What are some challenges you have faced during your study of classical music? (Mental, financial, physical, circumstantial, etc.)


Sometimes not knowing what I’m trying to show in the music or what the music is trying to show me and sometimes wondering why I’m in this line of (expensive) profession
No money, not enough food because no money, tired because not enough food.
The main challenges I have faced in my study of classical music have been not having the financial stability to sustain the upkeep of my instrument while living comfortably, as well as the mental stress brought on by long hours of practicing and/or composing to meet a deadline, resulting in a very anti-social lifestyle.
*The feeling that my music education was not making me a well-rounded person, but instead was turning me into a robot who did nothing but practice and rehearse with no thought for politics, literature, activism, etc. It’s sometimes hard to find musicians who care about the world in a more broad and engaged way.
*Hand/wrist injuries from playing too much.
Financial challenges are especially prevalent with singers. My parents are both very supportive but even application fees for the more-or-less required summer programs (pay-to-sings) pushed our budget hugely. I was rejected from programs based on the amount of aid i would need and will be graduating my program now with quite a hefty student debt. Mentally anxiety and self confidence can be hugely impacting in a career where rejection is more common than not.
Mental. Doing effective, involved, focused practice consistently is highly dependent on every other circumstance in life promoting a healthy mental state. Often times, I’m distracted, tired, or generally unfocused and have to remind myself that practice done on auto pilot only causes regression.
Mostly in music itself, how to reach the next level, how to break through to new ways of thinking and not just keep resting on old ways.
Rigors of practice, performance preparation and anxiety, some back problems. During undergrad I was about to transfer to Manhattan School of Music, but decided not to go because they offered me no aid.
Financial anxiety snowballing over into other facets -performance and physical (tendonitis)- notably.
Self-confidence, balancing work and practice, the massive amount of repertoire we are all always trying to prepare and keep fresh. Financial…tuition, extra lesson fees, instrument cost, festival cost.
I’ve faced physical challenges: my natural approach to playing my instrument has a lot of tension, so the development of my technique has had a large focus on ridding myself of this tension throughout my body – in my back, my shoulders, my arms, my face, my neck. I really feel like few people have taught me how to do this, and no one person has. I’ve had to piece together many things and reanalyze my playing constantly. This has been a frustrating struggle. When your teachers fail to see these things it can be very damaging. Luckily I was able to stop myself from doing certain things after realizing they were causing me pain and inhibiting my playing and practicing. The positive side of going through these struggles is that they are easier for me to identify in students since I had to go through them myself. I know for a fact that some of my teachers at the conservatory can no longer play like they used to be able to, not just because they are getting older, but because they are really having problems. They won’t come out and tell you these things, but after a while you gather it. There was also a prominent American pedagogue of my instrument who really ruined his hands through his way of playing. Yet he is still widely quoted and respected. So I feel like I’m in a really good place with this now, but it has been a battle and I still work on all of it every day. Other challenges are mental and emotional, some of which stem from pursuing classical music, but some are things people would go through regardless of what they begin pursuing (existential problems). A challenge for me was that I was very fortunate to attend a very good secondary school, where virtually every student goes to college afterwards. The expectations in this community are pretty high, and often times people see my study of music as something less worthwhile. Regardless of how you feel about something, when someone sends you bad energy you receive it, so it’s at times a struggle to tell people about what I’m doing when some of my former classmates are landing great jobs and opportunities, or are studying to become doctors and lawyers, etc. I’ve come to terms with these struggles in very good ways, and to explain everything may be outside the scope of this survey, but the process of arriving at my outlook now has been difficult. A lot of it is actually pressure you put upon yourself, and expectations you put upon yourself. I often feel worried that my perceived worth to society is less because I’m a musician. That’s bullshit of course, but it’s not easy to arrive at a confident and secure understanding of why such a thought is bullshit. Another challenge is that practicing doesn’t produce a finished product in the same way that other work sessions do. If I build a desk, the quality of the desk could be very good or very bad, but eventually I have a desk. With practicing you’re working on a skill, but you don’t come out at the end with a finished “product,” unless you’ve made a recording or something like that. It’s like if you were a desk-builder and the only way you could make a profit from this skill would be to build the desk in front of people, and teach people how to build the desk, because after you finish building it it vanishes into thin air.
One challenge is the feeling that everyone is so good that my chances of getting a position in a university are small. Another challenge is truly doing the work; I don’t enjoy practicing, I enjoy improving and, of course, making music. It can be frustrating when you don’t improve fast enough, or your practice doesn’t give you the results you want.
Too much physical energy to sit still or discomfort from sitting still.
I am scared to break out of my shell when it comes to emoting a song. I care too much about what others think and how they will judge me.
I’ve had a broad array of serious physical issues that have severely limited my practice time and repertoire choices. I’ve had problems with my back, neck, hands, shoulders, wrists, elbows; you name it.
Performance anxiety, financial problems. Its also difficult finding time to practice on top of classes and homework.
TENDONITIS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! school costs
Self-doubt, competition among peers, job availability.
Pressure of competition from fellow students; comparing myself to other musicians; lack of motivation to practice; stress
Practice everyday is still a pain!
Physical- funding for a better instrument, education, custom fitted ear plugs
Mental- Worrying about career viability and how happiness relates to income
Physical- Worrying about hearing damage and how it could destroy my ability to appreciate music
Mental: things not progressing as I hoped they would. Trying to overcome unproductive practice habits. Not accomplishing as much as I knew I could over my first degrees. Time management!
Financial: work interfering with study.
Physical: chronic pain from not maintaining correct posture during all the time a pianist spends sitting!
I would say I’ve had it relatively easy on the hardships spectrum of things when it comes to music, but I’ve still had a few. I wouldn’t necessarily call this a challenge, but I’ve had it ingrained in me that music isn’t the most stable choice for a major or a career, so this has always been something in the back of my mind. It’s definitely made me question why I was even studying music in the first place. In regards to physical challenges, I haven’t had any major injuries, but technique has always (and is still currently) been a big part of what I think would make me a much better musician. Yes, technique isn’t everything, but it would be significantly easier to focus on the overall musicality of my pieces if I wasn’t so busy worrying about sections I know I can’t physically accomplish 50% of the time. My largest problem is probably the mental game of it all, which really hinders my performances. I can’t even begin to describe the type of anxiety I feel when I have to get on stage and perform, even though I know I’m capable of doing it and have practiced it thousands of times. I always think to myself that people must think I’m a horrible pianist by the way they hear me play on stage, but in a practice room by myself the quality, precision, and accuracy improves tenfold. I can’t really pinpoint what exactly it is that causes me to react and feel this way, but it’s something I still deal with to this day.
The biggest challenge for me has been mental/emotional. Confidence and conviction are key to being a successful performer, and I’ve found that self-doubt, or frustration at my skill level when compared to others, has often held me back from making music, or caused me to lose motivation or to question why I even chose to study classical music. However, continuing to pursue music has also taught me a lot about myself as a person, and about life in general: if you love something, keep at it. Don’t keep worrying about how you compare to others, but pursue excellence for its own sake. Heart–passion, honesty, love–matters more than technical perfection. And if you make a mistake, do it with conviction! Then forget about it and don’t let it distract you from your higher goals.
Bonus response (submitted via email):
Practicing classical music has taught me the most about life and the way I should approach anything else I do – with fervor, discipline, and purpose. “In all toil there is profit, but mere talk only tends to poverty.” Everything in life is about discipline, hard work, and luck truly is when “opportunity meets preparation”. Classical music requires years of rigorous training from a young age and throughout our childhood, we don’t really realize what we’re preparing for. After several performances, you start to reap what you sowed during those endless hours of solitude. That seemingly endless amount of time of loneliness has taught me to churn my bitterness towards practicing into love for performing. Performing is a humbling experience that once abused, can manifest itself into one of arrogance. Through classical music I’ve discovered and shaped my personality, spirit, and character. As life is all about developing yourself as a person, I’ve found this art form to be one worthy of pursuit.

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