I think I could have been a pro basketball player — had I been born about 100 years ago. But, in 2019, 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. One explanation for this change is market forces.
As villages, towns and cities have grown larger over time, the way we experience entertainment has changed. Because of architecture and technology, we can gather more and more people into a performance space.
As the audience size grew, competition to perform for these people also grew. And, as a result, the level of playing has increased.
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.