Watch the Indianapolis Competition Livestream

Violin crossroads - continue investment (with sample audio)?

Edited: August 1, 2022, 11:02 PM · My daughter is turning 13 this December. The music teacher has asked us to invest time and $ into additional music lessons to further develop her. It is going to be a major financial and time commitment.

She has expressed interest in going to university music program. However, base on some comments on this forum, we are afraid it's too late for her to develop in order to go to top tier school.

Just wondering if we could have some suggestions based on the 2 audio performances in the link here: https://soundcloud.com/violinhifi/sample <- I closed the audio file as the thread is getting off tracked :). Hope others can benefit from the advices in the thread as much as us! Thank you all!

Thanks!

Replies (60)

July 30, 2022, 12:55 AM · She's totally musical! Absolutely invest in what your daughter needs. It sounds like she's doing great work with her teacher, so let the two of them continue on the path. She'll do great with the next 5 years.
July 30, 2022, 12:58 AM · She's good enough.
She'll be good enough in 5 years time.
Take this forum with a pinch of salt.
July 30, 2022, 4:03 AM · There are much more talented and musical 13 year olds who are playing Tchaikovsky and Paganini. She’s very talented, but the field is saturated with wunderkinds. If you don’t have a lot of money, I’d just keep doing what you’ve been doing.
Edited: July 30, 2022, 6:29 AM ·
What stands out to me above all else, is her desire to pursue music. Her level of playing now is irrelevant, because the whole point of taking lessons is to improve.

People succeed, because they do the best they can with the resources available to them. I'm sure that it's possible for your daughter to obtain a very fine education, and excellent preparation, without going to a top-tier school.

What she really needs in all of this, is the faith and support of her parents. Where there is a will, there can be a way.

July 30, 2022, 7:58 AM · In 1973 I participated in a master class led by the violinist who was Heifetz's assistant at the Heifetz Master Class at the University of Southern California at the time (Clair Hodgkins). She had brought along the student violinists from the Heifetz Master Class as other participants in this class (they were all wonderful young violinists in their 20s (I was one of the adult amateur participants). The youngest of the those Heifetz students was an 18 year old girl who had started playing violin at age 13. She was the first participant who played in the class and she played as fine a Bruch Violin Concerto performance as I have ever heard recorded.

I'd say if your daughter can dedicate the effort and advance at the rate her teacher seems to expect it could pay off.

July 30, 2022, 8:11 AM · Victoria,
Frankly, I think your daughter has an excellent shot at a good school. The highest tiers? It’s hard predict these sorts of things, and musical development is often non-linear. But she has a naturally beautiful tone, which is a great starting place. Technique (hers is very good) can catch up to tone, but not often the other way around. There has to be an innate drive to produce a beautiful tone—not all students have that.

Much depends on the teacher, your daughter’s capacity to focus and work relentlessly hard (we all know kids go through many changes at this age, some positive and some not so much…), and other factors.

Here are a couple of traits that may serve as a test as to whether continued investment is wise:
-Does she love to perform? (As in, absolutely lives for the stage?)
-Is she the type of student that you have to tear away from her instrument? (As opposed to continually nag about practicing?)

July 30, 2022, 8:38 AM · If it's her dream, as a parent I would do whatever you can to further it. Unless she has other, greater interests, she should be encouraged to pursue her music. You do not want to end up with her regretting that she did not give it her best shot (and maybe blaming you), even if she has to switch to Plan B at some point later on. We encouraged both our children to follow their dreams and tried our best to enable them to do it. As a result, neither they nor we have any regrets; it was the right choice.
July 30, 2022, 9:01 AM · Your daughter's playing is lovely -- it's notably musical, and it's very solid technically for a student at this level of intermediate-level repertoire. You're right that she's not as far along as many highly ambitious students, but she's also not behind from the perspective of expected progression for students who aren't devoted to music. At age 12, this is perfectly good playing with a solid foundation that can be built upon.

She's five years from needing to prep a college audition, and she has plenty of time to decide how serious she's going to be about going into a career in music. (I am a firm believer that time spent mastering an instrument is not wasted, even for players that decide not to pursue a career in music -- or even those who decide to stop playing after childhood.)

If your child is bright, hardworking, and well-taught, putting in more practice time can result in massive jumps in improvement in a fairly short period of time. I wouldn't make judgments right now about her future. If you can afford it, you should support the additional investment in music.

However, your child also isn't a prodigy, so I wouldn't neglect academics in middle school (or high school), or other extracurriculars necessary to build a competitive portfolio for college.

July 30, 2022, 9:13 AM · These pieces are played quite well for this level of repertoire. Yes, most kids on track to go to major conservatories would have played this 2-3 years earlier on average, but they likely didn't play them as well as your daughter. Both my kids played Accolay earlier, but it definitely wasn't as refined as this. She plays musically, mostly in tune, and you can tell she has a very good foundation with vibrato, double stops, scales/arpeggios, and bow strokes.

My question for you is why she is still on this level repertoire at age 12/13? It sounds like she has the capability to play more advanced pieces and should be doing so. It may simply be a matter of her not practicing enough to get through the repertoire quickly. How much is she practicing per day?

And related to that, how much does she WANT to practice a day, and generally how motivated is she about a career in music? There are kids who play beautifully who simply don't want to put in the effort because they would rather become a neuroscientist or a writer. If that is the case, I wouldn't force it, but know that music can open doors to getting into colleges for academic subjects as well.

If she starts practicing ~2 hours a day and progresses at a typical pace, I don't see any reason why she wouldn't be a good candidate for a good conservatory or music school in 5-6 years. Note that she will likely also need to increase other musical skills like playing in an orchestra, playing chamber music, learning theory, etc. All of that takes time and effort that she (and you!) need to be willing to support.

July 30, 2022, 9:19 AM · Thank you for everyone's suggestions! Just some answer to Scott's question to add some perspective:

1. She absolutely loves performing on the big stage! She can do it all day and perform so much better than her regular play.
2. Unfortunately we have to ask her to practice. She is willing to do it if we ask. If she has the focus and the will for longer practice, she can be so much better.
3. She loves violin though and doesn't want to give it up at all!
4. No, she's not a gifted kid - bright but not gifted :).

July 30, 2022, 9:36 AM · @Susan - I think there is a school of thought from the teachers that music grade (e.g. ABRSM or RCM - Canada) should be the same as school grade otherwise it's too early. Even for her, the teacher might think it's a bit early for her to do these pieces since her school grade is already 1 grade lower.

Generally during the school year she practices 1 hr a day. The month before performance: 2 hours a day.

July 30, 2022, 9:45 AM · Make sure you have a teacher that routinely prepares kids for college auditions.
If you live near a large city or conservatory, look at an organized pre-college program.
Camps every summer, best you can get in.
There is an excellent online group class called Violin Breakfast offered by pedagogue Amy Beth Horman.
Success in admissions will be based on solo rep, so whatever your child's long term goals, the path is through advancing that solo rep., rather than orchestra.
Andrew, always enjoy your posts, but someone picking up the violin at 13 as things are now has more chance of winning a mega lottery than having a future living in classical performance.
OP if you can share your location very broadly, there are folks who are or have been in a similar position, with helpful knowledge.
Lastly, I believe like others have said, it really comes down to what the child wants, there are values to pursuing skills and goals regardless of what she chooses as a career.

July 30, 2022, 9:49 AM · Personally, I think that 'school of thought' fits some organizational need, and likely would slow down a talented kids progress.
Edited: July 30, 2022, 10:29 AM · I agree with Lydia. My guess is that the reason the student is "still on this level of repertoire" (Susan's question) is because she chose something solidly prepared for performance (the recording is a live performance) rather than current working pieces or stretch-goal material that would need more polishing. As we've discussed in other threads, recitals involve a lot of complicated planning and difficult choices.
July 30, 2022, 11:59 AM · I don't know where your daughter has been in this discussion with the teacher, but if additional lessons are on the menu, then hopefully your daughter understands that additional practice is going to be needed to support those lessons. If she has the bandwidth, it would be a good idea to start inching the practice time up. You could see how she does with two 45 minute sessions rather than a single hourlong session (if that's her current practice).

She's at an age where she can start taking the reins of her own progress and figuring stuff out directly with her teacher, but switching gears is still asking her to do something new, so hopefully this can all be done in a really supportive way, without pressure. If she loves playing and performing, that's already a great success.

I'm not scandalized by the level of repertoire, because the level of her playing is very high.

July 30, 2022, 12:02 PM · @Victoria - you have received lots of good advice here. One thing to remember is that if you want to try to enable your daughter's dream, you need to be prepared to put in a good deal of work and time on her behalf. Make sure you are up for doing it.

The other thing is that you need to keep in mind that she must have a Plan B in case things don't work out. This will mostly become crucial if she gets into a music program in university but does not quite have what it takes. Plan B can be simply going into teaching music or something totally non-musical. I know a number of Julliard-trained lawyers. But, she needs to keep some options open along the way. Good luck!

July 30, 2022, 12:14 PM · I would strongly advise not to stick with ABRSM/RCM grades as a gauge of what a student should be playing. Generally, the UK in particular is behind pedagogically compared to the US and Asia. What I mean by that is that students tend to start later, tend to progress slower, and reach a lower level of mastery prior to university. (Simon Fischer wrote a whole essay on this if you want more info.) If a student is capable of working at a faster pace, they definitely should be encouraged to do so. Each student should be assessed individually in this regard. It has little to do with age, and more to do with motivation, practicing, and teaching.

Do you have access to a good pre-college music program nearby with comprehensive training (ie lessons, orchestra, etc.)? That is likely your best for thorough, appropriate education.

Beyond that, I second everything Matthew said.

Edited: July 30, 2022, 3:36 PM · I agree with Tom Holzman. Some might say that it's too soon at the age of 13 to worry about "Plan B". But if academics start to slip (not just performance but also interest and motivation), it's hard to restore. Math and science are bedrock. English and history are important, too, but it's much easier to catch up on those in college if your interests lie in those areas. If you're behind in math there's a lot of majors that just won't be doable in four years. I teach university chemistry, and there's a math test students have to pass before they're admitted to any of our regular chemistry courses, even the ones for life-science majors.

If you want your daughter to have a sport in addition to music and academics, it will be hard to do that through the public school because they will make impracticable demands on her time. Kids in our area have side-stepped this by doing golf or swimming or tennis lessons in the private sector -- which, of course, means even more of your time and a LOT more of your money. And you thought *violin* lessons were expensive.

Edited: July 30, 2022, 9:52 PM · Per Christian's suggestion-My 13 yr. old daughter does three 45 minutes practices a day, during the school year. In 8th grade the school let her use a study hall which helped. Weekends and running up to camp or recital, often 3 hours. If you look on violinmasterclass.com you can see suggested practice time for pre-professional kids. 12, 3 hours, 14-18, 3-4 hours.
You might also google Violin Repertoire, you'll see the Wisconsin String Academy list by Mimi Zweig.
More importantly is Dorothy Delay's list there. It will give you a guide of the order of Rep.
People will pile on, but as a very rough marker, (I am a parent not a player)- Bruch by 12 is the norm for kids wanting to go to conservatory. She should also have played Mozart 3, possibly 5 by then. All this seems within reach of her, if she wants.
And while camps aren't always perfect, getting her in front of a variety of people, and having her experience the range of players at her age is all really vital.
There is also the idea of a gap year with a great local teacher, long days to practice her college audition. while she is not pouring coffee at Starbucks part time saving up $.



July 30, 2022, 9:01 PM · Some teachers would prefer to keep students on intermediate repertoire for longer to really master the skills before pushing into the advanced repertoire. I don't think there are good reasons to artificially constrain repertoire based on the child's age, though.

Age 12 is sufficiently old to begin self-motivation for practice, even if they still need some structure (like an enforced practice schedule) to support it. Ramping to two hours of practice (40 + 40 + 40, say) is a reasonable choice at this stage. The really serious students are likely to be practicing 3-4 hours. But there will be many students who are merely serious about their music in a non-preprofessional way who will practice 2 hours a day.

July 30, 2022, 10:18 PM · I was encouraged when I listened to the recording and I heard what I consider to be a very good violin sound. It's quite possible this child has a real knack for the violin but hasn't yet been exposed to teachers or peers who can support a steeper learning curve. That's where pre-college programs can be hugely beneficial. Unfortunately they do not exist in 99+% of the localities in the United States -- even if we exclude Alaska. A teacher who has "been there before" and who has other students who are trying to get there is the next best thing.
Edited: July 30, 2022, 11:54 PM · Thanks everyone for the reply and valuable perspectives!

She is doing equally well in piano (similar intermediate level) but dual instruments = practice time is splitting into piano and violin. Her interest and passion is more in violin definitely. Should she quit piano completely at this point?

@Tom and @Paul - Thank you! A career in violin is very difficult; henceforth, I have asked the question on top tier school in US/Canada. She is also interested in computer in general so we have also thought about dual majors if top-tier is impossible. However, people who has gone through this path has mentioned that it is extremely difficult and stressful. Would be interested in hearing comments on this too.

@Lydia @Susan- Thank you for your comments and advice! Yes, we will also need to focus on academic especially on grade 8 as her mark will determine the high school that she will go to. If we quit piano, 2 hrs to 3 hrs a day might be do-able + focus on math + English. She is also doing music theory on the side.

@Matthew and @Paul - Thank you for the pre-college and the repertoire suggestions! We have a pre-college program here. They seem to have similar expectations on school grade versus pre-college grade. We are in Canada. Not sure if it makes a difference. We will reach out to the school to learn more and also have a chat with her teacher about the repertoire!

@Christian - Thank you for your encouragement! I will definitely let her know about the motivating feedback!

Edited: July 31, 2022, 6:35 AM · @Victoria - lots of kids do dual majors. My son is an example. He wanted to go into tv production and got into Northwestern U. which has a very good program in that area. We suggested that he also have a more traditional major in case tv did not work out, so he chose Political Science. He did very well in both and had a great time. After graduating, he went to Los Angeles and spent ten years in tv production before moving to Minneapolis, where he is assistant to the manager of a large tv station. HIs favorite Political Science professor was ready to write law school recommendations for him if he wanted, so that was clearly a viable Plan B.

If a student does dual majors, one of which is in the arts, I think it helps if the other is more classroom-oriented to limit the time that needs to be spent on it.

July 31, 2022, 10:28 AM · About double majors. The key, I believe, is to avoid the most effort-consuming among them: Computer science, engineering, and sciences that involve a lot of labs (chemistry, physics, biology). Just scheduling everything and finding time for daily practice when you have really brutal projects, homework, and exam preparation becomes impracticable. I backed off from saying "avoid the most challenging" majors because chemistry comes easily to some who might struggle with marketing or political science. A truly rigorous program in the humanities might be plenty challenging, especially if one is not a strong reader.

One nice thing about a big state university is that if you're doubling in violin performance and math, and the math part isn't working out, you can transition to another second major (say, economics) fairly easily because the opportunities are just so much more granular at the bigger places, and because there are a lot of overlapping course requirements (unless you're transitioning from math to hospitality or art history).

"She is also interested in computer in general." Well, computer science is treacherously competitive and one of the more bone-crushing majors that you can have in college. There's just an unavoidably Edisonian aspect to coding. And the fact is, for someone to go from zero to useful in four years requires a steep learning curve. But one possibility is to find an allied field in which computers might be used more as an occasional (or even frequent) tool, but the underpinning discipline is the main goal -- such as statistics, applied mathematics, economics, etc.

Edited: July 31, 2022, 11:13 AM · I only know what I have scraped together as a non-musician parent, so take whatever I have said or am saying with a grain of salt...
The only thing that's will matter for admission is your child's audition.
Piano is useful for understanding, theory does probably contribute to playing. But if she has already achieved passing out of the required piano study in conservatory (not a high bar, IDK) and she clearly prefers the violin- then the time is better spent on repertoire.
Also, if you are say, in Toronto, I would look around and identify the kids who are winning competitions and excelling, and identify their teachers. If you don't currently have a teacher who understands the path and is teaching such students then I would move on.
Edited: July 31, 2022, 11:49 AM · Victoria: Lots of extremely well-considered understanding and advice above from everyone. Your daughter's playing is beautiful, and certainly she has a possible musical career ahead of her (as well as many, many other possible educational and career directions).

I co-authored 2 books on personality and motivational factors in academic underachievers who do not have serious medical or psychological problems. Unfortunately, my co-author passed away in 2004. His name was Dr. Harvey P. Mandel, and for almost 30 years he was a psychology professor at York University in Toronto. He was a big music lover and a terrific professional, and would that he were here so that I could refer you to him.

At age 12, the next few years ahead of your daughter are likely to have the issues you have shared actually be a time of many changes of mind and interests and experience and exploration. At her age, I think it's a little early to be making a firm, unchangeable decision. But it certainly is a good age at which to begin thinking about the future and exploring different avenues. And considering what I hear in that recording of her playing, I would certainly agree that there is a clear talent and level of expertise that is worth continued support.

Getting a 12-year-old to practice regularly is another issue. To tell a 12-year-old they have to practice an hour every day is like telling them they have to clean up their room or take out the garbage or do the dishes. And when they get a little older, you're dealing with an adolescent who's most important issue is independence and not having anyone tell them what to do. So good luck with that.

But musically, you certainly have a talented young lady there, and you're getting great advice from those above who have responded.

July 31, 2022, 1:15 PM · I think you don't need to drop the piano entirely (piano proficiency is a great thing for all musicians, anyway) but you could consider ratcheting down the practice time. Taking piano down to 30 minutes a day in order to boost violin to 90 minutes a day would be beneficial. Steal another 30 minutes from something else to go to 2 hours a day during this next academic year -- build up to it. Make sure that her teacher adjusts the amount of material assigned / expectations to take into account more practice time.

Double majors, when one of those majors is a BM in performance, are a MASSIVE timesink that will often result in needing an additional year to graduate. The conservatory will generally have different baseline requirements than the school of liberal arts & sciences (i.e. the BA or BS-granting main body of the university) and it will definitely have different baseline requirements than an engineering school or business school.

This is a huge contrast to, say, being a dual major in English + math, or political science + media, or philosophy + chemistry. The core curriculum is the same, so you just add on the additional courses for the second major. And the number of courses is less than in engineering.

At my own alma mater (Penn), when I was an undergrad, you could get a humanities or sciences degree in 28-32 courses, with the expectation you'd take 4 courses a semester. Engineers generally had a minimum of 40-45 courses to graduate, with the expectation you'd take 5 courses a semester and sometimes more. (This has balanced out more over the years, with a modern load of 32 for a BA/BS and 37 for an engineering degree, but that's still a meaningful difference in workload.)

In my opinion, double majors can actually hurt a student's odds of achieving their dream. A student who isn't first-rate and is therefore hedging their bets is far less likely to become first-rate if they can't put in the number of practice hours necessary.

Double majors are more reasonable for students who are first-rate but undecided about their path -- students who are so good that they can afford to back off on their music for a while in order to explore another path (at which they might also have unusual talent), and then make a decision about what to do next.

Double majoring isn't something to think about until a student is ready to apply for college. All students need to get a decent academic education, although it's possible you may want to think about whether your child (when they get to high school) takes the most competitive academically intense workload they can handle, or chooses a less intense path in order to have more practice time.

July 31, 2022, 2:32 PM · I think Lydia's analysis of the double-major situation is spot-on. The double major is a good option for the student who is so ruthlessly organized that they're going to finish practicing the violin for four hours and be bored for the rest of the evening because all their homework, reading, and test prep got done during the gaps between their classes! There aren't that many students like that, but they do exist. (Curiously I have noticed that they are almost always women. I think that's just a general maturity thing.) Such a student can become involved in service activities, too. Many of the undergraduate awards at state universities depend on a track record of involvement in service and "leadership" in addition to academic performance.

About piano -- the other factor to consider, if piano is going to be "ratcheted back," is not only the practice time but the material could be stuff that would still build technique and musicality but isn't intended to be performed and therefore will be less stressful. So instead of the next Beethoven sonata or Chopin polonaise, she could be working on the reductions for the concertos she's playing on the violin, or she would take a crack at some of the piano parts in the trio literature. The problem is that if you're 12 years old and you're not preparing for a lesson, then you're not really practicing.

July 31, 2022, 3:02 PM · Sander,
I have always found with my daughter that going to the case and opening it was the hard part. If she could set aside the book or video, whatever, and open the case, she was happy to be playing. I am a studio artist/ craftsman, many people do what I do as a release or fun.
And yet it is often hard to open the door and begin. Once settled in, I have no idea, often, why it seemed so hard. Other times it just stays difficult all day. Probably why things are called "works" of art.:)
As she has neared being a teen, we found camps and performance, finding her tribe, is moving toward less involvement on our part. It hasn't been perfect, it's a process. But we no longer remind.
I do notice that if a kid is a talented soccer player, swimmer etc. at 13
2-3 hours a day is likely a minimum practice, and that others think that would be normal. I have had friends whose kid 13 was already traveling to Europe to play soccer.. All driven by the kid's talent and desire.
Edited: July 31, 2022, 4:12 PM · Matthew: Yes, talent and desire count for a lot. All I'm saying is that there are some challenges (for both kids and their parents) that we all go through and that are predictable to some extent.

In fields like medicine, psychology, and others, people are placed into categories and "diagnosed." But we can never forget, that's only half the story. The other half is that there is no such thing as a standard human being. No individual is a diagnostic category.

Pre-adolescence and adolescence has its expected challenges and patterns, but that does not describe or predict 100% of any individual, particularly in an issue that this thread is about.

Each person is unique, and that is certainly evident in the art form we share, and always needs to be recognized and - yes - respected. And that's the wonderful thing about this discussion. And to me, it is what accounts for the variety of opinions and experiences.

July 31, 2022, 5:36 PM · Sander, good point! This is why statistics and large studies only apply to large groups, where there are enough people for the laws of math to work on them. That field of math just does not apply where n=1. Very common mistake in this day and age of the 'study.'

To OP: ditch the piano, up the violin study (quality and quantity), forget about college and majors and all that until it's appropriate and a real issue, not a hypothetical one. Let your child have fun and experience accomplishment and all the positive things that come from it.

July 31, 2022, 6:52 PM · Matthew describes my experience exactly. I find it incredibly hard to get started practicing, and it doesn't always ease up during a session.

For my profession, the cold necessity of "clocking in" (metaphorically) forces me to get started, and keep working no matter how I'm feeling about it.

August 1, 2022, 1:02 AM · Thank you all again for the valuable feedbacks! This gives us certain level of confident to invest more in violin for now as long as she is still very interested and see where it takes her in the future. We live in a small town and she's among the best for her age in the "village" so we don't get to have the exposure of the bigger city talent. Watching videos of amazing 9 years old girl playing Beriot #7, etc., we actually thought that she was very far behind - just a fish in a small pond and expected criticism. Thanks for offering your advices and experiences. We will explore and get to know those kids in the bigger cities.

In a few years, she will need to make the choice for herself between music, another degree that she has interest in, or even dual major with music + lighter program. I will save this thread as a PDF file for her to read in a few years as there are many valuable advices to her. :-)

If we are to go for a pre-college program or camp, it will be travelling time to either Ottawa, Toronto, or Montreal. We will have an honest chat with her piano teacher and increase the violin practice time/lesson. We will support her violin development. She enjoys practicing nice repertoires, but just like any 12-yo, scales and technical etudes gets boring easily. We will build a practice schedule / routine going forward.

@Lydia, Paul, Tom, Matthew - Thanks for the comments on the piano and double major. Very enlightening facts about the most challenging combinations such as science + music. It's not something we must decide now, but this is something that we will keep in mind when in 2-3 years as she continues her violin path.

@Sander - I have never thought about the psychology aspect. I will keep this in mind as she reaches the teenage year and 3 hours+ practice is starting to have effect on her mental health. She gets frustrated when she can't get certain passage correctly. If anyone have recommendation for psychologist/career advisor for competitive--program kids in Ontario, please kindly advise.

Edited: August 1, 2022, 8:55 AM · @Victoria I have a daughter a couple of years older than yours. Her foundation and musicality at 12 were probably comparable to your daughter's now. My daughter is good at violin but far from the prodigy level. She also plays the piano equally well and she likes programming in general. Our daughters are fairly similar so I can relate (except that mine is not so enthusiastic about a music-focused career).

We live in a big city. My daughter started in perhaps the largest Suzuki program here. She progressed faster than most kids and could play better than most students at the same level including teens. I thought she could do better. When she was around 10, I found a new teacher who is more experienced in preparing students for youth/all-state orchestra and local competitions. Then I realized how much my daughter was lacking. It took time for her to catch up but then she progressed even further. Changing the teacher is so far the best decision in her violin learning.

In retrospect, I think our local Suzuki program is probably targeting average kids but those in top music schools are far beyond average. Although my daughter's Suzuki teacher is very kind, patient and meticulous about teaching, she did not know what is needed for good music programs or how to steadily reach there over years. Your daughter has the raw talent. She will greatly benefit from a teacher who has prepared students for good music programs. You may let your daughter try and then re-evaluate her level in a few years. Even if your daughter decides to go to a non-music school, she will appreciate her training these years. By the way, my daughter has just started to learn her first major romantic concerto. She loves playing it. I bet your daughter will feel the same one day.

August 1, 2022, 9:13 AM · There are a lot of good online options for music "coaches" who can help with the psychological aspects, as well as just generally organizing practicing and preparation. My son worked with one earlier this year as he was preparing for his first major international competition. She has a ton of free stuff on the website, or you can do private sessions if you feel they are needed. https://www.mindoverfinger.com/ (PS She is originally from Montreal and can do sessions in English or French.)
August 1, 2022, 10:19 AM · She has great podcast by the same name.
August 1, 2022, 1:15 PM · look at some of the sports psychology literature, particularly golf. Bob Rotella is very good. Message of all these books is: while you're playing, focus only on the process, not the end result or goal. Process is all the things you need to do to play well. Goal is whether you win something, get picked for something, etc. Many toxic parents focus so much on the goals, they make it hard for the player to follow this advice, so don't one of them.
August 1, 2022, 2:00 PM · @Victoria - let me just throw one odd thought into the mix for you to keep in mind. You/she might want to introduce the viola at some point if she is willing. Her chances of making a career in music might well improve as a violist. It would certainly give her other options, and a good violinist can learn viola quite quickly. Honggang Li, the violist in the Shanghai Quartet, once told me that he switched from being the second violin to being the violist in five weeks because they had lost their violist and had a recording date coming up. He is exceptionally talented, but there is enough in common in terms of technique that it is possible to do fairly quickly.
August 1, 2022, 2:14 PM · All serious violinists should learn some viola, in my opinion. (I keep putting off doing so myself, but I certainly regret not having done so when I was younger. My teachers felt that my hand size would really make viola too much of a strain.)
August 1, 2022, 3:56 PM · This is a previous violinist.com thread about violinist vs. violist:
https://www.violinist.com/discussion/thread.cfm?page=1881
August 1, 2022, 4:04 PM · "Mind over finger." My colleagues will tell you, very quickly, that I struggle with that.
August 1, 2022, 4:34 PM · professional violinists I know all say to play violin only if you want to be a good violinist. It's challenging enough to take up all the time you can give it and you don't have to make adjustments going back and forth.
Edited: August 1, 2022, 5:01 PM · Tom, have you asked Pinchas Zukerman about that?

In my opinion and experience, the major adjustments in playing are no different than the left-hand adjustments every violinist, violist or cellist makes in going from on position to another up and down the fingerboard. The major differences are in sight reading when going from one instrument to another, especially in the same time frame (i.e., same session).

August 1, 2022, 4:57 PM · There are plenty of conservatory professors who require all their violin students to learn the viola. Learning the mechanics of tone production on the viola is especially helpful for awareness of the same on the violin.
August 1, 2022, 5:01 PM · As I've said before, my son's pre-college program requires them to all learn viola. This doesn't mean they do a ton of practice on it -- typically, they only play one chamber piece and one orchestral concert on viola a year. Every last one of them has benefitted from it in countless ways, from learning alto clef (needed for college theory) to learning how all the various parts fit together in orchestra and chamber music. I don't see any of the time spent on viola as wasted as most of the techniques are so similar to violin.
August 1, 2022, 5:18 PM · Andrew, haha a retired CM of a major orchestra is one of the ones who said this...and she said Pinchas Zukerman was the only person who could play both successfully. I don't care what anyone plays...just wanted to let OP know there were differing opinions. Spend your time on whatever you want to be good at!
August 1, 2022, 5:42 PM · @Tom - many of the great violinists were great violists, e.g., Oistrakh, Menuhin, Hindemith.
August 1, 2022, 6:28 PM · @Tom- every great violinist *could* be a great violist...what's the point? Not to interested in debating- everyone can allocate their time however they want.
August 1, 2022, 6:48 PM · Victoria, you may be seeing here that one of the pitfalls of asking for advice is that you get it.

I don't think you need to print out any of this stuff. I think your kid is on the right track. Really, the three-legged stool here is the parent, child and teacher, and the most important thing is that the three of you be on the same page when setting goals and figuring out the means to achieve them.

Good luck!

August 1, 2022, 7:22 PM · here, here Christian! the main thing OP was asking about was whether her daughter is an especially good violinist, and everyone agrees that she is!! Beyond that, there are a thousand or more roads and the best one for her should be decided by her, as a musician, and those close to her who have good sense.
August 1, 2022, 8:28 PM · @Tom - I was merely disagreeing with your "retired CM of a major orchestra." The point is that, in fact, a number of great violinists were also great violists. It's not a debate point. It is simply a fact.
August 1, 2022, 9:18 PM · @Tom, it is a fact, but so what? It's not pertinent. She was *not* saying that a violinist couldn't be a great violist. She was saying it's a poor use of time for almost everyone except her friend Pinchas. I guess it depends on how valuable one's time is? Violin is one of the most difficult instruments to master, and splitting resources and time is going to come at a price. It's up to everybody how they want to spend their own time.
Edited: August 1, 2022, 10:32 PM · I don't know Christian, if the parent doesn't know something about the existing realities and the teacher is part of system that so far has put the brakes on or at least failed to accelerate a talented kid.....grouping them by age and grade level? I think the info here has helped me as a parent of a kid who, at this time, says she wants to reach as high as she can. Because of where we live, we have had to really make conscious choices and decisions (and sacrifices) for there even to be a chance of her having the possibility of going to a better conservatory at college age.
Fairly often here a 15 or 16 year old who loves the violin will show up with talk of preparing for top tier schools and one of the well trained experienced players here will have to tell them that very likely that ship has sailed. (There is a thread a bit like that now.) How is it a bad thing for people to talk about what it really takes?


Edited: August 1, 2022, 11:38 PM · Wow love the discussions and all the great perspectives everyone brings out!

@Tom Bop - Definitely in agreement there. The process building is essential and instrumental for every job she wants to do later. She loves performing and winning but we want her to 'enjoy the journey' as well. The end result will depend on what she wants now versus what she wants in 5 years.

@Susan, Paul - Thanks for the coaches info. This post has really help us to re-orient our focus and open our eyes.

@David - Very happy to hear about your daughter! Looks like the two girls have something in common. :-) She must be proud of what she can produce!! We are looking forward to hear our daughter to play those big show pieces.

@Tom Holzman/Lydia/Andrew/Tom Bop/Susan - Very interesting perspective!!! My daughter loves dark and rich tone and this is why she picked the current violin. She actually loves her G string because she can “dig” more. She has mentioned that since she has to learn a new clef in Viola, she doesn't have time to try it yet. In addition, new viola = new financial investment which we currently do not have :). We are going to focus on increasing practice time by setting up a schedule routine immediately. There are so many great advices here. We will start looking into programs that fits her needs and also other areas that can continue motivating her in persuading her passion.

@Christian and @Matthew - Thanks again for the encouragement! It's actually a four-leg stool since we benefit greatly from violinist.com and from the current discussion! Hope others will gain as much as we did!

We are leaving town to visit the US and giving the girl a small break from the violin for a short vacation! Happy August 2nd everyone!

August 2, 2022, 1:19 AM · Ideally, violinists are not one-trick ponies. Time spent learning to play the viola enhances a violinist's abilities, especially with regard to tone production and some thoughtful attention paid to left-hand set-up (and comfort, since it's easier to become injured playing viola).

For that matter, violinists should also learn to play the piano at a reasonable level of basic competence(if they don't learn when young, they'll have to learn in conservatory since piano proficiency is almost always a requirement). And some time should be dedicated to learning music theory and acquiring a basic knowledge of music history.

Classical violinists also benefit from an exposure to other styles of playing, especially anything with an improv element. There are some extended techniques, and style flexibility is vital for most gigging players.

So, sure, going the "purist" violin-only route might have seemed like a good idea to a retired near-century-old fossil of a previous age of music. But it's almost certainly not the right route for a youngster now.

August 2, 2022, 1:54 AM · Matthew, I think a lot of the advice here is potentially good, but it's not feasible to follow it all. The more Victoria writes about their situation, the more it seems to me that her child is actually pretty high achieving, with being an apparently decently proficient pianist, after all. I was initially thinking that the kid may need to really change her approach in order to start putting in the work, but it seems like it's less an issue of finding the motivation, and more a limitation of a day being made up of only 24 hours.

So perhaps there is something that the teacher is doing wrong, but maybe not! Maybe the teacher has very sensitively met the student's needs in a way that allowed her to grow, even if she wasn't pushed through all kinds of repertoire. On one hand, students grow by playing more and more challenging material, including a steady diet of etudes, but on the other hand, there is very much that we don't know about the teacher's methods, and I think it's good to be circumspect about giving advice that might contradict a teacher - I think it's not our place, being bozos on the internet (some of us, professional muscian bozos), to diagnose.

Perhaps the middle ground is just for Victoria to have the conversation with the teacher: Do you have experience preparing kids to go to conservatory, and what is your plan for my daughter? That's a very reasonable question. But let's remember that this whole post seemed to be prompted by the teacher asking for more attention from the student, which leads me back to thinking that the teacher probably knows quite a bit about what they are doing.

We can go in circles on this. This doesn't seem to be a case of a starry-eyed highschool senior that wants to know how to go to Curtis, when they in fact need many years of remediation for their playing. It seems like this girl is actually quite decently positioned for successfully applying to music schools.

I made the analogy of the three legged stool, but a teenager and a teacher kind of start to leave the parent behind in terms of planning the future, so that the stool becomes some kind of ladder or bicycle, which will eventually become the pogo stick that is a professional violinist, or perhaps some kind of hot air balloon or maglev train or railgun.

I don't tend to ask a lot of questions here, but it's not because this place gives bad advice, or that I don't have questions, but instead it's because my faith in my teacher is great, so if I have a real question, that's where I go.

August 2, 2022, 7:46 AM · I think that is what has been mostly said here. Have a serious talk with
her teacher, see if they are aware and onboard with what needs to happen. If so, great. If not find the best teacher you can and move on. Get out of the small pond so their kid can see the range of players out there.
I certainly am a bozo on the internet in the sense I am not a musician, and my experience limited.
I came here when my kid was 9 or 10 in a similar situation to the OP.
My daughter still has catching up to do- but whatever chance she has is down to things I have learned here and from other parents at camps, etc..
Add to all this the near impossibility of hearing your own kid objectively, it's all very daunting. In the end, I think there is value to the enterprise regardless of what my kid chooses to do as a career.
They have a lifetime to be rational and pragmatic. And a child who can memorize multiple Concertos, stand bravely in front of an audience, has to carry those tools forward to whatever they choose to do.
August 2, 2022, 7:47 AM · @Victoria - in terms of the viola, the money and alto clef issues I understand. To deal with the money, I don't know where you live (somewhere in Canada, possibly Quebec?), but you might want to look into what local resources are available in terms of instrument loans/rentals to actually get a viola.

For learning the alto clef, I know there are books that have programs for switching from violin to viola. Also, I know that in my area (Washington, DC), at least one conservatory offers a one-semester course on switching. So, at some future point, there are certainly potential resources if your daughter is interested in the viola option. I am not suggesting that she needs to or should do this immediately, simply that this possibility is out there should she wish to explore it.

Edited: August 2, 2022, 4:05 PM · Ms. Laurent, my first reaction upon listening to the recording you presented is that your daughter is using some shifting and fingering techniques which will tend to hamper her in the future. Might want to look for a better teacher?
August 2, 2022, 6:22 PM · My first reaction on listening to the recording is that the pianist is exceptionally musical, which adds to the quality of the performance.

This discussion has been archived and is no longer accepting responses.

Facebook Twitter YouTube Instagram Email

Violinist.com is made possible by...

Shar Music
Shar Music

Pirastro Strings
Pirastro Strings

Corilon Violins
Corilon Violins

International Violin Competition of Indianapolis
International Violin Competition of Indianapolis

Virtual Sejong Music Competition
Virtual Sejong Music Competition

Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases
Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases

Violinist.com Shopping Guide
Violinist.com Shopping Guide

Metzler Violin Shop

Bein & Company

Bay Fine Strings Violin Shop

Leatherwood Bespoke Rosin

Annapolis Bows & Violins

Los Angeles Violin Shop

String Masters

Bobelock Cases

Things 4 Strings LLC

Violin-Strings.com

Viola-Strings.com

Baerenreiter

Fiddlerman.com

FiddlerShop

Sleepy Puppy Press

Jargar Strings

J.R. Judd Violins, LLC

Southwest Strings

Nazareth Gevorkian Violins

Laurie's Books

Discover the best of Violinist.com in these collections of editor Laurie Niles' exclusive interviews.

Violinist.com Interviews Volume 1
Violinist.com Interviews Volume 1, with introduction by Hilary Hahn

Violinist.com Interviews Volume 2
Violinist.com Interviews Volume 2, with introduction by Rachel Barton Pine

Subscribe