Violin crossroads - continue investment (with sample audio)?
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!
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.
She's good enough.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
Thank you for everyone's suggestions! Just some answer to Scott's question to add some perspective:
@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.
Make sure you have a teacher that routinely prepares kids for college auditions.
Personally, I think that 'school of thought' fits some organizational need, and likely would slow down a talented kids progress.
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.
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).
@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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Thanks everyone for the reply and valuable perspectives!
@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.
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.
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...
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 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.
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.
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.
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.'
Matthew describes my experience exactly. I find it incredibly hard to get started practicing, and it doesn't always ease up during a session.
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.
@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).
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.)
She has great podcast by the same name.
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.
@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.
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.)
This is a previous violinist.com thread about violinist vs. violist:
"Mind over finger." My colleagues will tell you, very quickly, that I struggle with that.
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.
Tom, have you asked Pinchas Zukerman about that?
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.
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.
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!
@Tom - many of the great violinists were great violists, e.g., Oistrakh, Menuhin, Hindemith.
@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.
Victoria, you may be seeing here that one of the pitfalls of asking for advice is that you get it.
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.
@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.
@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.
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.
Wow love the discussions and all the great perspectives everyone brings out!
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).
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.
I think that is what has been mostly said here. Have a serious talk with
@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.
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?
My first reaction on listening to the recording is that the pianist is exceptionally musical, which adds to the quality of the performance.
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