Music and Vision homepage


Ask Alice, with Alice McVeigh

On fainting pianists and escaping from a career as a violinist,
with Classical Music Agony Aunt ALICE McVEIGH

Dear Alice,

I've been asked to go into my kid's school with my French horn -- but warned that their only pianist faints while sightreading. I don't mind playing the horn, but what could I do without a pianist? (Needless to say, there's no money available for me to hire mine.)

G Fredericks

Dear G (Geoff? George? Or something really shameful like Gregorius???)

You have, oddly enough, come to the right place for an answer. What you need is to get to and whip out that VISA card ... (Actually, I bought mine on ebay, at quite a decent discount). This company publishes very acceptable arrangements with CD accompaniment for all kinds of instruments and piano (including horn, as I know because my daughter's got one). The one she wanted, being stage-struck, is Broadway and Hollywood classics -- but they do more classical too, of the sort that would be extremely acceptable for school assemblies. Of course, the catch is that you'll have to keep with the piano, instead of verse-vica, but that's a small price to pay for not having some pianist crash (literally, in your case) all over the fingerboard ...


Ask Alice

Dear Alice,

I don't want to give my name because my mum sometimes reads your column but I really don't want to be a violinist when I grow up. I don't even like it much except sometimes when it's someone really really good on TV or a CD or sometimes jazz violin. How can I tell her when it's all she wants me to do?

Dear Anonymous,

This is a really tough one, because I have to tell you (even without hearing you play) that you have zero (and I do mean zero) chance of being a professional violinist when you grow up unless you want it so bad that you can TASTE it, that you can't even IMAGINE doing any other job, and that, compared to playing your violin, every other part of being alive appears grey and dull.

Your mother, of course, is NOT a professional herself, or she would know this (unless she has conveniently forgotten it!!!!!) And the competition now is even harder than it would have been in her day (if she had one). So your problem is very likely to solve itself, as she learns (through teachers, if you have an honest one) and through competitions (assuming you're not the only violinist in the Outer Hebrides and win them all) that you don't have enough gut-rock determination to make it. (Notice I don't mention exams. First because you can fool some examiners quite a lot of the time, and secondly because they don't really give you any indication of just how many Grade Six distinctions there are out there.)

However, it sounds to me as if it's not just the fact that you have no desire to go there that's the problem, but the fact that, in doing so, you'll be crushing your mother's dream. I regret to let you know that this is going to happen anyway, and better sooner than later. Better to come clean (in a mature way, not throwing your violin and floor and yelling, 'I can't take Sevcik anymore!!!!') with your mother now. Sit her down and tell her you've got something important to tell her. (She'll probably be so relieved you're not pregnant that she might not mind as much as you think she will.) Then tell her that -- much as you love the violin, and sure as you are it will always be a part of your life (in other words, LETTING HER DOWN GENTLY) you have other plans for a career. (So you'd better have some!!!!!)

It sounds as if she will be disappointed, and try to talk you into music, but the world is full of people who tried to live their parents' fantasies for them, and became miserable.

It's your life -- and your mother knows it. Best of luck.


Copyright © 12 May 2006 Alice McVeigh, Kent UK

Ask Alice




 << M&V home              Alice's previous columns >>