents, or your parents are completely unsupportive of that career goal. I think it's time to sit down with your parents to explain what you want, preferably with the support of a knowledgeable adult (I'd suggest your orchestra director and any friend of theirs who is a major symphony violinist or otherwise a high-level professional, if possible) present to explain to your parents what's involved.


PS. No high schooler is "qualified" to teach an advanced student, no matter how well they themselves play. Indeed, I'd be dubious about most graduate students doing so. If you want to get into a top conservatory, working with a teacher who normally trains students for that is very nearly a must. (Or an excellent teacher plus occasional coaching from someone who preps students for top conservatory auditions, for students who live too remote from top-notch teachers.)

PPS. Your cousin being a pianist won't help you much for auditions. Making a prescreening recording, sure, but you'll need a pianist for live auditions, too. You don't want to fly your cousin all over the US for that purpose, given your money concerns.

PPPS. For every school you don't apply to, you probably save yourself at least $1,000 if not $1,500 (between the application fee, flights, hotel, etc.) Two or three schools you don't apply to, will save you $4k that you can use to buy a decent student-grade violin and bow that'll be adequate to start conservatory with. (At a top school they'd probably push you to upgrade from that almost immediately, though.) Right now I'd probably prioritize lessons over an instrument upgrade, although given your $300 violin, you could get something significantly higher-quality just by renting.

December 27, 2021, 3:03 PM · As always Lydia is right on the money. I have a friend whose parents weren't very supportive of a music degree and because of that he is a senior Bio/Chem major at UNT with a minor in music. During his time at UNT he was playing in one of the orchestras and taking lessons as a secondary course as well as attending the studio classes. He is now taking lessons with a different teacher since he's a Science major to better fit his schedule and he just recently finished doing auditions for a MM. It may not be ideal, but perhaps doing a more "practical" major to satisfy your parents is the way to go. But only if you can't convince them to let you do music which you need to figure out ASAP. If you go this route make sure you talk to some of the violin professors at the schools you apply for to see if they will take you on as a student even though you wouldn't be a music major. Lots of them will, but some of them will have you take lessons with a Teaching fellow (TF) or Teacher's Assistant (TA) which is usually a DMA student.

Something I just remembered is that there is an undergrad student in my studio at SMU who is a double major in engineering and violin performance. Double majoring might be something to look into. That way you can major in something that will make your parents happy in the event that they aren't too thrilled with the thought of you only pursuing music and you still get to major in music. Plus a lot of the cores for both majors overlap, so you wouldn't have to take too many extra courses. Then once you graduate with your degrees you can pursue a MM. Someone else might know the answer to this, but I think most colleges allow you double major but not every college lets you double major in two different colleges/areas. But that might be the best of both worlds in your case. Just make sure you research both programs at the colleges you're looking at. I know you want to leave Texas, but both SMU and UNT allow double majors in different colleges. I have a friends at UNT who was majoring in engineering and violin performance before switching to music full time once he got the quartet scholarship and then again there's the person I mentioned at SMU who studies with the same teacher as me.

Edited: December 27, 2021, 10:54 PM · Not everyone would recommend that route, but my stand partner (co-concertmaster) in college started as pre-med doing something in the lab. She found a good teacher in Philadelphia while finishing her science major BA, and spent summers in Aspen. After an MM at Michigan, and she is in the Detroit Symphony.
December 27, 2021, 3:30 PM · Double majoring is great for someone who is extremely prepared in both subjects, and a nightmare of time management for everyone else. Since the OP isn't a top student, that suggests that path isn't great for them.

Your friend who's double majoring in engineering and violin performance must not need much sleep or care about a social life (and must be able to do well on both reduced study hours as well as reduced practice hours, unless they're seriously shortchanging one side in order to put in more time on the other). The core course for any engineering degree (at least at an ABET-accredited school) have minimal overlap with even a BA/BS degree's core, much less the core of a BM.

December 27, 2021, 3:32 PM · That reminds me. There are festivals and camps that offer scholarships as well as some that offer free tuition to everyone that gets in. I can't think of any off the top of my head, but that would definitely be the way to go if you want to go to festivals (which you should).
December 27, 2021, 4:07 PM · Greetings,
not as qualified as above to talk about double majors, but I think one thing that really needs to be emphasized is the question of time. To reach the incredibly high levels necessary to even survive a sa professional musician really does seem to require, according to what I have read, around the 10 000 hours practice mark. In his book ‘Outliers’ , Malcom Gladwell discusses this topic at length , noting that the two factors for success are ‘talent and preparation.’ and describes a very clear correlation between this target , 2000 hours less, 2000 hours again less, and the kind of education and or job you are going to be able to achive.
You may well have the talent (you certainly have the work ethic) but you are not even close on basic practice time and a double major will not give you that space to even try to catch up with the students who have been at it from morning to night since they were young.
December 27, 2021, 8:13 PM · A junior I know was investigating the possibility of double majoring in music performance and pre-med (at Peabody/Hopkins). She abandoned the plan, as she didn’t think it would be possible to do justice to either major. And she’s no slouch in either department (perfect SAT/ACT, concertmaster if the all-state). She said that double majoring with pre-med was not a problem, but the music takes up so much time, it is difficult to fit anything else in.
December 27, 2021, 9:44 PM · I never said double majoring was a good idea just that it was a possibility. My friend doubling in violin performance and engineering is a really good violinist and judging from the lack of sleep I'm sure she's getting she's probably doing well in engineering as well considering she's hasn't dropped either major yet. Double majoring is definitely not for everyone.

Of course the OP doesn't have to double in something as taxing as engineering and violin performance. However, if I were the OP I would try and talk to my parents about majoring in music and if they're not too enthusiastic about it either get them to understand how passionate they are about it or come to a compromise that satisfies both the OP and their parents. Most of the time that means majoring in something practical while minoring in music and taking lessons with a professor then auditioning for a MM.

In terms of getting a violin your best bet is probably going to be renting something from a shop and upgrading every time you need something better and eventually buy a violin from that shop with the credit you build up. I also agree with Lydia about saving money by not applying to as many schools and using the money you save to buy a good instrument and bow that'll get you started at college with the ability to upgrade later. You also might be able to find someone who would lend you a better instrument depending on the people you know.

Edited: December 27, 2021, 10:04 PM · If you decide that the music school you want to attend isn't in the cards, here's another vote for finding a school with an excellent teacher you can take lessons with while doing a non-music undergrad. Just factor that into your college search. My son is a an engineering major but has benefited from and greatly enjoyed his piano lessons at school. BTW he is one of the most organized kids I know, extremely good at what he does (straight As and already a junior after 1st semester), but no way he could manage a performance degree at the same time.
Edited: December 27, 2021, 10:20 PM · Double-majoring is super hard in subjects that have lab courses (chem or bio) or really hard projects (comp sci) or tragically difficult homework (engineering). With these programs you will have horrific scheduling headaches and not enough practice time, unless you're the kind of student who aces everything easily (and even students who are like that in high school can meet their match in college.)

Double major could work okay in business administration, finance, accounting, social sciences, applied math / statistics, etc. Sounds like you could be in a situation where your parents' willingness to pay your tuition could depend on the major you choose. Clinical psychology is a respectable profession but ... oopsie! After undergrad you halted off to conservatoire and got an MM instead! Who knew THAT was going to happen?

The key to all of that will be the violin teacher. Isn't that always how it works? The violin teacher at the school where you hatch your plan needs to be on board and supportive of what you're aiming for AND how you're going about it.

December 27, 2021, 10:49 PM · Paul made a good point I forgot to mention. Yes you should definitely tell the professor you plan on taking lessons with your plans of pursuing an MM after you graduate so they can help get you prepared.
December 28, 2021, 1:57 AM · I was a double major in Physics and Music, Paul. I didn't find it particularly hard. This was many years ago, but still....However, to be fair, all the things you mention are true about scheduling.


If you look at the original research, Mr. Brivati, you will find that the research does not at all actually support the supposed 10,000 hours of practice idea. People were actually all over the map with the average being 10,000 hours. The thesis has had many serious rebuttals.

December 28, 2021, 3:36 AM · if you look at my original posts I go by the name of Buri. Please read my posts to the end.
I am actually on record somewhere here as being a little dubious about the figure. nonetheless, the breakdown on the number of hours does not appear to be that far off in the two books I have read that discuss the subject. It is certainly true that talents being equal, the player who practices more (assuming the practice is appropriate and efficient, which is always a big if) will likely be a better player. The vast majority players who go to the big name schools have both clearly demonstrable chops and put in the practice hours already.
Incidentally, I provided a fairly reputable reference. So far non has been provided to support the rebuttal.
My main point stands. The problem here is not only a truly heart wrenching lack of resources, but also time.
Edited: December 28, 2021, 5:36 AM · Dear Classical Violinist, virtual hugs for you, this thread must be disheartening, but please, you are still young, but know that, if your current dream wouldn't become true, you can also have a beautiful life with music as a hobby (the best hobby there is, in fact) but not necessarily your *job*.
December 28, 2021, 6:48 AM · I imagine the 10,000 hours of practice has to be of a very specific or concentrated kind. I’ve practiced driving a car for over 20,000 hours, an experience that perhaps makes me an expert in navigating roads and highways but wouldn’t amount to anything if I were to compete in a Formula One automobile race. I think it’s not easy to focus on a skill that is very specific in nature; one needs time, opportunity, and an environment conducive to the task. Generalists are probably at a disadvantage.
December 28, 2021, 9:06 AM · I agree with Michael that considerable shade / skepticism has been cast on the "10000 hours" figure. Whenever "10000 hours" comes up in these discussions, the real point is often missed, even though I think Buri made the point clearly enough. Reaching a high technical level on the violin is a long, hard slog that requires steady time commitment over many years. Moreover, anyone hoping for a performing career needs to be aware that many MANY young people around the world are practicing their butts off, often in an environment of strong emotional and financial support from their elders. Thus the particular number (10000) is not what's important. What's important is what your competition is doing. Three hours per day for ten years is 10500 hours. I have to believe that a lot of kids entering Juilliard and Curtis have practiced more.

The main thing is that while it's possible you might be "the one" who is able to attain virtuosity well on the short side of 10000, wishing for that outcome will not make it so, and planning your career around that outcome is a fool's errand.

December 28, 2021, 9:17 AM · I struggle with threads like this one, because I feel like a good student who is often a good player gets pounded into the ground for not being competitive for Juilliard. I think we could just as a community say, "hey, the acceptance rate at Julliard is 7.6%, and that includes really great players, so know that it's a super long shot." Aiming for a music degree for university is a fine thing to shoot for, if the OP can find a way to swing it. I think the advice about teachers, camps, TX schools etc., are also very helpful. What's the percent of major orchestra players on this board? Probably still under 1% but you guys are doing a lot of cool things.
December 28, 2021, 9:29 AM · I don’t think anybody has been pounding the OP into the ground. The suggestion that they not waste their time and money on an effort with a 0% chance of success is not criticism.

I sincerely hope that the OP’s orchestra director is able to hook them up with a qualified professional teacher who will work with the financial aspects of this situation and understand the family difficulties involved.

December 28, 2021, 9:58 AM · So, for instance the "financial aspects" and "family difficulties" are pretty much normal US middle class life. Probably most regular students don't take private lessons but many still live musically full lives.

I don't know how many Interlochen boarding students ($70,000) are on full financial aid scholarships, but I'm guessing it's not a lot. Sometimes reading it can feel like if your child isn't practicing three hours a day with weekly lessons and a $20,000 instrument then they are somehow deficient.

December 28, 2021, 10:30 AM · J wrote, "Sometimes reading it can feel like if your child isn't practicing three hours a day with weekly lessons and a $20,000 instrument then they are somehow deficient."

Morally deficient? Nobody is making such a value judgement. But some endeavors are just really expensive, and vocational training on the violin (as distinct from casual or hobbyist-level involvement) is one of them.

But it's not the only one.

Gymnastics, figure skating, ice hockey, chess, sailing, golf, scuba diving -- these things are maybe affordable at the local level, but if you want to be a competitive professional, the costs go up considerably, and the biggest part of those costs is usually private instruction. I agree with J that the kinds of difficulties that the OP is experiencing are typical of the American middle class. But the competition doesn't care. Is that unfair? Yes, it certainly is. I understand that many people, even in the US, couldn't afford a decent musical education for their kids of they wanted to. But there are many others for whom this "inability" is the result of choices and priorities for which the child usually bears little if any responsibility.

December 28, 2021, 10:45 AM · Paul, I think we're mostly on the same page, but when you put "inability" in air quotes, it says to me that you really believe the parents could come up with the money if they made different "choices and priorities." That still feels pretty judge-y to me.

I get that at the most competitive levels violin looks a lot like olympic golf or gymnastics of sailing, but there are still millions of kids who do grades 5-12 on strings and then continue on in music for life in one form or another. I agree that OP shouldn't be delusional about schools, but the interventions being proposed often seem equally quixotic. It's also important to say that there's a lot you can do in music beyond professional orchestras.

Edited: December 28, 2021, 11:56 AM · Classical Violinist and others might want to read the extensive blog about conservatory auditions on The blogger's daughter ended up at Julliard, I believe. The blog is written from the parent's perspective, so it helps you understand the level of parental support necessary for success. Note that attending Julliard hardly guarantees a spot in a major orchestra!

I don't think pointing out the intense parental investment necessary for successful placement at a top school as a violin (or piano, or cello) student is meant to shame parents who do not provide this level of support. However, I do think it will help students who aspire to Julliard to avoid feeling deficient ("I'm not talented enough," "I haven't worked hard enough," and "What was I thinking!?!") when they realize that there is almost no way of competing with their peers who have received this level of investment and guidance. Perhaps by understanding the level of preparation necessary, students, such as Classical Violinist, will not think of themselves as inherently "less than," but rather, understand that the environment in which they prepared was "less than."

I believe this is actually the opposite of "pounding down" the OP.

December 28, 2021, 12:07 PM · The OP didn't say that their parents can't support their ambitions. They said that they don't (and I'm guessing, are unlikely to change their minds).

There's a gigantic difference between not-well-off but supportive parents, and unsupportive parents (of whatever wealth level). Supportive parents can do a lot to help an ambitious child. They can help them research programs that provide free or reduced-cost instruction. They can help them apply for scholarships. They can engage in advocacy of various sorts. They can provide structural support -- rearranging the family's schedules to maximize the child's available time to practice, for instance. They can take on debt, or work an extra job, in order to stretch to cover necessary financial expenditures.

The OP isn't saying, "Gosh, I love music, and I'd like to figure out how I can make it part of my life on an ongoing basis." The OP is saying, "I want to go to a first-tier, best-of-the-best conservatory in order to become a professional violinist."

The fact that most of the replies are effectively, "Given your circumstances, you should exchange the latter for the former," is probably not going to be of vast comfort to the OP when they read these responses. The fact that lots of people go on to be adequately-competent amateurs isn't what they're looking for here.

No one is judging parents who choose to have their children learn the violin as enrichment and future hobby. But the cold truth is to pursue the arts (or sports, or niche competitive hobbies like chess) in a serious, globally-competitive fashion, there needs to be serious investment of time, effort, and likely money.

December 28, 2021, 12:35 PM · What Lydia said. A lot of people don't seriously value the arts, or understand the kind of investment of time and money that it takes to be truly good. This isn't as strongly correlated with wealth as you'd think.

I grew up in a lower-middle class family that prioritized music and education, so we went without new clothes, vacations, nice cars/electronics, etc. but got to study with the best local private teachers and go to camp (on scholarship) and Ivy League schools (on scholarship).

My best friend, who was the valedictorian of our high school class, lived in a fancy house and had a walk-in closet full of name-brand clothes. She got a car in high school, and her family went on nice vacations and had a yacht down at the coast. But when it came time to apply to college, she was limited to the local state schools (where her grades ensured her full merit scholarships). Her stepdad described a year at Amherst (where another close friend of ours went) as "driving a brand new Cadillac off a cliff." I don't think that her family was culturally unusual for our area. (Our family, on the other hand...)

Edited: December 28, 2021, 1:05 PM · I'm not saying that you (the OP) should just give up. What I and a lot of other people are saying is that your path to what you want is not as straight-forward as it is for other people. You could get to a top conservatory, but it might not be as an undergraduate or right when you graduate from high school. That's why a lot of us were recommending you go to camps, get a good teacher, and take lessons at college while you pursue a major that your parents are supportive of (because college is expensive) while minoring in music. You can always audition for an MM later OR you could even do a secondary bachelors in music after you graduate with the first bachelors if you really want to. My Bio/chem major friend was considering doing that, but it comes with some caveats. It's another 4 years of school depending on how many cores the music degree will accept from your first bachelors. Ultimately he decided to audition for MM for most of the schools he applied to but he is preparing an audition for one secondary bachelors at UNT where he currently studies. Either of these paths are viable, but I would talk to whatever teacher you would potentially end up taking lessons with at college to see what they think. They might think a secondary bachelor's is a great idea, or they may tell you a MM is the better choice.

I grew up in a lower middle class family as well, but my mom was super supportive of me wanting to do music. More accurately, she was supportive of me doing what made me happy. You have a tough road ahead of you. But honestly I think you have the passion to make what you want for your life a reality. It's just going to take a lot of work and drive on your part.

December 28, 2021, 1:26 PM · To clarify my advice, I was not suggesting either a double major or an alternate major. I was suggesting that while studying the violin with a good teacher at a lower tier school, the OP could take other classes as electives and possibly find new interests.

December 28, 2021, 2:13 PM · I just wanted to share the story of one person we know with a kind of similar situation to the OP, though he did have a bit more support as a teen. He was homeschooled and sent to college (two years early I think!) to become an accountant. Given the culture he grew up in, he didn’t have much choice. But he kept practicing and after finishing his accounting degree, practiced a ton and successfully entered a top tier conservatory for both his BM and MM. Most of all this happened after he became an adult and was able to make his own choices. He’s now a young professional and is doing pretty well, though the pandemic has been very hard on him. The point is that we all have more time than we think to make our dreams come true.

OP may have to wait until 18 to get the lessons and practice time he wants. But that isn’t too late in his case, because it sounds like he may have both the dedication and talent, and is doing OK a despite not having support, lessons, or a decent violin. I would not say the same thing to someone who has been playing for 10+ years and studying with a top notch teacher and is still only at Lalo by the end of high school. That individual was given all the tools and was only able to get so far. OP, on the other hand, deserves some extra time with proper instruction to see if he can get there.

Edited: December 28, 2021, 11:15 PM · I smiled at Katie B's post. My story is similar in many ways. Lets just say I'm grateful for the choices (read: sacrifices) my parents made.
December 29, 2021, 3:24 AM · Whereas my experience was more like that of OP -- we were well off but my parents did not see any value in music lessons other than looking more "well-rounded" for college applications, and similarly didn't want me practicing while they were home. (I'm guessing OP's parents can afford to pay for lessons but won't, given that OP isn't allowed to work to earn money for lessons.)

Under those circumstances the conventional route, directly to conservatory after high school, is out of the question. Obviously there are still other options, as has been pointed out. It's just a longer road.

Edited: January 1, 2022, 8:26 AM · For the Bach- Does to matter if the movements are in order? Should they be movements adjoining one another or would it matter?

For the OP, and as a general addition- Bard is another school offering dual degrees, Gil Shaham and Adele Anthony among others teach there.

Edited: January 3, 2022, 6:36 AM · Watching the others in my son's program, the ones who pick a Bach Sonata tend to do adjoining movements, 1st/2nd or 3rd/4th. Those who do Partitas do not usually do adjoining movements. (Though the pairs of dances like the 2 Minuets in Partita 3 count as one movement. Ditto with the doubles in Partita 1.) Generally, those doing Partitas do a first movement and then choose a contrasting later movement.

I think that ultimately it does not matter as long as they are contrasting, which usually means slow and fast. Bach did conceive of the slow opening movements in Sonatas as connected to the fugues, though, which is why people will often do those together. For example, the ending of the first mvmt from the second sonata is really strange unless you go into the fugue.

Edited: January 3, 2022, 5:46 AM · Hi OP,

Happy New Year and I really feel for you. I was in a very similar spot two decades ago. I had some strong passion for music, but lacking resources and support to pursue that passion. It was a hard pill to swallow but I am glad I swallowed it with tears. I wished things were different but they were what they were.

You don't have to go to a music program to enjoy making music. In fact, you don't have to be very good to enjoy making music. Treating music as a hobby instead of a career has advantages: you will be under less stress, you might enjoy making music more. However, as a life long hobby, continuous development in music demands a lot of time, financial stability, spousal support/negotiation, and sacrifices.

Adult life has many challenges and a relative stress-free, curious, self-aware state of mind is important to pursue music as a life long hobby. So my advice is to find a career that you don't hate, are good at, provides okay $$, and a good work life balance. You will have the rest of your life to learn and play music, and maybe even provide your children with things weren't provided for you.

For everyone person I know in our shoes who made it to pros, there are many more who didn't make it and suffer greatly because of it. It is your life OP, think carefully, make your choices, and continuously re-evaluate your choices.

Edited: January 7, 2022, 12:29 PM · Just received via Amazon the book Susan recommended early in the thread, College prep for Musicians, looks very useful!
The OP's access to help being mostly through orchestra reminded me of a conversation I had...
A young woman who was finishing undergrad, now in grad (both schools on anyone's shortlist) gave my daughter a lesson at a camp situation. We talked afterwards, I was fretting over my daughter's access to a good orchestral experience because of our isolated location. She said the thing she most regretted about her middle school and high school years was her heavy involvement with orchestra. That the time at that age would have been better spent on practice, skills building, possibly chamber. That orchestra was fun and socially compelling, but possibly not moving her forward efficiently in her playing. She felt she could have learned later any skills she needed for the orchestra, and that she found herself playing catch-up at college with those who had focused more on their solo playing and chamber.
Just what this person said, would like to hear other opinions.
January 7, 2022, 5:15 PM · Matthew, I totally agree. My son still does some orchestra with his program (2 hours chamber orch a week) and did full orchestra up to age 12. He learned all the necessary skills and now spends most of his focus on independent practice and chamber music.
January 7, 2022, 10:19 PM · Some understanding of "orchestra skills" is valuable, but I agree that a conservatoire student ought to be able to pick those up pretty quickly even with zero prior orchestral experience. On the other hand, for the intensely driven and hyper-scheduled kids, school orchestra might be just about their only form of diverse socialization.

I play violin in a no-audition community orchestra, and viola in a youth orchestra that would otherwise not have any violists, and I enjoy those activities. But each weekly rehearsal does usually displace two days of regular practicing. What's more, in an effort to avoid appearing to "skim" the best players, non-scholastic youth orchestras will often compel their members to play in their school orchestra as well, if their school has an orchestra.

Edited: January 8, 2022, 8:12 AM · Ensemble experience is vital, although in theory the skills are more efficiently built with chamber music. But learning how to blend with a section, listen across the orchestra, etc. are all skills unto themselves that need to be learned in an orchestral setting. And, of course, following a conductor and a section leader.

The time spent in rehearsal isn't wasted, as long as the conductor is excellent and the music is at an appropriate level. But the time spent practicing the music is largely wasted. I value every bit of time I spent playing in orchestras as a kid, almost always as a section leader. But I rarely worked on orchestral music at home, and it showed up rarely in lessons (concertmaster solos and excerpts, pretty much).

It also depends on how much someone likes orchestra. For me, it's the top reason that I play the violin; I love orchestral music and the experience of being in an orchestra. So it was a highlight for me from the moment I first heard an orchestra as a 6-year-old.

January 8, 2022, 11:22 AM · Lydia I agree with you, but I wonder how the "appropriate level" is selected. Even in a decent high school orchestra there will be a pretty wide range of skills. For example one might have a mean level of Suzuki Book 6 but a standard deviation of two Suzuki Books.
January 8, 2022, 7:09 PM · Paul, my daughter is going to middle school next year, and they have 5 levels of orchestra, and something like 250 kids in it, any given year. Placement is via a (brief) audition, if I understand it correctly. I would assume that she would find an appropriate level in the orchestra. This sort of thing is not unusual here.
Edited: January 9, 2022, 12:53 PM · It depends a lot on the school. Most public schools around here have orchestras, but in most of the high schools there are only two levels of orchestra: an "advanced" orchestra that takes all the students who can play in third position, and a "beginner" orchestra that's really all beginners. There may be no more than 50 kids in the orchestra program even at a fairly large school. The skill range in the upper orchestra is extremely wide by necessity, because there simply aren't enough skilled string players to have more levels.

The big orchestra programs with multiple levels tend to be in affluent suburbs. From here, if you go 15 miles down the road, you'll find one of the top high school orchestra programs in California, with multiple levels of orchestras and even a specialized Baroque ensemble. But the affluent suburban schools are not the norm.

January 8, 2022, 8:00 PM · Lydia, I agree that it really depends on how much the child/student enjoys orchestra. My daughter fell asleep after 10 minutes when we first started taking her to concerts at age 5. She likes ballet and opera though but not if it's orchestra only. So naturally, she decided she'll do viola and space out during school orchestra class. For her, it's a strictly social hour. I haven't ever seen her open the viola case the entire school year at home.

Sue, my daughter's middle school only has 2 levels at 8th grade and that's it. High school has 3 levels but she's never been too keen on joining them. We are already struggling with practice (her teacher says 3 hours is the absolute minimum even for school days and she also has to practice piano) so I don't see how we can manage regular violin practice and orchestra practice. Definitely not joining the youth orchestra.

I think she's more suited to a jazzy chamber ensemble or similar than an orchestra.

OP, I hope you found a teacher who's willing to work with you. Sending best wishes.

January 8, 2022, 8:50 PM · My daughter is only doing ES orchestra because it’s a condition for playing in the youth orchestra, which she absolutely loves. She doesn’t really practice that much either, so the material isn’t particularly challenging, but it makes her enjoy her instrument more, which I think is quite valuable. One of her friends is only staying with her instrument because she loves her YO.

There is no earthly way my daughter is practicing for 3 hours a day. There just aren’t enough hours in the day!

January 8, 2022, 10:15 PM · Three hours a day is a snap for middle-school kids who usually don't have much if any homework and less competition for their time from volunteer (i.e., resume-building) activities, sports, or part-time jobs. It'll get harder in high school.
January 9, 2022, 1:53 AM · Her high school is notorious for pushing kids too hard. The mental health issues for the students are quite serious. They also send very few kids to conservatories each year. 0 or 1. IF she really is sure she wants to pursue becoming a violinist a few years from now, we will have to consider either homeschooling her or an online schooling option.

3 hours a day is not that easy for us. Her middle school does give a lot of homework and some projects are really time-consuming. She has to read a few books a week and she has a research paper with annotated bibliography due every few weeks. It's more like a regular high school and their high school is a lot like college with tons of AP courses and then early college courses at the state flagship campus during summer, etc. She tries to finish most of her homework at school but it's not always possible.

Sue, it sounds like your daughter is enjoying her orchestra experience and I'm happy for her! I don't think 3 hour of practice is necessary for most violin students around age 11.

January 9, 2022, 10:38 AM · Is 3 hours of practice a day necessary for anyone, unless they’re planning to go to a music school?

Her MS is among the more rigorous ones in the county, so I’m expecting that she will likely have more work in MS than she is used to. And she wants to pursue a more rigorous math track IF she tests in (I think it’s a bad idea, and am trying to dissuade her), one that will end up on her HS transcript, so that’s likely even more challenging work. The time will be there in theory (School is from 7:30-2:30), but in reality, it will make for some really long days, if she just keeps her current schedule, and only adds homework and projects.

Edited: January 9, 2022, 2:09 PM · OP, I work in student finance - not in the US, but I know enough about financing college in the US to have to tell you: the most important thing you have to do before you apply and audition for any of these schools is figuring out your budget.

You may be admitted to any or all of these schools, but if you can’t pay, you can’t go.

You need to find out
A) how much your parents are *able* to pay per year
B) how much your parents are *willing* to pay per year
C) via the colleges net price calculator on their websites, how much the *college* wants your parents to pay per year.

If C is higher than A or B or both by more than the maximum student loan you can take out (currently 5k in year 1 and 2, 6.5 k in year 3, 7.5 k in year 4) you can’t go.

Yes, some colleges are very generous with need based aid. But they tend to be the schools that ar hardest to get in, and what the college determines your need is may not be what your family thinks it should be.

Yes, there are scholarships, both for academics and for music. But they go to the best students, and you say you are good but not great at academics, and, though talented and determined, you are good but not great at the violin.

You may not be able to afford to say you want to leave Texas, but may have to focus on schools like UNT. It’s not a bad option.

January 9, 2022, 8:30 PM · There are plenty of students who will decide against attending conservatory, but still effectively want to compete against the kids who are (in terms of orchestra seats, solo competitions, etc.). That means that their practice commitments will probably be pretty significant despite the lack of career ambition.
January 9, 2022, 9:10 PM · I find myself wondering how these kids will find the time to be "practice buddies" for other violin students if they don't have time to do their own practicing on top of their schoolwork.
January 11, 2022, 7:25 PM · Homeschooling?

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