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#1123161 - 01/02/09 11:33 AM Too late to become a pianist?
MyrtoMe Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 01/02/09
Posts: 3
Loc: Stockholm
Hello all! I'm new to the website and need some of your expertise opinion which will be highly appreciated.

I'm 27 years old and started playing classical piano when I was 4. I stopped when I became 18 years old for 6 years because of studies, and then I came back to it (now playing again for 1 year after my long break).

I work as a specialist engineer since I studied 6 years...but I have come to realise that I LOVE piano and I am so regretting for not deciding to study music and piano at the university instead of engineering.

I have been thinking of the piano every single day, on how I can change my career, but it seems so difficult!

I play only classical and my level is quite good ie I am practising Beethoven's sonatas and stuff (though never in public!!). I am technically good but not quite there yet since my free time is so limited. However I manage to dedicate at least 1 hour of practising every day, and certainly more during the weekends.

After some discussions I had with my pianoteacher I have realised that performing classical music and make a career out if it is very very difficult and almost impossible in my case (no uni education, no real performances, no big repertoire). So, I thought that maybe becoming a cocktail pianist instead would be easier. Maybe it's not my kind of music (since I like classical) but I love playing the piano and it seems much easier when it comes to technique and performing. Then maybe this will help me and prepare me with performing classical in the future.

However, I am wondering if I am thinking totally wrongly and I am about to risk my engineering career that all my friends admire (all except me...) and then be left with nothing and trying to struggle with finding jobs as a pianist and having problems paying my bills.

My question to you people, that know way better than me, is whether you think I have chances to make something good happen out of it. And if so, how do I start? Do I need a course? Or is it enough if I buy books and start practising songs?
Also, does someone need to play at several bars in order to earn enough money?

I'm looking forward to your reply!! Thanks in advance :-)

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#1123162 - 01/02/09 11:49 AM Re: Too late to become a pianist?
guest1013 Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/13/07
Posts: 1239
Be sure to check out the non classical forum for tips on cocktail style playing. Learning to read fake books and lead sheets, learning jazz methods, is often recommended. One cocktail pianist has a memoir, Piano Girl, and she has a recent thread besides others. Be sure to check out her website, too, mentioned in her signature. Being replaced by a machine Something else to consider is the lifestyle, variety of hours and locations.
Others play for churches, choirs, theater. That might be more related to your interest in classical music. Maybe your teacher could help you get started in as a sub for that type of work.

#1123163 - 01/02/09 12:08 PM Re: Too late to become a pianist?
signa Offline
8000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/06/04
Posts: 8483
Loc: Ohio, USA
pianist jobs (performance opps) are not plenty for sure, even for some well trained, conservatory graduate in piano performance major. most of them end up doing teaching and accompanying mostly. my teacher had been trained in both solo piano and piano accompaniment (through several music schools), and still have tough time to find anything decent. there're some accompaniment jobs, but still not many or enough to live from.

so, if i were you, i'd be careful not to quit the day job. but you could always try to find some part time piano work if you can.

#1123164 - 01/02/09 12:11 PM Re: Too late to become a pianist?
keyboardklutz Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/21/07
Posts: 10856
Loc: London, UK (though if it's Aug...
If you enjoyed playing 'cocktail' music you'd be playing it by now. If you played classical FOR 14 YEARS and the best you can do is 'practising Beethoven's sonatas and stuff', I'd keep the day job. Oh, sorry, and welcome to PW!
snobbyish, yet maybe helpful.

#1123165 - 01/02/09 12:11 PM Re: Too late to become a pianist?
jotur Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/16/06
Posts: 6363
Loc: Santa Fe, NM
Welcome to the forums. You'll certainly get a lot of insight here, and many people who have similar experience to yours (I took 30+ years off, myself).

You might get Robin Goldsby's book Piano Girl for a real-life look at what it takes to play piano for hotels, restaurants, bars, etc. It's a fun read and gives you an idea of what kinds of repertoire you'd need, and what the interaction with your audience would be like \:\)

My guess is that your technical skills are close to what you need to have to play some other kinds of music. But the style of cocktail, jazz, swing, other kinds of dance, etc, is quite different from classical (I've yet to be able to polka to a classical-style rendition of a polka - it's just a different bounce \:D ), and that might be the part you'd need to work on most. What *that* takes is a *lot* of listening, listening, listening, and if you don't particularly like that kind of music it might be a chore.

But there are lots of options in music besides being a concert pianist. Maybe try starting by playing for your church, or the local community orchestra, or doing short concerts for local retirement homes, etc. Although much of that might be volunteer rather than paid, you also might find that you can get much satisfaction out of playing piano as a "hobby" without giving up your day job \:\) Go listen to some local cocktail pianists and talk to them about what it takes, and see if that appeals to you. If you want to play cocktail piano it might also help to be a night person, so you can play until the early hours of the morning \:\)

Again, welcome to the forums.


Practice like you are the worst; play like you are the best - anonymous

#1123166 - 01/02/09 12:15 PM Re: Too late to become a pianist?
Peyton Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/02/06
Posts: 2845
Loc: Maine
Why not try both for a while? Keep your engineering job and do piano gigs on weekends. That way you can get a taste for what it might take to be a pro pianist. I would also post this question over on the "pianist" forum as there are a lot of pros posting there and can probably give you a better idea on what it might entail.

As the son of a professional musician (singer) I can tell you that it's not every musician that makes it "big". In fact most don't and it can be a very difficult not always monetary rewarding job. You need to really love it to keep at it. Just my 2 cents. \:\)
"One's real life is often the life that one does not lead."- Oscar Wilde

#1123167 - 01/02/09 12:21 PM Re: Too late to become a pianist?
Monica K. Offline

Platinum Supporter until Dec 31 2012

Registered: 08/10/05
Posts: 18120
Loc: Lexington, Kentucky
Welcome to the forum, MyrtoMe. \:\) I think it is entirely possible to make a career as a pianist, even starting "late" (which, technically, you wouldn't be given your 14 years of lessons as a child).

The question then becomes whether you would enjoy the career opportunities in piano that you would have open to you... I was struck by your comment that you have "never" played in public. If that is true, then I would suggest that your first step is to discover whether you enjoy performing for others. Before ditching your engineering career, I'd second Cathy's recommendation that you go out and play (free) for people... ask around at nursing/retirement homes, for example, or find a hotel with a lobby piano that they'll let guests play on. You may discover that you absolutely love playing for others... or the opposite. At any rate, it will be good practice should you pursue a performing career.

I'd also echo the recommendations above to buy and read "Piano Girl" by Robin Goldsby. It's well written, wonderfully entertaining, and will give you an unvarnished view of what a career as a cocktail pianist is like.

Last, should you decide that is the route you want to pursue, the good news is that it is something you could moonlight at while keeping your current career. So you could try piano for a while and not quit engineering until you were sure music was what you wanted to do.
Mason & Hamlin A -- 91997
My YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/pianomonica

#1123168 - 01/02/09 12:22 PM Re: Too late to become a pianist?
Rickster Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/25/06
Posts: 10857
Loc: Georgia, USA
It has been my observation that making a living as a musician/performer is like the old saying “feast or famine”. You either make it big as a musician/performer or you have to have a day job and perform as a second job or hobby. The teaching aspect may be a good strategy if one wishes to make a living at it.

In my lifetime, I have known some incredibly good musicians/performers who were average, everyday ordinary folks who had to have a day job to make a living.

Of course, I know nothing about the Classical music profession/business.

Regardless, I wish you all the best in your musical endeavors!

Piano enthusiast and amateur musician: "Treat others the way you would like to be treated". Yamaha C7. YouTube Channel

#1123169 - 01/02/09 12:44 PM Re: Too late to become a pianist?
Betty Patnude Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/11/07
Posts: 4896
Loc: Puyallup, Washington
Each step we take in our daily lives leads to our future, what do you do each day that would lead you to the possibility of enjoying a life which includes your music making capacity as well as your chosen and acquired career of engineering. That is an education and an earning power one would not want to toss out the window. Your work can provide for your financial needs during the next decade while you are exploring your possibilities as a musician. You are not in an over night rush are you?

I think if you spend dedicated time at the piano and treat your goals as a "project status" and "one at a time" you will begin to see there are many things you can do to share your music with others.....and possible gain an income in addition.

if your big desire is fame and your name being a household word, and a big income, that is a much more challenging effort, and nothing will prepare you as much as having a great attitude toward your music, a dedication to learning repertoire and taking yourself through the steps of development with the help of the "right" people. I hope you have the money to invest in your plan.

Where do you see yourself in 30 days? In 6 months? In a year? In 3 years when you are 30? 5 years? How much money do you need to live on and meet your regular goals? Have you first of all launched yourself successfully in your engineering?

Take the frustration you might be feeling and turn it into positive steps that really would be useful to you. Don't spend too much time dwelling on what you are not (yet), identify who you are at present, and what you have to do and think to get yourself where you think you would like to be.

Caution: you may not be any better satisfied if you were to accomplish what you are going for. You must be aware without regret for whatever steps you take or don't take. These are choices you are making for your future, and your dream unwinds itself before you. Make sure you are working within reality and possibility, not totally consumed by imagination about how this will work.

Finding your purpose in life is an important task...and you have what we all have in the way of time 24/7...use it with good intentions.

Welcome to the forum, and good luck in your journey of self discovery.

#1123170 - 01/02/09 12:49 PM Re: Too late to become a pianist?
rocket88 Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/04/06
Posts: 3745
There is a lot of wisdom in the previous posts.

As a working musician/teacher, I would like to share an old joke that has a lot of truth in it:

Question: "What is the difference between a large pizza and a musician?
Answer: "A large pizza feeds a family of four"

Also, there is another Forum center that you might find helpful, as a lot of part-time and full-time musicians from many genres go there.

Its called "Harmony Central", and has many forums. The specific forums you might find most helpful are:

Keyboard, Backstage with the Band, and The Music Business.

Here is the main URL:

Piano teacher and Blues and Boogie-Woogie pianist.

A Boogie-Woogie: https://youtu.be/UhVkxZIVe-g

#1123171 - 01/02/09 01:00 PM Re: Too late to become a pianist?
LisztAddict Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/12/05
Posts: 2897
Loc: Florida
MyrtoMe - welcome to the forum.

A career as a classical concert pianist does not come so easily. Even for most people that study and play from when they were little until they graduate from a conservatory, they still have trouble making a name on concert stages. Those that make it are usually the ones that have won many international piano competitions. I personally know many amazing pianists that earn their living as medical doctors, scientists, and engineers.

Search "amateur competition" in youtube, and you will see how well some amateurs can play. Take that level of playing and time 10, that's the least one must be at to make a living as a concert pianist.

Keep your engineering job, play piano for relaxation and enjoyment.

#1123172 - 01/02/09 01:05 PM Re: Too late to become a pianist?
Woody-Woodruff Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/11/08
Posts: 622
Loc: Coastal Mississippi
As you can tell from the above posts, there is a lot of good information that can be obtained here at PW. I would echo all of the above answers but I do have a question, if I may? Why, what's wrong with your present job?

It is easy to enjoy playing piano while working at another profession. I don't think it has to be mutally exclusive. Most people here are not professionals and every single one of us enjoys the piano whether the practice, the playing to ourselves and family for our own enjoyment, or in front of others for their enjoyment.

Forgive me for sounding like a parent (I am) but I think you need to come up with some answers and priorities for yourself. How much do you like, or dislike, your engineering work? What is it's future financial potential? How much personal satisfaction can you potentially get from it? On the other hand, how much sacrifice would you be willing to endure to make it as a piano pro of any sort? How comfortable are you in front of people? Do you relate well to the people you are playing for?

Once the above questions are answered, at a minimum, then it's time to prioritize. First, how comfortable are you playing in front of people and how much enjoyment can you get out of it? What type of music playing would make you happiest? Can you play at the services at local churches? Can you play at Choir practice? Can you just sit down at a piano in a hotel lobby and play or are you too enbarassed? How about a shopping mall, retirement facitlity (I personally love a captive audiance in wheel chairs - if I play badly I can outrun them - even at my age). The list goes on and on and despite our recommendations only you can decide what it is you want to do.

Good luck with your decision and let us know what you decide and how specifically we can help.
Happy 2009!!!

#1123173 - 01/02/09 01:45 PM Re: Too late to become a pianist?
MyrtoMe Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 01/02/09
Posts: 3
Loc: Stockholm
Wow! You people are great...I didn't expect to have so many replies so fast AND with so much valuable advice! I wish I could have the time to answer to each one of you individually...

Well, from what I read at your posts, almost everyone sais that being a concert pianist in the classical area is not that easy even if someone is a professional pianist...and I totally agree, I would be surprised if someone told me that it's easy for me to do that.

Unfortunately, the cocktail music is not something I enjoy listening...be it that I don't like it or that I haven't heard enough and carefully. But in the whole it seems much easier to practise and perform! So, with this thought I would start of with playing cocktail music.

As far as the classical part, well I had played at some student concerts when I was younger...you know..the concerts where all the parents come to get proud of their children playing \:\) Other than that, I have performed the pieces I study nowadays in very very closed circle of friends and I become VERY nervous. I don't know whether the nervousness comes from the public only or it is affected by the difficulty of my piece and the worry of whether I'll lose it or not...cause as said previously, I don't have that free time to study the pieces to the max so that they become "mine". Maybe something easier to begin with would help I guess.

The advice about playing at my local church and hotels etc are very good. I need to keep my imagination open because I hadn't thought about churches before! Thanks for that! Also, I am aware that the best thing would be to start of by playing part time and keeping my day-job since this is the least risky way to go. But of course as Betty Patnude said, we all have 24/7 and god knows how I can manage...but on the other hand...no pain, no gain...

Woody-Woodruff you ask me about my engineering job...and believe me by the time I wrote the previous sentence ready to answer to you I caught myself taking a very deep breath...
When I was young I was always good at maths and physics and so I just studied electronics and satellite communications...6 years in studying getting BSc and MSc in engineering...and now what a shame! I have started hating it...but I am a little sceptical on why I have built this "disgust" about my current job, I need to give it some more time and think a little more open. But, the combination of a very annoying working environment, annoying clients, unexistable bosses and structure, ancient equipments that only make my working life and routines so much more difficult with the fact that I have come to love the piano playing more day by day and making very big progressing each month and seeing that I could possibly make it happen...all this has led to me waking up in the morning to go to work and being miserable and wanting to play the piano.
I know, maybe I should try something else in the engineering area. Maybe it's the specific place...and unfortunately things have come tougher with the economical crisis and it's not that wise for me to go changing jobs...

What else...performing...I get very nervous! But I like the feeling after it when I have performed it well! But as I said...no big real perfomances as of yet...only between friends. But to keep it realistically I don't have any plans to make it big and become a star...those plans would probably make me get depressed since the chances of it happening as so low...

Again, thank you for your input, I can see that this forum is very valuable!!

#1123174 - 01/02/09 05:06 PM Re: Too late to become a pianist?
Akvarn Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/26/08
Posts: 35
Loc: Norway
Originally posted by MyrtoMe:

6 years in studying getting BSc and MSc in engineering...and now what a shame! I have started hating it...but I am a little sceptical on why I have built this "disgust" about my current job, I need to give it some more time and think a little more open. But, the combination of a very annoying working environment, annoying clients, unexistable bosses and structure, ancient equipments that only make my working life and routines so much more difficult with the fact that I have come to love the piano playing more day by day and making very big progressing each month and seeing that I could possibly make it happen...[/b]
MyrtoMe, if I may I would like to comment on this part. Sorry to see that you feel disgusted about your current job. Know the feeling. I am not going to give you any advice but rather share my own experience.

The way I read your posts the biggest problem is the environment, not the engineering? When I was a student in civil engineering I started to really dislike both my university and the subjects. Moved to another university with new people and different enivronment. This gave me a kick and helped me finish the studies and time to think things through. Conclusion was that the subject wasn't interesting enough and started to study Russian because my motivation for studying civil engineering had been wrong in the first place.

This is not to say that you should find a new career. Again - I am not going to give you any advice, but sometimes all it takes is a change of some kind (working environment, new career, daily routines etc)to learn more about one self and find the source(s) of the frustration. Your posts give me the impression there might be a mismatch between current working environment and your personality rather than a mismatch between engineering as a subject and your personality?

I cannot comment whether you should start a career as a pianist or not since only you can find out. I do, however, wish you good luck on your journey.

#1123175 - 01/02/09 06:53 PM Re: Too late to become a pianist?
MyrtoMe Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 01/02/09
Posts: 3
Loc: Stockholm
Hi Akvarn. You are right, I am positive that another workplace should be the answer. And I have always been an engineer in the mind.

But on the other hand, I ahve been so amazed by playing the piano that the engineering compared to the music loses in charming and enthusiasm in my eyes.

It's exactly like when you are in a relationship for years because you liked that person a lot and thought you loved them and then suddenly you fall in love with someone else, totally different that brings you new things that aspire the hell out of you! (If this has ever happen to you ;-) ). So then, to get back to your previous relationship is being done with a stone in the heart...

But it all sounds very dreamy and sometimes I wonder whether I am rational thinking that I can start investing time for a new career in music. But then again, if you never try and never risk then the chances of seeing something new in life get less and less...I am so confused, and although I'm an engineer and should be able to analyse my situation and find a solution that satisfies me, I still haven't found that solution...it's not easy! However, some good advice came from the people here in the pianoworld and I'm up to discuss these with my teacher and my father (who is...lets say my career consultant when it comes to engineering)!

But in general, and to sum up my post another workplace would make me feel better in the day-time and having the right combination with playing piano part time in the evening would make me satisfied. A career change to music, on the other hand, would fulfill my dream, I would wake up everyday and jump up and down from happiness. My life would change quite a bit!! Everything from playing the piano to ditching the annoying customers at work and so on...

#1123176 - 01/02/09 09:31 PM Re: Too late to become a pianist?
NancyM333 Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/06/06
Posts: 1550
Loc: Roswell, Georgia
MyrtoMe--One thing I hear from many people who make a living doing an art form is that they are less flexible about actually doing the art. For a pianist, that might mean playing kinds of music that is requested, teaching others to play, etc. rather than actually playing what you truly love. I have a friend who was a full time artist for a while, but she finally got a different job that would pay enough so she could really enjoy her art as an avocation rather than a vocation.

It sounds like your engineering job is quite a good one, and maybe you'd be happy--like Akvarn said--just changing work environments. In the meantime, maybe you could do some intensive piano in your spare time or vacation time. Have you looked into a piano camp like SummerKeys or Sonata? Maybe there is something similar in Europe. You could see how it feels to practice and study piano non-stop for a short period of time before you make a longer term decision.

Good luck, and welcome to the forum!


Estonia 168, Yamaha UX3

#1123177 - 01/02/09 10:58 PM Re: Too late to become a pianist?
Skip D Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/17/08
Posts: 79
Loc: Northeast
I'd like to recommend searching the archives of the New York Times online. About 5 years ago I read a wonderful article in the New York Times Sunday Magazine about one of their writers who came back to the piano after many years developing his career as a writer. He worked on his repetroire, tried it out on friends and wound up entering the Van Cliburn competition for outstanding amatuers in Ft. Worth Texas. He didn't win, but he was able to live his dream of playing in public while discovering how hard it was to be a concert pianist competing against others who had been playing all their lives. A wonderful article and one I learned a lot from.

I too left the piano for about 7 years after college (studied from 8 years old through undergrad) while I built a career in radio. One day after a few months feeling like I was missing a part of my life, I bought a piano, enrolled in a local community music school to re-learn theory and fingering and while I too had dreams of being great, I enjoy playing in student recitals, ridding myself of stress after work playing a few pieces, meeting other music lovers, owning several instruments over the past 11 years and going to concerts to hear the greats whever they come in town.

To sum it all up, even though I didn't become the successor to Rachmaninov, Pollini or Andre Watts as I'd hoped; rediscovering my love of the instrument has enriched my life in more ways than I can count. And I can't put a value on that. Regardless of what happens, study your instrument hard and you may be suprised what happens!

#1123178 - 01/03/09 12:30 PM Re: Too late to become a pianist?
hotkeys Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/12/07
Posts: 788
Loc: Massapequa, NY
It is never too late, as I started at age 49, though I played other instruments as a youth. We live in a world of instant gratification, but consistency and the will to stay the course helped me to get to a comfortable level. I start off with simple pieces like holiday tunes and simplified versions of popular pieces to get started. Once comfortable, I start to step out of the box.

Stay on that road. You will find out piano playing will bring you joy as you take your time and learn skills one at a time. That was a strategy that worked for me.

- Mark
...The ultimate joy in music is the joy of playing the piano...

#1123179 - 01/03/09 09:09 PM Re: Too late to become a pianist?
titoal Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 01/03/09
Posts: 2
Loc: Flossmoor, IL
Unfortunately, it's hard to make a living just with art, like music or painting. I love both but I had to give priority to an academic career, otherwise I wouldn't have been able to support my family and raise my children. Yes, some famous pianists have reached the top and made a comfortable living, but the great majority have had a hard time. It's a tough decision to chose doing what you love the most or what brings financial security, unfortunately not always the two things go together. You can still decide to go for what makes you happy, but you have to be perfectly aware of the risks that you will be taking.

#1123180 - 01/04/09 01:39 AM Re: Too late to become a pianist?
Larisa Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/03/08
Posts: 498
Loc: Philadelphia
I think it's possible to make a living at it, but you have to be very entrepreneurial at it. When I was self-employed, about 20% of my income came from music - I gave piano lessons, accompanied singers, played at a ballet school, and gave the occasional performance at a nursing home. This was before I discovered ragtime, so this was straightforward classical stuff.

Mind you, I wasn't very active in seeking out gigs; I had another business that was doing much better than the music stuff, so the music was primarily for recreation. But I think I could have made a living as a musician if I advertised myself more, networked more with other musicians, and if I could play more styles of music than just classical stuff. If you look at the musician want ads, you'll find any number of rock bands that need keyboard players, and any number of jazz bands that need pianists.

If you really want to do this, start slow. Don't quit your job. Take a few piano students, see how that goes. Talk to a local nursing home and schedule a weekend performance. Talk to a local ballet school and see if they need anyone (if you can improvise in the classical style, they'll love you). Find some voice teachers and see if they need accompanists. Learn some wedding music, and put up a website advertising your services. You don't need to quit your job for any of this - all of it can be done in your spare time.

And you may find that you enjoy both the day job and the music. Personally, I find the contrast between my day job (well, school) and the music to be energizing - the music relaxes me after a hard day of studying, and the studying takes my mind off the music for a while.

#1123181 - 01/30/09 09:14 PM Re: Too late to become a pianist?
The Boy Next Door Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/15/09
Posts: 49
Loc: Istanbul
If engineering is not your passion i would advice that you give it up, maybe slowly though, keeping it for a year or so might be a good way to deal with this situation, so that you can practice in the mean time.

If you truly have music in you, you cannot be happy or complete without spending most of your time on it.

My personal philosophy is that if you can not be a good example, strive to be a horrible warning.
Both music and dance
Are voices of the Way.
-Zenji Hakuin

#1123182 - 01/30/09 10:51 PM Re: Too late to become a pianist?
allegro_concerto Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/10/08
Posts: 181
Even top pianists sometimes struggle to make a living. Like many have said, music is an incredibly competitive career.

As a pianist, your income is unlikely to be stable, you will be under market demand to perform pieces which you may or may not like and for most professional pianists, they work as accompanists and occasionally as soloists in small concerts. At the end of the day, the reality is that the concert organisers need to make money and they are not, charity organisation funding talented musicians to play in concerts, unfortunately.

I think it is great to pursue your dreams to become whoever you want to be, but you also need to consider the practical aspects and whether you are willing to brace the financial pressure, the lonely long hours of practice and the critical comments from your audience.

It may however, be possible to link your engineering skills to say sound engineering, that way, you can introduce music into your career without making a big change.

It is a bit like playing tennis professionally, it takes a lot of work and effort to get into Australian Open for example. While a lot of people loves tennis, not everyone would be happy with tennis as a career, playing matches after matches, under excruciating heat and many professional players have suffered injury as a result.

By all means, follow your heart, but also brace yourself for the less glamourous side of the job...

#1123183 - 01/30/09 11:43 PM Re: Too late to become a pianist?
jazzyprof Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/30/04
Posts: 2748
Loc: Ann Arbor, MI
Originally posted by MyrtoMe:
I am technically good but not quite there yet since my free time is so limited. However I manage to dedicate at least 1 hour of practising every day, and certainly more during the weekends.
Most professional pianists also have a day job. That day job might be teaching piano...but it is still a day job. As an engineer with a master's degree your day job certainly pays more than most pianists' day jobs. So please, keep your day job. What you need to do now is free up some time somehow so that you can increase your daily practice time. One hour per day simply won't cut it if you plan to support yourself someday as a performer. If you can practice 3 hours a day while holding down your engineering job then you are really serious about piano. Start learning to play in the cocktail style so that you will have more opportunities for gigs. Go to a piano bar, strike up a conversation with the pianist and ask if you can sit in for a tune.

If you are single and free to travel, look for a cocktail pianist job on a cruise ship during your long vacations. I see lots of ads looking for cruise ship cocktail pianists. Example: "We need a professional cocktail piano player to join a luxury cruise ship in April '09. Must be able to play varied styles of music. Good salary and great opportunity for traveling. If interested, please email Lesley Tascon at Ltascon@sumanent.com. Thanks!" Boy, that sure sounds like fun!
"Playing the piano is my greatest joy...period."......JP

#1123184 - 01/31/09 11:53 AM Re: Too late to become a pianist?
NancyM333 Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/06/06
Posts: 1550
Loc: Roswell, Georgia
Originally posted by jazzyprof:
Example: "We need a professional cocktail piano player to join a luxury cruise ship in April '09. Must be able to play varied styles of music. Good salary and great opportunity for traveling. If interested, please email Lesley Tascon at Ltascon@sumanent.com. Thanks!" Boy, that sure sounds like fun! [/b]
Man--I think I need to start on cocktail piano--this sounds like a great retirement plan!


Estonia 168, Yamaha UX3

#1123185 - 01/31/09 04:23 PM Re: Too late to become a pianist?
DaveInMichigan Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/17/09
Posts: 316
Loc: SE Michigan
Hi MyrtoMe, I am an engineer too (Electrical-Computer double major).

So you are 27? Wow, so young! And 14 years of piano! You have pretty solid training and if you want to be serious about good piano playing, I am sure you can do it. With that background, 27 is certainly not too late.

But we are talking about career change here. That needs more consideration. You need to take some time to sit down and analyze the situtation and yourself so that you don't do something that you will regret later.

Specifically, you might be comparing a bad case of being an engineer to a good case of being a musician/pianist.[/b] If this is your first engineering job, I would recommend changing job and it should be a little easier now that you have a few years of experience, so you could look until you find one that at least looks more pleasing to you.

If the economy is so bad that switching job is difficut at this point, do remember that in bad economy, musicians and artists usually suffer even more than engineers.

And beside the performing part, in musical world, you still have to deal with a lot of people; bad "customers," terrible managers, ugly colleagues... they are all there. and until you become so famous and your managers are afraid that you might cancel a concert in Paris, people in any field can be annoying and rude. And I think often they are more rude (ruder?) to musicians / artists than to engineers.

So the headache/heartache that you are having for being an engineer, I am pretty much sure you will encounter them in the music world also (I am not really in the world but I deal in artist's world a little).

Of course only you know yourself the best, so ultimately you will make your own decision, but don't make it too hastily. There is arts in engineering too and certainly engineering in arts/music. Perhaps continuing to be an engineer while developing your musical talent/training and eventually find a suitable audience that appreciates your music could be a good combination.

Also look for opportunities where you can use both trainings.[/b] When I was young, nobody told me that, and I love arts/painting, but I knew it was too difficult to live as an artist, so I choose my second love (engineering and my math is good too, and I don't regret my choice). My work now involves software engineering in manufacturing, measuring and control. What I didn't realize was I could have looked for companies like Adobe or Corel when they were starting with Photoshop or Photopaint, or I could have looked for Disney Word or Hollyword. They use a lot of things that needs engineering work but deals with arts too. Perhaps you could look for jobs like that too but with engineering/music/piano combination.

Best of all!

#1123186 - 01/31/09 09:01 PM Re: Too late to become a pianist?
Swamp Crocodile Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/27/09
Posts: 53
Hi MyrTome:

I am 56, started to really learn the piano less than a year ago and I am enjoying the process; before I was just a chord pusher :-). I am also an electronic engineer (with master's degree), but I have been working in information tech for a while. In my book it is not too late (I don't think it is for me). I am also new here and find this forum an amazing place. So my two cents for you is: check for a change of workplace, there are workplaces that are TOXIC and will damage your health (believe me, I know). It is better to earn less money and not dread to go to work every day. Once you have solved that issue you will be able to enjoy better your return to the piano.
OK, back to my blues and strides and Fats Waller et al!

#1123187 - 01/31/09 09:34 PM Re: Too late to become a pianist?
Larisa Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/03/08
Posts: 498
Loc: Philadelphia
Originally posted by NancyM333:
MyrtoMe--One thing I hear from many people who make a living doing an art form is that they are less flexible about actually doing the art. For a pianist, that might mean playing kinds of music that is requested, teaching others to play, etc. rather than actually playing what you truly love. I have a friend who was a full time artist for a while, but she finally got a different job that would pay enough so she could really enjoy her art as an avocation rather than a vocation.
I second that. I notice that a lot of my professional musician friends can't take some of the performance opportunities that I can - because I don't rely on music to make my living. I play at ragtime festivals a lot; I do not get paid for playing there, but I enjoy it a lot. If I were reliant on performances for my income, I couldn't go to those festivals.

Also, you'll be more flexible in building up your budding performance career if you don't rely on performances to make a living. When you're starting out, you want to play anywhere you can - anywhere they'll let you play. It's a lot easier to do that if you can play for free.

And as mentioned, it's really really hard to make a living as a professional pianist without doing something other than solo performance for a living. You may be doing accompaniments a lot. You may have to give piano lessons. You may have to tune pianos (assuming you have the requisite education and training). Considering that all of those options are iffy, unreliable, and don't pay too terribly well, why not do what you're already doing for a living?

#1123188 - 01/31/09 09:46 PM Re: Too late to become a pianist?
Larisa Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/03/08
Posts: 498
Loc: Philadelphia
And by the way, I am combining semi-professional piano playing with a day job. Well, admittedly, my "day job" is school, at present - but I continued my piano performing adventures during my law firm summer internship, which qualified as "work". I had five out-of-town performing gigs last summer, while I worked for a fancy law firm. Somehow, it all worked.

I just played at a nice coffee shop yesterday; I have a classical concert coming up in two weeks (eep!); and I am scheduled to perform at several ragtime festivals in May/June. At present, this is as much of a performing career as I want. As explained above, I don't think I want to be a full-time musician at this stage in my development.

My story is not too dissimilar from yours, by the way. I started piano playing at 5 years of age, got fairly serious classical training until the age of 18, then majored in engineering and quit music. I only returned to music when I was 29. I am 32 now, and I'm very happy with my musical life. And I didn't have to quit my day job for it.

#1123189 - 02/02/09 09:10 PM Re: Too late to become a pianist?
The Boy Next Door Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/15/09
Posts: 49
Loc: Istanbul
If you love engineering keep the job otherwise it will probably kill you while you are still alive...

I have my own experience similar to yours. I failed miserably a few times but things turned out to be well and this was caused by passion. I wanted to become a composer though in which case the age doesn't matter as much as it does in playing the piano. But rising from not being able to read notes at all to analysis was harder to me than it would be to a 10 year old. But as i said things will reveal themselves in their time so just follow what your emotions tell you.

Don't be a 50 something that absolutely hates his job, children, partner etc. There are many many examples of this. please don't. Fail if you must but at least fail in glory. Then you can say i am alive.

BTW i personally don't think that teaching is far away from a concert pianist, i believe teachers also benefit from their students musically. So it's not a "day job" in the way you mention it.
Both music and dance
Are voices of the Way.
-Zenji Hakuin

#1123190 - 02/03/09 03:44 PM Re: Too late to become a pianist?
ProdigalPianist Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/08/07
Posts: 1049
Loc: Phoenix Metro, AZ
It is important to keep in mind that there are more than a few pianists who are capable of winning international competitions, who are having difficulty making a career of piano.

I overheard some of them talking. They make enough winning a competition prize to scrape by until they win another one.

Winning international competitions is not meant to be a "career" in itself...but apparently some pianists do it for a time as a 'post-doc' (to use a similar academic phrase) before they start getting bookings that make a living, or switch to a different career altogether.
Adult Amateur Pianist

My only domestic quality is that I live in a house.

#1123191 - 02/06/09 08:03 PM Re: Too late to become a pianist?
riley80 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/03/08
Posts: 409
Loc: Florida
I'd stick with the steady income of the engineering job. But, you can keep your hand in by playing for churches ( substitute organist, choir accompanist), also look for community theaters who need piano or keyboard player.

#1123192 - 02/08/09 06:56 PM Re: Too late to become a pianist?
Chromatickeys Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/28/09
Posts: 108
Loc: Georgia USA
I will suggest that you keep your job, for a couple of reasons. Especially in the current economic situation, it could well turn out that your job is the only true friend that you have. Your present job can be the launch pad for whatever you do in the future. Read Who Moved My Cheese. A quick read and thought provocing.

Lots of people figure out that they followed the wrong major.

Play every chance you get in a casual situation and soon you will find that there are no longer any jitters.

Advise that I learned from my Mother. Pray with complete devotion to the thought that prayer is the only answer. After praying, go to work with the idea in mind that God might have been attending a bit more pressing problem while you offered your prayer. It always worked for her and for me.


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