We’re wading into musician issue territory today by way of an article in the 11/8/21 edition of The Strad by violinist Daniel Kurganov about making it as a professional violinist who started at the age of 16 when many begin a decade or more earlier.
I am very lucky to have parents who, while not being professional musicians themselves, trusted my passion through its twists and turns. But for many years, I wished I had started violin sooner, imagining how much ‘bigger’ my career might have been.
Now, though, I am grateful to have come to the instrument at an age when I could think for myself. I remember how I learned things, what worked and what didn’t, and all of my experimentation.
For those on the outside looking in, this is one of those odd unspoken assumptions in classical music that dictates you can’t make it as a musician if you didn’t begin private studies in the single digit age group.
Saying you didn’t begin until 16 is the sort of thing that can be meet with gasps followed by comments that you must have some extraordinary talent. In other words, it’s looked at as an impediment to overcome.
Personally, I’ve never quite figured out why this is the case other than it being a byproduct of a highly competitive career track. Throw in a healthy dose of prodigy syndrome and you end up with what feels like weaponized FOMO that’s probably doing a lot more harm than good.
If you don’t start “x” by “age “y” you’ll never make it.
I’m glad to see Kurganov’s article and would be more than a little curious to see how many existing orchestra musicians started learning their instrument after age 12. If anyone has access to a study with this information, please take a moment to post the resource in a comment or a direct message.