Chamber music for 14 years old / already in an orchestra + is it too early / time commitment?

Edited: May 12, 2023, 1:11 AM · For the next school year, the conservatory program/her teacher are providing an exception and offering the Chamber music option for my daughter and letting her team up with students older than her (2+ years older).

She just started the Bruch Concerto - her previous program was Kabalevsky/Beriot no9 concertos/Sonata/Bach. She played very well in her previous program which led to the option.

She is already in an youth orchestra program that is 2 hours a week (mandatory for next year - it is easy for her) and she will have a reasonably big program next year (Bruch/potentially Lalo/Beethoven Sonata/Unaccompanied).

I am wondering if it is a good idea for her to join the Chamber program at this point? Is there a major advantage to join the Chamber music program?

We are worry about the time commitment and honestly have no idea how chamber music works (2 violinist, 1 viola, 1 cello?). Not too sure if this is a good idea yet.

Thank you in advance for your advice!

Replies (12)

Edited: May 12, 2023, 2:30 AM ·

You'll want to find out more about the chamber music group. (Number of musicians; type of music. Etc.) Usually it's more than four musicians. I would think one or the other; but, not both. I gather that she will be taking lessons. So those, along with both the youth orchestra and the chamber group would be a bit much.

If the chamber group is typical of other chamber groups, I think that between the youth orchestra and the chamber group, the chamber group would definitely be more beneficial for her development.

May 12, 2023, 4:22 AM · My 13 year old is at about the same level, and has been part of her school orchestra, youth orchestra, and a chamber group since fall. And does a sport. The chamber commitment is only an hour, once a week, so definitely not too much. Her YO programming is actually much more difficult (she’s the only 7th grader among a full orchestra with a lot of HS juniors and seniors), and requires a fair amount of practice.

This still leaves her plenty of time to be a kid and go to TikTok university. The one thing you have to consider that we probably don’t, is that she’s going to HS next year. Mine takes HS math and will likely also take HS language next year, but that’s not the same as a full course load.

May 12, 2023, 8:39 AM · It is never too early for chamber music! My kids were duetting by age 5 and started playing in actual quartets or trios around age 9.

To be honest, the absolute most growth in playing ability and important musical skills tends to occur in a chamber music setting. It is arguably more important than orchestra. In a chamber group, you need to be both a soloist (at times) and a collaborator (all the time). It improves listening, communication, and overall ability. In addition, kids tend to find it really fun because the groups are usually small enough to foster a lot of social interaction.

The most common group types are string quartets and piano trios, but there are a wide range of options available. Of course, having a good coach helps a lot as well, so make sure the program is somewhat well-done.

May 12, 2023, 9:31 AM · I agree with Susan that if it can be made to work schedule-wise, that chamber music is a really great environment for learning. The benefits really pay off in orchestral settings, especially if your daughter plays principal positions at any time in the future. And, there are dividends for solo playing, too, the idea that all music is collaboration.
May 12, 2023, 11:01 AM · I agree with everyone else here, there are lots of benefits to participating in a well thought out chamber music program. It will enrich her musically and socially. As long as the commitment isn't huge (like more than like 3 hours a week sorta thing), it should fit in her schedule. I started playing in chamber groups when I was 12, and in terms of repertoire I was on Haydn G major, Czaradas, and had just started my first Bach unaccompanied movement. My brother got his first introduction to chamber music at an even earlier developmental stage, so it's definitely not too early.
May 12, 2023, 2:01 PM · Another vote for chamber music (but as someone who loves orchestra, I would advocate for orchestra, too). Chamber music really builds musicianship skills -- and arguably life skills like collaboration, communication, empathy, compromise, group time management, etc.
May 12, 2023, 3:39 PM · And composers seem to have put much of their best music into chamber music..
May 12, 2023, 8:18 PM · I agree with the others that chamber music can be extremely positive in many ways. The only way to ruin it is if the coach assigns something that's so hard that the students need to divert a lot of their individual practice time to it. There's plenty to learn about playing in a small ensemble without trying to play Brahms or Shostakovitch.
May 12, 2023, 11:02 PM · Oh wow... I actually had a different type of understanding. Glad I asked here. Thank you all so much for your advice! I didn't know that chamber music has such a big impact on young students.

My daughter has been playing duet every year with another student that is around the same level. She is also in two different orchestra/ensemble groups as first violinist: one runs from Sep. to May and another from Sep. to Dec. only. It's fairly easy for her so there's no need to practice for those groups.

We will try to fit her into the chamber group and see if there's option to slow down on the other orchestra/ensemble. Another unknown is that we do know how they pair the students and the quality of the play of the students in the chamber. I hope it will be at similar skill level!

May 13, 2023, 1:58 PM · Age 14 is a great age for a string quartet. I have a lot of fond memories of my quartet at that age, and the other violinist and I are still friends. (The other two have remained Facebook acquaintances.)

We sight-read as much as we worked on music formally, and we gigged around at restaurants and such, too. A great social and musical experience.

May 13, 2023, 3:34 PM · I'm in a string quartet club of sorts. We play through two quartets every couple of weeks, and at the end, we decide the next ones so that we can prepare. Mostly I play the viola. One of the violinists (our group's leader) is a retired pro orchestra section player, the other is a highly skilled amateur. And the cellist for the past year was my 16-year-old daughter, so she got to play a whole bunch of great rep. She's pretty advanced so preparing the parts does not take her that much time. (We're not playing quartets at a performance standard, either.)
May 13, 2023, 5:29 PM · It has always been my dream to find friends to play chamber music with since I was in high school, but it just hasn't happened outside of participating in actual chamber music programs. Finding the right people isn't always easy, and I'm already very flexible on instrumentation because I'm proficient on three instruments and I'm pretty open to various types of music.

Facebook Twitter YouTube Instagram Email is made possible by...

Shar Music
Shar Music

Pirastro Strings
Pirastro Strings

JR Judd Violins
JR Judd Violins

Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra
Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra

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

Metzler Violin Shop

Southwest Strings

Bobelock Cases

Johnson String Instrument/Carriage House Violins

Jargar Strings

Bay Fine Strings Violin Shop


Los Angeles Violin Shop


String Masters

Nazareth Gevorkian Violins

Laurie's Books

Discover the best of in these collections of editor Laurie Niles' exclusive interviews. Interviews Volume 1 Interviews Volume 1, with introduction by Hilary Hahn Interviews Volume 2 Interviews Volume 2, with introduction by Rachel Barton Pine