Ok,assuming child is very able musically-what is next?

(169 Posts)
Worriedandlost Sat 02-Nov-13 21:56:00

Dd1 is taking music lessons and considered to be good at it (piano/violin). Assuming that pattern continues, what is next? To carry on with private lessons as it is now or are there other ways? And what is about future, what are employment opportunities for the adult musicians? I have heard that music area is very competitive and low paid. The reason for the question is that dd1 is coming to the point where practicing takes too much of our time and this affects other activities, this is not to mention cost of the lessons, would be nice to know that there are at least remote possibilities to get something back out of it smile

mistlethrush Thu 14-Nov-13 07:35:25

No, I'm not doing taxation. Or accountancy.

Music seems to go with medicine quite a bit... and there was a recent thread I saw asking whether medicine was a suitable aim for a child with Aspergers and I think that it was concluded that some branches were.

FastLoris Thu 14-Nov-13 20:03:02

Many of you mention barristers-as if it were easier to become a barrister than a musician

I think it probably is, if you mean a musician who makes a decent full-time living from playing or composing music. (And that's not even considering, obviously, how much lower a "decent" living we're talking about even being possible for a musician, as opposed to a barrister).

I don't think there are many barristers who had to practise the skills they need for hours every day since they were five, before even being ready to START a law degree.

Worriedandlost Fri 15-Nov-13 19:00:49

FastLoris, I understand the most difficult part of becoming a barrister is not practicing smile or getting a degree, but getting there! I have heard that it is extremely competitive area and you virtually do not stand a chance if you do not have a mentor. Whilst with music, the ultimate talent will probably get you there (or am I naive?....)

Saying that, Oxon law degree will be extremely useful, and you certainly have to practice to get it smile))) Not in music though smile

mistlethrush Fri 15-Nov-13 19:50:37

I think that you can have the talent and not the contacts and therefore get sidelined or bypassed if you're a musician...

ElizabethJonesMartin Fri 15-Nov-13 20:44:36

I mentioned law because lots of lawyers in London are very good musicians and you tend to find those at the very selectively academic schools tend to work very hard at their lessons and their music (and sport) and get pretty good at them as they are the kind of person who gets on with stuff so the two can combine nicely. I mentioned it because the original thread suggested music was some kind of well paid job and worth investing in which is comical to lawyers but obviously very true if the child with instead of music be on the minimum wage.

As for which is harder to become - musician or barrister - it depends on the kind of each of those that you're after. If you want a few private music pupils that is not at all hard to get. If you want to be a leading UK soloist that is very hard.

My mentioning the two careers was also to suggest they go well together - that clever professionals also often enjoy a lot of music and have some pretty high music grades and it's a lovely hobby and because studies show children who learn a lot of music then do better in their academic exams.

I think most parents put a lot of time into helping their children do well at academic work and with music practice and for me it always varies - often it's lovely (to accompany them at the piano - they are always better at the accompanied pieces as we do those more because I like it) and sometimes it's a nuisance to have to make the effort to make sure that they practise.

FastLoris Fri 15-Nov-13 21:11:18

I understand the most difficult part of becoming a barrister is not practicing smile or getting a degree, but getting there! I have heard that it is extremely competitive area and you virtually do not stand a chance if you do not have a mentor. Whilst with music, the ultimate talent will probably get you there (or am I naive?....)

Probably not so much naive as simply misguided. There is no evidence of any such thing as "ultimate talent" in music. That's just a label people attach to people like Maxim Vengerov to explain their success after the fact, because they don't find the seven hours of practice a day or the early first class teaching a romantic enough explanation.

And even if there were some respect in which those few outliers were "destined" by their talent for a success that no worldly considerations could stop, it wouldn't be relevant to the issue anyway because those people are only a miniscule fraction of the profession. What's relevant is the experience of most musicians and aspiring musicians, compared with lawyers.

I suspect being an international touring superstar is probably a pretty rewarding life, if an extremely tough one. I'd personally rather be one than a lawyer. But what's unusual about the music industry is not the condition of those at the very top (that's going to be pretty good in any industry), it's the steepness of the curve from there down to those earning nothing or almost nothing.

I'm sure it's bloody hard to get into Oxford, get a good law degree and make it as a top solicitor. The difference is that you can get into a lesser university, get an average law degree and still make a living as an average solicitor. There are thousands of such people sitting in offices all over the UK doing house conveyancing and whatnot, and quite comfortably paying their mortgages.

In music, a TINY proportion of those who practise their arses off all through their childhood manage to get a position in a professional orchestra (which is not, in itself, a particularly good living). Of the rest, some freelance for a few years until they give up and do something else; some drift into teaching or whatever. But there is no lower, broad level of the actual practical music profession like there is in other professions. If you're not in the tiny proportion at the very top, you do something else or starve.

Laradaclara Fri 15-Nov-13 22:33:06

Have a very good plan B would be my advice.
I have a very close friend who has as much natural talent as anyone and I really mean that. He didn't bother too much at music college as he was too busy entering (and winning) some of the high level music competitions and travelling the world working in a couple of top international level orchestras though he had no interest in working long term as an orchestral musician. The last time he performed as a soloist the conductor had recently conducted Nigel Kennedy playing the same piece the week before but said he had much preferred my friends version. It was however just about the last time he performed as he finally realised he just doesn't enjoy it. It had been drummed into him for so many years that 'his talent must be heard' that he hadn't had the head space to realise it just wasn't what he wanted. He says it is a huge relief to be free of it all.
However, his education had been so narrowly focused on music that he has no qualifications for anything else but thinks he would have been happiest had he trained as an architect grin He now teaches and finds that more rewarding than the orchestral or solo work.
Btw - he started playing at 8 and only really started practising more than a couple of hours a day when he went to specialist music school aged 11. He also feels that starting earlier is totally unnecessary and did his real serious hours of practise as a late teenager. He says there were plenty of highly talented people at his music school who started at 10,11 or 12 so your DD isn't losing out if she isn't practising hours and hours a day. He also says that he had to relearn everything at music school as his technique was so bad from poor local teaching. They obviously picked him up for sheer musicality. He also says he has known people with equal talent to a number of famous soloists but that very good connections within the music world and serious family financial backing as well as a good deal of plain and simple luck are extremely helpful if you are to reach the absolute peak. With natural talent and good teaching you could get into an orchestra but one of the reasons he hated the orchestras was there was such a lot of pressure to fit in and such a lot of competition for places that if your face didn't fit perfectly you'd find yourself out of a job without any notice and he saw that happen to a number of good players. There is very little job security in these careers. His friends who are still pursuing solo careers seem to live an absolutely exhausting life, never in the same city from one day to the next and performing in another country 3 weeks after a CSection in one case! For all these reasons he wouldn't want his children to do music as a career.

Laradaclara Fri 15-Nov-13 22:46:57

Just reading your last post again and no, ultimate talent does not get you there. My friend commented that there are hundreds of people with enough talent, drive and ambition to make an good international solo career but only a few will manage it and only a few of those will be remembered in the future. Similarly there are hundreds more good enough for the orchestras but offend the wrong person or don't quite get on with the section leader and you'll no longer get a look in as they'll have plenty of others to choose from.
He earns as much money teaching as working for an orchestra also though I believe the solo work is well paid if you can get enough of it.

Worriedandlost Fri 15-Nov-13 22:48:18

Probably not so much naive as simply misguided. There is no evidence of any such thing as "ultimate talent" in music. That's just a label people attach to people like Maxim Vengerov to explain their success after the fact, because they don't find the seven hours of practice a day or the early first class teaching a romantic enough explanation.
grin grin grin

Worriedandlost Fri 15-Nov-13 22:49:25

Laradaclara - this is a very interesting, thank you!

Worriedandlost Fri 15-Nov-13 22:51:48

Just out of interest - how about students, say, Menuhin school? Do they have any advantage in profession (obviously they have good grounding, but I mean does it equal Oxford-Cambridge in music world?)

morethanpotatoprints Fri 15-Nov-13 23:00:24

If you practice and enjoy playing and want to do it you will, irrespective of schools attended.
Ime it helps to go to a good music school if you want to go into the profession of teaching, quite often at the school you attended yourself.
The best musicians I know went to an ordinary college if they took further education at all.
Musicians play for very little money most of the time.

Motet Fri 15-Nov-13 23:22:05

Some really interesting responses here.

OP - the rewards for being a 'good but not quite the best' musician (or visual artist, novelist, ballet dancer, tennis player, etc) are not worth the personal investment unless that person really could not envisage doing anything else. The rewards for being a 'good but not quite the best' barrister, strategy consultant, copywriter, senior civil servant etc are extremely high.

Alfred Brendel said that talent was not enough on Desert Island Discs this week, stressing perseverance, resilience, hard work and good luck.

We have a tendency to think that there must be something deserving about those who have succeeded and accordingly that those who are gifted will succeed. But it is easily possible for the truly gifted to fail - there is no court of appeal and very little redress in the arts sector if outcomes are unfair. This is the case even though most people active in the arts might be altruistic and well-meaning. In other fields, the penalties for being 'not quite the best' (whether in reality or simply perceived as such) are just not as severe.

Success in the arts often depends on tiny random differences & occurrences. It's easily imaginable that if John Tavener's brother hadn't been doing building work on Ringo Starr's house, then John Tavener might never have won the support for his career that he did through being picked up by Apple Records.

Laradaclara Fri 15-Nov-13 23:23:21

Yes, I believe so, particularly if you don't have the experience to know where to get good teaching from if you are not from that world yourself. My friend would not send his children there even if they did look like they were going to be the next mozart and were determined on a music career. He could now work out what they might need musically and which teachers to approach himself without sacrificing the all important plan B! I have heard several graduates from those schools comment that the career advice was still limited.

MrsHoolie Sat 16-Nov-13 08:18:14

The advantage to going to a music school in my case was that practice was included within your daily timetable and that you were surrounded by like minded musicians.
When it comes to the profession no one would even notice where you had been to school when it comes to CV's and auditions.
They certainly don't suit everyone and there were loads of unhappy kids. For me it was great and I had some very good teachers.

ElizabethJonesMartin Sat 16-Nov-13 08:40:36

I agree with fastloris and Lara. Many musicians do wish they had done something better paid (like the law and accountancy mentioned on this thread) obviously ionly if they would have been able to pass the exams to do those things I suppose but they often are quite bright so could have done and when they get to the life stage of buying houses, having children it can hit home the impact their career choice has had on them.

We know children who have gone to music schools. If music is your passion then you may want to do it although it is by no means essential and if you change your mind your teens as loads of teenagers do it is difficult because you are at a place where music the key focus whereas at other good schools (as I said 3 of my children won music scholarships to academic private schools) you can still win your choral scholarship or whatever to an Oxbridge college but you can also in your teens decide not to do as much music, plan to read medicine at university or whatever. I would never put any of mine off careers in music but they can see with their own eyes how much pleasure you can still obtain from music if you have it as a hobby beside your professional career which pays better and also they see those who are struggling to earn a crust teaching music and what fewer life choices that then can bring.

FastLoris Sat 16-Nov-13 13:15:00

On music specialist schools a la Menuhin -

This is something I've thought about as my little one, though younger than that right now, might be suitable for it down the line.

If the kid has shown the desire and drive to do music that intensively, it's hard not to be attracted to the obvious advantages. I'm not sure about Menuhin but at the Purcell School they get two and a half or three hours of one-to-one lessons a week; their academic timetable is all arranged around their music; and if they board they're surrounded by other kindred spirits 24/7.

I've read about people going to specialist music schools and deciding by 18 that they hate it and don't want to do it as a career. I have to admit I don't think that's such a bad thing. It's probably better to get the bug out of your system, learn what the reality is like and make an informed choice that it's not for you when you're 18 and can easily go and do something else, than when you're older like Lara's friend.

It's also worth noting that the academic (ie non-music) results from these schools tend to be pretty good. Not absolutely top notch, but well above average. Every year they send people off to do science and law and various other degrees, as well as music. If DC is academically bright and well organised, I don't think there's anything stopping them getting good enough results in other subjects to go into another career after such training.

I tend to look at it as doing what they have to do to follow their passion to the max while they can, rather than necessarily signing up to a career. Doing that while the window to other careers is still open, seems to make more sense than doing it at music college and then while trying to work in your twenties, and finding out in your thirties that it's not working.

ElizabethJonesMartin Sat 16-Nov-13 13:56:01

Plenty do well from those schools. I think you should go if music is your absolute passion. Plenty of just fairly musical children probably keep their options a little bit more open if they go to slightly better schools if they can get in - Westminster, Haberdashers etc. As the thread was about investment in a child's music, careers and money we can probably say the average St Paul's boy earns more than the average music school child and probably can do a huge amount of music too and win a choral scholarship to an Oxbridge college.

However if you really have to do loads of music and want to be with other children who do then the specialist music schools will be good for some. (They have not had a great press recently because on the whole you board and there have been cases of child sex abuse which is much less common in the academic day schools).

Motet Sun 17-Nov-13 09:23:58

Music schools can be pressured and not always an ideal environment for perfectionist and competitive young people. If you live in London or a city with a strong music culture, top-class tuition can be arranged privately & on a bespoke basis, so that your child could stay at home and also attend a very good day school. As mentioned above, cathedral schools and public schools with a strong music tradition also have a very strong offer. The young girl who won the BBC Young Musician of the Year competition last year commuted fortnightly to Hamburg for music tuition.

As for whether attending music schools is equivalent to Oxford-Cambridge, well, studying at Oxbridge does not guarantee anything either! It depends on the whole package - a graduate with a first in Economics from UCL, followed by two years at McKinsey topped off with a Harvard MBA, for example, looks pretty stellar. In the field I work in, a stint at Oxbridge doesn't have exceptional cachet - the field is very international for a start and having the right knowledge, connections & experience is more important. Oxbridge doesn't have a monopoly - there are parallels with music.

I did study at Oxbridge for a time and met a few students who had studied at Chet's/Purcell etc before having had enough. Some of those work in music-related fields now & continue to play seriously. But my sense is that those who activated Plan B early enough to do well at something else are happier and more fulfilled.

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