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When too late to become professional violinist


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#1 tdnxxx444

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Posted 15 June 2005 - 05:44 PM

I have read various threads discussing how it is almost impossible to become a virtuoso if starting the violin late and other threads on how it is never too late to start playing. However, though its never too late to start playing, how good can someone actually get who starts late?

However, my question is, when is it too late to start and expect to become a pretty proficient violinist, possibily even playing professional? I started the violin at about 14 years old and played till I was about 18. After that, I played every so often. However, now at 26 I have started again.

#2 rufviol

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Posted 15 June 2005 - 07:03 PM

In the posts here you've read, I've always maintained that it is never too late to start, nor is it ever too late to be good, perhaps even the greatest.

This is also the basic premise for all progress humankind had made this far. Just because it hasn't been done thus far, doesn't mean it cannot be done. The opposing argument I usually get is 'name one great violist who started late' etc. Wonder why we bothered putting a man on the moon, it hadn't been done before.

As human longevity increases, more accomplishments that seemed impossible earlier will become commonplace, with or without the direct intervention of technology. This of course only if we try.

So go practice...

#3 staylor

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Posted 15 June 2005 - 08:59 PM

Indeed, I agree with you on this, unlike almost anyone else!
Humans were created to physically go downhill with age. But humans were ALSO created with freedom of choice, and can therefore decide that they can find the means to get over many problems, and let the spirit rule.
This doesn't mean that everything is in everyones hands to achieve, but the resignation is quite a shallow outlook, I think, and it is one that hardly anyone isn't guilty of.

There are so many ways today that most of the symptoms of aging can be over ruled, that leaves the will, to do something. Even the mental changes are "physical" and can be treated in so many ways, today.
True, it takes money as well as luck in finding the effective courses which will deal with each persons aging tendencies. But not having money is not "being too old". It's "not having money" or the means.

Take Milstein, for example, he was said to be playing when he was 70, like the greatest virtuoso of a younger age.

I believe that if he hadn't started learning till 60, he could also have done the same, but with true dedication and means.

Obviously, if the body is deteriorated too much, then that would be too much of an unfair disadvantage, unless one is very very rich, AND is aiming for the Guiness book of records, AND doesn't mind possibly failing to reach the top.
I mean, if everything one does (in life) comes only with a great strain, and one has accepted that it will continue that way, then THAT would mean "too old".
Similarly if one thinks one has more important goals in life, which one already has to get a move on with, so that also means "too old" to be absolute virtuoso at violin.

#4 staylor

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Posted 15 June 2005 - 09:01 PM

Again, I'm not speaking of situations where there are clear provable reasons why not, and no known remedy.

#5 T_Rocca

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Posted 16 June 2005 - 12:35 AM

when you are thinking and asking about it now, it probably a sign of too late already
I missed maestronet for over 2 years~

#6 Toscha

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Posted 16 June 2005 - 12:55 AM

Quote:




I believe that if he (Milstein) hadn't started learning till 60, he could also have done the same, but with true dedication and means.





I find this to be unrealistic to the point of silliness. What made Milstein a such superb violinist are: total dedication to his art, coupled with enormous talent and discipline as well as 60 years+ of experience playing the violin (and being a musician).

Back to the original topic. It also depends on what kind of calibre of professional violinist you are aiming for. To join the top-notch orchestras (Vienna, Berlin, Amsterdam, New York etc.), starting at 14 may be to late because in order to win an audition for those orchestras, you will be facing essentially the same kind of calibre of violinists who are capable of winning top-notch international competitions (such as Tchaikovsky, Queen Elisabeth, Long-Thibaud, Paganini etc.). There will be always a very few exceptions, but they are EXCEPTIONS and not something that happen in regular basis.

However, if you are aiming to earn living as a professional violinist playing in decent regional orchestras with side income from teaching, starting at 14 is not necessary too-late, however you need to be willing to work 3 times harder and efficiently compared to someone who started at age 5 (I am actually speaking from my own experience. I started when I was 14 and currently making a living as professional violinist playing in 2 reasonably good regional orchestras as contracted member and sub in a few others and teach full-time).

I would be interested to know how far the original poster reached at age 18 and his definition of "playing every so often." Then I will have a little better ideas.

In some ways, acquiring high degree of technical proficiency on violin is not unlike training to be a world class athlete. It would be extremely difficult to achieve the kind of fluency, manual coordination, dexterity and instant reflex those athletes have without starting at very young age and training rigorously. I feel that violin playing has something in common with them. As much as I hate to admit myself, I will never develop the kind of fingerboard dexterity of Heifetz or Ricci. I started too late and as much as I practice rigorously as anybody else, I FEEL the difference when I play with someone who started at much younger age.

T.

#7 Fellow

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Posted 16 June 2005 - 04:25 AM

Please be aware that many virtuosos got recognition late but not starting late. There is a big difference. Many people know and recognize that to learn playing violin is like to learn to speak a language. It is the earlier the better situation.
Late learners can learn as good as one wants oneself to be, nevertheless , should expect not as good as oneself start real young.

If you have watched one high level competition, then you know what I am trying to say. Many young violinists never made it to the final round after several attempts as the age limit approachs. /yuen/

#8 Stephen T. Fine

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Posted 16 June 2005 - 08:24 AM

Toscha's advice with the personal example is good. I actually recently met someone who played until high school, quit until she had finished her bachelors degree (in advertising, I believe), got a job, and then realized that she missed music so at the age of 23 went back to music school. I heard her play recently--she'll make it as a professional musician (of course, this is after 7 years of music school now).

Now, she's worked really really hard to get to where she is, but I would say what she has done is comparable to what you can do.

From a practical standpoint though (and on kind of a different subject) there is the overwhelming scientific benefit of youth when learning new things and forming muscle memory. Don't expect what you're doing now to be easy. Don't expect it to even be as easy as when you stopped at 18. Everything gets more difficult the older you are.

#9 staylor

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Posted 16 June 2005 - 09:01 AM

Quote:



Quote:




I believe that if he (Milstein) hadn't started learning till 60, he could also have done the same, but with true dedication and means.





I find this to be unrealistic to the point of silliness. What made Milstein a such superb violinist are: total dedication to his art, coupled with enormous talent and discipline as well as 60 years+ of experience playing the violin (and being a musician).






Toscha, I meant that Milstein started late. Later than other virtuosi. Didn't he? But I was suggesting that he MIGHT have been able to succeed to be like he was at 70, even if he had started at 60. Yes, it does sound a bit mad. Perhaps starting at 50 would make it a bit easier [well, you don't only need many years, but you also need to be not older than about 70 when you reach there. so 40 might REALLY be possible to do the trick] . But obviously, it is a thing which has probably never yet been done (virtuoso...yes, but not to the level that Milstein was (even) at 70). It surely takes even harder work, and would be a big exception. Not only HE must be exceptional, but so must his surrounding circumstances be, to permit it. So must his health, and his dedication to maintaining and increasing it.

In short, I'm not as "optimistic" as I used to be. But I still believe that most potentials (in people and facilities) are rarely utilized anywhere near fully.

Don't you agree that people nave fixures in their mind that "I'm too old for this or that"?

#10 staylor

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Posted 16 June 2005 - 09:16 AM

Quote:



when you are thinking and asking about it now, it probably a sign of too late already




Well _I_ havn't asked that question yet, so perhaps i'm not too late!
Maybe you are right that if someone asks, that means he is not going to try unless he knows the answer is "yes". If so, maybe that in itself shows a slight lack in burning urge and enthusiasm. Not the "I'M GOING TO SHOW THEM" level of enthusiasm which would be necesary. But that the same person, if he did have that right attitude, then it might NOT yet be too late!

[BTW, I'm not completely talking about myself, so conclusions should not be made about me personally. It's shocking to see how many viewers there are around the clock, when you press the "who's online" button. Especially the non-members!]

#11 Marie Brown

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Posted 16 June 2005 - 09:19 AM

To the original question: How are the lateral motions in the fingers of your left hand? If they were good in high school, meaning that you were adept at pitch adjustments, you're probably going to do fine with intonation. If not, you could be in for a lot of unpleasantness, assuming your ears are good. Best to confer with a skilled teacher.

The current thought on learning-windows has educators thunderstruck. Pathway establishment for lateral finger motions by age fourteen is a trivial challenge compared to pathway establishment for windows that close by age four. If you're not afraid of looking into a really deep abyss, check out the windows that are believed to close by age six months.

#12 Abigail

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Posted 16 June 2005 - 09:22 AM

Well...I started playing at 14 and I'm now almost 21 and have 55 students (the majority of which are violin students) and a good reputation...I know that I could go further if I had the time to practice and ambition to apply myself more...I really don't know about what it would take to become a "professional", (i just play in amateur groups), but there are people that started their instruments later in life and did really well. I think that a good deal of it has to do with the drive to do better and apply yourself. Of course, there is the matter of talent...and so I guess it would depend. Abigail

#13 staylor

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Posted 16 June 2005 - 09:37 AM

Marie Brown, I now remember you gave alot of details about all this, and I had been intending to study it from your posts, but didn't yet. It's very interesting.
Anyhow, if a person feels a great drive to improve, that SURELY means he CAN. But he can't be sure as to how much.
On the other hand, even what a person thinks he will never be able to accomplish, he often DOES, after perserverence.
So as long as a person is physically able to hold a violin upright for several hours, and practice with ease, and with whole heart and soul, and has the basic talents, so surely that person is still very far indeed from his potential.
Assessments from an expert (who is not limiting) must surely be useful, too.

#14 Ecrivain

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Posted 16 June 2005 - 10:17 AM

I think rufviol has it the most "rightest."

When detractors begin to use psuedo-science in their age-limit and learning arguments, I tend to tune out. The fact is, baring physical properties that cannot be overcome by an individual, age has very little to do with the ability to be successful in achieving the highest caliber of technical and musical achievement. However, there are more social and political pressures that tend to suppress an individual's pursuits as they grow older. As for "windows of learning,' Unfortunately, most studies are far too narrow in their ability to fully appreciate how a certain mental and physical ability is learned--and the fact that all can be learned in so may different ways --not just the paths that the psuedo-scientists use as controls--and, more often than not, through actions and situations that appear to be totally unrelated to the action or ability at hand.
Humans simply are not linear beings.

#15 tdnxxx444

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Posted 16 June 2005 - 10:31 AM

Quote:



I would be interested to know how far the original poster reached at age 18 and his definition of "playing every so often." Then I will have a little better ideas.






Well I had been playing in my high school symphony. I was first chair for some of those years. However after college, I just played, I guess when I felt like it and when I had time, which was not the often as I was going to college and didn't have time for musical studies with all the partying I had to do .

Also referring to yuens post, about how learning music is like learning a language, I guess this can be used to coincide with how it's easier and better to start learning a musical instrument earlier in life. I had learned from psychology that in the case of learning a foreign language with a native accent, the window of opportunity closes at about puberty in most individuals. After that, the person usually picks up the foreign accent instead.

However, isn't it possible that some people just have innate musical ability that were unable to have the resources to start at and early age and had to opt to start later in life? I guess, this could bring up the NATURE vs. NURTURE debate.

#16 Raphael

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Posted 16 June 2005 - 12:01 PM

I guess that even if Heifetz or Milstein began at the age of 15, then at the age of 25 they could always play better than all of us, even maybe almost all virtuosos today, whether we started to play at 3 or 4 years old and practiced like mad all the time.
Potential is the first and most important thing, and then practicing.

#17 Toscha

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Posted 16 June 2005 - 12:04 PM




Toscha, I meant that Milstein started late. Later than other virtuosi. Didn't he?




Not really. He started at age seven, which is not any later than Henryk Szeryng, Jacques Thibaud, Ruggiero Ricci and Issac Stern. He is in good company!





But I was suggesting that he MIGHT have been able to succeed to be like he was at 70, even if he had started at 60. Yes, it does sound a bit mad. Perhaps starting at 50 would make it a bit easier [well, you don't only need many years, but you also need to be not older than about 70 when you reach there. so 40 might REALLY be possible to do the trick] . But obviously, it is a thing which has probably never yet been done (virtuoso...yes, but not to the level that Milstein was (even) at 70). It surely takes even harder work, and would be a big exception. Not only HE must be exceptional, but so must his surrounding circumstances be, to permit it. So must his health, and his dedication to maintaining and increasing it.




You really did not comprehend my previous post at all. It does NOT matter if you start at 40, 50 or 60, or one is in superb physical condition at those age, one will NOT become another Milstein. Muscle memory needs to be built EARLY if one even remotely wish to approach Milstein or Ricci or Heifetz-like facility. To quote Francescatti, "Virtuoso comand of the violin must be acquired while one is young, and the hand and finger muscles at their most supple, that is, if the violinist has aspirations of becoming a soloist. After about 20 it is too late to acquire this degree of technical prowess..." (quoted from "Violin Virtuosos From Paganini to the 21st Century" by Henry Roth Pg. 126). In other words, unless one has all the technical ingredents to play all the standard repertoire by the age of 20 or so, it is highly unlikely that one will become a world-class soloist. One can always keep wishing to be an exception, but if someone is asking for REALISTIC answer, one should not provide an over-inflated, groundless answers that are not supported by any solid arguments.

T.

#18 Erika

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Posted 16 June 2005 - 12:57 PM

The cold, hard reality is that it is exceptionally hard to make it as a professional violinist no matter what age you start.

There's my uplifting post for the day.

#19 staylor

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Posted 16 June 2005 - 01:29 PM

Quote:








but if someone is asking for REALISTIC answer, one should not provide an over-inflated, groundless answers that are not supported by any solid arguments.

T.




Solid explanations are indeed stronger than my own reasonings.
So you are basically saying that starting even at 15, is enough for world class soloist mastery, if you get the basic repertory technique well before 20?

[Then what about me? I had some of that by 18-20. But does it have to be alot more than just "some" of it? (such as being able to labour ones way through caprices 13 and 16, and to play one or two bach concertos etc, with difficulty [plus piano, much better]?)]?

#20 Longinus

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Posted 16 June 2005 - 02:17 PM

Well... I am answering from a totally stranger point of view. If your profession means getting a job as a violinist, I think it'd be possible, though I always think having >2 different income sources would be a better idea. If you want to be a top-class performer, being 26 could pose you some difficulty. The route of joining those youth competitions is ruled out... leaving another one which is through actual experience and personal networking with other music industry personnel. But here are something that I think may help increasing the chance:

1. You have a real Strad (I bet people like to just see it, if you can play it, that'd be even better)
2. You graduated from some great, great musical institute whose name makes people's pupil dilate
3. You are cute (I mean really damned cute)
4. Your teacher has a teacher-teacher-teacher-...-teacher relationship that can chase back to Paganini (or someone close by)
5. Your parents are so rich that they can sponsor your musical career

I think at a certain point it's not just about your musical performance. Other factors start to jump in when you are a grown up who's trying to explore a career path. But if you really like violin, you shouldn't consider too much. Just pick it up and play.




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