The practice room door opens, signaling the end of a little boy’s violin lesson.
My lesson is after his, so as we pass each other, I ask, “Did you have a good lesson?” He nods politely, but he doesn’t know what to make of me. After all, the rest of the beginning violin students are very young, like he is. I’m old enough to be his mother. Maybe even his grandmother. I’m firmly settled into middle-age, and I’ve been taking violin lessons for four months.
You may ask why a person in their 40’s would want to learn to play an instrument that takes years and years to master. Simply put, it was the right time. I had been harboring a secret desire to play the violin for a few years. I’d played the flute and piano as a kid, but hadn’t given the violin much thought until I heard a haunting, melancholy piece called “Irene Adler’s Theme” while watching the TV show “Sherlock.” I broke into goosebumps when I heard those first heartbreaking notes, and suddenly realized I wanted to play them, too. When I confessed this to my family, my daughters bought me an inexpensive beginner’s violin for Mother’s Day that year.
Still, I held back from taking lessons. Wasn’t I too old to learn how to play? Wouldn’t I look silly?
Looking back, I realize how silly it was to deny myself a chance to learn something new just because I wasn’t in grade school anymore. It took me awhile to gather the courage to take lessons with Prince Music. I stopped in to admire the violins one day and ended up chatting with the owner, who listened patiently as I admitted I wanted to learn the violin. I worried that no music instructor would want a middle-aged student who had never played before. To my surprise, I was welcomed with open arms at Prince Music. I am probably the oldest student here. But that’s okay. The young students may be bright, with developing brains and youth on their side. But I have one advantage:
I love my violin.
When I was a kid and had to practice piano or flute, I grumbled and groaned and would avoid practicing until a half hour before my lesson or rehearsal. (You can imagine how well that went over with my teachers.) I played the flute because it was a school requirement. I played the piano because my parents wisely wanted me to take lessons. I only play the violin for me. I even look forward to the times in my day where I can practice. (My family doesn’t appreciate it quite as much as I do. I can’t imagine why.)
There’s many advantages to being a middle-age learner. When I hit a rough patch in my practice, I have a few problem-solving skills in my arsenal of life experience that a child hasn’t developed yet. When I don’t understand something, I’m not too “cool” to ask for help. And here’s a big “plus”: learning an instrument mid-life is a really good way to keep your brain young. (More on that in a future blog post.) True, I won’t ever master my violin. And that’s okay. My goal isn’t to play in Carnegie Hall. My goal is to maybe play for a church service somewhere down the line.
My goal is to play “Irene Adler’s Theme.”
My goal is to keep my brain young. My goal is to learn. And those are all great reasons. So if you’ve ever thought of playing a violin… or a cello or a piano or a piccolo, or whatever instrument you love… do it now. Now is a great time to learn.