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'I Used to Play the Violin, but...

Music teacher Phyllis Curtin, in the article "Sitting In on a Master Class," Sept. 3, says she regrets the increasing loss of opportunity for even gifted singers to perform. "Today," she says, "the recital audience is basically gone.... Parents every now and again ask me, 'Don't you think it's irresponsible to be teaching these people these things they'll never make a living from?Allowing for the differences, the same can be asked about students of the violin, flute, cello, and other so-called solo instruments. Even after years of lessons and endless hours of individual practice or collective rehearsal, only a small fraction of players can expect to play in solo recitals or community orchestras, let alone make a living playing. The most common remark I hear from people is this: "I used to play the violin (flute, clarinet, piano), but gave it up years ago." To rescue thousands from the fate of dropping their music after high school, teachers should be encouraged to teach chamber music, duets, trios, and quartets rather than solo concerts by concentrating exclusively on individual technique. Chamber music is a lifelong joy. Solo concert performance is an ignis fatuus, a will-o'-the-wisp. Allan Shields, Mariposa, Calif.

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