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Topic: Choosing Between My Passion for Piano and Academic Success: Need Advice for Univ  (Read 270 times)

Offline erdishahini

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Hey, people!

I find myself in a tough position and would greatly appreciate your opinions and advice. Let me provide some context:

I live in North Macedonia and began playing the piano at the age of 12. In my country, after completing middle school, there are various types of high schools to choose from. Initially, I had my heart set on attending a music high school, and I was accepted there. However, I also received acceptance from a different school with a focus on math and computer science. It was a difficult decision, but influenced by my family, I chose not to pursue the music school path. That particular summer was especially challenging as it took place in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic. I attempted to enroll in a music school as an irregular student, but unfortunately, it didn't work out. During my first year, classes were held online, and I performed well academically. However, I found myself missing the piano so much that it left me feeling sad most of the time. In my second semester, I made the decision to resume piano practice under the guidance of a great teacher. I completed my second year, during which we transitioned back to in-person schooling, and my grades were excellent. I even participated in an online piano competition where I got first place. In my third year, I once again competed, playing Mozart's Piano Concerto in D minor (1st movement) and Chopin's Prelude in E minor. I achieved a score of 99.6 points and felt an immense sense of pride. Moreover, I was chosen as one of the contestants for the best Chopin piece. As the school year concluded, I auditioned for a festival in Italy. Although the judges that knew my teacher said I performed really well, I wasn't selected due to not attending a music school. However, I recently received a call from a professional theater director, inviting me to perform in one of their shows, for which I will be compensated. The show is scheduled to take place in a week's time.

Now that I'm entering my final year of high school, I find myself uncertain about where and what to study at university. I hold a deep passion for piano, yet I also excel academically. My teachers have suggested that I consider studying abroad, as the education system in my country is lacking. I've been contemplating attending a European university that offers a program allowing me to pursue both music and computer science.

However, I worry that I may struggle to find a university with such a program or that my piano skills might not meet the level expected for admission, considering I began relatively late at the age of 12. Over the past two years, my repertoire has encompassed pieces like Beethoven's Sonatas op. 2 no.1 and op.10 no.2, 6 Piano Variations on "Nel cor piý non mi sento", Bach's Prelude and Fugue in C minor (currently working on the D minor from Book 2), Chopin's Nocturnes op.9 no.1, no.2, and the C sharp minor Nocturne, Prelude no.4 and no.22, Revolutionary Etude, Liszt's Valse Impromptu, Mozart's Piano Concerto in D minor (1st movement), 5th Sonata, 8th Sonata (1st movement), Fantasia in D minor, and Rachmaninoff's Prelude in C sharp minor, Satie Gymnopedies.

I'd genuinely appreciate any suggestions or insights you can offer. Thank you in advance!

Online ranjit

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I can only empathize. That is truly a tough spot to be in!

First of all, I will speak to my experience in the US. I know that the European college system typically forces you to specialize early, and it might be difficult to transition into a different field if you lack the credentials (or it may not). Keep that in mind.

How strong are you at academics? If you are very strong at them (and this is a big if, and if you're like in the top 1%), and if you're not passionate at all about academics, I would often suggest going the music route, the reason being that you can teach yourself academics from textbooks, but can't really do the same with music. I studied computer science from textbooks during my undergrad and was accepted into grad school. I was no less capable than anyone else there, maybe even more so because what's there in the textbooks is more difficult than most undergraduate classes.

On the other hand, I tried to learn piano on my own and failed (kind of). After 4-5 years, I was still at a beginner/intermediate level by professional standards. It's only with a teacher that I started making real, rapid progress. There's so much implicit knowledge and understanding, and practical skills such as being able to observe and listen to different things, that it makes it nearly impossible to learn without excellent guidance. And this is coming from someone who thinks even graduate level academics can be self-studied by a significant proportion of the population: I have never seen a self-taught pianist learn many of the things I have learned with good teachers, and have excellent technique. They can get some percentage of it right, they can hack together difficult pieces (which I did as well), but I have never seen someone get to a high performance level without excellent instruction (or at least passable instruction). Even passing an undergraduate piano audition without instruction would be an incredible feat which I basically haven't seen anyone do.

Now, if you can manage academics along with a private teacher and manage to get a musical peer group, that's probably a viable option. But most people cannot. It is a good idea to take enough courses in a more stable vocation to keep it viable as a fallback option. In the US, people can have a minor area and a major area of study, but I'm not sure how the system works in Europe. This can be a good option for academically strong undergraduate music students.

Given that you studied math and computer science, you're in a similar situation as I would have been in if I started earlier :) I know a lot about both worlds (imho most musicians don't, and won't give you good advice). How strong are you at math and computer science? What was your experience with high school: was it difficult, did you have to put in a lot of time, or was it easy? Math and computer science tend to have a distribution with some people getting by with virtually zero effort, and others passing through the skin of their teeth. If it really does come easy to you, it's viable to self-teach or spend very little time knowing that you can catch up in a year  or so if you really had to. Otherwise, it's better to do a degree in the field. This really depends on your ability and temperament. It's what I would advise young-me, but I didn't know my musical potential or the extent of my abilities in the sciences back then (being in high school!). But keep in mind that I was very good at the sciences, going to the math Olympiad and such. I think a good metric is whether or not you found high school calculus easy, or at least not too difficult. If you feel like you could study that on your own given enough time and effort, you could probably study computer science and related fields.

Again, all of the above depends on how it works in your country, and how much they value credentials. If no one will hire a software engineer without an undergraduate degree specifically in that field, you might have to do that. It is easier to get into different fields if you show aptitude in the US. However, if you can afford it (and universities allow it), it might be possible to do a Masters in computer science (or an Associate's or whatever) after doing a Bachelors in music.

Offline ego0720

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You take risks in life but it has to be calculated risks. The dual pursuit of a practical job for survival + pursuit of the dream is the safest way to go. I was in similar situation and I opted for the safe route to have a ďrealĒ job that Iím ok with. There isnít a right or wrong answer. Whichever path you choose as long as you have weighed the issues and ok with outcomes.. you walk the walk and dont look back.

I noticed you were worried about a lot of things. Donít put your energy being worried about external factors. This is part of the calculated risks. Whatís important is that you try (donít not apply for fear of failure).. and donít forget to show love to your family and anyone who supported you all these years. Live and enjoy the present moment. Donít think about the past or the future too much.

Offline lelle

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These are some thoughts I posted in response to a similar questions a few months back:

A music career, based on what my friends and colleagues are doing, usually tends to involve some type of mix of the following:
- Practicing and performing solo repertoire in recitals or events, public and/or private. Either repertoire you choose, or that's requested by the client
- Practicing and performing ensemble repertoire with friends and colleagues, dito
- Learning parts quickly and accurately to do session recordings
- Learning or reading music to accompany ballet/dance classes, or rehearsals for singers or solo instruments
- Teaching students of all levels and ambitions, but mostly beginner/intermediate
- Organizing concerts/festivals/performances for yourself/colleagues
- Networking, being an entrepreneur, finding gigs

Does most of this sound like stuff you absolutely adore and couldn't live without? Do you absolutely love and adore practicing, even when it's stuff you don't really want to learn but have to learn to put food on the table? Could you see yourself teaching beginner/intermediate students and loving it? Could you see yourself spend most of your days doing this stuff and still be happy doing it?

Do you play because of other people's validation (for example, applause after a concert), or because you absolutely love and can't live without the process of sitting for hours alone in your practice room, working on pieces?

Think long and hard about these things, perhaps explore doing some of them and see how you feel, and be very honest with yourself.

It's perfectly possible to do a degree in a field that you like that is easier to have a career in, and take piano lessons and progress with your playing on the side, even doing performances and stuff.

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