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"Assuming these performers spend about the same hours per day on practicing what reasons are responsible for the huge difference in productivity? "

Could it be that some players are better!? (simplistic, I know, but with my pupils the speed of learning comes down to mostly how good they are.....although at their "best" they might produce a performance of equal quality, hence equal standard repertoire).

In reality, skills vary...I am a slow learner, and have to work things out scientificaly, I know players (some are young too...) who can read and play and never have to work on the technique again, only the music. I know players that never make a mistake, even sight-reading in pro orchestras, but the finished performance of a solo piece can be strangely "poor"...a lot comes down to expectation and attitude....since I am a teacher and I know the repertoire in every detail I have very high standards...other players are happy to go out and only play 80% (not including bad intonation though!)


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allow  me add more fuel to the flame....

i have never seen a child developing into a prodigy (not even

talking about later years) without at least one parent at home

(more or less full time) constantly catering to his/her need.

 if you tell me that a 3-5 yr old on piano composed a song, i

believe you.  if you tell me that a 3-5 yr old can

meaningfully practice violin,  i think you need to send the

script to hollywood. for a 3-5 year old, the best time

to practice is a little before pre school in the morning, and right

after school in the afternoon.  too tiring to practice in the

evening after dinner.  if both parents have full time jobs

that rush out of the door in the morning and get home after 5-6 pm

dog tired, tough. if you look at most, if not

all old masters, they basically did not go to regular school.

 they focused on violin very very young.  even current

standouts...same approach.  they have decided on violin (or

their parents did for them) and regular school becomes secondary.

 many kids are now  being home schooled for music or

sports in the States. to play mendelsson convincingly

 by age 8 is no  accident. i have a student like

that...the asian work ethics and family involvement is a big

advantage.  by the time when some kids are ready

for competitions, the judges do not care when they started and how

many years they have played.  however, that is the trend and

the driving force in the classical world.  

do i want my kids to skip regular school to stay ahead in music?

hell no, that is silly.  professional classical music is

for interest and fun, not for career.  i may be wrong, but i

do not want my kids one day worry about job security even though

they are more than qualified.  

for adult beginners, is there hope?  of course! just not the

same route, same approach, same destination.  violin is very

unlike riding a bike in the park at your own speed.  the tech

difficulties is tremendous.  as adults, we do what we can. one

reason to start early is that you put in enough miles so that

 you are ready for another level.  as adults, we are

often constrained by time, so even if we want to practice, we have

to take care of other obligations.  

to be good, you have to practice good and long. but for

adults, to be good, you have to tell yourself you are good because

you have met your realistic goals.

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There are a couple of factors influencing the progress and

happiness of kids. Foremost not so much whether kids can

concentrate on one subject for a long time, but if parents have

created the environment from the first day of their live where

concentration capabilities can develop. What does it mean? First a

quiet, stable environment, where a stimulus like sound is solely

used for a purpose instead of a "sound backdrop". A setup where

kids are allowed to spend some time uninterrupted and unobserved

alone without giving them tasks one way or the other, at least half

an hour per day. There are more factors to it but not enough space

here to mention the details. As a result of such upbringing I can

report that both my sister and I as well as my two kids all learned

to read and write, count and multiply with results up to 100 at the

age of four. Very important: They learned it and I helped them, I

did NOT teach and drill them. I haven't found a child yet, not even

in bad family situations, who did not show a major interest in

letters and numbers at about the age of four. Provided it was put

with friendly people into a quite, stable, low outside stimulus

environment. My practical experience also from some high school as

well a special school and university "teaching" proves a simple

rule: The only working way is the one, where a child learns by

itself through its own motivation and we adults help in its

learning process. What can we teach then? We have to teach

MOTIVATION. This is our art. Unfortunately when running out of

patience, imagination and time, sometimes even out of love for the

kid, we resort to teaching them subjects instead of motivation,

it's a normal excusable human weakness. But it's our daily duty to

fight this our weakness. If we cannot fight it successfully, WE


our sadistic desires to torment weaker human beings depending on

us.In case of Julia Fischer I can report that parents had to

monitor and limit her practicing almost every day to make sure she

would get enough movement, food and sleep and this for the first

four, five years. Later on, she matured into a quite effective self

monitoring. Finally, she never left school for a better violinist

career and got her German high school degree at the same age as

everyone else around.


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you dare to tell me that practicing violin while watching TV

cartoons is not a good idea?

you mean to tell me that what kids really hear and feel is more

important than what we say and yell?

essentially, i agree with things you said. thank you. i

need one clarification:

"Unless we can't help our sadistic desires to torment weaker human

beings depending on us.In case of Julia Fischer I can report that

parents had to monitor and limit her practicing almost every day to

make sure she would get enough movement, food and sleep and this

for the first four, five years."

about what age did julia first  start on violin?  


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Yes, what IS it that allows some people to learn things in a fraction of the time of others? Certainly if you have good technique it will allow you to learn repertoire faster... but how do you acquire this good technique? You have to practice it. When I look at the students at my university, it seems that some people's bodies seem to automatically gravitate to the right way of doing something, whereas others (like me!) have muscles that want to do just about anything other than the simple, easy motions that you need to play efficiently. Same with memorizing things- some people seem to just remember their pieces, whereas I have to pick everything apart... singing each voice, analysing the harmony, writing it out, etc etc... and the notes still fall out of my head almost as fast as I put them in! I don't think its an issue of not paying attention... I think I'm more aware of what I'm doing when I practice than a lot of the talented students are. I DON'T CARE that it takes me a long time to learn things... I'm still learning and this is what I want to do. I just would like to know how people can get the same amount learned in half the time. WHAT is the secret?

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"I am not quite sure we are a little bit off topic here right now. Since we all naturally assume that adult practicers are motivated by definition"

What you are talking about is a method to instill in a child the desire and ability to spend time alone working towards a goal. How does one do that? It's the concept of a self-starter but your daughter Julia seems to have gone way beyond that. (BTW: Coincidentally, I just saw her teach a masterclass in NYC and was astounded by her abilities in so many different ways) As an adult I realize I don't have that type of foundation or a strong self motivating ability. I was not raised in the manner you speak of and see the detriment. In a general sense, is there any way for adults to adress these issues?

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Hi All,

One isue that hasn't been risen is the quality of the instrument.

Have you ever played on a better instrument then yours and everything sounded so much better instantly,as if you would have practiced that piece for 100 extra hours?

When we compare the ability to learn and perform of kids,even profesionals,the instrument factor is crucial and cannot be left out.

We are unlucky in our profesion that the best instruments cost a fortune,and the cheaper ones are not consistent in quality.

Unfortunately players don't get a level start in their career from that point of view .


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Let me try to elaborate on self motivation a little bit.

For an adult things seem to be simple: you decide what you want.
Yes, there are plenty of factors influencing this decision
but at the end: you decide. So one DECIDES about being
motivated or not. Take the other way around. If I decide I do
not want to be motivated and/or even listen to you, then you have
no chance, right?

There are schools of thoughts that our will is not a matter of our
decision, but this leads into a world where there is no
responsibility, no moral, not a bit of law and certainly no order.
Such school of thought is the most convenient way to tell the rest
of the world: "It's never my fault, actually it's nobody's fault:
there are no faults at all." So lets dream on ...

Also a child decides "what" it wants. The matter is the "what"
here. We expect from an mature adult to gather enough information
about this "what" before making the decision. A child when making a
decision generally has not the faintest idea what it is what it
does not  want. Therefore we have to find ways of
introducing the "what" to the child so its decision is more an
expression of knowing something than of plain stupidity.
Also here one might find some schools of thought claiming there are
no stupid people and really no developments away from stupidity.
But such schools are mainly based on misinterpretation of e.g. a
constitution or bill of rights. When taking a closer look at such
documents you will always find statements like "equal rights" or
"freedom of expression". But I do not know a single such documents
stating it is "good" to have equal rights or "all opinions are
equally important"...

Coming back to music education: Yes, it needs a lot of creativity,
patience and love to give a child enough impressions and
information so it will be able to decide whether it wants to play,
learn and practice or not. A few simple rules might help: The basic
state of environment has to be silence, to give a child at least a
little chance to realize: "music has begun" when it happens. And a
child shouldn't listen to anything but emotionally valuable music
in its early years. It needs to see how happy  and excited the
adults are getting when such "music has begun"; the behavior around
music is of big influence. Interestingly enough, in the food space
we would never come up with the idea to put up all kinds of garbage
and healthy stuff together on the table in front of the child
and let the child develop its taste on its own. Food for the ears
seems to be an entirely different matter...

Summarizing: We will never be able (hopefully!) to make a child's
decision, we make our decisions what information and impressions we
offer the child so it can make its decisions, hopefully better
and better ones over time. In that sense there is nothing
special about music education.


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About Gabi's "quality of the instrument" issue: We will never know

whether a flood of excellent violinists will arrive if only enough

quarter sized Strads and Guarneris would be available. But I find

it hard to believe a young child will loose its motivation to play

and practice because of its expectations towards a top instrument.

Such ideas will most likely come from adults around the child who

cannot keep their mouth shut when thinking about reasons for slow



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for adult beginners, basically there is no hope for serious high

level violin career or performance.  violin is a combination

of mental and finger acrobatics and gymnastics.  also, take

time to digest all the material, and practice and call it your own.

 but you love music and want to have fun?!

 so, get  a good teacher and practice.  love the

music and have fun.

for young kids, very complicated situation.  every kid is

different.  one julia can be very different from another

julia.  even though this julia is a success, another julia

under the same environment may not be.  it is a combination of

genes,  environment, nurturing, hard work and luck.  the

only way to influence the outcome is to start  early, to allow

some cushion, to build up some reserve.  

as much as adults would like a very young child to believe

violin/music is fun, it is not.  washing face is not fun,

brushing teeth is not fun,  violin is not fun.  it is an

education.  the challenge is to make it fun.

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string along, i totally agree that we should do things with full

conviction.  yet, even though this world is not black and

white, i think at least for me some things are more realistic than


i see on TV those kids competing for a spot for the olympics for

figure skating.  even if i want to give it a try,

i know better the outcome with certainty.  violin

playing is like figure skating in that within splits of seconds,

there is room for errors.

to be a surgeon is not that difficult, certainly not as difficult

as playing violin at high level.  human tissues are very

forgiving, but human ears are not.  

if you are an adult beginner,  you will find that to be

reasonable and understanding of your abilities will help not hinder

your progress.

good luck! 


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if you are an adult beginner, you will find that to be reasonable and understanding of your abilities will help not hinder your progress

Whatever that is supposed to mean! What, exactly, is the point of having as an introductory comment regarding a very diverse group of individuals about to set off on an activity they have each chosen for themselves, a sentence that begins, there is no hope and then goes off to some lofty pursuit that few of any age group that sets off on this journey ever reaches anyway? Have you pondered what the effect of such a statement may have on the uninitiated who have barely set their foot through the door? Many adults feel intimidated, inadequate, that they don't belong and strangely guilty anyway. Have a read on the topic in www.musicalfossils.com. I'm not concerned about myself because I am in this long enough to know who I am, and I have the support of some very good people, some professional musicians, some amateurs, and my own teacher.

Anyone starting off on any endeavour does not need to be told first off what he or she cannot do. If someone is beginning a new journey, it is certainly wise to seek council, discuss goals if there are any, one on one with someone knowledgeable. But since they are all individuals, it is best for their individual backgrounds and abilities to be assessed individually - not have a generic conclusion pasted upon all and sundry by a stranger who has never met them and knows nothing about them.

Someone who is beginning something new like playing the violin will not be understanding of their abilities to play the violin for the simple reason that they have not done it. They may have some clues as to their potential: previous musical background, similar instruments - do they play the lute? Fantastic! Same strings and intervals, left hand's practically there already. The assessment as to what this person can and cannot do is up to two individuals: the student and his or her teacher. What anyone aspiring to do anything needs like a hole in the head is to approach this aspiration with negative thinking, fearfulness, or doubt. Unfortunately that is what the tone of what you cannot do, can create all too easily, and that is why I have concerns. A stranger simply does not have the authority to know what any one individual is capable of.

Let's turn this around for a moment for perspective. Supposing Mrs. Parent brings in her five year old son for violin lessons. Five year olds have a chance at becoming world renowned violinists or high level performers because they have the timespan within which to develop to their highest potential if they work very hard for many years with excellent teachers, and because of the way their bodies are still growing and developing. However, of all the students who begin studying the violin, many drop out after a few years, some don't have the talent, some don't have good teachers, some don't have the willpower to follow through, and the few who do reach very high standards may not be able to get noticed and come to the right places for whatever reasons that may be. So given all that, Mrs. Parent brings in Sammy for his first violin lesson. And she is advised, as the very first thing, "There is little hope that Sammy will ever become a world renowned violinist, and a low chance that he might be a musician of high standards. Statistics simply prove otherwise." Who is going to say that, and why would they? Mrs. Parent probably wants her Sammy to have a chance to learn to play the violin, and let's see what comes of it? Same way as with our adult.

How many adults starting the violin at age 30 or 40 or later is doing so for the purpose of reaching such high standards and making a profession out of it? Why even bring it up? And why bring up conjecture, however well-based it may be, as fact, without as much as an IMHO?

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"to be a surgeon is not that difficult, certainly not as
difficult as playing violin at high level. human tissues are very
forgiving, but human ears are not."

How does a human tissue forgive? Through death? If someone would
ask me, which profession to pick when scared of too much
responsibility in life? Clearly. "Become a musician!".


As musicians' most "mistakes" are debatable, only some are not
(like hitting the wrong note).

Musicians' mistakes do not kill people.

Musicians' mistakes do not damage your  health.

Musicians' mistakes do not cause war and famine.

If still not convinced: Would you rather take a flight run by pilot
known for making mistakes from time time or undergo a
surgery done by a surgeon known for making mistakes from
time time or go to a concert to listen to a musician known
for making mistakes from time time?

The reason why musicians tend to have "trouble with nerves" a lot,
is NOT because the extraordinary stress of this profession is
so overwhelming. Generally people do not rush into being a musician
because "I want responsibility" is on the top of their wish list, I


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FMFischer: Thankyou so much for your excellent reply. You spoke volumes in such a succinct way and from exactly the right place. I can see Julia was also blessed with a parent with a lot of wisdom. Much appreciated. As a somewhat confused adult I think you gave me something I can really use. There are a lot of side trips or wrong turns one could take in thinking there is a better way of reaching your goal or true potential. While they are colorful, appear easier, are interesting, fun, alluring and costly etc., they are in fact the wrong way. Unless one is told the right way, they can be lost for a long time, perhaps a lifetime.

What you say about children helps me realize what is going on in a parents head when they actually have a clue. So many people bringing up children have no clue or a random set of rules and opinions, but you have a more fundamental view that works for all cases. Very enlightening.

Thank you again. Greatly appreciated.

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stillnew, thank you for your post and your thoughts. i suspect

 you or anyone reads my posts are sophisticated enough to take

them as IMHO even if  i do not explicitly state so.

we all hold our own opinions because of own experiences.

if i exclaim that the snow is heavy outside, those who

love to ski will not be held back.

to me, it is important to fairly and honestly assess the whole

situation on classical violin training in the very beginning, for

both very young kids (thru the parents) and for adult beginners.

my approach is exactly the opposite of you would propose.


"There is little hope that Sammy will ever become a world renowned

violinist, and a low chance that he might be a musician of high

standards. Statistics simply prove otherwise."

i could not have put it better, because i have said something like

that all the , on day one.  from my experience, i have never

discouraged people from violin because i have told them the bad

news first.

from where i stand, this reality check must be in place along with

what music can do.

Listening to Perlman or Heifeitz play is fun.  Learning to

play like them is a totally different ball game.  some will

say, oh no, that is fun, too.  Great, but then  it also

depends on perspective, standard and expectation. 

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FM, you can ask me to clarify something if you are not sure, but i

think you have taken your interpretation of my statement a little

too far.

human tissue has an inherent ability to heal itself.  many

people with unthinkable conditions improve because of that power

and physicians only play a small role in the process.  

on the contrary, the relationship between the exact notes on

strings and the fingertips is cruelly precise for violin.

 intonation is either good or bad.  there is no room for

interpretation for that.

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i suspect you or anyone reads my posts are sophisticated enough to take them as IMHO even if i do not explicitly state so.

Thank you for reading my post in the spirit that it was intended, Mr. Lucky. I suppose that I am after a bit of sensitisation and awareness-creation. The people coming to this forum, and especially the lurkers, are not all sophisticated enough, and the most vulnerable group are precisely adults who are new to the violin or contemplating taking up its study. Usually there is no sophistication at all, and an incredible amount of fear, self-doubt, hopes, and often those already deeply into this "wonderful art" are seen as demigods and posessors of mysterious abilities. They feel ridiculous and out of place for even thinking of setting foot on these hallowed grounds that are preserved for formed musicians and children. Your every word can be taken very seriously, quite literally, and as Absolute Truth. I have exaggerated this on purpose, but there is a lot of truth to it. If you do ever have a chance to visit the Musicalfossil website, read through the section, "What I have learned from adults..." Each and every adult student that I have sent to this site identified strongly with what Mr. Harre writes there, and some of them cried. You have no idea how your words might be taken because you have not walked in those shoes. The IMHO is very necessary because it is very easy for your word to become Word in the minds of the uninitiated.

My own name on this forum reflects some of this beginner-hesitation. Stillnew is slightly apologetic: I'm still new (was) so if I spout nonsense, you'll know why, etc. I can't very well change it to Nolongernew and so I'm stuck with it.

I've read this thing before about wanting to sound like Heifetz or play Zigeunerweisen as a reason to start the violin. Doesn't anyone start for the love of the instrument rather than something which cannot properly be called a viable goal? My own reason for starting the violin was simple: staring at the chart of the instruments of the orchestra week after week while my son was at the beginnings of his music lessons, and having a fair amount of musicality that at that time had only had self-taught outlets, the violin was the only instrument that had such a range of texture and it seemed, infinite possibilities of sound to explore. I wanted to dive as deeply into that ocean as I could and come up with every possibility of expressing myself musically as I could. Careers and particular pieces are wonderful results of such explorations, and for those who begin music at a time when they must make career choices, it certainly justifies all that time spent and channels that energy into a particular direction. Someone who does choose that career must also choose certain avenues, and do so in time. But had you come along and told me that I would never sound like Heifetz, I would have said, "So what? As wonderful as Heifetz might be, I'm after my own voice, however imperfect it might be. How did Heifetz get into the conversation?" Had you started discussing career impossibilities, I would have been sincerely puzzled and wondered how that ever came up. However, a message that for some reason you were trying to talk me out of this pursuit and that you were adding to my fears and misgivings would have been an additional and very detrimental effect.


to me, it is important to fairly and honestly assess the whole situation on classical violin training in the very beginning, for both very young kids (thru the parents) and for adult beginners.

This comment of yours puts everything into a different perspective. My rant is generally at the messages that I have seen out there. In general, children (parents) are encouraged and great expectations are levelled at them, and the "you'll never play (insert piece) no matter how hard you try" is given to the adults. If you give the same speech to everyone, that's o.k. by my books. From what I now know, and having a son who is on his way to becoming a professional musician, your attitude translates into the fact that you are willing to work hard, want your student to work hard, and will take your adult student dead serious as well. At least that is what I hope for the latter.

My own children had a background that have some of the hallmarks mentioned by FMFisher. Simply put, a baby works incredibly hard with a concentration that engages body and mind, to learn the incredibly difficult tasks of walking, talking, manipulating objects. Sometimes a baby gets frustrated by the effort and its failures and cries, but day after day it never relents. There is a "fun" to this type of pursuit which is different from the disengaged "fun" of mass media entertainment for example. This is the kind of "fun" that a child who has never lost this type of self-motivated pursuit. My children never lost it and I never lost it which is why I always find myself having come from another planet when we talk motivation (externally supplied) and reality checks. There are people who will move heaven and earth and do all that it takes to get where they want to go, because they want to go there. For these, hard work is "fun" but not fun. I don't know if that makes sense.

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stillnew, first of all, i am sorry to have dragged you into putting

so much time on this thread.  but i think you really mean what

you say and i appreciate your thoughts.

you can be very sensitive, but i think you are more sensible.

 i know with confidence that you will be able to put what i

have said on this thread, from my first post, into proper

perspective.  i am an adult as well.  i have my areas of

limitations as well.  i have things that i am learning as a

stillnew.  i have also moments of self doubt.

it is ok to have self doubt, to find things overwhelming.  we

learn to find ways to deal with them.  the overwhelming things

are there, like it or not, talk about it or not.  

the key is anticipated or not, prepared or not.  

my approach is from the bottom up.  starting from the lowest

point working up.  knowing that it is highly unlikely for

anyone to make it like julia, can you muster enough interest,

courage, passion to give it a go?  yes?  lets give it a

good try, no, a great try.  no?  then come back when you

are ready.  what is the point of coaxing someone into training

that is very very challenging when there is no burning desire?

adult beginners are at a big disadvantage because even when they

desire to put in more time and energy, because of other life

commitment, they cannot.  the shortcut, as i said again and

again, is get a great teacher who will show you the short cut and

work for it.  just because i think it is unlikely adult

beginners will make it to the highest level professionally does not

mean they cannot make it to a meaningful level which transcends any


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No harm done, and I think the bottom line of a teacher caring enough about a student's progress, even if the student is "only" an adult, is much better than one of stringing the person along because what they do doesn't matter after all. There are those of us who just want to have fun, or have a relatively trivial and not well thought out goal of playing just like our favourite CDs, and others who are through and through musicians but have not had the opportunity - the latter want to be taken seriously and to do whatever it takes to develop whatever can still be developed.

I suspect, though, that there may be two types of people, and one of them, instead of meeting to a challenge if the difficulties are mentioned too early, will simply fold up and die. Whatever potential this person might have had, you will never know because they won't be there to take lessons with you. It may be that they would have been goal-oriented, and set out to achieve every task that you set out for them, step by step. But the big picture may be too much to handle for a population that is often already full of doubt and self-disparaging. The degree of insecurity that exists in many adults who have not had music instruction before, or who had bad experiences as children, can be high. I would really urge you and other music teachers to read the musicalfossils site in order to know where many people are coming from. It's a tad astonishing.

If I have done no more than create a small amount of awareness of where a lot of adult students are coming from, the excessive amount of esteem they may hold all teachers and musicians in, and therefore the weight of their words - that would be a good thing.

Watch for PM.

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Stillnew, MrLucky; Thank you for your interesting comments. I am an adult beginner. I started playing 7 years ago with my son. The reward has been unbelievable for both of us. Neither of us will become professional musicians, (though sometimes I wonder about the French horn that my son has become impassioned with) but I expect we will both enjoy our violin for many years. I really believe that my age has very little to do with my progression. There are things that come quickly to me and things that have taken more perseverance. I think the same problems and tendencies would have been there if I started at 5. It has been quite interesting to see that my son's progression on the instrument does not mimic mine. He is a very different person with different problems and abilities.

By the way, I would probably have more hope being an Olympic skater than a world-class violinist. It doesn't sound nearly as daunting. I just depends on who you are and what your strengths are, but I may someday help a grandchild find his musical soul and to me that would be more exciting than the travel and late nights of a professional musician hands down.

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stillnew, pm backed to you, thank you for your thoughtful insight.

 very eye opening.  i suspect what you said even got thru

my thick skull.  i owe you one.

string along and stillnew: stop picking on me for being seemingly

 critical of adult violin players. in retrospect

i think my comments may have been influenced by the earlier

discussion on julia or other child prodigies.  my view has

been that it is tough to follow that act as a kid, and even tougher

for adult beginners.

BUT, that does not mean at all adult beginners have no right to try

to be best they can be, to try to prove the world wrong.  i

think in this case the outcome is not as interesting or worthy as

the process.

thank you both!

ps, stillnew,  from now on, if you write a post longer than my

screen, each time i move my mouse cursor i will charge you one


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It's been a wonderful exchange - enjoyed it! Did you say that you were going to pay me an American dollar if my posts are lengthy enough? About child prodigies: so much the better if they have a chance to start early. For those of us who start out late in life, especialy when talent is recognized, there is always a small "what if" hanging. This more a small prod to parents: support your children in their pursuits, and if you are already doing so, bravo!

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I am very skeptical about the "prodigy" concept. From all my

teaching and watching experience I am convinced: over eighty

percent of children could be become prodigies if parents would

only change away from following their own wishes and

desires towards discovering and supporting children's curiosity,

interest and incredible endurance. So "prodigy" could easily become

the normal way of development. However, how often did we hear the

phrase "Don't worry, you will have this later in school, now let's

play soccer."?


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