Had a great conversation with Cho-Liang Lin about what we look for in potential students – he teaches violin at Juilliard and Rice. He said he doesn’t accept any students with technical issues, because it’s so difficult to undo bad habits. I replied that I’d rather have a composition student with technical problems than one who was too polished.

I like students who are willing to try things outside of their comfort zones. Students who have perfectly honed contrapuntal, harmonic, orchestral and formal vocabularies often don’t like trying anything new – they’ve invested too much in what they already know. I’d rather have students who have been thrashing about in the dark for a while, stumbling on interesting ideas and finding their own ways to string them together. Those are the ones I can help, because they tend to be more curious about the big artistic issues.

Violinists start with technique, then focus on their artistry. I like young composers who start with an artistic vision, or even just a demonstrated hunger, then find the technique to realize their aspirations.

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