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Hi there,

I've been lurking for a while. I am writing a piece of fiction that takes place at a conservatory, and features a prodigiously talented piano-playing student protagonist. I'm wondering if any of you would share some of your experiences, to give me a sense of the sights, sounds and textures of student life.

For example, I've read that the pianos available to students in practice rooms at major institutions are often in terrible condition, and can't be relied upon. I'm told that 6 to 8 hours of practice every day is "normal," and that some students take prescription medication to settle nerves (e.g. beta blockers) before recitals or auditions. Often lessons have to be paid for in addition to tuition.

Really, I'm just looking to understand some of the realities and day-to-day challenges (teacher politics, gossip, competitive students--are they "backstabbing"? Are there "study groups" as at law school? How do people react when there's a prodigy in their midst?).

Any vignette or factoid would be helpful.

To give you an idea about me: I don't play the piano, but am a huge fan of Beethoven, in particular. Martha Argerich's recording of concerto #1 is my all-time favourite, and I prefer Kempff's complete sonatas to Gilels'.

Thanks in advance.
Okay, I went to Oberlin but only for a year. Let's see.

The first thing I can say is that even if you were a small-town prodigy, you get to a place where there are a hundred of the best young pianists on the planet and you're not among the best of them, you will feel extraordinarily inadequate. I was unpleasantly shocked by the level of support I got. The teacher I was assigned to told me I would never be anything more than a "fabulous amateur." I got my opportunities to perform in the weekly recitals, but I was castigated very angrily for a performance of the Chopin Fantaisie that my teacher felt hadn't been prepared well. He said the other professors asked him how he could have let me play that piece so poorly. I did redeem myself with a Bach 6th partita and a solid jury with the 4th partita and Beethoven's Op. 28 later in the year.

The other students were, I thought, quite kind and supportive. The singers mostly stood out in front of the koi pond smoking and didn't bother us. We pianists were all looking for our own little niche, especially after Marc-Andre Hamelin came. One of them played nothing but experimental music such as Boulez and Stockhausen, and he was usually found in the room with the piano that had been partially disassembled to facilitate prepared-piano music.

At some conservatories, students would "study" with a big name and then take lessons with a teacher they preferred on the side. I didn't encounter that at Oberlin. Perhaps at Juilliard in New York City, there are more options for fabulous teachers so that would be more common.
Originally Posted by jeffreyjones
The teacher I was assigned to told me I would never be anything more than a "fabulous amateur."


Do you agree with your teacher assessment? Do appreciate his/her honesty? or you think your teacher was just being cruel to you.
Originally Posted by RonaldSteinway
Originally Posted by jeffreyjones
The teacher I was assigned to told me I would never be anything more than a "fabulous amateur."


Do you agree with your teacher assessment? Do appreciate his/her honesty? or you think your teacher was just being cruel to you.

Like there is anything wrong with being a fabulous amateur
Originally Posted by antony
Originally Posted by RonaldSteinway
Originally Posted by jeffreyjones
The teacher I was assigned to told me I would never be anything more than a "fabulous amateur."


Do you agree with your teacher assessment? Do appreciate his/her honesty? or you think your teacher was just being cruel to you.

Like there is anything wrong with being a fabulous amateur


Of course there is something wrong. It is the same like saying to a person who went to a medical school that he/she can only be a nurse after finishing a medical school.

But I think the teacher was being honest. I asked my teacher whether most of his Juilliard class mates are concert pianist material. He said "Absolutely NOT, most of them are not". Therefore, we can deduct that if most of Juilliard piano students are not concert pianist material, Oberlin's must be even less likely to be concert pianist material.
Originally Posted by RonaldSteinway
Originally Posted by antony
Originally Posted by RonaldSteinway
Originally Posted by jeffreyjones
The teacher I was assigned to told me I would never be anything more than a "fabulous amateur."


Do you agree with your teacher assessment? Do appreciate his/her honesty? or you think your teacher was just being cruel to you.

Like there is anything wrong with being a fabulous amateur


Of course there is something wrong. It is the same like saying to a person who went to a medical school that he/she can only be a nurse after finishing a medical school.


That is not an apt analogy. If one goes to medical school, works hard enough, and finds an internship, there is a strong likelihood that they will have a career as some type of MD.

How many piano students who go to major conservatories end up becoming internationally known concert pianists-which is what it seems like that quip intended to say
Originally Posted by antony
Originally Posted by RonaldSteinway
Originally Posted by antony
Originally Posted by RonaldSteinway
Originally Posted by jeffreyjones
The teacher I was assigned to told me I would never be anything more than a "fabulous amateur."


Do you agree with your teacher assessment? Do appreciate his/her honesty? or you think your teacher was just being cruel to you.

Like there is anything wrong with being a fabulous amateur


Of course there is something wrong. It is the same like saying to a person who went to a medical school that he/she can only be a nurse after finishing a medical school.


That is not an apt analogy. If one goes to medical school, works hard enough, and finds an internship, there is a strong likelihood that they will have a career as some type of MD.

How many piano students who go to major conservatories end up becoming internationally known concert pianists-which is what it seems like that quip intended to say


A concert pianist does not need to be internationally known. What that professor meant was that JJ won't be able to perform at concert pianist quality, he can only play well at amateur level.
Originally Posted by RonaldSteinway
Therefore, we can deduct that if most of Juilliard piano students are not concert pianist material, Oberlin's must be even less likely to be concert pianist material.


Hahaha! Really? Oberlin, is a better school, if you ask me.
jeffreyjones -


So what did they achieve in furthering your piano studies - these prophetic pronouncements and scoldings? Why did he encourage the Fm Fantasy and let you play it so poorly?


John
Originally Posted by RonaldSteinway
Originally Posted by jeffreyjones
The teacher I was assigned to told me I would never be anything more than a "fabulous amateur."


Do you agree with your teacher assessment? Do appreciate his/her honesty? or you think your teacher was just being cruel to you.
Isn't it all in way the teacher said it...their tone and words?
Originally Posted by stores
Originally Posted by RonaldSteinway
Therefore, we can deduct that if most of Juilliard piano students are not concert pianist material, Oberlin's must be even less likely to be concert pianist material.


Hahaha! Really? Oberlin, is a better school, if you ask me.


I think it is not really the school that defines the result. Regardless how great the faculties in a certain school, if they receive students with my ability in playing piano, they will collapse. Generally, I believe, if a person get accepted at both Juilliard and Oberlin, they will choose Juilliard first. It is very unlikely people choose Oberlin over Juilliard. Remember, the prestige of the name is very important in any industry. MBA from Harvard is much more marketable than MBA from NYU.
Originally Posted by piaffe
For example, I've read that the pianos available to students in practice rooms at major institutions are often in terrible condition, and can't be relied upon. I'm told that 6 to 8 hours of practice every day is "normal," and that some students take prescription medication to settle nerves (e.g. beta blockers) before recitals or auditions. Often lessons have to be paid for in addition to tuition.

Really, I'm just looking to understand some of the realities and day-to-day challenges (teacher politics, gossip, competitive students--are they "backstabbing"? Are there "study groups" as at law school? How do people react when there's a prodigy in their midst?).



Well, the bad piano conditions aren't true for every single institution, but yes mostly they're true.. I mean the conservatory I am at, the facilities are just incredible!

I don't think anyone has to pay for lessons on top of their tuition, unless they're having a lesson with a teacher outside of school.

6-8 hours of practice a day is indeed normal - but mostly for pianists. String players also practice a lot, winds and brass and voice physically cannot practice a lot every day.

PM me if you have any specific questions - I've been at conservatories for a very long time.
Originally Posted by RonaldSteinway
Of course there is something wrong. It is the same like saying to a person who went to a medical school that he/she can only be a nurse after finishing a medical school.


I think it be more like saying to someone in med school that they can only be a GP and not a .. i dunno, an anesthesiologist or something.

Actually, maybe it's more like, you can only be a regular practicing doctor, and not a TV doctor like Dr. Oz. ha
One of the most infuriating/hilarious things about trying to practice is that there are never enough practice rooms! Then you have to do the Peeping Tom Dance and see who's practicing. Sometimes those pesky voice majors sneak into piano rooms and you very sternly have to tell them to leave. But only voice majors. I don't think I've ever found a non-voice major in a piano practice room. A lot of the pianists were friends with the vocalists, and the vocalists would ask them to unlock the grand rooms.

Socially, there was a very large gay community at my school, and there was always gossip about who was dating whom and which student was favored by which teacher. They'd gossip about late night practices, extra lessons, lessons at professors' houses, etc.

I had a strict teacher who was not originally from the US. Brutally honest was the name of her game. I remember vividly one time all of us in the studio got together and had a group cry because she said some really mean things.

Edit: Oh and piano parties? The only other kinds of parties that came close were the voice parties.
Although I've not attended a conservatory as a full-time student, I do know that where practice rooms are not always scheduled, some (piano) students like to take possession of a room and hold it with their many possessions even when they are not using it. This discourages the more meek among the students from taking over an unoccupied practice room.

I presume that the answer to that is to schedule times for individual students in individual rooms. That doesn't solve the problem, though, because, with some rooms having better pianos (space, air quality, etc.) some will still try to get their preferred room in spite of scheduling, as if possession trumps administrative scheduling.

Regards,
I'm probably one of the few conservatory students that has a full-time job, so my situation is probably a bit unique. I still manage to get approximately 25-30 hours a week of practice though it takes a lot of very meticulous time management.

As for the practice rooms, some are are fantastic, some, are downright horrific. Sometimes I do find myself having to ask other students to vacate a room if they're not using the piano. Just the other day, there was a guitarist sitting on the floor (not playing the guitar) of a practice room chatting with a girl who was doing some stretches. I poked my head in the room, and asked them to leave.

Oh, yeah, I've never taken any sort of medication for anxiety.
Originally Posted by Minaku

I had a strict teacher who was not originally from the US. Brutally honest was the name of her game. I remember vividly one time all of us in the studio got together and had a group cry because she said some really mean things.



HAHAHAHAHAHA....A group of sensitive people, I guess.
The teacher must really enjoy the scene.
It seems a little strange that the majority of students from Juilliard (or any other major conservatory) would be deemed "not concert pianist material." If you are accepted into a conservatory, isn't it for the purpose of preparing you for a concert career? If you aren't concert-level material, then that raises the question of why you were accepted into a conservatory in the first place.

While it's true that the vast majority of Juilliard students will not have major careers, it seems a little strange to say that the majority of them cannot have careers at all. After all, the phrase "concert pianist" can be used quite loosely, and you don't have to play at major venues in order to qualify as such. There are many pianists who have played in a professional capacity (even if not on a full-time basis) with minor orchestras and at minor venues. I don't think that it would be too difficult for conservatory graduates to obtain those kinds of professional engagements, especially since- if you have sufficient money- you can always rent a hall and give a recital.
Originally Posted by RonaldSteinway
Originally Posted by Minaku

I had a strict teacher who was not originally from the US. Brutally honest was the name of her game. I remember vividly one time all of us in the studio got together and had a group cry because she said some really mean things.



HAHAHAHAHAHA....A group of sensitive people, I guess.
The teacher must really enjoy the scene.


I fail to see why this amuses you, nor why you would think that the teacher would "enjoy" ridiculing sensitive people.
Originally Posted by BruceD
Originally Posted by RonaldSteinway
Originally Posted by Minaku

I had a strict teacher who was not originally from the US. Brutally honest was the name of her game. I remember vividly one time all of us in the studio got together and had a group cry because she said some really mean things.



HAHAHAHAHAHA....A group of sensitive people, I guess.
The teacher must really enjoy the scene.


I fail to see why this amuses you, nor why you would think that the teacher would "enjoy" ridiculing sensitive people.


+1

Teachers being mean, squelching their students' love of music and actually making them cry... really, what could be funnier?

-J
Regina - yeah, well, schools these days accept a lot of questionable people (probably including myself) because they need money. The more students, the more money.
jeffreyjones:

This is really helpful. Thanks for taking the time to share. This is the stuff that's really hard to research, unless you lived it.
Originally Posted by Minaku

Edit: Oh and piano parties? The only other kinds of parties that came close were the voice parties.


Okay, the piano parties?

Do tell!

Is there a "hierarchy" of performers, at all? Clearly piano students have a different relationship with rooms, because they need one with an instrument.

Where do voice students fit into the mix?

This is fascinating.

(Thanks!)
Originally Posted by ChibiSF


Oh, yeah, I've never taken any sort of medication for anxiety.


Would you say that it is "known" that some do? Or suspected?

Pot?

...what about piano parties?

Thanks for your help, this is interesting stuff.
Originally Posted by Pogorelich.
Regina - yeah, well, schools these days accept a lot of questionable people (probably including myself) because they need money. The more students, the more money.

That's probably true, although, in an ideal world, schools would simply be concerned with choosing people who have the potential for artistry- as opposed to just filling up their rosters with as many students as they can possibly take. At least the Curtis Institute isn't like that, as it's an all-scholarship school, and they only accept a very limited number of applicants.
Originally Posted by piaffe
Originally Posted by Minaku

Edit: Oh and piano parties? The only other kinds of parties that came close were the voice parties.


Okay, the piano parties?

Do tell!

Is there a "hierarchy" of performers, at all? Clearly piano students have a different relationship with rooms, because they need one with an instrument.

Where do voice students fit into the mix?

This is fascinating.

(Thanks!)


re piano parties: we mostly get together and drink a lot, while complaining about practicing difficult passages or repertoire in general, or bitching about how singers never give us music until the last minute, or talking about a recent masterclass, or critiquing a recent concert, or gossiping about teachers or the latest school scandal, who's dating who, etc. Or if you have a party in a practice room, people usually play bits of stuff in a funny way or improvise.. etc etc.

I'm a grad of the Oberlin Conservatory, located in Ohio. It's been a while now. WE had spiffy practice rooms.. brand new when I attended. An incredible building designed by some Japanese architect who did Lincoln Center. But in all honesty, I was not pleased by practice rooms closely stacked. You could hear everyone practicing your piece of the month.. as well as the same time worn Schmidt exercises. It was for me a factory atmosphere not conducive to piano study, period. I missed the sanctity of my NYC teacher's Riverside Drive townhouse.. and the intimacy of lessons in a living room replete with wondrous musico-historical volumes, etc..

As for the pianos in Oberlin.. they were fairly well maintained by an ace tech.. but that didn't make the ambiance any better. Hope this helps. Feel free to contact me for more info.
Originally Posted by Pogorelich.
Originally Posted by piaffe
Originally Posted by Minaku

Edit: Oh and piano parties? The only other kinds of parties that came close were the voice parties.


Okay, the piano parties?

Do tell!

Is there a "hierarchy" of performers, at all? Clearly piano students have a different relationship with rooms, because they need one with an instrument.

Where do voice students fit into the mix?

This is fascinating.

(Thanks!)


re piano parties: we mostly get together and drink a lot, while complaining about practicing difficult passages or repertoire in general, or bitching about how singers never give us music until the last minute, or talking about a recent masterclass, or critiquing a recent concert, or gossiping about teachers or the latest school scandal, who's dating who, etc. Or if you have a party in a practice room, people usually play bits of stuff in a funny way or improvise.. etc etc.



It was a university's music dept., not a conservatory, but we had the most amazing parties at my teacher's house. He regularly hosted an evening piano class where his students would get together and play for him and each other, and he would do some critiquing, sort of like a master class. Then, once that was done, we'd party like mad into the wee hours. There would often be a few extra guests who were not students of his, too, to liven the mix. Many times, reading through 4-hand and two-piano stuff was part of the evening.

Oh boy smile

I'll post my thoughts at length about this later on, but for now, let me link to something that was posted years and years ago here - which I read even before I set foot in a conservatory - which was so incredibly hilarious and fairly accurate.

It is Brendan's post:

http://www.pianoworld.com/forum/ubbthreads.php/topics/525028/1.html
Originally Posted by RonaldSteinway
Originally Posted by stores
Originally Posted by RonaldSteinway
Therefore, we can deduct that if most of Juilliard piano students are not concert pianist material, Oberlin's must be even less likely to be concert pianist material.


Hahaha! Really? Oberlin, is a better school, if you ask me.


I think it is not really the school that defines the result. Regardless how great the faculties in a certain school, if they receive students with my ability in playing piano, they will collapse. Generally, I believe, if a person get accepted at both Juilliard and Oberlin, they will choose Juilliard first. It is very unlikely people choose Oberlin over Juilliard. Remember, the prestige of the name is very important in any industry. MBA from Harvard is much more marketable than MBA from NYU.


Those in the "industry" as you say, know that Oberlin stacks up against most any school.
Originally Posted by LaReginadellaNotte
It seems a little strange that the majority of students from Juilliard (or any other major conservatory) would be deemed "not concert pianist material." If you are accepted into a conservatory, isn't it for the purpose of preparing you for a concert career? If you aren't concert-level material, then that raises the question of why you were accepted into a conservatory in the first place.

While it's true that the vast majority of Juilliard students will not have major careers, it seems a little strange to say that the majority of them cannot have careers at all. After all, the phrase "concert pianist" can be used quite loosely, and you don't have to play at major venues in order to qualify as such. There are many pianists who have played in a professional capacity (even if not on a full-time basis) with minor orchestras and at minor venues. I don't think that it would be too difficult for conservatory graduates to obtain those kinds of professional engagements, especially since- if you have sufficient money- you can always rent a hall and give a recital.


Pogo, is spot on when she says that schools fill their "rosters". It's about the money when it comes down to the bottom line. I've served on a few boards and those who have a say-so haven't a clue and they're the ones who ultimately decide where the money goes and how it is spent. Conservatories/universities (whatever you want to call them) are not in the business of turning out a new class of concert pianists every year, nor are they in the business of training one for a concert career. They ARE in the business of providing one an education, the fullness of which, once again, will be determined by those who have a say-so and how they decide to spend available monies. Not every musician entering any school's doors has the same chance of succeeding equally. Those who will mount the concert stage and make a career out of doing so belong to a very unique, very small class. The odds that one will make his living this way are not very good at all. Grabbing engagements like those you speak of, Regina, are not as easy as you believe. Sure, anyone can rent a hall, but even minor orchestras and venues go after names that can and will sell tickets. Joe Juilliard grad isn't going to play at the Fox simply because he's a Juilliard grad.
Originally Posted by RonaldSteinway

HAHAHAHAHAHA....A group of sensitive people, I guess.
The teacher must really enjoy the scene.


Generally I make it a point to ignore you considering how boorishly you behave yourself. However, do not make light of the situation. A teacher can get fabulous results from students without insulting them or talking about their shortcomings with the department head in front of the student].

It's clear to me that you've never been in a high-stress environment such as one that can be found in a music conservatory, nor have you any compassion for students who have mean teachers.

Originally Posted by piaffe

...what about piano parties?

Thanks for your help, this is interesting stuff.


Our piano parties usually involved heavy drinking with the main piano faculty. We didn't play piano in the least, as our parties were right after juries and no one wanted to look at the instrument for a while. There was plenty of humor along with serious talk.

The voice parties at my school involved going to one faculty member's house, heavy drinking, then raiding her closet to try on all the different costumes she had from her operatic parts.
I am a music major at a university right now (at a very advanced age)and I had to smile reading some of these posts. They are so true. I commute, so I am not there at all hours but here are some things I can add, embellish on, etc. (In no particular order.)

We are an all-Steinway school. Only the piano majors can use the grands. We have keys to these rooms. People are always misplacing keys. So someone is always asking someone else, "Do you have a "D" key or "C" key? (Different rooms have different locks, it can be confusing.) I wear a lanyard with my keys, all the time. We have practice schedules on doors THAT NO ONE FOLLOWS.

Yes, I am guilty of "camping out in a room." Leave your music on the stand, your coat on a chair and defy someone to go in there, when you are not in the room.

Some rooms are a mess, coffee cups, homework papers, concert clothes, scores that are long overdue from the library. One student has made one of the rooms her own. She brought in lamps, a heater (Yes, many of the rooms are freezing in winter), hung pictures on the walls.

The grands are in pretty good shape, but there's always a key that seems to stick or doesn't play and you can always bitch because so-and-so is always "banging the crap out of it."

There is definitely a hierarchy. There is the top tier of pianists, who win all the competitions. Everyone is in awe of them. They can play anything. We have two at our school. They have their own room and no one but them practices in it.

Those who are good sight readers, wield a lot of power and make a lot of money when it's jury time and everyone needs an accompanist.

4 to 8 hours practice time. And the best pianist do practice the most.

We have great players and not so great players but everyone is supportive in our studio. Some play in weekly studio class all the time, some never do.

Security kicks people out and people are always hiding or scamming to get a little extra time. People know how to break into the music building to practice when they are not supposed to.

Percussionists are the craziest of the musicians and tend to stick together.

Some people use beta-blockers, most don't. Everyone seems to drink a lot of coffee.

There is usually one person who never practices and seems to go from practice room to practice room to gossip and chat and it drives everyone crazy. There is one person at our school who will keep talking even when you are ignoring him and just playing.

Oh and here is something interesting...and funny. And I bet everyone experiences it. If you mention to anyone that you are on your way to your lesson, they ALWAYS say "Good luck."

I'll probably think of more later.
I went through 3 years of it. Basically in a school which had 25 practice rooms (out of it 8 had grands- priority for teachers/ student lessons). Those rooms were shared between all the instrumentalists... We had this booking chart too which allowed us to book up to 2 hours per day, all of us would rush to, sometimes wait for it cause we knew that was the only way we could secure a practice room during peak hours. I would go early just to practice on the grand pianos, sometimes camp outside a grand piano room as well... Once I got in sometimes I would just stay in there up to 3-4 hours at once even for a session then after a break go to another room. The upright rooms were teeny and stuffy and so close together we could always hear what our next door neighbor was practicing. Fortunately within my 1st year I got a grand piano of my own so I could ensure that almost all of my practice was done on one.

Despite all of that it worked well for me practicing and being in tha competitive environment.

Yes, thats how much we all practiced..most days I got 5-6 hours in min. Especially when I had big pieces to learn. Well I had 2 teachers teaching me every week so it was expected of me. Even before I went to music school I was already practicing for hours everyday...
Originally Posted by DameMyra
Oh and here is something interesting...and funny. And I bet everyone experiences it. If you mention to anyone that you are on your way to your lesson, they ALWAYS say "Good luck."



Ha, that's true. And after, we always discuss our lessons.

Also agree about the coffee thing. We have a great coffee shop in our school, which is convenient. Coffee, and everyone smokes. Mostly pianists, though, and string players. Although there's a few singers at our school that smoke too.

I like the sound of your school. I think I know which one you're talking about, but I may be wrong, haha!
Originally Posted by Pogorelich.

I like the sound of your school. I think I know which one you're talking about, but I may be wrong, haha!


I'm not so sure, the music department is really small and not well known outside of the state. But many, many people know my teacher.
Originally Posted by Pogorelich.
Originally Posted by DameMyra
Oh and here is something interesting...and funny. And I bet everyone experiences it. If you mention to anyone that you are on your way to your lesson, they ALWAYS say "Good luck."



Ha, that's true. And after, we always discuss our lessons.

Also agree about the coffee thing. We have a great coffee shop in our school, which is convenient. Coffee, and everyone smokes. Mostly pianists, though, and string players. Although there's a few singers at our school that smoke too.

I like the sound of your school. I think I know which one you're talking about, but I may be wrong, haha!


How do us pianists survive without coffee? Or cigarettes? I discovered at one of the aforementioned piano parties that it takes a certain quantity of hard liquor to get me to light up with all the cool people outside, one of the professors included.

Edit: One of the hilarious and awesome things about my undergraduate conservatory-like school was the fact that we offered the only bagpipe major in the US. Kiltie band always practiced outside at 9 pm on Mondays and we'd all shut the windows (to no avail).
Hahahahahahha bagpipe major?? Holy [censored]!
Let us know when you've finished your "piece of fiction"!
Originally Posted by stores
Those who will mount the concert stage and make a career out of doing so belong to a very unique, very small class. The odds that one will make his living this way are not very good at all. Grabbing engagements like those you speak of, Regina, are not as easy as you believe. Sure, anyone can rent a hall, but even minor orchestras and venues go after names that can and will sell tickets. Joe Juilliard grad isn't going to play at the Fox simply because he's a Juilliard grad.

When I said that it isn't too difficult to have a minor career, I was referring to the fact that there are many musicians who teach at a university and do some performing on the side. Those people are not stellar artists, but they are able to do some concertizing on a professional basis. For example, I know of many obscure pianists (the type who are full-time professors and part-time performers) whose playing has been broadcast on WQXR at some point. There is an obscure pianist who teaches at a lowly state university who performed with the National Orchestra of El Salvador.

It's my understanding that having a major international career is something that only very few individuals can ever achieve. However, being a university professor with a mediocre performing career seems like something that is much more within the grasp of most performance majors.
Originally Posted by LaReginadellaNotte

However, being a university professor with a mediocre performing career seems like something that is much more within the grasp of most performance majors.


Unless things have changed significantly in the past 40 years (which I doubt), competition for university/college posts can be very intense, and many talented performance majors are not always successful in procuring lucrative teaching posts. Those who hold such positions are usually expected to perform on a regular basis - which some do in the school, in the community, in the state, nationally and internationally. I would encourage you NOT to continue to use the term "mediocre" when referring to their performance activity. While these artist/teachers may not be in the elite circle of international artists, the performance skills of many of these folks are far from mediocre.

Originally Posted by carey
Originally Posted by LaReginadellaNotte

However, being a university professor with a mediocre performing career seems like something that is much more within the grasp of most performance majors.


Unless things have changed significantly in the past 40 years (which I doubt), competition for university/college posts can be very intense, and many talented performance majors are not always successful in procuring lucrative teaching posts. Those who hold such positions are usually expected to perform on a regular basis - which some do in the school, in the community, in the state, nationally and internationally. I would encourage you NOT to continue to use the term "mediocre" when referring to their performance activity. While these artist/teachers may not be in the elite circle of international artists, the performance skills of many of these folks are far from mediocre.


I agree. This sounds very dismissive. These professors are very good and have coveted positions
Originally Posted by carey


Unless things have changed significantly in the past 40 years (which I doubt), competition for university/college posts can be very intense, and many talented performance majors are not always successful in procuring lucrative teaching posts. Those who hold such positions are usually expected to perform on a regular basis - which some do in the school, in the community, in the state, nationally and internationally. I would encourage you NOT to continue to use the term "mediocre" when referring to their performance activity. While these artist/teachers may not be in the elite circle of international artists, the performance skills of many of these folks are far from mediocre.


There may be a lot of competition for university positions, but wouldn't you say that most of the people who obtain those positions are not in the same category as artists with major international careers? When I use the term "mediocre" to describe such people, that is in comparison to the likes of Horowitz, Argerich, Pollini, et al. While university professors are generally at a much higher level of playing than public school teachers, would you agree that a person who has an obscure, part-time concert career is "mediocre" in comparison to someone like Murray Perahia? At the very least, the word "mediocre" refers to the extent of their careers (which are relatively lackluster), even if you find their playing to be impressive. There's a world of differnce between having a big, international career and having a minor career where most classical music aficionados wouldn't even know who you are. The vast majority of university professors fall into the latter category.
Originally Posted by carey
Originally Posted by LaReginadellaNotte

However, being a university professor with a mediocre performing career seems like something that is much more within the grasp of most performance majors.


Unless things have changed significantly in the past 40 years (which I doubt), competition for university/college posts can be very intense, and many talented performance majors are not always successful in procuring lucrative teaching posts. Those who hold such positions are usually expected to perform on a regular basis - which some do in the school, in the community, in the state, nationally and internationally. I would encourage you NOT to continue to use the term "mediocre" when referring to their performance activity. While these artist/teachers may not be in the elite circle of international artists, the performance skills of many of these folks are far from mediocre.



It's silly and immature to equate world-wide fame with artistry, anyway. Being a top level pianist doesn't automatically mean the person wants to live the life of a touring virtuoso, which is a pretty peculiar way of life. And neither does having the charisma that can help to generate fame automatically mean that the artistry is really all that well-developed.

And too, there are some wonderful pianists who are well-known to hardcore pianophiles, and who also are university/conservatory profs - Anton Nel, Dubravka Tomsic, and Matti Raekallio come to mind right away, but I'm sure there are many, many more.


Originally Posted by LaReginadellaNotte
Originally Posted by stores
Those who will mount the concert stage and make a career out of doing so belong to a very unique, very small class. The odds that one will make his living this way are not very good at all. Grabbing engagements like those you speak of, Regina, are not as easy as you believe. Sure, anyone can rent a hall, but even minor orchestras and venues go after names that can and will sell tickets. Joe Juilliard grad isn't going to play at the Fox simply because he's a Juilliard grad.

When I said that it isn't too difficult to have a minor career, I was referring to the fact that there are many musicians who teach at a university and do some performing on the side. Those people are not stellar artists, but they are able to do some concertizing on a professional basis. For example, I know of many obscure pianists (the type who are full-time professors and part-time performers) whose playing has been broadcast on WQXR at some point. There is an obscure pianist who teaches at a lowly state university who performed with the National Orchestra of El Salvador.

It's my understanding that having a major international career is something that only very few individuals can ever achieve. However, being a university professor with a mediocre performing career seems like something that is much more within the grasp of most performance majors.


Get something straight in your mind, Regina...those state universities aren't all "lowly" and a performing career isn't mediocre if all the stops aren't major venues. I have a friend who teaches at a southern university and has one of the fullest concert schedules I've ever seen. He does more traveling than most DG artists and commands a fairly healthy fee (some of you will know who I mean). You seem to have this idea that unless one attains Horowitz-like virtuosity or graduates from anywhere but Juilliard then he/she is a more or less a failure. That may not be what you think, but it's how you come off.
Originally Posted by LaReginadellaNotte
Originally Posted by carey


Unless things have changed significantly in the past 40 years (which I doubt), competition for university/college posts can be very intense, and many talented performance majors are not always successful in procuring lucrative teaching posts. Those who hold such positions are usually expected to perform on a regular basis - which some do in the school, in the community, in the state, nationally and internationally. I would encourage you NOT to continue to use the term "mediocre" when referring to their performance activity. While these artist/teachers may not be in the elite circle of international artists, the performance skills of many of these folks are far from mediocre.


There may be a lot of competition for university positions, but wouldn't you say that most of the people who obtain those positions are not in the same category as artists with major international careers? When I use the term "mediocre" to describe such people, that is in comparison to the likes of Horowitz, Argerich, Pollini, et al. While university professors are generally at a much higher level of playing than public school teachers, would you agree that a person who has an obscure, part-time concert career is "mediocre" in comparison to someone like Murray Perahia? At the very least, the word "mediocre" refers to the extent of their careers (which are relatively lackluster), even if you find their playing to be impressive. There's a world of differnce between having a big, international career and having a minor career where most classical music aficionados wouldn't even know who you are. The vast majority of university professors fall into the latter category.


I just don't think "mediocre" is a relative word, and it doesn't have the same meaning is "relatively minor", which still doesn't give the credit that these people deserve.
Originally Posted by LaReginadellaNotte
Originally Posted by carey


Unless things have changed significantly in the past 40 years (which I doubt), competition for university/college posts can be very intense, and many talented performance majors are not always successful in procuring lucrative teaching posts. Those who hold such positions are usually expected to perform on a regular basis - which some do in the school, in the community, in the state, nationally and internationally. I would encourage you NOT to continue to use the term "mediocre" when referring to their performance activity. While these artist/teachers may not be in the elite circle of international artists, the performance skills of many of these folks are far from mediocre.


There may be a lot of competition for university positions, but wouldn't you say that most of the people who obtain those positions are not in the same category as artists with major international careers? When I use the term "mediocre" to describe such people, that is in comparison to the likes of Horowitz, Argerich, Pollini, et al. While university professors are generally at a much higher level of playing than public school teachers, would you agree that a person who has an obscure, part-time concert career is "mediocre" in comparison to someone like Murray Perahia? At the very least, the word "mediocre" refers to the extent of their careers (which are relatively lackluster), even if you find their playing to be impressive. There's a world of differnce between having a big, international career and having a minor career where most classical music aficionados wouldn't even know who you are. The vast majority of university professors fall into the latter category.


Well there are also those who choose not to have the international career. They'd rather not have to constantly travel. An example that comes to mind is Ronald Turini, who was one of Horowitz pupils - he was a spectacular talent. I think despite Horowitz urging, he preferred to settle down and spent his life teaching at Western Ontario.
Originally Posted by LaReginadellaNotte
When I said that it isn't too difficult to have a minor career, I was referring to the fact that there are many musicians who teach at a university and do some performing on the side. Those people are not stellar artists, [...]


W T F. Just do us all a favour and stop talking and ruining threads. So you're telling me McDonald (Juilliard, the school you worship) is not a good artist? Or Fleisher? Are you out of your mind? Stop generalizing like this and WAKE UP. Being a concert pianist is not the only point of being in music, and believe it or not, some people actually like having a more stable job, such as a position at a university/conservatory. Shocking, isn't it?
Originally Posted by Minaku
Originally Posted by RonaldSteinway

HAHAHAHAHAHA....A group of sensitive people, I guess.
The teacher must really enjoy the scene.


Generally I make it a point to ignore you considering how boorishly you behave yourself. However, do not make light of the situation. A teacher can get fabulous results from students without insulting them or talking about their shortcomings with the department head in front of the student].

It's clear to me that you've never been in a high-stress environment such as one that can be found in a music conservatory, nor have you any compassion for students who have mean teachers.


How do you know my life? Everybody has different ability to cope with stress, some people are weak and make a big deal of nothing. As you said that the teacher was not from the US originally so that you implied that there was a different approach. The students just could not cope with her style.....the whole class cried...what a scene???
Originally Posted by RonaldSteinway

How do you know my life? Everybody has different ability to cope with stress, some people are weak and make a big deal of nothing. As you said that the teacher was not from the US originally so that you implied that there was a different approach. The students just could not cope with her style.....the whole class cried...what a scene???


All of us were weak, then? By the end, we all needed some therapy and were very happy to be done with lessons.

For the record, the majority of the studio was made of students who came from the same country the teacher did. We all had thick skins, but it's possible to take things too far, which she often did.
Originally Posted by Pogorelich.
Originally Posted by LaReginadellaNotte
When I said that it isn't too difficult to have a minor career, I was referring to the fact that there are many musicians who teach at a university and do some performing on the side. Those people are not stellar artists, [...]


W T F. Just do us all a favour and stop talking and ruining threads. So you're telling me McDonald (Juilliard, the school you worship) is not a good artist? Or Fleisher? Are you out of your mind? Stop generalizing like this and WAKE UP. Being a concert pianist is not the only point of being in music, and believe it or not, some people actually like having a more stable job, such as a position at a university/conservatory. Shocking, isn't it?

I think that you misunderstand the point. Although Fleisher is a conservatory professor, he has had one of the greatest performing careers of any artist. Obviously, he doesn't qualify as mediocre by any stretch of the imagination. Sometimes, a stellar artist may choose to also be a teacher. I'm not suggesting that being a professor automatically makes you mediocre; I'm only saying that the vast majority of professors only have relatively minor performing careers (at least in comparison to internationally known artists).

To give you an example, there is an obscure pianist, whom most people have never even heard of, who has taught at a minor university, and her resume says that she has performed "locally and nationally" and on national public radio. That's an example of someone who has a career, but not a major career. That particular professor even mentioned that there are a lot of people who can make a living doing a cominbation of teaching and performing (in a relatively minor capacity), but only a few people can have major performing careers. If a person is only an obscure performer, then wouldn't his or her career be considered mediocre in comparison to people who have major international careers?

Originally Posted by stores
Get something straight in your mind, Regina...those state universities aren't all "lowly" and a performing career isn't mediocre if all the stops aren't major venues.

Some universities are obviously more prestigious than others, but I was specifically referring to state universities that are commonly considered the bottom of the barrel in terms of college ratings. If a concert career isn't a major, international one, then what word would you use to describe it? Most professors that I know seem to define a "mediocre career" as one that is well below the success of people like Emanuel Ax and Andre Watts. In Schonberg's biography of Horowitz, Schonberg said that Janis, Graffman, and Davis are the only Horowitz students who went on to respectable careers. That implies that people who do not perform with the top orchestras and at the top venues only have mediocre careers, at least in comparison to the great artists.

Quote
I have a friend who teaches at a southern university and has one of the fullest concert schedules I've ever seen. He does more traveling than most DG artists and commands a fairly healthy fee (some of you will know who I mean).

Does this person have a major concert career, comparable to the greats? I think that the quality of a career has to be taken into consideration, as opposed to just the quantity. A person can conceivably do a lot of performing, but not at the most prestigious venues or at the level of success of a Schiff or a Barenboim.

Quote
You seem to have this idea that unless one attains Horowitz-like virtuosity or graduates from anywhere but Juilliard then he/she is a more or less a failure.

People who do not have stellar careers or high-level virtuoso mechanisms do not have to consider themselves failures, but at the same time, they are not comparable to the people who actually do have major, international careers.

Great artists usually have extraordinarily high standards. It was said that one had to play extremely well for Horowitz to simply say that the playing was "not bad." Taking that into consideration, is it likely that Horowitz or an artist with similarly high standards would label the career of the average university professor as "mediocre?" Understand that I'm not postulating that every university professor necessarily has a mediocre career. There are indeed some major artists (e.g Watts, Sandor) who have taught at universities. However, the average person who teaches at a university is generally someone with a career that is well below the level of Watts or Sandor.

Quote
It's silly and immature to equate world-wide fame with artistry, anyway. Being a top level pianist doesn't automatically mean the person wants to live the life of a touring virtuoso, which is a pretty peculiar way of life. And neither does having the charisma that can help to generate fame automatically mean that the artistry is really all that well-developed.

It's true that fame is not necessarily proportional to artistry (e.g. Lang Lang); however, it seems that the majority of famous pianists are justly renowned. Couldn't we all agree that the likes of Horowitz, Rubinstein, Argerich, Richter, et al. are much greater artists than the average university professor? Also, the issue of whether a person has a "major" career is normally determined by the prestige of his or her engagements and the performers' level of fame and critical acclaim. The vast majority of university professors, who are only obscure performers, do not meet that criteria.

Quote
I just don't think "mediocre" is a relative word, and it doesn't have the same meaning is "relatively minor", which still doesn't give the credit that these people deserve.

What word would you suggest using? By "mediocre", I meant a career that is average, as opposed to stellar. If something is ordinary, it is normally classified as mediocre. From a professional standpoint, it would seem that a relatively minor career (which constitues an ordinary, as opposed to a spectacular, career) would be considered a "mediocre" career, in the normal understanding of the term. If a person's success is comparable to most others in his or her profession (which would be the case for professional musicians with relatively minor careers), then that person is normally considered a mediocre success. It is only when a person's level of success is much higher than most in his or her profession that he is considered an extraordinary success (as in the case of performers with major international careers).
Idee fixe (the "mediocrity" theme above). Can't be changed but if you get involved in arguing-- watch out for your sanity. shocked

To the OP, I remember standing in a library, years ago, and being immersed in reading a book that caught my eye-- had "Juilliard" in the title*-- was all about the experiences of students there. [a Google search steers me to Amazon, and the title is "Nothing but the Best: the struggle for perfection at the Juilliard School." came out 1987] Of course you can't borrow vignettes from it, like you can from the posters here...

Three things that made an impression: A singer talking about how difficult it was to sing and control breathing in a nerve-wracking situation (in front of a jury). A flautist whose dad went ballistic, when a judge mentioned to him that the girl's being overweight might have cost her a favorable decision. A pianist who was stymied by a difficult passage; and his girlfriend looked at it, said, Oh you mean this?-- and sailed through it at first sight, leaving him feeling shattered.

I had put music aside at that time in my life, and this book certainly wouldn't inspire me to begin again. In the same library section was an autobiography of Rubinstein. Although he seemed as remote to my experience as Juilliard, there was stuff in there I could latch on to; as in "love of music," which the author of the other book apparently didn't have. (Edit: although she studied harp at J. so I can't say she didn't love music-- but the book just seemed *so* focused on "daily reality")

To the OP, why don't you at least take some piano lessons? It'll give your writing an extra dose of reality! wink
Regina - While "mediocre" can mean "ordinary" or "average" it also refers to "low quality or inferior value, ability or performance." The term is often used in a derogatory fashion. It would probably be more accurate to use "average," "ordinary" or "minor" to describe the careers of these artists - as opposed to "mediocre."
Originally Posted by DameMyra

Some rooms are a mess, coffee cups, homework papers, concert clothes, scores that are long overdue from the library. One student has made one of the rooms her own. She brought in lamps, a heater (Yes, many of the rooms are freezing in winter), hung pictures on the walls.


Hilarious.

Thanks for sharing.
Originally Posted by Cheeto717
Let us know when you've finished your "piece of fiction"!


I absolutely will.

I've had my draft reviewed by an Associate in piano at the Royal Conservatory in Canada, but as much as I've researched the conservatory experience, the best way to understand the culture and challenges is really in hearing people tell their stories (good, bad, ugly).

I'm very grateful to all those sharing.
Originally Posted by Cheeto717
Let us know when you've finished your "piece of fiction"!


Yes, it sounds interesting, especially considering some of the stories our members have to share are just as juicy as fiction wink.
Originally Posted by carey
Regina - While "mediocre" can mean "ordinary" or "average" it also refers to "low quality or inferior value, ability or performance." The term is often used in a derogatory fashion. It would probably be more accurate to use "average," "ordinary" or "minor" to describe the careers of these artists - as opposed to "mediocre."

I understand your point. In some contexts, "mediocre" definitely does carry a disparaging connotation, although I wasn't intending it as such. For example, I know a voice teacher who believes that there has been a lot of "mediocre" singing at the Met as of late, and she clearly was using the term in a condemnatory manner (especially since people normally expect high-level artistry from the Met). If my description of the typical university professor could be rephrased as an "ordinary" or "average" performer, I would approve of that. However, some people might argue that performers of average or ordinary ability are subpar in comparison to great artists. Many musicians have very high standards when assessing musical performances; hence they might perceive anything less than greatness as being of inferior value.
Read the biography "Testimony" of Shostakovich - there is a fantastic depiction of the conservatory in his time! You can almost see and feel it as if you were there.
Regina: it is not negative "some contexts" it is negative:

From a dictionary:
me·di·o·cre
   [mee-dee-oh-ker]
adjective
1.
of only ordinary or moderate quality; neither good nor bad; barely adequate: The car gets only mediocre mileage, but it's fun to drive. Synonyms: undistinguished, commonplace, pedestrian, everyday; run-of-the-mill. Antonyms: extraordinary, superior, uncommon, incomparable.
2.
not satisfactory; poor; inferior: Mediocre construction makes that building dangerous. Synonyms: meager, low-quality, second-rate; so-so. Antonyms: excellent, superior.

English language 101, finished. LOL
The second definition definitely carries a negative connotation, but the first definition doesn't necessarily imply negativity, as it says "neither good nor bad", which could be interpreted as "neither positive nor negative." Furthermore, we were discussing whether the term "mediocre" has a more depreciative connotation than the word "ordinary". At least in the first definition, "mediocre" is defined as "ordinary", indicating that in some usages of the former word, it can be a synonym for the latter word and thereby carry similar implications.
Just to mention George Li earned a full ride to Oberlin Conservatory...competition driven.

The piano faculty improved years after I left..a few Russian teachers thrown into the mix.
Originally Posted by LaReginadellaNotte

In some contexts, "mediocre" definitely does carry a disparaging connotation, although I wasn't intending it as such.

Whether you intended it or not, that is the way many folks here interpreted your use of the word.

Quote
If my description of the typical university professor could be rephrased as an "ordinary" or "average" performer, I would approve of that. However, some people might argue that performers of average or ordinary ability are subpar in comparison to great artists.

In retrospect, I shouldn't have suggested that "ordinary" or "average" would be acceptable terms to substitute for "mediocre." Those really aren't satisfactory descriptors either. Often, when I refer to these performers I say that they have a "rewarding" or "respectable" career - and just let it go at that.

Quote
Many musicians have very high standards when assessing musical performances; hence they might perceive anything less than greatness as being of inferior value.

Personally, I have very little tolerance for musical snobs and I couldn't care less about what they think.
Originally Posted by carey
Personally, I have very little tolerance for musical snobs and I could care less about what they think.

Oh carey... I like your writing, but you really need to say "I couldn't care less". i.e. you care so little, it couldn't be any less.

Sorry! smile

-J
Originally Posted by beet31425
Originally Posted by carey
Personally, I have very little tolerance for musical snobs and I could care less about what they think.

Oh carey... I like your writing, but you really need to say "I couldn't care less". i.e. you care so little, it couldn't be any less.

Sorry! smile

-J


Hey - don't be sorry. grin Of course, you are correct !!! Edit has been made. thumb

Originally Posted by carey
Originally Posted by LaReginadellaNotte

In some contexts, "mediocre" definitely does carry a disparaging connotation, although I wasn't intending it as such.

Whether you intended it or not, that is the way many folks here interpreted your use of the word.

I'm sorry if my word was interpreted in that fashion. The substance of a message can sometimes be misconstrued- on the Internet or even in real life.

Quote
In retrospect, I shouldn't have suggested that "ordinary" or "average" would be acceptable terms to substitute for "mediocre." Those really aren't satisfactory descriptors either. Often, when I refer to these performers I say that they have a "rewarding" or "respectable" career - and just let it go at that.

Personally, I have very little tolerance for musical snobs and I couldn't care less about what they think.

It could be argued that the level of playing occupied by the majority of professional musicians constitutes an "average" or "ordinary" (in the sense that it is a similar level to most other professionals) level. Nonetheless, I can understand why you would want to posit that the "average" concert artist is at a "respectable" and "rewarding" level. Some people might argue that it is so difficult to become a professional musician (probably much harder than it is to become a doctor or a lawyer) that even concert artists with minor, seemingly ordinary careers are at very high levels of playing (even if great artists are at much higher levels, as everything is an issue of degrees). Such an argument could claim that because you have to be at such a high level just to have a chance at being a professional musician, high-level playing on the part of a concert artist may seem "ordinary" simply because it is displayed by so many professionals.

The other side of the argument would be that all musicians should be assessed in relation to the cream of the crop: the top artists. It appears that Schonberg and Horowitz were examples of people who had very exacting standards when evaluating musicians. Schonberg said that out of all Horowitz's pupils, only Janis, Graffman, and Davis had respectable careers. Apparently, in the mind of Schonberg, someone like Fiorillo- who became a professor at Temple University and a performer of relatively modest success- did not have a respectable career. Horowitz appears to have had similar views, as he was only willingly to publicly acknowledge a select few of his pupils. Janis claimed that if a student was a success, Horowitz was quick to acknowledge him, but if he wasn't, then Horowitz would want to disassociate. Schonberg also mentioned that Horowitz could be very dismissive even in his evaluations of other great pianists. Allegedly, a performance that someone else might describe as fairly spectacular, Horowitz might only describe as "not bad."
I went to school at a university with a music school, not a conservatory.

There was this series of thefts that lasted for a while. At first it was just things like wallets and purses left unattended - not particularly surprising. Then strange things started to go missing. Professors reported things taken from their studios (which had very limited access). Things like photographs of teacher's teachers, busts of composers, and decorative nicknacks were disappearing. Students were starting to fear for their instruments and take them home rather than leave them in their school lockers, just in case someone had a way in. Finally, it was discovered that the organ performance major, who was issued a key to the recital hall holding the organ, had somehow gotten a hold of a master key, and was squirreling away all of this stuff in his secondary instrument locker in the basement. Another student saw a missing item in his locker and reported him. He was taken in for a psych evaluation, and it turned out that he was actually a kleptomaniac!
Regina, do you know what they call your behavior at SomethingAwful?

They call it ***. Which is what you've done with this Horowitz and mediocrity nonsense you've got going on.
I'm so glad there is an "ignore button". I encourage everyone to follow my example. See ya, Regina.
Originally Posted by stores
I have a friend who teaches at a southern university and has one of the fullest concert schedules I've ever seen. He does more traveling than most DG artists and commands a fairly healthy fee (some of you will know who I mean).


I know who you mean, and I'm often surprised that his name hasn't come up on Piano World. I take it as proof that many people here on Piano World are slaves to the media. They know Argerich and Horowitz, and whoever won the Cliburn last time around, but they don't seem to follow local artists or seek out those lesser-known. They're content to feed on whatever YouTube and the New York Times serves up. They'll even spend time listening to people they don't like (Lang Lang) and waste time talking about him instead of looking for alternatives (Steven Spooner, Paul Barnes, Ksenia Nosikova, or Dimitri Vorobiev, to name a few excellent pianists here in the midwest with state university gigs. I could recommend a dozen more, all very, very good.)
Originally Posted by Minaku
Regina, do you know what they call your behavior at SomethingAwful?

They call it ***. Which is what you've done with this Horowitz and mediocrity nonsense you've got going on.

How so? The information that I cited about Horowitz is contained in his biographies? Why would you object to accurate, published anecdotes, especially since they lend credence to the notion that great musicians have very high standards when evaluating other musicians? What is your remonstrance to a parsing of the denotative and connotative meanings of "mediocre?"
Originally Posted by Minaku
Regina, do you know what they call your behavior at SomethingAwful?

They call it ***. Which is what you've done with this Horowitz and mediocrity nonsense you've got going on.


If you do not agree with others' opinion, you do not need to call name or be nasty.
You can just ignore.

Why does this discussion seem really painful to you? It seems like really stroke the core of your life.

I agree with Regina that in general, except for personal choice, a successful concert pianist would have concerts in big and prestigious hall, play with big famous orchestra. Those who have many concert but in community colleges are not considered a successful concert pianist.

This is the order of the level of success of people who dedicated their life to piano:

1. Big artists who play in big halls and with big orchestras, for example Kissin, Horowitz, Lang Lang, Zimmerman, Pollini, Uchida etc
2. Artists who won competition but did not really get big contracts, but still play with pretty big orchestra, Uehara, Chen, etc
3. Artists who won small competitions and did minor concerts here and there.
4. Piano professors at major conservatories, Juilliard, Oberlin, New England
5. Piano professors at second tier conservatories or universities.
5. Piano professors at state colleges.
6. Piano teachers who are in high demand ( well known in the piano teacher associations because many of their students won competition).
7. Piano teachers who have their own studios.
8. Piano teachers who go to students house.
9. Piano teachers who do not have enough students so that they have a lot of time to hang out in piano world.
Originally Posted by Kreisler
Originally Posted by stores
I have a friend who teaches at a southern university and has one of the fullest concert schedules I've ever seen. He does more traveling than most DG artists and commands a fairly healthy fee (some of you will know who I mean).


I know who you mean, and I'm often surprised that his name hasn't come up on Piano World.


Now is your chance.
yeah seriously...who is he?!
Originally Posted by LaReginadellaNotte
Couldn't we all agree that the likes of Horowitz, Rubinstein, Argerich, Richter, et al. are much greater artists than the average university professor?


This is not necessarily true. I think the world would be in shock if it had an objective view of how many first-rate artists are living in obscurity.

For instance, I doubt very few people - if any on this forum - have ever heard of the pianist Natan Brand. He was an Israeli who lived in NY, studied at Juilliard and Mannes, and taught privately for a bit in New York and for a small amount of time at a University in Oklahoma. Yet in my humble opinion he is one of the most electrifying pianists I have ever laid ears upon, with one of the most astounding techniques ever. Give these a listen for yourself:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vS4msgFN1JM
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0jSuROp8R7c&feature=related
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V-WIjIc8ecA

or Emile Naoumoff:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=laAzrnhPmok
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2pG6fn26THY

or Wael Farouk
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fBueMuAxPIA

or Hoang Pham
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aj1ots3E18Y

Funniest thing is, they were all/are all struggling to pay rent, and are barely known outside their circle of academia or students they teach. You are correct when you talk in terms of a "major career" based on amount of concerts played per year and venues played in, but as far as artistic merit is concerned, I don't know how much less "great" they are than those mentioned..
This reminds me of a spirit soaring concert given here in Fresno by an unknown, Pierluigi Camicia.. and he brought a clack of students who sang Verdi Arias at the reception for him in Fresno. He came from some remote part of Italy..Never heard from again. I'll have to hunt him down.
I like hearing about "unknown" artists and pieces.

The question of "Horowitz versus unknown mediocrity" reminds me of a story in the first book of Kings in the Bible. Elijah the prophet was depressed because he thought he was *the only* faithful servant of God in all of Israel. Then God answered and said, "Not so, I have 7,000 other faithful servants like you, hidden throughout the land." Elijah was the only *high-profile* one but it didn't mean he was the *only* one.

The principle of the story can apply to musicians as well-- having the essence of great musicianship does not necessarily mean a high profile. And having a high profile is not the only proof of great musicianship.

I'm still in awe of John, the 14-year-old phenomenal sight reader who was on Mrs. McLellan's piano student roster, along with me. This (then) 16-year-old couldn't have been more impressed by Horowitz! I think it's real-life examples like John who inspire us to work on our own skills, as much as recordings by great artists. (I wasn't that much inspired at the time, as I quit lessons soon after seeing a display of his sight-reading!)
It really astounds me that some feel that great artistry in pianism is determined by fame, by the number of concerts performed and by the venues in which those concerts are performed.

As Gray said :

Full many a gem of purest ray serene
The dark unfathom'd caves of ocean bear:
Full many a flower is born to blush unseen,
And waste its sweetness on the desert air.


(Thomas Gray, "Elegy Written in a Country Church-Yard")

Regards,
Regina, I have nothing against Horowitz or how amazing he was. We all know he was one of the best pianists alive in the 20th century. What I do have an issue with is your continual agenda. It seems like every single thread in which you are involved needs a mention of Horowitz and how he would have done it.

It’s rude to Piaffe, who came here to ask about the experiences of people in music school, to enter a thread, denigrate the faculty at all but one of the institutions we have studied at, and then talk about how Horowitz was the best. It’s rude to the rest of us to insinuate that we’ve all been taught by inferior teachers. We’re actively sharing our experiences at school and there’s no need for you to hijack and turn the thread to something else entirely.

If you want to talk about Horowitz, then start a thread entitled “Horowitz is objectively the best pianist who’s ever lived.” You can debate there about Horowitz all you want. That’s the venue for it. This thread is not.

A concert pianist’s life is very difficult, with lots of travel and little time for family or friends. I do not blame anyone who’s decided they aren’t going to have that life. There are so many people with tremendous talent in this world, but only a fraction of a fraction will end up being “concert pianists.” There isn’t anything wrong with choosing a lifestyle more conducive to, well, life.

Regina, you seem to be completely, blissfully ignorant of the sheer amount of luck needed in order to be a concert pianist. We’ve already seen that competition winners do not go on to have storied careers. It takes the right mix of talent, work, and LUCK to get to the top. Winning a competition is not enough. Studying with the right teacher is not enough. There is an element of chance involved. Is the time right for another ingénue? Do they have the right manager? Do they even live in the right city? Who ever heard of a world famous concert pianist from Boise, Idaho?

If you haven’t read Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers, you need to.

As for you, Ronald, I take umbrage with the complete and utter derailment of the thread by Regina. I did not call Regina names. I have not ever insulted someone verbally that way, because PianoWorld has a certain protocol, which I have mostly followed with the exception of my previous post, which was edited for profanity and not for insults. You’re the one who is misunderstanding me.

Me, I had a lovely experience at university. My core curriculum was not the same as others; I had an extra class on top of the standard history, theory, and aural skills trio. The piano aspect of it was just not as rosy as the rest. Whatever grievances I had with my teacher in undergrad have been dealt with. I’m at peace with what happened. It was a wonderful teaching experience in that it taught me where the line in the sand should be drawn.

And that’s all I’m going to say on the matter. From now on I’ll regale Piaffe with more tales of drunken debauchery while in music school. Does alcohol improve or detract from a performance? We shall find out.
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If you haven’t read Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers, you need to.

I did read an article that talked about Gladwell's "10,000-Hour Rule". It was certainly interesting data, as it suggested that talent has little- if anything- to do with success, and that deliberate practice is the key. Critics of the theory have argued that individuals lacking sufficient talent will not become high-level successes- even after engaging in a copious amount of deliberate practice. I wonder which side of the argument is correct. Sometimes it can be frustrating when two seemingly plausible, but contradictory, theories are presented, making it difficult to assess which one is accurate.

Originally Posted by Minaku
Regina, I have nothing against Horowitz or how amazing he was. We all know he was one of the best pianists alive in the 20th century. What I do have an issue with is your continual agenda. It seems like every single thread in which you are involved needs a mention of Horowitz and how he would have done it.

Although I often use Horowitz as my musical model, I do not have any pro-Horowitz agenda. I simply discuss topics that interest me. If mentioning Horowitz or any other musician is relevant or helps to clarify my point, I may mention him. People may agree or disagree with Horowitz's or another musician's way of doing things. Any examples that I cite are solely for the purpose of expressing and/or supporting my own viewpoints, just as anyone else might do to elaborate on his or her ideas. In other words, I express my opinions (which may involve references to Horowitz, Schonberg, Rubinstein, etc.), and people will either agree or disagree with them- as is the case with any other tenet expresessed here.

The notion that I mention Horowitz in every single thread is false. I recently posted on a Mozart thread and made no mention of Horowitz. I also posted on threads such as Mozart/Beethoven, Yoheved Kaplinsy, and "Is it possible" without a single mention of Horowitz.

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It’s rude to Piaffe, who came here to ask about the experiences of people in music school, to enter a thread, denigrate the faculty at all but one of the institutions we have studied at, and then talk about how Horowitz was the best.

My entrance to the thread was not at all for the purpose of demeaning anyone, but simply to raise an inquiry about why conservatory students supposedly might not be concert pianist material: an issue that was raised in the thread. When my views were questioned, I merely tried to make a distinction between certain types of careers, pointing out that one type is a much more realistic option for many performance majors. As I clarified earlier, my purpose was not to denigrate those who have careers of a smaller scope than the great artists. I was merely trying to explain that there is a substantial difference between the two types of musical careers mentioned, and that the former is much easier to obtain (even though it obviously isn't easy to obtain any professional engagements).

In other words, I was postulating that many conservatory students may have a realistic chance- through sedulous effort and preparation- of obtaining a so-called minor career, even if they aren't capable of enjoying careers of the Rubinstein or Argerich variety. I was not saying that people who have lesser careers than the greats are incompetent. To the contrary, I pointed out that they may work very hard and accomplish much more than a Music Education major could ever hope to accomplish. A professional career- even an obscure one- can be thought of as a significant achievement for any musician, especially given how much competition there is. I was merely pointing out that there are degrees to everything in life and that careers of a lesser degree seem to be within the grasp of certain conservatory students who may not be capable of having world-class careers.

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It’s rude to the rest of us to insinuate that we’ve all been taught by inferior teachers. We’re actively sharing our experiences at school and there’s no need for you to hijack and turn the thread to something else entirely.

I have not said that anyone has been taught by inadequate teachers. My points were merely for the purpose of explaining that certain types of careers are more within the grasp of many conservatory students.

My actions do not constitue a hijacking of the thread (and I certainly would never willfully engage in anything of that sort), as I initially responded to a specific point about conservatory students: the issue of whether all or many of them are concert-level material. As a result of responses to my viewpoints, I issued further posts clarifying my position and answering necessary questions. It was all the result of a relevant point raised on the first page, not any attempt at straying off on a tangent.

Quote
A concert pianist’s life is very difficult, with lots of travel and little time for family or friends. I do not blame anyone who’s decided they aren’t going to have that life. There are so many people with tremendous talent in this world, but only a fraction of a fraction will end up being “concert pianists.” There isn’t anything wrong with choosing a lifestyle more conducive to, well, life.

I completely agree with that, and I do not doubt that a talented individual may not be interested in putting forth all of the arduous work that is necessary for a career. There are many child prodigies who did not pursue music as adults, simply because they felt that music was not provide them with financial security. A violinist who once was the concertmaster of the Julliard Orchestra is now an attorney. Everyone must choose his or her own path, as only you yourself know what is most likely to make you happy.

Quote
Regina, you seem to be completely, blissfully ignorant of the sheer amount of luck needed in order to be a concert pianist. We’ve already seen that competition winners do not go on to have storied careers. It takes the right mix of talent, work, and LUCK to get to the top. Winning a competition is not enough. Studying with the right teacher is not enough. There is an element of chance involved. Is the time right for another ingénue? Do they have the right manager? Do they even live in the right city? Who ever heard of a world famous concert pianist from Boise, Idaho?

I am aware of the fact that luck and connections can help a musician, and I even pointed out that fame is not always proportional to artistry. It would be a non-sequitir to say that because a pianist is famous, he must be great. It is conceivable that someone who is not a worthy artist may- through some seemingly odd cirumstances- obtain a high level of success. With that said, if a pianist is famous, there is going to be a higher statistical probability that he or she is great. If you examine most famous pianists (e.g Rubinstein, Rachmaninov, Hofmann, Lhevinne, Argerich, Ricther, Arrau, Gilels, etc.), their fame is well-justified. While being famous does not guarantee that a pianist is great, it certainly increases the likelihood that he or she is great. Thus, through inductive reasoning and the calculation of statistics, we can conclude that a famous pianist is more likely to be great than an obscure pianist is.

That doesn't mean that it's impossible for an obscure pianist to be a great artist; only that it would be the exception, rather than the rule. As I mentioned earlier, failing to match the greats certainly does not necessitate that the pianist is without skill. It only indicates that his or her skill is not of the same magnitude as that of the top artists.

While it's true that some artists may never receive their due, for whatever reason, it seems inconceivable that skill on the level of a Rachmaninov or a Hofmann would be left unrecognized. If someone played that well, it's all but inevitable that he or she would eventually obtain international recognition. In The Glorious Ones, Harold Schonberg related a relevant anecdote about Kirsten Flagstad. He pointed out that her voice and artistry must not have been completely developed until she was almost forty, as it wasn't until her Met debut that she created a sensation. Schonberg claimed that the public and the critics aren't deaf, insisting that it is inconceivable that Flagstad could have sung as well in Europe as she did at the Met without creating a sensation. That supports the notion that artistry of the highest magnitude is unlikely to go unnoticed.

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This is not necessarily true. I think the world would be in shock if it had an objective view of how many first-rate artists are living in obscurity.

Do you believe that the majority of obscure performers are as great as renowned artists? I can imagine that there may be a minority of performers with minor careers who deserve much more, but my personal experience indicates that the majority of obscure performers do not fall into such a category. The many unknown pianists that I've listened to have all sounded considerably less impressive than the likes of Argerich, Richter, Serkin, et al.

Opus Maximum, I've heard Natan Brand before, and I agree that he has done some great things, both technically and musically. The b minor scherzo that you posted had a good deal of visceral excitement in the fast section. He also played the slow section beautifully and delicately. I especially liked the way that he brought out the upper voice, sounding like the echo of bells, over the melody of the slow section. Brand did make appearances at Carnegie Hall, but I agree that he deserved more recognition than what he received. However, do you view the pianists that you mentioned as reflective of the abilities of the majority of obscure pianists?


Regina, you have so much to learn.
What issues do I need to learn about? Are you referring specifically to the quality of obscure performers compared to famous performers?

A former professor, who has performed locally and nationally and on national public radio, told me that it is very difficult to achieve a career of international prominence (where you can make a living solely as a performer), but that many people have the ability to make a living through a combination of teaching and performing (albeit not at a level of international prominence). That explanation sounds reasonable to me.
Now I know why I didn't survive more than 3 weeks in a conservatory program in a state university. I don't drink coffee, except decaf. I don't smoke. I drink very little alcohol. I am not competitive by nature. I generally obey the rules. I felt like the music I loved was being shoved down my throat and the joy was being strangled. That plus the competitive, self aggrandizing nature of my fellow students drove me to run away with relief. Decades later, I have some regrets but it just wasn't a good fit for me.
You have to be really crazy. Almost insane. And you have to be this obsessive-compulsive person to be successful and survive, haha.
Yep. I got through school without coffee, cigarettes, or alcohol.

But I agree with Pogo about the crazy obsessive-compulsive thing. I made time for friends and having a life, but I also spent a lot of nights breaking into the music building after hours (sometimes literally crawling through open windows) and practicing until 2am.

It also helped that I was woefully ignorant. This was in the days before YouTube and I went to a smaller school in Missouri. I happily slaved away at Beethoven Op. 14#2 as a junior, not realizing it was considered one of the "easier" sonatas that some junior high kids can play. I also dove headfirst into things way over my head (Brahms first concerto in the same semester), not realizing that it's considered difficult. When you don't know how difficult (or easy) something is, it becomes much easier to work on it, because all you can do is set goals based on what you can do instead of trying to set goals based what others can do.
Originally Posted by Kreisler
It also helped that I was woefully ignorant. ..When you don't know how difficult (or easy) something is, it becomes much easier to work on it, because all you can do is set goals based on what you can do instead of trying to set goals based what others can do.
That sounds just like me. In my ignorance, I just played and played whatever I liked for decades, blissfully ignorant of grade levels and difficulty. Imagine my astonishment when I was put into the most advanced group in summer camp. I was sure they would uncover me as an impostor. I was even more astonished when I discovered I belonged there. Also, in my case, you must never, never tell me I can't do something because it is too difficult. That just makes me mad and even more determined to succeed. I just have no tolerance for the imbecilic egos and cruelty I encountered in the staff and students at the conservatory. Music for me was my private joy.
Originally Posted by Kreisler
Yep. I got through school without coffee, cigarettes, or alcohol.

But I agree with Pogo about the crazy obsessive-compulsive thing. I made time for friends and having a life, but I also spent a lot of nights breaking into the music building after hours (sometimes literally crawling through open windows) and practicing until 2am.

It also helped that I was woefully ignorant. This was in the days before YouTube and I went to a smaller school in Missouri. I happily slaved away at Beethoven Op. 14#2 as a junior, not realizing it was considered one of the "easier" sonatas that some junior high kids can play. I also dove headfirst into things way over my head (Brahms first concerto in the same semester), not realizing that it's considered difficult. When you don't know how difficult (or easy) something is, it becomes much easier to work on it, because all you can do is set goals based on what you can do instead of trying to set goals based what others can do.


Well, I'm still a coffee fiend, still smoke, but don't drink nearly as much haha. Obsessive-compulsive? What do you think? I'll just say there is no such thing as quitting...you NEVER EVER STOP! Was I woefully ignorant? No. I knew when I was in over my head and took it on anyway. I've never cared what "grade" someone else assigns a work, but Kreisler sure makes an excellent point here and it's one that a lot of members here should pay attention to.
Originally Posted by stores

Well, I'm still a coffee fiend, still smoke, but don't drink nearly as much haha. Obsessive-compulsive? What do you think? I'll just say there is no such thing as quitting...you NEVER EVER STOP!

Coffee got me through uni. (And, alas, where I learned how to drink and smoke a non-tobacco related substance.)

Today I gave the Superbowl a miss and instead elected to attend a graduate organ recital at St. Mark's Cathedral. The opening item was Bach's overwhelmingly awesome Passacaglia & Fugue in C minor. I studied it at uni without a clue as to just how difficult that work was, and hearing it today made me realize how foolish I was. I don't think I saw much beyond the notes... which I managed to play.

I learned so much that was new to me this afternoon. I would like to restudy it someday.

Oh I'm a coffee fiend now.

Hard as it is for students to believe, life is MUCH more difficult after school. You have to impose discipline on yourself, keep the quality/drive going without a teacher, and live on real money instead of loans. And bad performances mean you don't get asked back. (After a bad performance at a school, your teacher and/or friends console you, you drown your sorrows in a beer, chalk it up to experience and be thankful the audience was probably full of people who already like you.)

And if you're on faculty at a college or university, chances are you'll end up doing stuff you don't want to do in the name of prestige and a stable(ish) salary - teaching piano class to freshman trumpet majors, go to meetings and talk about how to distribute a painfully small amount of scholarship money, writing a grant proposal to convince the provost's office to fund your CD recording that will end up on a label with poor distribution that only about 20 people will listen to...
Oh Kreisler, don't you delegate the undergrad piano classes to the grad students?

(I was totally overworked and underpaid.)

Edit: After school was done I jettisoned the alcohol (and by proxy the smokes), and after some hand-wringing, the coffee as well.
Originally Posted by Kreisler
Oh I'm a coffee fiend now.

I spend too much on my morning latte(s) -I should buy stock in Starbucks or Tully's- but of course that is what one does in Seattle.

Which is not intended to make light of your post. Since moving from the UK, I have not been involved in the music scene at all, and regretfully, I do not practise as often as I should. But in some respects I'm a lot happier, and my appreciation of music has grown exponentially. The organ recital at St. Mark's Cathedral this afternoon was a healthy and satisfying experience, and I was grateful to be a part of it.
I did, but I was one of the lucky ones. My university job was great - the faculty got along and we got to work with some really great students. The pay wasn't the best, but it was on par with what my colleagues at peer institutions made.

I was speaking more generally about the current job market. In 1999 when I was first looking for a job, I applied for about a dozen out of over 20 open positions.

Talking to a friend the other day looking for a job, I hear that number of jobs open is less than half what it was a decade ago. Plus, to save money, colleges aren't advertising jobs as widely as they used to. Several years ago, you could check the MVL and that was enough. Nowadays, many colleges hire below the assistant professor level; sometimes interviewing and hiring based on word of mouth or advertising for a shorter length of time through other avenues like higheredjobs.com

Bringing this back to topic, we can definitely say that one challenge conservatories are facing is that they can no longer pretend to prepare students primarily for university or orchestral performance jobs - there just aren't enough out there. I'm pretty sure you could fill every university music vacancy this year with graduates from the state of Ohio (CCM, CIM, Oberlin, and the state universities - all of which are very good schools full of qualified people.)

The Eastman Initiatives have been ongoing for several years trying to think outside the standard conservatory box. NEC also has some fascinating things cooking:

http://necentrepreneur.posterous.com/

Originally Posted by Minaku
Oh Kreisler, don't you delegate the undergrad piano classes to the grad students?

(I was totally overworked and underpaid.)

Edit: After school was done I jettisoned the alcohol (and by proxy the smokes), and after some hand-wringing, the coffee as well.
Originally Posted by Kreisler
I did, but I was one of the lucky ones. My university job was great - the faculty got along and we got to work with some really great students. The pay wasn't the best, but it was on par with what my colleagues at peer institutions made.

I was speaking more generally about the current job market. In 1999 when I was first looking for a job, I applied for about a dozen out of over 20 open positions.

Talking to a friend the other day looking for a job, I hear that number of jobs open is less than half what it was a decade ago. Plus, to save money, colleges aren't advertising jobs as widely as they used to. Several years ago, you could check the MVL and that was enough. Nowadays, many colleges hire below the assistant professor level; sometimes interviewing and hiring based on word of mouth or advertising for a shorter length of time through other avenues like higheredjobs.com.


Oh, don't I know it. The pain of applying for jobs starts with actually finding a job that isn't in the boonies somewhere (I have family obligations) and doesn't automatically require a DMA or PhD for an assistant professorship teaching something like remedial theory or Solfege for Singers. As I do not have any of the aforementioned letters following my name, I aimed appropriately. Still, there's been a grand total of 4 positions open in my area, one of which is an applicant pool, another of which is DMA/PhD preferred, and the last two of which are part-time or online.

Right, back to the topic at hand: the other thread about Beethoven op. 10 no. 1 reminded me of what seemed like the standard freshman piano major repertoire. You enter in your freshman year, and if you do not have significant Beethoven sonatas on your repertoire list, you are automatically assigned op. 10 no. 1. Oh, I heard that modified Mannheim rocket figure some bajillion times that first year. I haven't studied it, personally, but I'm pretty sure I could give it a fair whack if I had to just because I've heard it so often and sat through umpteen master classes and studio classes featuring the first movement.

Along with your op. 10 no. 1 you will also be assigned something out of WTC 1 so long as it is not eb minor or bb minor. Everything else was game. Mine was Ab major. Then you'll probably be given either a Haydn sonata or, if you have sufficient Classical experience, something more modern. Prokofiev 2 maybe? Ginastera dances? At any rate, you do not pass go, you do not collect 200 dollars, and most importantly you do not touch Chopin your first semester unless you have demonstrated competency in other areas. Like Beethoven and Bach.

Does this experience resonate with anyone else?
Minaku, that last paragraph doesn't resonate with me.. I always chose my own repertoire and was playing Chopin before undergrad. I did Rach 2nd concerto in my first year too, and I think because of that my teacher never imposed repertoire on me.
Oh and Kreisler - not everyone lives on loans, I've always worked my ass off in order to live debt free. I still have debt, but it's tiny and it was all because of some left over tuition from undergrad.
Originally Posted by Pogorelich.
Minaku, that last paragraph doesn't resonate with me.. I always chose my own repertoire and was playing Chopin before undergrad. I did Rach 2nd concerto in my first year too, and I think because of that my teacher never imposed repertoire on me.


Pogo, were your classmates doing the same as you? My experience may just be standard at music schools and not true conservatories.
Ah, being in a conservatory. I had mostly good experiences, some really awful ones, too. I was not a piano major, so I think it was a lot less competitive for me than for a pianist. I was in school for a long, long time, so I saw things change quite a bit. When I started, in the 1970s, there was still a lot of money out there funding music and other arts, so there were more jobs; there was no Internet, with videos of little kids playing virtuoso pieces; school itself was much less expensive, so you didn't have to mortgage your next 20 years to attend. By the time I finished, some 20 years later, even making a modest living as a musician (forget fame and fortune) seemed less possible. I know people do it, but I found it very stressful and finally gave up and got a day job.

As a cellist, I practiced 4 to 6 hours a day most of the time, and also had orchestra, chamber music, and gigs (weddings, freelancing, teaching, etc.). One's learning experience on the instrument was directly related to the competence of one's teacher, but I remember learning a lot from just being around other students and hearing them practice and perform. I would say that's the best benefit of going to a conservatory, plus the networking. The lessons themselves are just lessons -- there's no magic.

Even the people who were stars of the conservatory did not end up with stellar careers, necessarily. A few did, most didn't. The rest of us have just muddled along. I am consoling myself in my old age with playing the piano (noncompetitvely, of course) and keeping my cello playing going, too.
Originally Posted by RonaldSteinway
Originally Posted by jeffreyjones
The teacher I was assigned to told me I would never be anything more than a "fabulous amateur."


Do you agree with your teacher assessment? Do appreciate his/her honesty? or you think your teacher was just being cruel to you.


Lynn Harrell, the great solo cellist, was told by his teacher that he would at best become principal cellist of some orchestra.

I love it when the "madams" of the piano world promote themselves to God and make such absurd pronouncements.
Originally Posted by RonaldSteinway
Originally Posted by Minaku

I had a strict teacher who was not originally from the US. Brutally honest was the name of her game. I remember vividly one time all of us in the studio got together and had a group cry because she said some really mean things.



HAHAHAHAHAHA....A group of sensitive people, I guess.
The teacher must really enjoy the scene.


"Teachers" who lose their tempers or demean students are expressing frustration at 1) not knowing what to say to help the student or 2} not having the kind of career they themselves wanted, or you name it. There is never an appropriate time to be inhuman, even if a particular student needs some motivational counseling.
Originally Posted by piaffe
Hi there,

I've been lurking for a while. I am writing a piece of fiction that takes place at a conservatory, and features a prodigiously talented piano-playing student protagonist. I'm wondering if any of you would share some of your experiences, to give me a sense of the sights, sounds and textures of student life.

For example, I've read that the pianos available to students in practice rooms at major institutions are often in terrible condition, and can't be relied upon. I'm told that 6 to 8 hours of practice every day is "normal," and that some students take prescription medication to settle nerves (e.g. beta blockers) before recitals or auditions. Often lessons have to be paid for in addition to tuition.

Really, I'm just looking to understand some of the realities and day-to-day challenges (teacher politics, gossip, competitive students--are they "backstabbing"? Are there "study groups" as at law school? How do people react when there's a prodigy in their midst?).

Any vignette or factoid would be helpful.

To give you an idea about me: I don't play the piano, but am a huge fan of Beethoven, in particular. Martha Argerich's recording of concerto #1 is my all-time favourite, and I prefer Kempff's complete sonatas to Gilels'.

Thanks in advance.


At J. conservatory, the students of Mme. L. always won the concerto competition. It was expected; it was the norm. The student contestants expected it. Mme expected it. The entire school expected it. Yet, all of the teachers entered their students, pressing them into this futile exercise. X., a friend of mine who studied with Mr. F., prepared the concerto du jour, Mozart Coronation, to the exclusion of virtually all of his other repertoire. He was an obsessive/compulsive personality, as it seems many of the students were in those days (probably still are) and prepared as if his life depended on it. He told me he didn't want to disappoint Mr. F, but I know from other conversations that his unsupportive parents figured in the mix. His mother once visited his room near the school and pronounced it the product of a sick mind. Well, X. told me, maybe this time a different teacher would produce the winning performer. Wouldn't that be an upheaval. Maybe Mr. F. would get the respect he deserves.

The piano faculty assembled, along with Maestro J.M. and his conducting staff. The students congregated in the corridors, where they waited for their time to audition. Some, of course, would be in the practice rooms up to the last possible minute; X. was one of these. As a graduate student, I was somewhat above the fray. I'd lived enough to know that life didn't depend on only one performance, or on any one event, unless that event included being run over by a bus.

X. appeared on the scene just seconds before his appointed time. I was there to listen from outside, as he had asked, and gave him my best thumbs-up smile. He played like an angel. They let him play the entire concerto through, including the cadenzas, which I took to be a good sign. I waited by the stage entrance to congratulate him but when the door opened X. ran right past me muttering "I missed a note, I missed a note" over and over all the way to the men's room, where he vomited violently. X. played like an artist, suffered terribly and the winning contestant did not come from the studio of Mr. F. that year.
Originally Posted by NeilOS
Originally Posted by RonaldSteinway
Originally Posted by Minaku

I had a strict teacher who was not originally from the US. Brutally honest was the name of her game. I remember vividly one time all of us in the studio got together and had a group cry because she said some really mean things.



HAHAHAHAHAHA....A group of sensitive people, I guess.
The teacher must really enjoy the scene.


"Teachers" who lose their tempers or demean students are expressing frustration at 1) not knowing what to say to help the student or 2} not having the kind of career they themselves wanted, or you name it. There is never an appropriate time to be inhuman, even if a particular student needs some motivational counseling.


It is easier said than done.
Originally Posted by Kreisler


I was speaking more generally about the current job market. In 1999 when I was first looking for a job, I applied for about a dozen out of over 20 open positions.

Talking to a friend the other day looking for a job, I hear that number of jobs open is less than half what it was a decade ago. Plus, to save money, colleges aren't advertising jobs as widely as they used to. Several years ago, you could check the MVL and that was enough. Nowadays, many colleges hire below the assistant professor level; sometimes interviewing and hiring based on word of mouth or advertising for a shorter length of time through other avenues like higheredjobs.com

Bringing this back to topic, we can definitely say that one challenge conservatories are facing is that they can no longer pretend to prepare students primarily for university or orchestral performance jobs - there just aren't enough out there. I'm pretty sure you could fill every university music vacancy this year with graduates from the state of Ohio (CCM, CIM, Oberlin, and the state universities - all of which are very good schools full of qualified people.)
.
[/quote]

This is an important discussion, even if it goes somewhat astray of the OP's topic.

We can probably assume that in the current economic situation all sorts of job categories have diminished. Even in the medical profession there are difficulties. My cardiologist (yes, that's how old I am) is closing his practice here and seeking opportunities elsewhere.

Just as a point of interest, when I was hired at the University of Texas, the chairman told me they had 120 applicants and that one of them, a Juilliard graduate with a child, offered to work for room and board. That was in 1981. So, the competition has always been fairly stiff. I suppose what I hope to convey is this: It is not possible to predict the outcome of a particular area of study. I tell students they should only study music if they can't not study music. If there's something else they excel in and enjoy that will produce a reliable income, then by all means they should consider doing that. But if they prepare well, chances are they will find a niche somewhere, though perhaps not the one they had envisioned.

The hiring process these days can be, as you suggest, somewhat arbitrary. This, I think, is good reason to get out and be seen, heard and to network. Many times a college will take someone they know or of whom they've heard or who is prominent in the area with an established local reputation as a teacher/performer. (This is a good reason to do graduate work in the area where a student would like to make his/her home.} I've witnessed this often, even though colleges are required to advertise and be equal opportunity employers. In my experience on search committees, I know we hired by the book. And more recently, since retiring, I've taken on some adjunct college teaching, hired also done by the book. But I think, as a rule these days, word of mouth comes close to being the norm.


Originally Posted by Minaku
Originally Posted by Pogorelich.
Minaku, that last paragraph doesn't resonate with me.. I always chose my own repertoire and was playing Chopin before undergrad. I did Rach 2nd concerto in my first year too, and I think because of that my teacher never imposed repertoire on me.


Pogo, were your classmates doing the same as you? My experience may just be standard at music schools and not true conservatories.


Yeah pretty much the same, although .. Hmm.. A lot of teachers like to suggest repertoire, but I hate that. I like playing what I love, and I think I'm good at selecting repertoire. Now when I have to put a concert program together I don't have to run to my teacher for help, I just do it myself.
Originally Posted by Pogorelich.
Originally Posted by Minaku
Originally Posted by Pogorelich.
Minaku, that last paragraph doesn't resonate with me.. I always chose my own repertoire and was playing Chopin before undergrad. I did Rach 2nd concerto in my first year too, and I think because of that my teacher never imposed repertoire on me.


Pogo, were your classmates doing the same as you? My experience may just be standard at music schools and not true conservatories.


Yeah pretty much the same, although .. Hmm.. A lot of teachers like to suggest repertoire, but I hate that. I like playing what I love, and I think I'm good at selecting repertoire. Now when I have to put a concert program together I don't have to run to my teacher for help, I just do it myself.


As a teacher, I love it when the student takes initiative in selecting repertoire, even if I think the particular choice might be a reach. Sometimes a motivated student can achieve a great deal. On the other hand, a wrong choice can become overwhelming when what we want is a challenge.
Regarding the original topic about life at a conservatory:

First and foremost, pianists are obsessed with faculty. It goes beyond a topic of conversation, beyond gossip, and becomes an absolute fetishization. The concept of "who studies with who". What helps fuel this is that certain teachers do tend to have certain types of students. For instance, there always seems to be the one teacher who has all the very best pianists in the school. Then there is the teacher who tends to have the weakest pianists in the school. Then there is the teacher who has only asian girls. There is the teacher who has curiously little asian girls. Then there is the famous artist-in-resident teacher who only has one-or-two students who are curiously neither here nor there. Then there is the teacher with all the chill students....the list goes on and on...

As far as the competitive aspect goes, it is there, inevitably, and people do talk about each other behind their backs, but I can't say there was ever any hardcore, cut-throat vibes that were going around, at least they were not in the mainstream. The urban legend of people putting razor blades between piano keys to slice other pianists' fingers is and always has been just that - a legend.

Accompanying can be annoying. (A plight only pianists can ever understand). While is is perfectly fun and enriching to work on an instrumental sonata or play in a chamber group, what is NOT so fun is (by way of obligation from the school or your own being too nice), is to suddenly find yourself in a position where you need to play an entire violin sonata or concerto within a few days to a week, and everything else in your life (solo music, academics, sleep, peace of mind) gets put on hold.

Lastly, it is a culture that is structured around practice. The concept and act of practicing is what spurs all other things to come. Relationships (romantic or friendly), more likely than not begun with two people meeting in, outside, or around a practice room, on a practice break, or were initiated by a conversation regarding what somebody had just been practicing. All social and academic obligations take a backseat to how much practice was done during the day.

That's what I have for now..I'm sure more will come.

Originally Posted by Pogorelich.
Oh and Kreisler - not everyone lives on loans, I've always worked my ass off in order to live debt free. I still have debt, but it's tiny and it was all because of some left over tuition from undergrad.


At some schools, particularly in the US, tuition is so expensive that it doesn't matter how much you work your ass off, not taking out loans is just not an option. (we're talking about 30-50K a year)
Originally Posted by Piano Again

As a cellist, I practiced 4 to 6 hours a day most of the time, and also had orchestra, chamber music, and gigs (weddings, freelancing, teaching, etc.). One's learning experience on the instrument was directly related to the competence of one's teacher, but I remember learning a lot from just being around other students and hearing them practice and perform. I would say that's the best benefit of going to a conservatory, plus the networking. The lessons themselves are just lessons -- there's no magic.



Learning from everybody was a great part of my experience in music school, too. It was amazing, all the stuff one picked up. Even overhearing what others were doing in the practice rooms could be educational.

Quote


Even the people who were stars of the conservatory did not end up with stellar careers, necessarily. A few did, most didn't. The rest of us have just muddled along. I am consoling myself in my old age with playing the piano (noncompetitvely, of course) and keeping my cello playing going, too.


I vaguely remember an article about the huge percentage of Juilliard students who end up with careers outside of music (IIRC, this didn't include the piano students because they didn't have the data on them). It seemed kind of insane, that people would put themselves through all that, only to end up being something other than a music professional. I've heard similar stories from another conservatory, too - that the jobs after graduation simply do not exist for a large chunk of their students.



Originally Posted by Opus_Maximus
Originally Posted by Pogorelich.
Oh and Kreisler - not everyone lives on loans, I've always worked my ass off in order to live debt free. I still have debt, but it's tiny and it was all because of some left over tuition from undergrad.


At some schools, particularly in the US, tuition is so expensive that it doesn't matter how much you work your ass off, not taking out loans is just not an option. (we're talking about 30-50K a year)


I agree. That's where full scholarships and grants come in.
Originally Posted by Opus_Maximus
[...] There is the teacher who has curiously little asian girls. [...]


Curious, indeed, is the teacher who has little Asian girls!
My recollections of undergrad especially are warm. Where else could you do what you love for 12 hours a day, hang out with the nicest people, and retire to your apartment with yet another 5 musicians. Ahh...the life of a piano major. There was a stratification. Applied majors always had preference. We all got extra lessons when teachers were so inclined, though they might have been scheduled as late as 11:00 PM. We also got babysitting duties, housesitting duties, pool cleaning duties and were actually paid for same. We also entertained visiting concert pianists. Some were well-known, some less so. We had lots of visiting artists, mainly because one of our faculty had studied all over the world seeking out first rate teachers and had gotten to know many younger pianists doing the same thing. It was kind of a neat thing because some had teaching gigs as well and so they got to play programs here there and everywhere for an honorarium if you will.This greatly enhanced our ability to be exposed to lots of literature and loads of masterclasses. We also had some bigger stars give performances, among them Van Cliburn, Nelson Freire, John Browning, John Ogdon, Raphael Orozco, Susan Starr. Some of these gave masterclasses as well. I remember playing the Beethoven Op.57 for Nelson Freire. I don't know if he ever recovered.I was not at my best. Socially we all knew eachother and were active. We put on spaghetti feasts for 30 at a time in our apartment with wine and lasagna as well. Two of my roomates are still close friends. We just vacationed in the Dominican Republic with one of my roomates and his wife, and we just performed at another roomate's son's wedding.

Grad school was great, studying with one of the great teachers, an honor really and learning so much. It all came to an end rather suddenly, especially when I went seeking jobs at 4 year colleges only to find that there were only two openings and they both required someone with 25 years teaching experience and someone that had played with major symphonies. My impression was that I had been running 100mph in the wrong direction. If I had it all to do again, as long as I was spending ridiculous amounts of time in study, I might as well have become an M.D. Then at least there would have been a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. I have supplemented teaching with piano rebuilding, and there is still nothing I enjoy more than accompanying my fabulous soprano wife doing The Four Last Songs of Richard Strauss.

Oh, despite a well-reviewed appearance with a major symphony, my soprano wife diversified her career into Information Technology. That produced over the last 25 years a stable career with very decent benefits. I think in a previous post I had made the point that post-grad 10 years, 70% of Juilliard grads are no longer involved with music. It is a salient point that most of us would like to pretend is not a reality. There is a lot of time and sometimes a decent amount of money involved in this endeavor. I think we all need to be a bit more pragmatic about what we decide to major in.
Being pragmatic ?

I'm not a conservatory student yet (well actually where I study music is called a Conservatoire à Rayonnement Régional but that's not really the same as in America), but reading all those stories about how it works, how you work, with whom, etc... just makes me anrgy about me... for not having begun music earlier and being able to go to study in an Hochschüle or whatever right now, at 18.
No matter how I'll actually end (well, I plan on studying at least guitar and composition until at least master degree), I'm just happy to think of what will come next.

John Pels, you talked about "running 100mph in the wrong direction" but reading all those stories confirm the fact that studying intensely music, or arts, or science if it's what one love, is ten thousand times more satisfying than just studying to hopefully get a well-paid job.
The lives of many persons of my age, and I see it, is about studying something not really interesting (at least for them), hanging out with peoples like them, mainly for getting drunk/stoned/laid, and... that's all.
Being pragmatic might well be studying music if you love it and not waste your young years in studying commerce or law or medicine because you've been told to...

Anyway, thanks for this thread - it's great.



(btw, how is my english ? please tell me if there's something really shocking about how I write. Thanks)
In some ways it's still the same there, John!
I'm not a conservatory student so feel free anyone to correct the following. But I have been in a few conservatory frequently (lunch time concerts etc) and occasionally I play a piano there. I will discuss two here, an old and a new conservatory.

Usually there are a number of larger rooms with a grand in it, and a lot of small rooms (say, 3 by 4 meter at best) with usually an upright; but some of these also have a grand. The small rooms have no windows and some cheap fluorescent lighting. The larger rooms sometimes have a window with day light.

The largest rooms are frequently used for concerts, and usually have a pretty decent grand in it. Usually they a few small recital rooms, say 16 by 16 meters and about 20 to 30 chairs, and one large concert room with maybe 200 seats and a stage for a full (medium size) orchestra.

In the older conservatory, the rooms are not airconditioned, worn out carpet, a few very old chairs, maybe plain wood or cheap plastic. Even the big recital room is pretty dark and a bit worn out.
The newer conservatory have much better room outfit. I have not been in a small practice room of the newer conservatory. But the recital room looks just good, has good lighting and is high; and the big concert hall looks great, good lighting, finished with wood, slanted panels for acoustics, colored panels, pluche seats and all, and sounds great as well.

In the old conservatory, some rooms have two uprights in them. Often the uprights are crappy. Crappy means a few sticking or dead notes, several very weird sounding notes in the high treble region or deep bass, maybe one of the pedals not working, and sometimes even some ivories are missing from the keys.
Usually they are pretty badly in need for tuning. I think my piano at home would sound like that only if I would not tune it for more than a year.

In the older conservatory, usually you can hear the noises from the other rooms, particularly if you are in one of the small rooms. Trumpets and other brass are heard best but violins are surprisingly wall piercing as well smile I would have a hard time to do serious study there. The newer conservatory seem to have better sound isolation.

My impression is that the old conservatory once in a while buy a few new pianos, and move the older ones to the lesser rooms. They probably only buy new grands, I've never seen a new upright in the old conservatory. The newest upright there was probably 30 years old or so :|

Praeludium, congrats on a good grasp of the language. I think that you need to be open to the possibility that anyone can have a passion for more than one thing. One can also be quite competent at more than one thing. When I decided to major in music, I had been playing already for 13 years, so it seemed like the logical thing to do (getting back to that going 100 mph in the wrong direction). Personally, I don't think that it is really possible to make such a life decision at the tender age of 18. You REALLY need to become more exposed to more disciplines. I am having this exact problem with my son who is now 26. He already got a university degree, but wasn't convinced that he was ready to jump into a career in what he majored in. He then joined the Navy. He has another year yet to serve and then reality will once again demand that he make some kind of decision. His experience in the armed services has opened his mind to other possibilities that he intends to pursue after he leaves the service, most notably he intends to go back to college and get a master's and then get on with his life in something peripheral to his original degree. I think that it is very difficult to know yourself well enough at a young age to make such a decision and yet we do make them for better or sometimes for worse. Music is a fabulous "siren" if you will, but sometimes you need to avoid her call and think of other possibilities that might render a more comfortable lifestyle. I usually recommend to my students that they minor in music, and pick something else that they also have an interest in that will generally yield a more lucrative salary.

You also need to consider the financial state of the world these days. Europe's economies are destined to get worse, and the USA will not be far behind especially if we don't get the idiots in Washington to stop spending money that we don't have.

You can pursue virtually any career and still retain your passion for music and continue to increase your competence indefinitely.
Originally Posted by John Pels
Music is a fabulous "siren" if you will, but sometimes you need to avoid her call and think of other possibilities that might render a more comfortable lifestyle. I usually recommend to my students that they minor in music, and pick something else that they also have an interest in that will generally yield a more lucrative salary.



So clearly you think having money is more important than doing what you love. Look, I'm by no means rich. Sometimes, I barely make rent and I definitely don't shop for clothes or make up or bags often. But I'm HAPPY and I absolutely LOVE what I do - I don't care that I can't afford to live in a nice place. But I do care that I'm able to play music every day and look forward to performances and learning and being inspired and living a life that - for me - has a lot of meaning.

People should do what THEY want and what drives them and what they love; not listen to someone's random opinions.
absolutely +1, pogo, thumb
Originally Posted by Pogorelich.
Originally Posted by John Pels
Music is a fabulous "siren" if you will, but sometimes you need to avoid her call and think of other possibilities that might render a more comfortable lifestyle. I usually recommend to my students that they minor in music, and pick something else that they also have an interest in that will generally yield a more lucrative salary.



So clearly you think having money is more important than doing what you love. Look, I'm by no means rich. Sometimes, I barely make rent and I definitely don't shop for clothes or make up or bags often. But I'm HAPPY and I absolutely LOVE what I do - I don't care that I can't afford to live in a nice place. But I do care that I'm able to play music every day and look forward to performances and learning and being inspired and living a life that - for me - has a lot of meaning.

People should do what THEY want and what drives them and what they love; not listen to someone's random opinions.


I don't think John's advice is bad, even for you Pogo. Now, what I mean is, had a teacher of yours given you that advice, I am sure it would not have dissuaded you from what you are doing, and I think part of becoming a professional classical musician has to be the feeling that you simply have no choice.
That makes sense Keith. I asked my teacher in undergrad to give me his completely honest opinion if I was good enough to stay in music - i had a bit of a crisis back then - and he said yes. I believed him because he'd told several other of his students to look into other fields, so I figured he would have been honest.
I understand what you're saying - and why you're saying it -, John Pels.
But the rational behind it is a little bit one-sided ; it take in account the problem of the comfort, but doesn't solve many other things...






Originally Posted by Pogorelich.
Originally Posted by John Pels
Music is a fabulous "siren" if you will, but sometimes you need to avoid her call and think of other possibilities that might render a more comfortable lifestyle. I usually recommend to my students that they minor in music, and pick something else that they also have an interest in that will generally yield a more lucrative salary.



So clearly you think having money is more important than doing what you love. Look, I'm by no means rich. Sometimes, I barely make rent and I definitely don't shop for clothes or make up or bags often. But I'm HAPPY and I absolutely LOVE what I do - I don't care that I can't afford to live in a nice place. But I do care that I'm able to play music every day and look forward to performances and learning and being inspired and living a life that - for me - has a lot of meaning.

People should do what THEY want and what drives them and what they love; not listen to someone's random opinions.


Just the other day I was talking with my roommate (a singer in graduate studies, who wants to enter the performance field). She was having some financial troubles due to unplanned car repairs added to audition expenses, and said she was finding it hard to wait until the time when she didn't have to worry so much about him, like her brother who is an engineer. The first thing that entered my mind is that people are not advised to take a career in music performance unless they can't do without it, because it will likely always be hard to make a living off of it. At the least it will never be financially as easy as her brother's. Of course, I didn't tell her that.


John Pels - do you regret your decision to study music in school? From what you described it was a wonderful time in your life, and one that I would hate for you to have missed due to choosing a more practical field.
It is 1000X easier to make money from working as regular office workers than making money as a musician or an artist. If one can secure a position in an orchestra, it is good, because it is an equivalent to having a job at a normal company. The problem, however, it is way harder to secure a position in an orchestra because there are very few orchestras.

To me if one is not very good, one is better just play music for fun. If one needs to ask her professor whether she is good enough or not to stay in music, it is a clear indication that she is a mediocre musician. Even people who are very good musicians have hard time to make money from music. The mediocre ones will, for sure, suffer financially. Many people are in denial, they really love music and want to stay in music, even though they barely have the skill to do so.

I think people who make money from other sources and play music for the love of it are MUCH happier than the wanna be professional artists. The reason is that these people have enough money and accept the reality. On the other hand, wanna be musicians, they do not have money, and cannot accept the reality. It is such a miserable life, isn't it? Unfortunately, it is a human nature. People do know that they have miserable life, but, for any reason, they do not want to get out of it. Don't know why? Pride, laziness???
Originally Posted by RonaldSteinway
If one needs to ask her professor whether she is good enough or not to stay in music, it is a clear indication that she is a mediocre musician. Even people who are very good musicians have hard time to make money from music. The mediocre ones will, for sure, suffer financially. Many people are in denial, they really love music and want to stay in music, even though they barely have the skill to do so.



HAHAHAHAHA

Shut up. I'm mediocre? Really? Would you please post something of your playing - we'll see who's mediocre smile Everybody has doubts in their life. The story of why I asked is very long, and I for one have no reason to share it with anybody, especially you.

Next time, think before you try to offend someone.
P.S. for your information, Emanuel Ax also had many doubts whether he could make it into music - that is why he was also pursuing another degree in addition to music. Is he mediocre too? Wow. Just..... wow.
Originally Posted by RonaldSteinway
It is 1000X easier to make money from working as regular office workers than making money as a musician or an artist....

I think people who make money from other sources and play music for the love of it are MUCH happier than the wanna be professional artists. The reason is that these people have enough money and accept the reality. On the other hand, wanna be musicians, they do not have money, and cannot accept the reality. It is such a miserable life, isn't it? Unfortunately, it is a human nature. People do know that they have miserable life, but, for any reason, they do not want to get out of it. Don't know why? Pride???

Office worker? Are you joking? Sorry, but that's messed up. Working as a 'regular office worker' - whatever that means - is a *recipe* for a miserable life if you have an ounce of creativity or individuality or personality. Corporate culture - and the fact that a non-unionized environment means you have *no advocate* for your workplace rights - is soul-destroying, and leaves its victims with little-to-no time, energy, motivation or appetite for artistic pursuits at all.

I lived it for decades. I was locked into a 'miserable' situation because of dependence on the money and benefits, while any hope for a satisfying life evaporated. Oh, I guess it was 'pride' that kept me from getting out of it! ROFL!

If others' experiences were different to mine - well, you were lucky. smile
Originally Posted by pianomie

Office worker? Are you joking? Sorry, but that's messed up. Working as a 'regular office worker' - whatever that means - is a *recipe* for a miserable life if you have an ounce of creativity or individuality or personality. Corporate culture - and the fact that a non-unionized environment means you have *no advocate* for your workplace rights - is soul-destroying, and leaves its victims with little-to-no time, energy, motivation or appetite for artistic pursuits at all.

I lived it for decades. I was locked into a 'miserable' situation because of dependence on the money and benefits, while any hope for a satisfying life evaporated. Oh, I guess it was 'pride' that kept me from getting out of it! ROFL!

If others' experiences were different to mine - well, you were lucky. smile


Don't you know about those amateur piano competitions? Those office workers flourished tremendously. Those are realistic people, they divide their life between reality and artistic. They do their normal work, and then go home do their passion, in this case piano. It is very unlucky people who cannot live in two worlds. I feel very lucky that I can divide my life. There are many people who can have both their artistic and working life coincide, but there are many people who can only live in their artistic life.
Originally Posted by Pogorelich.
P.S. for your information, Emanuel Ax also had many doubts whether he could make it into music - that is why he was also pursuing another degree in addition to music. Is he mediocre too? Wow. Just..... wow.


I wouldn't waste any energy on this point, Pogo. It is so obvious. Actually, your Ax example is mild. Big time doubters that immediately occur to me include Rachmaninoff and Tschaikovsky. As a matter of fact, I think that intense self reflection and doubt are probably 2 of the most common qualities shared by professional classical pianists and serious artists in general.


Originally Posted by RonaldSteinway
If one needs to ask her professor whether she is good enough or not to stay in music, it is a clear indication that she is a mediocre musician.


I don't quite get the logic here.........

Even the best musicians are sometimes plagued by "self-doubt." It's part of being human.



And what's wrong with living an artistic life? Is that equivalent to some kind of plague, or..?
Originally Posted by RonaldSteinway
Originally Posted by pianomie

Office worker? Are you joking? Sorry, but that's messed up. Working as a 'regular office worker' - whatever that means - is a *recipe* for a miserable life if you have an ounce of creativity or individuality or personality. Corporate culture - and the fact that a non-unionized environment means you have *no advocate* for your workplace rights - is soul-destroying, and leaves its victims with little-to-no time, energy, motivation or appetite for artistic pursuits at all.

I lived it for decades. I was locked into a 'miserable' situation because of dependence on the money and benefits, while any hope for a satisfying life evaporated. Oh, I guess it was 'pride' that kept me from getting out of it! ROFL!

If others' experiences were different to mine - well, you were lucky. smile


Don't you know about those amateur piano competitions? Those office workers flourished tremendously. Those are realistic people, they divide their life between reality and artistic. They do their normal work, and then go home do their passion, in this case piano. It is very unlucky people who cannot live in two worlds. I feel very lucky that I can divide my life. There are many people who can have both their artistic and working life coincide, but there are many people who can only live in their artistic life.

Don't YOU know that I was speaking from my own experience? If you've got it all figured out with your 'divide', then good! Sounds like life is a twirl for you, but it wasn't for me - and it ain't likely to be for anybody who sets their sights so low that they think being an 'office worker' is acceptable.
Originally Posted by carey
Originally Posted by RonaldSteinway
If one needs to ask her professor whether she is good enough or not to stay in music, it is a clear indication that she is a mediocre musician.


I don't quite get the logic here.........

Even the best musicians are sometimes plagued by "self-doubt." It's part of being human.





And being fully human and working through your plagues at the piano is part of what makes great music.
Originally Posted by Keith D Kerman
Originally Posted by Pogorelich.
P.S. for your information, Emanuel Ax also had many doubts whether he could make it into music - that is why he was also pursuing another degree in addition to music. Is he mediocre too? Wow. Just..... wow.


I wouldn't waste any energy on this point, Pogo. It is so obvious. Actually, your Ax example is mild. Big time doubters that immediately occur to me include Rachmaninoff and Tschaikovsky.
and Horowitz.
Ronald, seems to me like the one displacing his unhappiness with his life...is you.

I love my career and though I've thought about doing other things, like in Brokeback Mountain, "I can't quit you." I'm just happy that I determined my course early on and got the schooling I needed. Conservatory was fun, overall. Je regrette rien.
Originally Posted by RonaldSteinway
If one needs to ask her professor whether she is good enough or not to stay in music, it is a clear indication that she is a mediocre musician.


It means nothing of the sort, Ronny. Students ask this question ALL THE TIME regardless of what level they are at. There is a great unknown in a very big world out there awaiting those who've not yet had the chance to dip their toe in the ocean and the smart ones ask questions such as "do I have what it takes?"..."am I making a wise career choice?"..."should I continue on with music, or go a different direction?", etc., etc.

Ah, after looking further through the post I see I'm not the only one who addressed this and I'm glad for that.
Originally Posted by Keith D Kerman

I wouldn't waste any energy on this point, Pogo. It is so obvious. Actually, your Ax example is mild. Big time doubters that immediately occur to me include Rachmaninoff and Tschaikovsky. As a matter of fact, I think that intense self reflection and doubt are probably 2 of the most common qualities shared by professional classical pianists and serious artists in general.


It is a BIG difference, Rachmaninoff and Tschaikovsky might be doubting, but they were doubting whether they would be top composers in the world or not. These wanna be professionals here are doubting whether they even have professional qualities or not. Doubting to be famous is different from doubting to be good enough or not like what Pogo asked her teacher. For example : Pat Sampras might have a doubt whether he could win Wimbeldon or not, but he knew that he possessed professional qualities as a tennis player. Through out his younger life, there were so many indications that he possessed world class skills by winning many tournaments, but people in these forum they are not at that level. They just dreamed to be at that level.

It is a life choice. Some people will stay in a life with unreachable goal. It can be fun, but it can be frustrating. As you can see some people here are so frustrated with their piano life, keep complaining that they are not good enough. I know somebody who went to NEC for two years (won concerto competition there), and realized that he would have problem to become a successful artist once he is done with his NEC. Therefore, he quit and pursued his PhD, luckily he has brain. Now, he makes good money, and still competes in amateur competitions and always placed in the top three all the time. He accepts the reality of life, and decided that he does not want to live in a LA LA land. I really think it is REALLY an ideal life for those who cannot make money as a professional pianist. He brings food to the table, and plays piano for fun, what a beautiful life........ grin
WHAT AN AWESOME THREAD!!!!!!
Hmm so Ronnie seems to think we should all adopt that feeble mindset, and have no artists in the world.

YOU are what's wrong with this world.
Since this thread has devolved to trading insults, it's time to end it.
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