Ideas on Learning

Skill inflation for violinists




I think I could have been a pro basketball player — had I been born about 100 years ago. But, in 2021, I’m only good enough to enjoy a pick-up game at the YMCA.


Violinists have been experiencing a similar skill inflation for generations. Like professional sports, the threshold to become a professional violinist has increased over time.


I remember playing with a violinist who had been the concertmaster in the Oakland Symphony decades ago. He was certain had I wanted to play in the symphony in the 1950s, I could have easily gotten a job! Alas, I was not yet born.


One reason is due to the fact that there is competition for a shrinking number of opportunities to play. And, as a result, the level of playing has increased. (And, by 'level of playing', I mean the athleticism and speed of playing.)


The ecosystem for professional violinists will sound familiar to most people. A few highly-skilled, highly-paid success stories. And an ever-rising skill threshold to make it into that orbit.


This may be discouraging news for parents who want their child to be a professional violinist. It really doesn’t impact the recreational player who enjoys music with friends and family.


The threshold to enjoy music socially has not really shifted over the generations. One still needs to play in tune and in rhythm. But that threshold gets you a lot of mileage with friends and family.