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Dedicating One's Life to Music

Question: Dear Mr. Frantz,

How can one get accepted into a university and study piano after starting very “late”?

I just fell in love with music and it’s absolutely incredible. I feel this I have discovered what I want to do in life and it’s remarkable. The only thing is, I started “late” as some may say at almost 17 years old. I have a remarkable Russian piano teacher who has studied music and taught at Russian conservatories and she is highly qualified. After 6 months of playing, I have learned a few contemporary pieces as well as a lot of classical and my latest accomplishment is the Raindrop Prelude by Chopin. I just began working on the Hungarian Rhapsody #2 as well as Barcarolle and other pieces. Yeah, it may sound crazy, but I don’t care, for I absolutely adore the music and work around the clock to achieve my dream. I feel the limitations we place on ourselves decide our success.

My problem is now, I really want to study music, as far as dedicate my life to it. It’s something pure and far more incredible than anything else, for it expresses emotion. Human systems and products are flawed and not remotely close as something that touches and communicates with our soul. But at this age, how would I get into any piano college or anything of this sort? I’m thinking I should stay locally, for my teacher is here…. So my question is, how to get accepted to a music university and study piano at this “late” age? 😀

Thank you for your help and I really find your website and music playing beautiful! You’re an incredible pianist. :)

Have a great week and happy piano playing. :)

Kind Regards,
Igor B.

Albert’s reply: Congratulations on finding your passion and for having the work ethic to go after your dreams! I understand your feelings and drive towards musical achievement.

A few thoughts: First, it sounds like you have an excellent teacher. I would trust her and follow her advice. At this stage you need a teacher who can train you, giving you a technical and theoretical foundation and teaching you how to practice, how to concentrate and how to listen. Conservatory students are expected to have most of this foundation already, and not all professors are prepared (or have the time) to train students in the fundamentals.

Second, I caution you not to put the cart before the horse. The beginning phase of study is not the time to decide on a musical career! Learn as much music as you can, enjoy it, and your suitability for a career in music will reveal itself over time. You should be seriously good at playing music before even thinking about a career! For now, just focus on learning as much as possible and becoming as good as you can be.

I would have a serious talk with your teacher regarding repertoire: Can you really expect to go straight from the “Raindrop” Prelude to the Barcarolle? The Barcarolle is not only extremely difficult technically, it is also among Chopin’s most difficult interpretive challenges. It requires an already extremely subtle touch and refined sense of timing, mastery of counterpoint and voice leading, and the most delicate articulation in addition to general finger dexterity. Let this be a goal to achieve in five or ten years of patient, hard work – not something to attempt prematurely. An artwork as sophisticated as the Barcarolle should be the summit of your years of work at the piano. It is intended for professional, polished concert artists. Savor the slow process of musical development and you will develop faster in the end.

Wishing you much musical success!

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