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Ask Alice, with Alice McVeigh

Difficult decisions for young musicians,
with classical music agony aunt ALICE McVEIGH

? ' To Alice:

I have a terrible problem with my father. He's a professional musician and hates it, and the last thing he wants is for me to become professional on the double bass. It's not that I'm set on it, it's just that I'm not very good at anything else (except football, and not good enough at that!)

What should I do with such discouragement? He says history but I don't really like it, but history and Eng are my best out of a bad bunch at GCSE.

(name withheld)

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Alice Dear withheld,

This sounds tricky. I suspect that your father genuinely wants the best for you, and certainly knows how hard it is in the music business. On the other hand, it's better than being a half-assed, unenthusiastic history student. (I had a friend once who felt like your dad, and when challenged about the wisdom of letting his son go to the Guildhall to be a singer he said simply, 'It was that or Woolworths!')

Obviously, you have more options, but I'm wondering if you couldn't convince your father to let you do a degree in music (not in music performance?) A lot of colleges -- Goldsmiths, Royal Holloway, etc -- have lots of performance options (and sometimes more chance for you to shine than at a conservatory). You'd finish with a degree, which might satisfy your father, and a clearer idea of what you wanted, with luck. (If by then you're completely determined, it is very usual to go to a conservatory for a post-grad year before heading out into the wild world ...

Another alternative, of course, is to stomach the English or History degree, in a place that has lots of music going on ... but you'll find you'll have to fight for recognition with the music students, at least at first.

The reason why I'm not saying: Go your own way; it's your life! is simple. You mention that you're not set on it: if you're not set on music, it's a good idea to hedge your bets.

Ask Alice

? ' Hey Alice,

I'm nw a 14 yr-old teenager.I played violin at the age of 12, do u think i'm too far back to become a violinist who can roam the world?

My teacher said i learn very fast and could be famous -- I'm already using kreutzer as my technique books. As my father is also a violin teacher, i could get wonderful music scores like the Bruch concerto in G minor. I taught myself the 3rd mvt (first 4 pages) and the 1st mvt (1st page) in a week.
Do u think i'm able to succeed as a violinist?

Ask Alice

Alice Hey anon,

Dunno. Depends what you mean by 'roaming the world!!' You obviously have talent, but if you mean tour as a famous solo violinist, you'd need a famous teacher to hear you in order to advise -- and it's a bit like winning the lottery, there are so many excellent young violinists out there. (In other words, you'd need luck, whatever your level of talent!)

You can 'roam the world' touring with an orchestra, and that's not quite so much of a lottery: if you're as determined as you sound, your starting late shouldn't prevent you (I started cello at twelve myself, and I've toured most continents with orchestras ...) But it's great to hear a fourteen-year-old with big dreams and a love for real music.

Good luck and stick with it!!!!

Copyright © 26 September 2008 Alice McVeigh, Kent UK

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