is 21+ too late to become a conservatory student?

Posted In: Amateur Harpists

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    HBrock25 on #158075

    Hello everyone!

    I recently quit college and now I think becoming a
    conservatory student is the only thing that will make me truly happy. I haven’t told my teacher about this yet, and I’d like to hear your
    thoughts on this matter first, before I go and embarrass myself.

    1. Do you think it is still possible to become a conservatory student at the age of 21+?
    2. What are things you might say, if you were my instructor?
    3. Do you know anyone who started late and managed to major in his or her instrument at a conservatory?

    Though I don’t play well enough yet, I want my teacher to help me achieve the necessary level of competence. What I want most right now is her approval, encouragement, and guidance. So I can start working towards this goal of mine.

    But at the same time I’m not sure if I have the potential in the first place.

    Needless to say, I will need to tell my teacher about my aspiration, I want her to be my mentor.

    Passing the entrance audition definitely isn’t something I can achieve on my own.

    I have been studying with this music instructor for a little over a year
    now. And I’ve made a lot of progress since. She’s the best teacher I
    have ever had.

    However, we’ve never discussed this topic before. And frankly, I don’t
    have to courage to bring it up. I don’t want her to think that I’m audacious, and overestimating myself.

    Moreover, I don’t even know how to bring this topic up.

    You see, my teacher is the kind of person who never sugarcoats anything.
    I am afraid that she will think that I’m in over my head.

    I will be severely disappointed if she thinks my dream is unachievable and doesn’t want to help me.

    As you may or may not know : what is said cannot be unsaid. Once I make this announcement, there’s no going back.
    Will I still enjoy her lessons week after week, if she thinks my wish is but a silly, unattainable dream? I realize that it might sound a bit cliche, but I believe that things won’t be the same after this. Regardless of her answer.

    Obviously, if she thinks it is a feasible plan, we’ll be focusing on preparing for the entrance auditions. But what if she doesn’t? Will we just pretend it never happened?

    On the one hand, there’s this nagging voice in my head, constantly
    telling me I’m not good enough, won’t become good enough, and it’s too

    But on the other hand, I want to spend all my time working towards this goal, and achieve it.

    kreig-kitts on #158076

    If people generally start conservatory at 17-18, then 21 isn’t too old
    from an age standpoint, if you’re otherwise ready for it. There seem to
    be a lot of harpists, including professionals, who come to it a little
    later in life compared to say violinists who usually start as young
    children, though frequently they had other musical training before
    taking up the harp. The bigger question is not just raw talent to succeed or current proficiency to gain admission (and there are always programs where the main requiment is the ability to write a tuition check or sign a student loan promissory note), but willingness to really go through the kind of heavy, full-time obsession with the instrument that classical conservatories require.

    In many ways a classical conservatory training is like training for the
    Olympics. You must spend hours and hours each day repeating tasks that
    most people can do adequately until you reach and exceed perfection at those
    tasks. Lots of people can run in a way that gets them from A to B in a
    reasonable time, and lots even run miles at a time for fun. However,
    training for hours a day so that you’re one of a handful of the fastest
    runners of the planet’s 5 billion inhabitants requires grueling effort
    for hours a day, every single day, to perfect one’s ability to do this
    completely simple act. Did you hear Michael Phelps talk about how much
    he practices when he’s training?

    Oh, here’s a real example: there was this sweet old lady who’d bake cookies who was in charge of scheduling practice rooms for everybody taking a performance class, either for a major or as an elective. As an elective piano and voice student, I got two hours a day total for piano and voice. Music majors got six hours a day scheduled for their main instrument, and most of them practiced much more than that. Their instrument/voice was treated as a 9 credit hour course, where a normal full time college student schedule was 15-17 hours, so over half of their course work was practicing, lessons, and master classes. And then there will be required ensemble, at least an hour a day. It is mandatory that somebody who sits within five feet of you have hygiene issues.

    Plucking a harp string in a reasonably pleasant manner isn’t a
    physically difficult thing. My neighbor did it fairly well the first
    time he touched my harp and he might have even played a harmonic. My
    four-year-old niece sat on my lap and successfully plucked a string. But
    conservatory training isn’t just learning to play the instrument

    Sid Humphreys on #158077

    This is what I’ve learned later in life: if you really want to achieve something, go for it. If there is a passion, you will succeed. Of course there is a voice saying you can’t, we all have it (tell is to keep quiet and let you do your work).

    This is why so many people today are taking on a second career after the age of 30! Good luck to you!


    diane-michaels on #158078

    My husband was a self-taught electric bass player, and at this age, made the switch to major in bass at North Texas, which has a jazz program equal to conservatory training. He had never played an upright bass prior to this switch. After getting his BM, he stayed on for an MM in classical (having never played with a bow prior to the switch, either). He is a professional musician today. Good luck!

    diane-michaels on #158079

    “I want to spend all my time working towards this goal, and achieve it.” This says it all, by the way.

    Saul Davis Zlatkovski on #158080

    I went to college first as

    merlin young on #158081

    First of all, thanks for responding! I made a similar topic on another music-related forum as well, but I was completely ignored and didn’t receive any comments whatsoever. So I am very grateful for the words of wisdom from the members here.

    I have decided to bring this up the next time I see my teacher. I wonder what she’ll say. Where there’s a will, there’s a way, I hope.

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