Conservatorium Possibilities?

October 17, 2017, 2:20 PM · Hi there,
I'm a high school student wanting suggestions on possible conservatories for further violin performance study.
I'm currently 15 (auditions for entry into conservatory would be in about 1.5-2 years time) and I've been playing the violin for 5 years.

Current repertoire:
Mendelssohn Violin Concerto
Mozart Violin Concerto 5
Bach G minor Sonata- Adagio
Bach E major partita- Preludio, Loure, Gavotte de Rondeau

I practise for around 3-5 hours everyday.
I do 3 octave scales in every key (major, melodic minor and harmonic minor) and scales in octaves.
In addition to that, I play some Kreutzer etudes.

I'm interested in music schools in America or in Europe.
I'm currently studying German. My dream would be entering into Curtis, Julliard, New England, Hanns Eisler in Berlin or Vienna performing arts school, but I doubt I could get in...

Could I get some conservatories that would be suitable for me? Note that I would be auditioning in about 1.5 years, so I would hopefully be playing some harder repertoire.

(Also any repertoire choices for my level would be appreciated)

Thank youu :)

Replies (63)

October 17, 2017, 2:52 PM · What does your teacher say?
Edited: October 17, 2017, 3:55 PM · That's great rep to have after 5 years of study. What nobody can tell from your post is how well you play that stuff. I'm no teacher or pro, but I'm always skeptical when I see a lot of impressive repertoire but not very many technical studies .. just just 3-octave scales and "some Kreutzer."

Mary Ellen's question is a good one because if your teacher does not have a good answer, then (s)he probably has no idea how to prepare you for any of them.

Students who have played Mozart and Mendelssohn often play Bruch and then Lalo or Vieuxtemps.

October 17, 2017, 4:16 PM · Kaori,

Which summer music camps have you attended? Also, does your teacher have experience in sending students to conservatories you want to go?

Edited: October 17, 2017, 4:29 PM · Apply for and attend a summer music festival where the teachers you are interested in studying with teach. The teacher-student relationship for undergraduate is absolutely critical to developing and launching a music career, and establishing that long-term relationship can start in a smaller setting.

If you are aiming for the top schools in the US, this means that you are going to apply to summer programs like the Aspen Music Festival, Tanglewood Music Center, and so forth. Your private teacher can probably recommend some more to you.

Be aware that while Kreutzer is certainly a critical part of any serious study of the violin, you will eventually need skills developed in studies by Fiorillo, Gavinies, Rode, Dont, and/or Paganini. It is not unreasonable to expect that a top applicant to the major schools will arrive prepared to play the Tchaikovsky or Sibelius concerto, a complete Bach Sonata or Partita (including the Chaconne and/or one of the fuga), and a significant showpiece and/or Paganini Caprice. And they will play it very well!

Finally, it is your current private teacher that is your greatest resource for pursuing your goals. While those of us here on the message board can give general advice, your individual needs are best addressed by the expert that hears you play every week.

October 17, 2017, 6:04 PM · You mentioned on a previous thread, in January of this year, that your teacher had given you the Kabalevsky concerto, after you failed your diploma (ABRSM-equivalent) exam.

Have you managed to pass that exam since? That may be a better guide to how well you're playing the repertoire you're being given.

Your current playing level does not suggest that you're likely to get into the schools that you've named, or even get beyond the screening audition phase.

October 17, 2017, 9:51 PM · Highly recommend you do festivals like Aspen, Heifetz, Brevard, etc...this summer, and you'll get a really good idea. Get your app material ready because deadlines are approaching.

It's very helpful to have studied with a prospective teacher before doing the audition. And don't be tempted by going for a school's brand's more helpful for yourself to know who are the specific teachers you are excited about. You sound like you're on the right track. Good luck! And bravo for learning German.

Edited: October 17, 2017, 9:54 PM · There are lots of threads on this site regarding your concerns. You might be able to find helpful advice. It would be nice if you posted a short clip of your playing so we know how well you play the repertoire? I know of one late-starting guy who has only played for five years but plays your listed repertoire or equivalent beautifully. Also, it is okay not to attend summer music festivals. Many pre-college musicians don't. It's okay if you don't play a lot of etudes, as long as you work on repetitive exercises to make up for them (my violin teacher rarely assigns etudes and uses repetitive exercises as substitutes, which works just as well).
October 18, 2017, 12:37 AM · Dear everyone,
I thank you all so much for your replies! They really mean so much to me.
For those asking about my teacher, I am from Australia and learn from a conservatory professor in Queensland. I will not reveal her name, however she taught Ray Chen for around 5-7 years.
Lydia, from my previous thread, a lot has changed since then! Although I had failed my exam, I have stepped up and changed teachers to the teacher I have just described as above. She has really assisted my violin ability, and I believe I have made a good choice. I have not retaken the exam since, but I am planning to do so sometime next year.

As said before, I live in Australia, and I have not attended any summer music camps. I am currently on the lookout for some camps or some competitions I can enter internationally, so could you please suggest further ideas.
(I had already had Aspen on my mind, will have a look at Tanglewood, Heifetz and Brevard).

I am currently on an exchange program in Germany, so unfortunately I am unable to contact my teacher for some ideas. (She is 74 and does not use the internet)
When I come back, it will be Australian summer holidays, and I will be having lessons with her.

But back to the original question, are there any schools you think that would be suitable for my level (not Australia)

Many thanks,

October 18, 2017, 1:11 AM · There are a hell lot of violin teachers in Germany. If you stay longer, I suggest getting one. Maybe I can recommend somebody if you tell me the area.
October 18, 2017, 4:31 AM · There is always the possibility of the gap year.
October 18, 2017, 11:31 AM · Hi Marc,
I'm staying in Hamburg until the 17th of November.


October 18, 2017, 11:31 AM · Hi Paul, I'm not interested in a gap year, I would like to start my studies straight away! ahahaha


October 18, 2017, 2:40 PM · I think what Paul may have been getting at with the idea of a gap year is that with your new teacher, an additional year of intensive practicing might set you up for possible admission into better schools than you might currently realistically aspire to.
October 20, 2017, 1:07 PM · I see, that may be a good idea Paul/Mary. I am not exactly familiar with the conservatorium entry process: so you can enter in an undergraduate course at any age?


Edited: October 20, 2017, 2:37 PM · Excuse me... how is it possible to play the Mendelssohn after just 5 years?

I've heard the most talented violinists in a Conservatory (where the level is pretty high) can't play it until 7-8 years. Not only I've heard, but also I've been to 5th graders concerts at local Conservatories and they are far, far away from the skills required to play the Mendelssohn. Indeed my teacher learned the Mendelssohn in her 9th year.

October 20, 2017, 2:40 PM · Kaori, yes, you can apply at 17, 18, 19, 20 and nobody will think anything of it, at least not in the U.S. I don't know how European schools are.

Tim: (6-year-old, not stellar by an objective standard but I've heard worse) (5-year-old, 3rd mvt)

Mendelssohn after five years of study is doing well but it is not unheard of.

October 20, 2017, 2:49 PM · Yes, there are many violinists who can perform the Mendelssohn at an alright standard. The concerto was set for me to be my "challenge piece" , currently learning the notes of the first movement (2nd and 3rd complete, 3rd at performance standard)

And I understand in conservatories the audition requirements go something like this...

1. 1st mvt of a Mozart concerto (probably 4 or 5) with cadenza
2. A Paganini Caprice
3. 2 contrasting movements of Bach
4. Standard Repertoire Concerto (Tchaikovsky/Sibelius/Dvorak etc...)
5. Virtuosic Showpiece

I understand that there are no recordings of me you can listen to, but by judging by my current repertoire, what would be a good virtuosic showpiece to start off with? I was thinking the Ziguernerwisen or the Introduction Rondo Capriccioso or the Introduction and Tarantella.

And after the Mendelssohn, is the Prokofiev 1 playable?

Again, thank you everyone on your help.

October 20, 2017, 2:54 PM · Kaori, could you make a short one ( maybe a movement of something )and post it? Any device ( phone, etc. ) will do.
Edited: October 20, 2017, 3:00 PM · One minute, done with a phone, is fine. You could play the first half-page of Mendelssohn and that would probably be a pretty good guide. Or since your 3rd movement is polished, a minute of that would be fine too.
Edited: October 20, 2017, 3:15 PM · Kaori,

Have you participated in a respectable competition or held a solo recital? Also a participation in a masterclass taught by top class players/pedagogue is recommended.

October 20, 2017, 4:13 PM · Ok, I think the 17th of November is a bit too short to find a good teacher and work with him.
I thought you might stay a year or something like that, than it would have been a different story.
October 21, 2017, 1:07 PM · Dear everyone,
as requested, i have attached a link of me playing.

Edited: October 21, 2017, 1:58 PM · Kaori-- thank you; that was illuminating. I am between lessons so can't say much right now. While you are at a very impressive level for five years of lessons, I am very sorry to say that you are not at conservatory entrance level in the US, at least not right now. I think if you are serious about getting into a good school, you are going to pretty much have to take a gap year and practice like crazy while getting the best lessons from the best teacher accessible to you. It will still be a long shot in my opinion, but my opinion is worth less than the opinion of those people who have actually worked with you in person so please take that into consideration as well.

In this particular piece you are working much too hard. Try for a quieter left hand and a calmer bow. In particular you are bouncing too high and using too much bow for the stroke.

October 21, 2017, 2:15 PM · Dear Mary, Thank you for your feedback! I am very open to any feedback that will improve any of my playing.
Are there any particular technical exercises I can do to improve my bow stroke, and especially a quieter left hand? I am working on Kreutzer 8, 10, 13, 24, 37.

Yes, I understand that I may not be able to enter into a top school at my level at the moment, are there any masterclasses or summer camps anyone can suggest that would be suitable for me?
I am highly interested in Aspen.

Additional comments on my performance is most welcome and appreciated!


Edited: October 21, 2017, 2:48 PM · I think you ment to thank Mary Ellen as I did not reply yet. :)

I generaly agree with her. It is impressive for 5 years of playing, but still a lot to do until you can go for auditions. As you mastered this level within 5 years, I am positiv you have a chance, maybe taking a gap year.
Additionally to the work amount problem I want to add that within fast passages in the middle parts your fingers of the left hand start to go to the wrong positions causing wrong intonation. The ending however ist mostly spot on. This is common when you have not played many years. Half tones are to wide while the big gaps are to narrow. (excuse my incapability of better explantions in english at this late hour where I am living).
Also I am not sure if your bow/violin are working good together. Maybe take a look at the setup, because it sometimes occours to me that you hit more overtones than basetones when the bow is in its middle. I does look to me like its not your fault, but its gerenally hard to judge by video and my eyes are not as trained as those of theachers. The too-much-amount-of-bow thing comes into consideration too, it can cause this too.
If you think of playing it with an orchestra I think you could miss some projection, which is going hand in hand with the less bow effort thingy.
Altough I now wrote a lot of critic I want to express again that I am impressed by your playing after this time.
I will hear it with headphones on my computer tomorrow (just used the mobile now) and maybe I will have additions the n.
Good luck!

October 21, 2017, 3:00 PM · Marc, thank you for your input! Your english is very good, and I appreciate you taking the time to listen to my performance.
By putting this into perspective, it has made me realise that my half tones are quite wide, while my tones are narrow. I will take this into consideration for other pieces too!

As you said, "within fast passages in the middle parts your fingers of the left hand start to go to the wrong positions causing wrong intonation." Are you able to elaborate on this? Is it that my left hand is changing in position slightly, and I need to establish a more secure (say) third position stance? (Hopefully that made sense).

I just recently put my violin through to setup, where they did something to the bridge (i think shaving it a little as it was a little tall?). I have the exact details in my residing country, but I am in Germany atm :)

And again, I am pleased to hear that my violin growth is at a good rate :)

October 21, 2017, 5:01 PM · I wanted to throw in a quick note that you're more advanced than some of the other students on this forum who are thinking about auditioning for violin performance programs. Basically, you *could* audition for a degree program in the US -- it just would be a third or fourth-tier school, and it'd be unlikely to lead to a performing career.
October 21, 2017, 8:57 PM · "Are there any particular technical exercises I can do to improve my bow stroke, and especially a quieter left hand? I am working on Kreutzer 8, 10, 13, 24, 37."

Do you ever practice while watching yourself in a mirror? Your bow comes very high off the string on the up-bow notes. You don't need to see daylight between the bow hair and the string in order to produce an off-the-string sound. Bounce less!

For your left hand, I can't think of any magic scale or exercise--lots would be useful here--again, watch yourself in a mirror. You don't need so much activity in your fingers. It's really kind of the same issue as the bow. Move less.

October 21, 2017, 9:30 PM · Now that I've had a chance to watch the whole video...

I agree that you're doing extremely well for just 5 years of playing. However, given that this is a piece polished to performance level, I would say that you're not being careful enough when you practice; it's not just that the work is a technical challenge for you, but that you aren't preparing it with really methodical and effective slow practice.

First, your pulse is unsteady throughout. You frequently rush, and it makes it sound like what you are doing is out of your control and a little frantic. You clip some longer notes and you shorten some rests. You've got to practice with a metronome, both at fast and slow tempos. But also, musically, you need to allow the music to breathe a little.

Second, your left and right hands aren't always coordinated. I think your intonation issues may also be related to insufficient care when practicing; you need to practice slowly enough that you can pay attention to whether or not every note is in tune, so that the muscle memory is correct. The blurred passagework is due to the fingers not always being in place when the bow hits the string, and that creates a bunch of noise rather than music. Your left hand needs to be perfectly even. A less bouncy, choppy bow-stroke will help ensure that the bow hits the string in a controlled and timely manner. Again, this needs to be done with slow practice.

Third, either your recording device is really unflattering to your tone, or your violin needs some attention. You're not getting either enough warmth or resonance. Some of it is your right-hand technique, but I think some of it might be the instrument itself.

October 21, 2017, 9:44 PM · I agree with Lydia that you could audition and get into a third- or fourth-tier school in the U.S. right now, and that opens another possibility...instead of a gap year, look for such a school with an excellent violin teacher. There are some very good teachers at some such schools but you have to choose carefully. You could start college on time with the goal of continuing your fast pace of improvement to the point where you could audition for a conservatory as a transfer student, or perhaps as a graduate student after getting an undergraduate degree from the less famous school.
Edited: October 22, 2017, 5:00 AM · Hi Kaori, congrats on all your hard work! You've progressed very quickly indeed! But, I agree with Mary Ellen and Lydia.

No one can really say how much you can accomplish in 1.5 years, but to get to that next level you need to find a teacher who really believes in you and knows how to fix technique very quickly, if you haven't already. I studied with such a teacher and after he retired from university I assisted him for 4 years when he started teaching students around your age working towards auditioning for music schools. I worked mostly with those who didn't quite know how to motivate themselves, or get organized enough to do what it takes to improve at his pace (the students who were on the 'chopping block' so to speak) so I spent a lot of time rehabbing technique and helping out with practice skills.

You clearly have the motivation to work hard and you seem very enthusiastic about playing. But, as Lydia said, I'm not sure you're quite working carefully enough at the moment. You have fast, strong fingers, and you can 'make it work' with your bow arm. You have a good rhythmic sense, though not controlled and steady. You seem to burst with energy and expression, but it's undisciplined, disorganized, and so it's not quite musical. Of course this is all from the perspective of the higher level you want to be at. If you can harness all the raw skills you've developed so far and continue to work as hard as you have done, adding discipline and deliberate focus, with some luck and the right connections, who knows what's possible?

I think your left hand just needs drilling. Can you play ||:01234321:|| evenly, steadily, to a metronome? If not, your fingers are not balanced. They don't know their own strength and/or weakness and so they just do what they can. You have to learn to back off on the strong fingers and throw down the weaker fingers. Your fingers need to lift more quickly from their baseknuckles without straightening out the fingers. Lift the fingers into their natural curl. When you straighten fingers as you lift, you get that flailing action (though Ray Chen seems to be doing fine with that, go figure ;)

Some drills to work on, all with metronome at increasing tempos (make sure you move precisely with the metronome):

Added accents: where ^ before a fingering represents an accent. E.g.
||:^0123 ^4321:||
||:^1234 ^3210:||
||:^2343 ^2101:||
||:^3432 ^1012:||

B: E.g.
Short-Long patterns: 01-23-43-21 repeated
Long-Short patterns: 01-23-43-21 repeated
Short-Short-Long: 012-343-210-123-432-101-234-321 repeated
Make sure you wait on the long note and move precisely on the next beat.

Hold down fingers:
E.g. hold 234 on D string, play 01010101 on G string, in various rhythms like in B above
Hold 134 on D, play 02020202 on G in rhythms
Hold 124 on D, play 03030303 on G in rhythms
Hold 123 on D, play 04040404 on G in rhythms

Also, hold 34, play 12121212
hold 14, play 23232323
hold 12, play 34343434

D: accelerated trill exercises
set metronome to quarter at 60
play trill in eighths, triplet eighths, sixteenths, sextuplets, thirty-seconds, sixty-fourths, all precisely to a metronome
Also do accelerated scale patterns a la Galamian, and his insert of rhythms and odd groups of notes.

E: on every run, all passage work, you must drill your fingers with rhythmic patterns, separate bows for coordinating left and right, and with various slur patterns to make the finger action even.

I do think you need to take a bit of a step back and spend time reworking your bow arm. Your arm/hand doesn't quite know where the strings are, and so you throw down and crash, instead of placing and catching the strings, and so your strokes are not clean. You bounce with the arm, rather than throwing the bow and letting the bow do the bouncing, and so all the sautille and spiccato strokes are forced and don't speak. But the great thing is that you are still kind of making it happen, even though your arms don't quite know how. It would be good to take a break from rep for a month and review:
Sevcik Op.2 and 3
Kreutzer 2, 7, 8, 13, 26
Do lots of detache, spiccato, mixed bowing: e.g. Bach E maj Prelude, Prokofiev Solo Sonata Op. 115, Kreisler Sicilienne and Rigaudon, Preludium and Allegro, Novacek Perpetuum Mobile (use these as etudes, work on parts, not necessarily working them up for performance), etc.

Your elbow swing for detache sounds uneven, i.e. down is heavier than up. Practice a lot of detache starting with accented up bows and in triplets. You're not feeling the spring of the stick when you go from detache to sautille. Try keeping the bow 'loaded' with a very short detache motion, so it doesn't skate across the strings. You need to develop a reliable colle and martele stroke. Right now you tend to press as you move the bow. You need to be able to pinch the string and release as you move the bow, to get a clean stroke, rather than a pushed, stabby stroke. You need to be able to vary the speed of your bow, especially slowing it down as you finish strokes to end phrases. You need to be able to distribute your bow to give a proper shape to phrases.

It's a lot of detailed work, but I can't see any reason you shouldn't be able to do it, and do it in a short period of time. On top of all the technical work, you have to also do tons of slow practice for tuning pitch, and fine tuning motion.

I'll take a closer look at your video and see if I can make any helpful comments specific to your performance next time.

Good luck!

P.S. Are you able to travel to Frankfurt and/or Munich easily?

October 22, 2017, 1:06 AM · Wow. I am absoloutely stunned by everyone's comments! I am so thankful for your constructive criticism, and taking the time to do so! How can I ever thank you back???

Jeewon, thank you for your thoughtful and methodical approach to my technical weaknesses. I will be sure to follow this guide and everyone else's method!
My teacher has touched upon all of these issues, but I never realised how much of a hinderance they are to my performance. It makes me very sure to fully listen to what my teacher says.

I will also have a look at the Kreisler Praedulum and Allegro (I've always loved that piece and it's a good excuse to play it now!)

And unfortunately, it is quite difficult for me to travel to Frankfurt or Munich.

And back to the original question, conservatory wise, how likely is it for me to get into a 1st or 2nd tier music school, now say given an extra 3 years of intensive study? (Schools like Oberlin, CIM, Curtis, Julliard, New England, Eastman etc)

Again, I thank everyone for your kind words and support!

October 22, 2017, 1:47 AM · It's great you are recording yourself and actively getting feedback. Your spirit and commitment is definitely putting you on the right track.

Perhaps Meadowmount would also be a good camp for your situation — especially if you are looking to get some intensive practicing done. At Aspen you'll be hacking away at a lot of orchestra rep, which is both an advantage and disadvantage...

I think at your current trajectory, getting into schools like NEC, Oberlin, Eastman would be a bit of a stretch, unless you really buckle down on your audition rep, like starting today, and practice intensively on those pieces for the next year, everyday. Like training for the Olympics. And I worry even if you are accepted to a conservatory, it might not be your teacher of choice, and they might not offer much merit scholarship. Tuition nowadays at least in the States is ridiculous expensive. It's certainly not a bad idea for considering a gap year. Regarding schools like Juilliard and Curtis, I'm really not sure it's terribly realistic, but you'll find out with pre-screen. Keep going, have a plan B, and you might be surprised where hard work will lead you towards.

October 22, 2017, 3:21 AM · Just to clearify what I ment earlier and where you asked for clerification:
I think the position of your hand is ok, but when going into fast scales the in between notes have wrong intonation. The natural space between the fingers is somewhere between halftone and full tone for most people and that is where your fingers seem to be going slightly. As Mary Ellen said, you need to practise slowly taking care of every note. The ending point is always right because thats what you looked for at practise and propably think about when going up fastly.
October 22, 2017, 6:47 AM · To be fair, Lydia said that, though I agree.
October 22, 2017, 7:32 AM · Oh right, sry for the wrong reference.
Edited: October 23, 2017, 4:58 AM · I love reading these threads. Even though the OP is beyond my playing skill, all of the tidbits (and sometimes detailed treatises!) of advice should be generally useful to what I'm working on. I think a lot of students who have made "fast progress" have been heavily loaded with repertoire at the expense of scales and studies. But the latter will build the foundation, and I think Mendelssohn and Mozart -- from what I have seen among young students this is where the students with sound fundamentals can move beyond, and those without sound fundamentals tend to get stuck. I agree with the idea of using fast pieces as studies. I think that's underutilized. Especially I think Bach is considered too sacred for that, but it's really good material. Not just the E Major Prelude but anything called "Double" is a good study.
October 22, 2017, 8:31 AM · Jeewon's advice is exceptionally good.

I forgot to mention in my earlier post that you would benefit from doing Schradieck op. 1 book 1, especially the first two pages, which has first-position patterns that drill finger-evenness. Do them with a metronome, lowering the tempo until you can play the patterns with perfect evenness, with the fingers quiet. That will help you fix your flail.

October 22, 2017, 10:31 AM · I've compiled everyone's suggestions and constructive criticisms onto a word document, and I will be printing this out and will take up a special place in my music folder :)
I understand that I will have to work exceptionally hard for the next 2 years to get into the school I desire to go to.
Will have a look at Aspen, Meadowmount (I'm pretty sure Galamian was the founder of this school?) and after some research, had a look at Heifetz.

And another question just to keep the thread going :)
Favourite recording of Mendelssohn?
I need some inspiration and some videos to watch how the professionals utilise their bow and left hand, I especially enjoy Szeryng, (but he's my favourite violinist, so I guess I have some bias there hahahaha)

You guys are fantastic and I am so glad to be part of such a warm and wonderful community.

Edited: October 22, 2017, 10:42 AM · Kaori, have you looked into the dates of summer programs in US? Do they not overlap with school terms in Australia?
October 22, 2017, 10:59 AM · Jeewon, thank you for putting the time to write up such detailed review and advice! This is like to watch a masterclass for me. I am definitely taking notes, especially about Kreutzer 2, 7, 8, 13, 26, all of which I worked in the past, but definitely should be reviewed from time to time.

Advices given by Lydia and Mary Ellen are always extremely solid and helpful.

Last but not least, Kaori, thank you for starting this thread, putting yourself out and taking in all the feedback so graciously! Wherever you go in the next a few years maybe subject to certain factors that are beyond anyone's prediction and control; however, with all the wonderful qualities that you've displayed so far, I have no doubt you'll go very far in anything you pursue. Brava!

October 22, 2017, 1:15 PM · Dear Kiki,
Yes, I am aware of Australian School Term Dates, which is listed below. (The days I attend school)

Term 1
Monday 22 January to Thursday 29 March 2018

Term 2
Tuesday 17 April to Friday 22 June 2018

Term 3
Tuesday 17 July to Friday 21 September 2018

Term 4
Tuesday 9 October to Friday 30 November 2018

It is okay for me to miss out a week, but I think I would have to scratch out the summer camps that go for 8 weeks... This is why I am also so interested in Aspen, as they offer Half Sessions that are during my Term 2 holidays.

October 22, 2017, 1:17 PM · Yixi, thank you so much for your kind words! I hope to make music a career, but if that's not possible, I already have a Plan B sorted :)
I am so glad that my thread not only helped me in my studies, but others who can learn from this as well. I guess this is the beauty of a public forum!


October 22, 2017, 1:37 PM · By the way, why not go to music school in Australia?

To answer an earlier question, I think that all three of the virtuosic pieces you named -- Zigeunerweisen, Intro & Tarantella, I&RC -- have a bunch of off-the-string work and fast passages where you'd need to fix the issues demonstrated in your Mendelssohn. The Tarantella would probably force you to do so, but given your issues, something like the Kreisler/Mozart "Haffner" Rondo might be a better exercise for a clean controlled coordinated spiccato.

I think Prokofiev No. 1 would be a huge challenge for you, given your intonation and other left-hand issues. The concerto is extremely chromatic (forcing you to be very precise about your placements so that the pitch isn't ambiguous), and it's got a ton of high-speed runs, as well as fast, huge leaps up and down the fingerboard.

At your level, typical choices would be Barber (the third movement would also be useful for your spiccato challenge), Bruch No. 1, or a showpiece like Zigeunerweisen or I&RC. Then Wieniawski No. 2, Lalo Symphonie Espagnol, Khachaturian, or the like.

Edited: October 22, 2017, 2:53 PM · Kaori, you mentioned that you've not worked on the Mendelssohn first movement and will work on it next. I find this movement, particularly the 1st page, is extremely good for working on intonation. It was working on that movement that it finally gave me a clearer concept of how to listen to my intonation carefully. In comparison, I find the 2nd and 3rd movements are relatively straightforward.

I agree with Lydia that Barber and Bruch No. 1 will be good choices, especially for tone production and musicality. I absolutely adore Barber VC, but I find it is nearly impossible to play the first two mvts as beautifully as it should sound (like gives one goosebumps) when I play alone. There are a lot of stuff going on in the orchestra. Even playing with piano, I don't find entirely satisfying musically speaking. I would like to hear what others think about this particular issue. The 3rd mvt is great to practice fast notes even without being able to play at the performance tempo. Bruch on the other hand has such beautiful singing lines and manageable technical challenges that I think you'll really enjoy playing it, like many of us have.

October 22, 2017, 2:02 PM · Hi Lydia,
I am not an Australian resident (despite the fact I have been living here for 7 years) and I am on a temporary student visa. This visa lasts till 2019, the year of my graduation.
For this reason, I will be obliged to leave the country, unless I extend my visa (which I have done already)

And, I'm also looking out for new places for a fresh start :)

I've only listened to the Kreisler/Mozart Haffner Rondo once, will look at it again.

I asked for the Zigeunerweisen to my teacher a couple months ago (just when I started to play the Mendelssohn) and she refused to teach it to me until my technique is more solid.
I am quite interested in the Barber Concerto (the first movement is absolutely beautiful), but is the 3rd mvt possible at my level??

And also, is Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso possible if I put enough work into it, and most importantly, will it support my technical growth, (or is it too difficult, and I should aim for something easier)

I am definitely going to look at the Kreisler Preludium and Allegro- the string crossings will make a great etude!

Will be putting Prokofiev 1 off my future repertoire lists for now :)

October 22, 2017, 2:08 PM · Dear Yixi,
Yes, the intonation in the Mendelssohn is painstakingly difficult! I have attempted the first page (playing well out of tune, especially the octaves) and I will continue to practise until intonation is close to perfect.

I feel like the Bruch is overplayed (along with the Tchaikovsky and the Sibelius) and I think I'd like to spice my repertoire up with some Barber :)

Again thank you everyone for your kind suggestions, your opinions are absolutely invaluable.


Edited: October 22, 2017, 3:29 PM · Your playing is good overall. The advice given above is excellent.
Your intonation is quite good overall with only small issues. In terms of your left hand technique:
1. you could be squeezing your left thumb
2. your hand is not positioned in the most optimal way
In terms of your sound, your strings could be too old, the strings are caked with rosin or your bow hold/arm is too stiff. Lydia's description of your sound is spot on. Your off-the-string strokes sound mushy to me, like Jeewon said.
In terms of fast passagework, try practicing in rhythms or breaking it up and working from there.
In terms of repertoire, you should ask your teacher, get suggestions and choose your personal faves. You might want to look into Danse Espagnole, Bartok Romanian Folk Dances, Sarasate's Spanish Dances, Hungarian Dances by Brahms, Mozart and Beethoven's Sonatas or Lalo's Concerto if you haven't already.
In terms of a repertoire break, I'd ask your teacher. You could back off from repertoire a bit (not quitting completely) and use exercises and appropriate repertoire as technique builders.
I think you're very courageous, smart, outgoing and hardworking, and all you can do is try your best and see what happens. Good luck!
October 22, 2017, 6:24 PM ·

Since you are willing to miss a week of school...

Edited: October 23, 2017, 4:56 AM · Lydia mentioned Haffner Rondo. It's in the red book called "Fritz Kreisler Collection Volume 1." This book is worth the $30 -- easily. I've been working on the Haffner Rondo for a while. Honestly, it's a little bit too hard for me, but you should be able to do it in a few weeks. There are a couple of cadenzas and a snazzy ending with double stops. You might say Kreisler took a page from Accolay's book for the ending.
October 22, 2017, 10:12 PM · Kiki, I don't think Kaori is saying that. I think Kaori is referring to the summer holidays.
October 22, 2017, 11:38 PM · I read it as missing out on one week of school but I guess she could mean missing a week of summer program.

Either way, I think applying to Indiana might be a good barometer. You could be accepted, wait-listed, or rejected. They are selective but I've seen students who are not polished yet get in in the past.

October 22, 2017, 11:42 PM · Ella, thank you for your opinion and reiterating my issues I need to fix in order to become a better musician! I have already played the Bartok Romanian Dances, Danse Espagnole (if it's the one by Falla), Romanza Andaluza Sarasate, and the Beethoven Spring sonata (which I absolutely adore!)

I will ask my teacher (when I come back from Germany) to see if a repertoire break is possible. I'm sure she wouldn't mind, as one of my first lessons with her was her reading a book about bowing and me taking notes. Although it may seem like quite a boring lesson, I throughly enjoyed it because it highlighted all of my flaws, and solutions to fix them!

And last of all, thank you for commenting on my work ethic and personality, I am so glad to hear this!


October 22, 2017, 11:50 PM · Hi Kiki,
You are correct- missing a week of school is okay for me.
I am quite interested in Indiana now, seeing as Mimi Zweig is part of the faculty!
I will be applying to a couple of summer camps, and whatever happens, happens.
I guess you could say I'm used to musical rejection, as I failed my exam last year, there are countless auditions I couldn't pass in the past. Although these failures made me quite upset and lost my confidence in my ability, I learnt so much from these experiences, and ultimately made me stronger.
Without these rejections, I wouldn't have met my violin teacher now, and I wouldn't have received the full scholarship into my school.
I'm so thankful that music has not only supported what I love doing, but also my daily and academic life.

Again, I appreciate all of your support and feedback!!


October 23, 2017, 5:04 AM · Every career has setbacks. It's how you respond to them that matters.

I'm sure there are many great recordings of the Mendelssohn that can be recommended to you. I rather like Heifetz's recording. (Don't worry, I'm not one of those Heifetz-Uber-Alles nuts.) I also like the YouTube video with Janine Jansen.

October 23, 2017, 9:27 AM · Hi Kaori,

I just went to the masterclass of Miriam Fried on Friday, and it was very enlightening. One thing she highly recommended regarding bowing, but specifically spiccato passagework, was to practice (and this is really effective when there are many string crossings) the passage just on open strings (playing the correct string for each note but not fingering the note in the left hand). It is really quite effective, and forces you to know exactly where your bow is going.

Afterwards, adding the left hand back in should be easier, but don't forget to practice slow as well as fast (and alternate between the two within your practice sessions) to lock in intonation and fluidity.

October 23, 2017, 10:01 AM · I do that too and it often is really enlightning.
On the otherhand you should be aware when to do string crossing during shift etc. There is a lot we do intuitivly right when it comes to bow movement during shifting but its not obvious when you leave the left hand out.
October 23, 2017, 11:50 AM · Kaori,

If you haven't already, check out the masterclass by Benjamin Zander. He is coaching the Mendelssohn of an advanced student in the video. It is inspiring, to say the least.

Edited: October 23, 2017, 12:38 PM · Sung, I also love that video very much. A minor correction, the performer Yoojin Jang can hardly be called an advanced student. lol. She is an international competition prizewinner, a former student of Nam Yun Kim, Paul Kantor, Pamela Frank, just to name a few. She is currently pursuing a Doctor of Musical Arts at New England Conservatory:

Her playing is amazing, yet Zander still had a lot to say about it. Goes to show how much one can get out of this piece.

October 23, 2017, 12:44 PM · Sung and Yixi,
Yes, I have already seen this masterclass before, and it is very interesting to see how much work can be covered, even as a professional musician! It's also intriguing how Zander talked about the meaning behind the Allegro Molto Appasionato, and the "hidden meaning" behind!


October 23, 2017, 5:19 PM · On the student level thing, advanced (or intermediate, or beginner, etc) is hard to define because everyone's definition is different.
Edited: October 23, 2017, 8:54 PM · Kaori, as they say, the worst they can tell you is no and that is far from the end of the world. If you learn something along as you prepare your audition video, then it's already a "win" for you.

It seems like Yoojin Jang's performance on that video has gone viral (oh how I hate that word) among violin students. She is definitely a #performancegoal just as Tessa Lark is for her Bartok's Romanian Dances video.


The question for the rest of us is, how do we get from where we are to there?

October 23, 2017, 9:29 PM · The path is slightly different for each person, and all you can do is try your best, work hard and be patient.

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