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spolaconda

A timeline to be professional violinist

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Dear violinists and friends,

I first started the violin (with a private teacher) halfway through the 6th grade, when I was about to turn 12. At the time I was not very serious, and did not practice very much. However, ever since listening to maxim Vengerov live a few months back, I have been practicing seriously (4 hrs a day). The materials I am currently working on is as follows: Carl Flesch (just started this week), Czardas by Monti (just finished this week), Mazas (working on No. 3 this week), 2,4,6 positions by Harvey Whistler (I know how to play the positions, can't sight read in them yet though), Melodious Double Stops Book 1 (almost finished, I am working on No. 25 this week), and Sevcik Op. 2 Volume 1 (the one with bowings for the chords, we skip around in this one).

I really love the violin, in its entirety.

Given my current level, do you think there is a possibility for me to minor in violin performance (as in would I pass the auditions). I am currently in the 10th grade.

Thx

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I am not sure what question you are asking.

 

What do you mean by professional?  Do you want to make a living from playing the violin?  How much money do you want to make?  Where do you want to play the violin?  Soloist?  Chamber orchestra?  Regular orchestra?  Community orchestra?  Weddings?

 

I don't know what Maxim Vengerov makes per year...but the top violinists will get anywhere from $10,000- 75,000 (Perlman?  At his peak?) per concert.  However, I think various fees (agent, travel, hotel etc.) come out of that.

 

Orchestral violinists make from $20,000 - $120,000 per year (depends on the orchestra).  Pit orchestra players make about 1/2 that I think.  If you play at weddings, it's around $200 per gig (about 1.5 hours).  I 'pay to play' in our community orchestras.  I am NOT a professional (not even close!).  Those fees go towards paying rent for the rehearsal hall, the music, the conductor...[just trying to give you a very rough range of income or negative income, as the case may be].

 

I think the average hourly wage (if you break it down) is around $22.

 

Lesson prices around here are $30-50 per hour.  Most orchestral players that I know, also have students (anywhere from 10-20).

 

If you "just" want to minor in the violin - I don't see why you can't do that if you have some innate ability and work hard at it in the interim.

 

Most importantly...since we don't know you...or have any idea of how well you play, etc., what does your teacher say?  What are the requirements of the schools you are applying to?

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BTW...Maxim Vengerov started "studying" the violin when he was 5.  This is not unusual among the top tier (some pick up the violin at age 3).  He also studied with top teachers (ie. didn't go to 'regular' school).

 

When you start the violin at 5 or younger, you learn a bit slower, but it seems to become more a part of you.  When an 8 or 9 year old starts, they quickly catch up, musically and technically, to those that started younger - and you may or may not notice any difference in their playing ability, or their feel for the instrument...but it may make a small difference.

 

Ten - 12 seems to be a bit of a 'cut-off' age...but I know of older children (up to 17) who took up the violin seriously later on, who are currently making a living, as professionals - but not as top tier soloists.

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Here's a radical viewpoint that might help you think about this problem--the being "professional" one, not the "can I pass the audition" one--others here can address the latter, though my guess is that you could get into a variety of schools with a music minor, and you might even get scholarship support if you can help them out in their orchestra...

 

I started playing the violin about the time I turned 18 (I had played several other stringed instruments though, including piano since I was 8).  I was playing professionally within a couple of years, but not classical music--I was playing traditional American fiddle music (and a few years after that, traditional Irish fiddling), and I have made my living with music (so, not just fiddle) my entire adult life.  In fact, I didn't start really working hard on any classical violin music (just Bach, though) until a few years ago (I'm in my late 50s).  My advice is to broaden your palette.  Sure, keep going on the classical music if you are inspired by it, but...perhaps you could stretch your ears and your interests.  Cultivate the ability to learn by ear and improvise, and start studying other traditions, too.  I would choose a fiddle style or two, and find a teacher or really work your ears and fingers to get the language (rather than hacking through a variety of them and reading the stuff out of tune books, though some of that may be necessary to find one that you love).  For improvisation, you can look at jazz players (who mostly play with classical chops, though I prefer players like Stuff Smith and Vassar Clements who were not so much that way and could play the blues--IMHO, you gotta start by playing the blues), but also Middle Eastern and Indian violin traditions.  Then, finally, I would urge you to develop a personal repertoire, composing/inventing it if you have to (my preference...my music degrees are in composition).  Keep in mind that, while classical violinists often regard their tradition as the. way. it's. done., there are in fact many diverse approaches to playing the instrument.  If you play like no one else, then folks will have to hire YOU if they want that sound.  Anyway, that's my two cents.

 

There will always be room for great classical European violinists, but I think a lot of players who have gone that route have been cultivated since they were in single digits and have little sense of how the music world outside of the fairly exclusive cabal in which the upper echelons of classical violin music operate.  Unless you get connected with the right players and teachers in the right scene in the right conservatories or academic settings, it is very, very difficult to become a professional classical violinist, but it can be done... 

 

Best of luck to you.

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I really love the violin, in its entirety.

Given my current level, do you think there is a possibility for me to minor in violin performance (as in would I pass the auditions). I am currently in the 10th grade.

Thx

 

Anything is possible.  The thing to do at your age is to only hang around people who have a positive influence when they are around you.  Stay away from anything that will get in your way of success.  It wouldn't hurt to earn first violin parts at school and state, assuming they still have those types of competition.  Realize no one is going to do it for you, you'll have to do it for yourself.  When you find you are at the top all by yourself while still in school start looking ahead a little bit.  Don't get sidetracked- stay focused on the mission.

 

Something else- remember or keep in mind there will always be someone better than you.  Just be ready for the day you run into him or her.  You may make a new friend when or if that ever happens.

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Here's a radical viewpoint that might help you think about this problem--the being "professional" one, not the "can I pass the audition" one--others here can address the latter, though my guess is that you could get into a variety of schools with a music minor, and you might even get scholarship support if you can help them out in their orchestra...

 

I started playing the violin about the time I turned 18 (I had played several other stringed instruments though, including piano since I was 8).  I was playing professionally within a couple of years, but not classical music--I was playing traditional American fiddle music (and a few years after that, traditional Irish fiddling), and I have made my living with music (so, not just fiddle) my entire adult life.  In fact, I didn't start really working hard on any classical violin music (just Bach, though) until a few years ago (I'm in my late 50s).  My advice is to broaden your palette.  Sure, keep going on the classical music if you are inspired by it, but...perhaps you could stretch your ears and your interests.  Cultivate the ability to learn by ear and improvise, and start studying other traditions, too.  I would choose a fiddle style or two, and find a teacher or really work your ears and fingers to get the language (rather than hacking through a variety of them and reading the stuff out of tune books, though some of that may be necessary to find one that you love).  For improvisation, you can look at jazz players (who mostly play with classical chops, though I prefer players like Stuff Smith and Vassar Clements who were not so much that way and could play the blues--IMHO, you gotta start by playing the blues), but also Middle Eastern and Indian violin traditions.  Then, finally, I would urge you to develop a personal repertoire, composing/inventing it if you have to (my preference...my music degrees are in composition).  Keep in mind that, while classical violinists often regard their tradition as the. way. it's. done., there are in fact many diverse approaches to playing the instrument.  If you play like no one else, then folks will have to hire YOU if they want that sound.  Anyway, that's my two cents.

 

There will always be room for great classical European violinists, but I think a lot of players who have gone that route have been cultivated since they were in single digits and have little sense of how the music world outside of the fairly exclusive cabal of classical violin music operates.  Unless you get connected with the right players and teachers in the right scene in the right conservatories or academic settings, it is very, very difficult to become a professional classical violinist, but it can be done... 

 

Best of luck to you.

This post echoes a lot of what I was thinking. My fiancée is a 20yr old in a similar position to your own, in that she is trying to make it as a full time musician. She is an excellent classical violinist with absolute pitch and has been studying since age 3. However, she makes far more money playing Celtic fiddle (weddings, funerals, etc) and teaching Suzuki style violin than she does playing in he local semi-pro orchestra and gigging as a chamber musician.

Please do pursue your dreams - you can be a pro musician! If you really are serious, you'd do well to diversify somewhat if you can without compromising your own personal musical ethos.

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Welcome, spolaconda,

 

I read your question, coupled with the heading, as asking if you can get up to a high enough level in time to go to college.

 

If that is correct, I'd say you've got a chance.  I am not knowledgable about what requirements various schools have.  I don't even know if auditions are required (perhaps unless you're looking for a scholarship).

 

If I understand, you have about two years.  Amazing things can happen in that time.  I've seen it happen. So, IMO, since you love the violin and have a renewed interest I can't see any reason not to push yourself.  Even if you don't become a professional, the time spent now will pay off a lot more than if you put the violin on the back burner until you settle down to a job, house, and family—years from now.  In short, time spent practicing and developing when we're young gives better results than time spent practicing when we're older.  

 

A bit of advice, however: if you are going to expend the effort, make sure you have the best possible teaching, read all the books on playing you can, listen to recordings and watch videos (something we didn't have when I was a kid), and make the acquaintance of as many good violinists as you can.  Just a teacher and a practice room, without the outside influences, isn't enough.  Attack your challenge aggressively.

 

If, however, you are just looking to become a professional violinist and you don't care about what style of music you play, then you might stand a better chance with various styles of fiddling, or jazz, for example.

 

This is my opinion, and I wish you the best.

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I believe that there's a point in which practice yields a diminishing return as compared to raw talent. For example, take the concertmaster of the Vienna Philharmonic; he started the violin at the age of 11 and at 14 he was admitted to The University of Music and Performing Arts in Vienna. At 20 he became the concertmaster of arguably the best orchestra in the world. I guess what it comes down to in the later stages of violin performance is sight-reading, intonation and technique. The thing is, these facets are unattainable levels of perfection, that are methodically approachable. I had a teacher who had me on the Carl Flesh G major scale for 6 months, playing it at around 90 BPM. Every lesson he would always find something I was doing wrong - he was the best teacher I've ever had. He was a very accomplished violinist, but I don't believe he had much talent, he just had an excellent sense of method and concentration. 

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You're getting a lot of good advice here, I think.

 

Consider an immersive summer music experience (3-6 weeks).  There is probably one near where you live, but not all are created equal and not all of them have the same focus.  When I was younger, I attended the American Suzuki Institute at Steven's Point.  When I was around your age, I studied with Roland and Almita Vamos at their summer institute: daily scales/technique class, enforced practice time, lessons twice a week, chamber music, and chamber music coachings.  I chose them because they have a proven record of producing students who become professionals.

 

I teach viola and orchestral skills for the Performing Arts Institute at Wyoming Seminary.  It's an orchestra camp located in northeastern Pennsylvania.  3 weeks, 3 different orchestral programs with 3 different guest conductors, with a mixed-level orchestra.  The teachers play in the orchestra with the students.  The students range in age from 12-18 and in ability from beginners to kids headed to conservatories.  I've had two fantastic violists go on to Curtis in the past 4 years!  It's a wonderful place.  I think the program is unique.  In addition to orchestra (which is the focus), there is also an hour of chamber music per day, classes in theory, a daily technique class, and a weekly Feldenkreis lesson.  It also has an exceptionally strong jazz program (though I have yet to see a non-bass string player take advantage).

 

Also, check out Interlochen.

 

And 4 hours per day of practice is awesome!  But even more important than how much you practice is how you practice.  If you are accomplishing 4 hours per day of high quality practice, you will go very far.

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You're getting a lot of good advice here, I think.

 

Consider an immersive summer music experience (3-6 weeks).  There is probably one near where you live, but not all are created equal and not all of them have the same focus.  When I was younger, I attended the American Suzuki Institute at Steven's Point.  When I was around your age, I studied with Roland and Almita Vamos at their summer institute: daily scales/technique class, enforced practice time, lessons twice a week, chamber music, and chamber music coachings.  I chose them because they have a proven record of producing students who become professionals.

 

I currently teach at the Performing Arts Institute at Wyoming Seminary.  It's an orchestra camp located in northeastern Pennsylvania.  3 weeks, 3 different orchestral programs with 3 different guest conductors, with a mixed-level orchestra.  The teachers play in the orchestra with the students.  The students range in age from 12-18 and in ability from beginners, to kids headed to conservatories.  I've had two fantastic violists go on to Curtis in the past 4 years!  It's a wonderful place.  I think the program is unique.  In addition to orchestra (which is the focus), there is also an hour of chamber music per day, classes in theory, a daily technique class, and a weekly Feldenkreis lesson.  It also has an exceptionally strong jazz program (though I have yet to see a non-bass string player take advantage).

 

Also, check out Interlochen.

 

And 4 hours per day of practice is awesome!  But even more important than how much you practice is how you practice.  If you are accomplishing 4 hours per day of high quality practice, you will go very far.

 

Maybe he gets good advice but maybe does n ot apply to him/her.  There is not sufficient info we get from the OP to actually say anything. Best is if the OP posts some YT vid with some piece in order for us to understand what the real level he is at.

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Thank you very much to all of you who have replied.

I will definitely try to go to a summer music camp/ immersive music experience as suggested. I will also try to post a YouTube video by the end of the month (somewhat busy at the moment, sorry).

Thank you for the kind words and helpful advice,

Shyam

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Thank you very much to all of you who have replied.

I will definitely try to go to a summer music camp/ immersive music experience as suggested. I will also try to post a YouTube video by the end of the month (somewhat busy at the moment, sorry).

Thank you for the kind words and helpful advice,

Shyam

 

That would be very nice. If I may suggest, play the 1st Mov of Haendel's 3rd Sonata. Do not worry about mistakes. 

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You need to follow your heart and do what you love, but I'm going to give you the truth - in relation to classical music.  It is very late to get serious.  Whether you can do it depends on many things.  How well did you take to the instrument before you 'got serious?'  If you were a natural and generally had good instincts and reasonably good technique, then it may be possible, if you are exceptionally talented AND work very hard and smart.   (I would add Schradieck fluency exercises as well). 

 

I'm going to tell you a bit about my background to make a point:  I started in 4th grade, got my first private teacher in 6th grade and was always considered very talented, but I did not get serious and start practicing regularly until the summer between 9th and 10th grade.  I played viola and while I achieved quite a bit, All-State all 4 years - 1st stand my Junior year, principal violist my senior year, invited to join the local professional orchestra my senior year, I struggled with poor training - I was not nearly as good as I could have been, and was getting by on talent mostly.  Late in my senior year, the new Concertmaster of the Symphony Orchestra, who was a Galamian student and had been a teaching assitant to both Galamian and Delay took an interest in me and invited me to attend a summer camp to study with him.  In 10 weeks he taught me from the gound up - literally going back to open strings,  All I did all day for the next 4 years was practice.  I spent my first two years at a local college, who had just hired a new viola teacher, who turned out to be quite good and continued the work started that summer.  Then I auditioned for and was accepted to a major music conservatory where I completely immersed myself.   My late start (and perhaps limited physical skills in this area) meant that I would never quite be as technically proficient as many of the other players who started earlier and had better tutelage, but I was good enough to play in any orchestra in the world as a section player at least, and I was gifted with a stand out sound, a wonderful instrument, and natural musicality.    But I could only have made it on viola - violin, no way.  This was in the late 1970's early 1980's.  And the bar has raised quite a bit since then in the skill sets kids are bringing to auditions for the few good jobs.  So you need to be able to seriosuly and objectively be able to compare what you have relative to other players, as a reference for where you need to work.  For classical music, as a soloist or an orchstra player, in a good orchestra that pays well, you need to be able to technically nail all the orchestra literature, and have a concentration and focus that allows you to make very, very few mistakes, if you can do this it doesn't matter if someone can play a paganinni caprice better than you (I could never play one at all).  If you maybe are not quite as technically developed, but develop a beautiful sound and musicality, you can probably still find a way to make it work.  As for other styles of music, I plead ignorance, but do encourage you to explore widely and broaden your horizons, but as for your Clasical training do not loose focus, the technical skills you delvelop can be used in any type of music, if you can learn the mental aspects of that style or type of music making.  Seek out the very best teachers and attend teh most reputable schools, because like it or not, thsi does open up doors and opportunities.   I was accepted for every audition I applied for, striaght out of school without having to send a prescreening tape, simply because of the school I went to and the teachers I had.   However, I burned myself out, and by the time I rediscoverd my love for playing I was an Engineer working in Aerospace - it supports my habit quite nicely, and was not a bad path at all.

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............by the time I rediscoverd my love for playing I was an Engineer working in Aerospace - it supports my habit quite nicely, and was not a bad path at all.

'"True. One's pretty lively when ruined," said she.'    :lol:  Been there, done that, got the project patches.  A great post, and excellent advice.  "Don't quit your day job", and if you're bright enough to do violin, you can probably get educated for something that pays much better.  Then retire and become a violin bum like many here.  :ph34r:

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That's actually a good position to take.

 

You love music...you want to play and perform...but if you can incorporate into a paying hobby...it can work out very well.

 

A lot of pros actually burn out - it's not an easy life for the majority.  But if you do it as a hobby - you are more likely to keep your enthusiasm high.

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This isn't for Shyam, since he or she didn't ask about this aspect, but there might be others who would benefit.  

 

There is the direction of the profession to be considered.  It's hard for me to imagine things are going to get better.  We've talked before about the "calling."  If we have it, no warnings will keep us from our goal.  So I don't feel like my negativity will talk anyone out of following their dream.  But if one doesn't have that calling, and can see clearly, IMO trying to go into the profession is a pretty dumb thing to do.  That was even true 50 years ago, but I think it's worse now.

 

For the amount of time, money, training, retraining, auditions (sometimes for years), the expense of an instrument, etc.—before getting a position of any worth—it makes even a $100,000 salary a joke.  And the competition is just ferocious.  So we ought to be very objective about our abilities, because the audition committees of even lesser $6,000 a year "per service orchestras are CERTAINLY going to be objective.  And if there are two openings in the Philadephia, how many people are showing up for that little festivity?  The odds are against us even if we play perfectly, because there may be 20 others who also play perfectly.

 

I've told this one before, but we have a resident student string quartet program, leading to a master's degree, at our local university.  This started about 20 years ago, and three of the first four musicians already had master's degrees in performance...two from Juilliard.

 

One reason they came into the program in the first place was because they had not yet been successful in getting jobs.  After they finished the program, one went home to Manila; one got a job with the San Jose Symphony (which became defunct after several more years); and two finally found work in an orchestra which had gone bankrupt and just come back as a "musician managed" orchestra paying about $20,000 a year.  But it took them about 3 years or more of groveling at auditions.  But $20,000 after Juilliard and two master's degrees?!   That's not very encouraging.

 

These were players who in earlier times would have had no trouble getting into almost any orchestra.  I heard the violist preparing for an audition and I can tell you it was for all practical purposes flawless.

 

Then there is the commercial world.  For example, there is still recording in L.A. for the movies, but it's not like it was.  And—unless things have lightened up...which I doubt—any free lance work that really pays well is a dog eat dog world with a lot of back biting and politics involved.  Not pleasant.

 

Maybe someone who is more up to date can be more encouraging.  I hope so.  I feel incredibly lucky that my career spanned the time it did. But even back then no one was getting rich concidering the skill and training, and maintenance it took.

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Maybe someone who is more up to date can be more encouraging.  I hope so.  I feel incredibly lucky that my career spanned the time it did. But even back then no one was getting rich concidering the skill and training, and maintenance it took.

 

At age 29, my daughter finally did it. It took a mixture of dedication, intelligence, practicality, and (mostly) tenacity. Because she did not take a conventional path (CIM or Juilliard) she was able to emerge from undergraduate school and a masters program without having paid a penny for tuition (thanks to the Starling Foundation), instead investing her college fund in a good violin (which won her the job). And there were times she was full of doubt about her own abilities as well as the future of the profession and began considering other career options. 

 

I might mention that at the time she had decided to pursue a professional career, she began looking for teachers with the best orchestra placement rates (research) and focused her attention on systematic audition preparation (including excerpts classes) rather than virtuoso repertoire. 

 

It is not an easy road. Even now, she is postponing starting a family until tenure is secured. 

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I'm very happy for you and your daughter, C.J.  But I don't think it says much about the profession as a whole.  Certainly if there is an opening SOMEONE is going to fill it.  But the law of averages being what it is, crazy's anecdote isn't very encouraging.

 

The point of my dour tome a few posts ago is that I don't see much chance the number of available jobs is going to expand to keep up with the numbers of violinists that have been produced in the last decade.  And some areas are deteriorating.  It's fairly small, but to give an illustration:  for many years there were at least 80 violinists in Las Vegas making a decent living playing in the "star policy" showroom orchestras.  And another 30 in the Reno/Tahoe area.  Those are pretty well gone.  And the days of the movie studio orchestras were gone a long time ago.

 

Then there is the matter of how much harder it is to get a position.  C.J.'s daughter must be a superb player and very skilled at auditioning.  But students reading this thread take note of crazy's second paragraph;  it's no longer enough to become a good violinist, you need to go to a specialist and learn how to audition.  That's a relatively new twist.  And, if anything, that area is going to become more esoteric as time goes by, not less.

 

And even for many years now, orchestras have gotten so sticky that sometimes they simply refuse to fill a position permanently.  As recently as a few years ago this was happening to an acquaintance of mine.  I think it may happen more often with wind positions.

 

I'm sort of wondering how long wedding quartets will survive.  

 

My big complaint, I guess, is that someone who plays the violin at a professional level shouldn't have to eke out a living.  And to me it looks like it is getting harder to survive than it used to be.

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Well. you will notice that "talent" isn't on the list of qualities that helped her land the job. She's a very good player, but she knows many, many good players who have not even advanced at auditions.

 

This might be of interest to some aspiring players (FWIW):  http://www.cincinnati.com/story/entertainment/music/2015/11/24/inside-symphony-audition/75478764/

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:)

 

I have avoided talking much about talent on MN.  I HAVE written in the past that talent is the biggest part of it.  IMO, if you have it you can overcome a lot of bad teaching and bad violins; but if you don't have it, nothing will help much.  I wonder if we took a poll, what percentage most people would give to the importance of talent, training, and hard work?  Off the top of my head I'd go: 55% talent; 25% work; and 20% training.

 

And I suspect there is a certain talent for auditioning, or perhaps a psychological make up for it.  I was a terrible auditioner, but when  I sat under the nose of conductors I'd get compliments.  

 

I firmly believe that auditioning skills and the ability to be a positive addition to an orchestra don't always go hand in hand.  We've probably all sat next to someone who aces auditions who plays like a clod.  I remember one fellow who flitted from orchestra to orchestra, easily passing the auditions.  Yet even playing chamber music with him showed up some huge limitations.

 

The LSO would have players who passed the audition sit with every single member in his section; and they would all have the right to accept or reject him.  It didn't seem that it was totally objective.  My friend who told me this said he wisely got into the poker playing crowd immediately,  so as to maybe get a leg up.   :)  At any rate, that august orchestra seemed to believe that auditions alone don't tell everything. 

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I firmly believe that auditioning skills and the ability to be a positive addition to an orchestra don't always go hand in hand.  We've probably all sat next to someone who aces auditions who plays like a clod.  I remember one fellow who flitted from orchestra to orchestra, easily passing the auditions.  Yet even playing chamber music with him showed up some huge limitations.

 

 

Those ar very true. Very !

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Well, the violin is a taskmaster. Everyone, no matter how talented, still has to work his proverbial backside off.  And the right teaching is essential, too.  But if I had to have one of the three in abundance, I'd take talent every time.

 

Then when we get into fiddle and jazz, and improvisational forms, it's almost ALL talent, IMO.  Not the same technical talent, but a uniqueness of result that sets them apart.  A fiddler can have an astounding amount of creativity, emotional content, and distinctiveness without the huge technique it takes to just get by playing the classical repertoire.

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Talent is a prerequisite--it is what has gotten these players into elite programs and has won them scholarships. But now days, at major orchestra auditions anymore, everyone is talented. The resume must pass before you can even try to win a job. And even then, as a violinist you are often competing  for that seat with 200 others with equally sterling (or even golden) resumes.

 

Auditions also seem to require the player to walk the very fine line of distinguishing oneself--but not too much.

 

(It is interesting that "endurance" is what wins the day at the split-decision super final in the link I posted. The modern audition process seems to value both consistency and endurance.)

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