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Santagiuliana

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Santagiuliana, you're asking very interesting questions, and I salute you for your introspection, asking yourself whether playing is really what you want to do. We should all be asking ourselves such fundamental questions regularly, and be wary of just doing what seems easiest or what others expect us to do. 

First of all, Jacob mentions "practicum," of which I imagine you can infer the meaning, but I should point out that many European countries have very structured and active apprenticeship programs, and "internships" are both a way to "test the waters" and get an idea about the nature of a trade or business, and the way many young people enter the work force after their studies. (it's also a way for businesses to get cheap, subsidised labor...) In America, things are much less formal, but it's definitely worth contacting the shops in and around Boston and asking if you can spend some time there to observe, make coffee, sweep the floor etc. to see what life is really like. Most luthiers I know are happy to exchange like that with players, and I know many players who have done iternships with luthiers. I also know a few players who went to violin making school years after finishing their conservatory studies and seem happy about the switch.

Is earning a living as a luthier "easier" than being a musician? I think the question is besides the point. The fundamental question is what do you enjoy doing, and by that I don't mean bowing before an adoring audience or seeing your violins sell at auction for 100k. Do you enjoy, or at least hate less the "worst" aspects of a given profession?

Violin side: Do you enjoy the day to day grind of practicing? Can you get through auditions and competitions with enthusiasm and excitement, without breaking into hives or having a nervous breakdown? Can you deal with abusive conductors or nasty colleagues with calm?

Luthier side: Would you enjoy the woodworking equivalent of "praticing," perfecting each element of the craft so that you'd have the confidence to take on a delicate restoration or show your work to the most demanding experts? Would the satisfaction of working with your hands and doing a good job make fitting pegs to a Chinese violin somewhat satisfying? Can you deal with ignorant or abusive customers, who make wild demands or unfounded criticism? 

I know from my own experience that when I was 19, I loved playing concerts, but I hated the freelancing I had to do to keep afloat financially, and I wasn't very enthusiastic about practicing. I did it because I had to in order to get ready for concerts and competitions. Later, after getting a full-time orchestra job, I still loved the concertos, recitals and chamber music concerts I got to do, but the job itself, like practicing, was sort of an annoying necessity, not something I looked forward to doing every day. 

In my mid-thirties, something changed inside my mind-set. I realized that one of the things I enjoyed the most in my life was being alone with my violin and practicing, exploring technical difficulties and repertoire freely. As that feeling grew stronger, everything else I did with my violin took on another aspect, and I started to really enjoy all the challenges I faced, including orchestra gigs with blowhard conductors and the humblest teaching jobs. I measure how lucky I've been to be able to make a living and raise a family while playing and teaching. 

The main reason I hang around on this forum, though, is that around 20 years ago I started making violins myself, and another thing I truly enjoy is sitting at my workbench, working on a violin. I know enough, though, not to want to switch professions. I learned basic vioin repair as a child and I hang around with a lot of highly trained, experienced luthiers, but even though I'm always trying to improve, I recognize my limits as a maker and I would not put my work on a par with that of a professional luthier. I would hate to have to fit pegs to a new Chinese violin. I can't stand dealing with ignorant or abusive "customers" and I would hate to have to rely on them for my living. For me, violinmaking is and will remain an amateur activity which gives me pleasure, even joy.

At the age of 19, if you're not already "on track," in a serious study program or already performing, it's definitely too late to "decide" to become a player, but it's not too late to become a luthier. I think the key question you need to answer is in what form of "grunt work" you'll find the most pleasure (or least displeasure). 

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My two bits (which is tuff following Michael's great post).  Finish your degree.  In a worse case scenario, if it turns out that playing is all work and no joy, it will still allow you to teach to help make ends meet.  As a luthier starting out, and maybe for quite a while after, you will need a secondary income.  Would you rather teach music or do manual labor? In a best case scenario, you'll work through your current rut and be glad you stuck with it.  Becoming a maker or restorer will always be there, whereas becoming a performer has a window of opportunity. Life's a journey, not a destination.

Cheers,

Jim

 

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I sympathize with the OP.  I started in music school (flute) bound rapidly found that at 19 I lacked the discipline to make it.  I dropped and entered mechanical engineering, where discipline was beaten into me.

Actually, I learned how to be disciplined, which is a skill like any other.  I made a ton of money as an engineer and it has paid for a very nice life, including music and lutherie.  But every day I regret leaving music school... what could I have accomplished armed with discipline later learned?

If you have a passion, follow it and the money will come somehow.  But don't jump ship just because you don't know how to succeed at what you love.  

Send me a PM if you would like some mentoring to figure out for yourself how to succeed at what you love.  I was taught myself by a mentor 30 yrs ago, and it give me great joy to pay forward what was given to me at your age!

 

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13 hours ago, jacobsaunders said:

The OP should ask around the American colleagues (who I am assured are all very nice) and find a place where he can do a practicum for a week or two, to find out if violin making really suits him

 

9 minutes ago, David Burgess said:

If one is primarily interested in pulling in money, there are certainly more options than choosing the most ethical path.

The OP should ask Mr. Burgess first, and learn both disciplines:)

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7 hours ago, jacobsaunders said:

 

The OP should ask Mr. Burgess first, and learn both disciplines:)

I will not post everything that I have leaned about falsehood and chicanery, (which doesn't happen to be my personal approach), lest  someone use what I have learned to do a better job at falsehood and chicanery. :lol:

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I would also suggest that you finish school, especially given that you're 19 years. 

You can also, while you're in school, take some time and see if you can "make" a violin from a kit, and maybe also overhaul an old violin and try to save it from the rubbish bin.

That will give you a very good indication of whether you find the work appealing. (And it doesn't matter if you're particularly successful at it either. You'll be learning a lot just by engaging in the exercise and making mistakes).

Then, when school is done you'll be better prepared to move forward with career decisions, with the satisfaction of having completed a degree.

Save your sanity and don't overthink it all too much either.

1. You need an education.

2. You need a job/career that will pay the bills.

3. You need to enjoy some - but not all - of a job/career. As was mentioned - every job has periods of dullness/stress.

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24 minutes ago, Rue said:

I would also suggest that you finish school, especially given that you're 19 years. 

You can also, while you're in school, take some time and see if you can "make" a violin from a kit, and maybe also overhaul an old violin and try to save it from the rubbish bin.

That will give you a very good indication of whether you find the work appealing. (And it doesn't matter if you're particularly successful at it either. You'll be learning a lot just by engaging in the exercise and making mistakes).

Then, when school is done you'll be better prepared to move forward with career decisions, with the satisfaction of having completed a degree.

Save your sanity and don't overthink it all too much either.

1. You need an education.

2. You need a job/career that will pay the bills.

3. You need to enjoy some - but not all - of a job/career. As was mentioned - every job has periods of dullness/stress.

He probably has a mother who tells him all of that

I studied Cello at the Royal Academy of Music as a teenager, but decided sod that, and left, and went to violin making school in Switzerland when I was 19. Never looked back (ahem :))

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Well...sometimes it takes many mothers to raise a child. :rolleyes: FWIW...all 3 of my kids went to school and have decent jobs. Two love their jobs. The third tolerates his because it pays the bills and lets him engage in his other main interest.

And...also FWIW...times were different way back when. :ph34r:  You could do a lot more with a lot less education.

Even me...I spent many years working a P/T job that now requires a minimum 2-year training program. I learned what I needed on the job. Can't get away with that anymore.

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I've heard the students at NEC.  The standard is very high, so your skill must be very very good.  To bring the joy back, I would recommend focusing on the part of violin playing that you enjoy the most.  When I was in school, I loved chamber music and that love had and has sustained my practicing.  I never enjoyed having a guy waving a "stick" at me.

If you manage your time, you can start adding violin making/repair to your schedule.  I believe that short distractions from practicing is healthy.

I believe that with your talent, you could even approach a violin shop and ask to be a salesperson.  When I go to violin shops, my frustration is when the salesperson offers to demonstrate a violin and the playing is so poor, I can't tell what the violin really sounds like.  You could remind the shop owner that a well demonstrated violin makes a better impression on the customer than a poorly demonstrated one.  Just be careful of the customers who come back complaining that the violin doesn't sound as good as when you played it.

I also think that your playing ability will help your violin making.  I've been invited repeated to give feedback on violin makers' violins.  Sometimes it's hard for me to put my opinions in words.  Sometimes I wonder if they grasp what I'm saying.  But you as a skillful player would know what you like and dislike on the violins you play, make, adjust or repair.

One last wrinkle is with covid, orchestras are cancelling their seasons.  Some are trying to start up again.  Other's have cancelled their 20/21 season.  There are many young players in bad financial shape because of this and I suspect that many will change careers.  By the time you graduate, I suspect that there will be more openings than there normally would.

Best of luck!

 

 

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Always have a plan(let's call it A); if that doesn't work out, figure out more plans,  working down the alphabet. Social work was my plan A, but luthiery was my plan B! 

Now let me tell you how to make a small fortune making violins; start with a large fortune...go from there, enjoying life all the way!!

 

 

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My two cents:

If you are asking yourself "should I pursue a career in violin making" then the answer is no. There is no "should I" in this field. This is something that you will either chase down until you succeed or you will fail. So this has to be something you are absolutely committed to, or don't bother. It's the same as asking "Should I be an artist?" You are an artist because you have to be, and if success follows, so be it.

A lot of people come to violin making latter in life, after a fruitful life in another field, and all the monetary comforts that provides. These people are not you. It's not that they don't have knowledge and insight, but that they have comfort and safety as they make violins. You are 19. If you choose to pursue this it will all be on you. Making a living as a classical musician is hard. Making a living as a classical instrument maker is much harder. You already know you have the skills to do the former, do you have the stamina (not skill) to do the latter? The skills you can learn. The hard part is the work, the failures, the further work, the additional failures, the small success, and then some more failures. And in the meantime, you have to eat and keep a roof over your head. You will not graduate from violin making school as a violin maker earning a living ONLY making new instruments. I'm sure that there are exceptions out there, but vanishingly few. What will you do to compensate? 

In 1996 a light went on over my head and I decided to pursue this path. I did so with an ignorant tenacity that only the truly stupid possess. Here I am in 2020, earning a living, but only by (happily) having to keep a rental fleet, a repair business, selling new instruments, and selling my own. And any other f**king thing I can do to keep the doors open. Happily. As obscure and unknown (and redundant) as I might be, I still consider myself a success in this business.
So Santagiuliana, of course you should become a violin maker, but only because there is no other choice. Good luck.

 

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