May 27, 2012 at 12:30 PMI just performed at another recital specifically for adult students. It's an annual event sponsored by the Rhode Island Philharmonic Music School, where I study viola, and was organized presumably to give adult amateur students--those unloved orphans of the music world--an opportunity to practice their performing skills and also derive some emotional reinforcement from being part of a learning community of peers.
I call adult amateurs unloved orphans because unlike child amateurs, we are not generally very cute, and unlike adult professionals, we are not generally very good. Thus, we often end up apologizing abashedly just before we play publicly. After all, who wants to listen to someone who is neither cute nor good?
My own goal however is to play and perform as professionally as possible, even if the fulfilling of that goal takes the rest of my life to achieve. I have discovered that the very passion for music that first inspired me to have my children to study violin, is actually strong enough to inspire my own musical studies. Becoming a student myself freed me from trying to live through my children, freed me from envying their youth and their music-making. I like to think that it also vastly improved my relationship with them.
But it does take courage and humility to be an adult amateur. I'm constantly amazed by how many adults secretly long to be musicians. Inevitably after I perform, at least one adult will sidle up to me and confide wistfully their wish to do what I do, dare to be a beginner, dare to be less than perfectly proficient, dare to want something that may take 20+ years to accomplish.
What I find as an adult amateur is that having a good relationship with a teacher who loves working with me because of my status as an adult beginner is a critical component of my motivation. Earlier in my adult student life I tried working on my music untutored, but know now that having regular lessons is one of the best ways to make steady progress and stay motivated. The private music lesson is also one of the most therapeutic activities I know, for within that hour I regain the innocence and the excitement of youth, expressing untarnished hope when attempting something new, expressing childlike glee with each new discovery or accomplishment.
Perhaps switching from violin to viola has also helped to strengthen my sense of avocation. In an article of a recent ACMP newsletter a violist wrote (and I paraphrase) that someone somewhere always needs a violist. I've found this to be true, having been invited to join two ensembles on the strength of the fact that they needed a violist. For an adult amateur it is a refreshing and wonderful thing to be wanted. And playing in ensembles is another wonderful aspect of my musical life. Learning to tune in public, learning to be sensitive to group dynamics, and having a social network of other players... these things contribute immeasurably to my musical growth.
I will end this first post by saying simply that I believe the world would be a better place if more people not only listened to and appreciated music, but actually made their own. Society as we know it in 21st century U.S.A. seems to militate against such a thing. Earning power, competition, consumerism... these are the themes of our times. I however am overjoyed to be outside the mainstream, climbing my own private Matterhorn of musical aspiration. I am 55 now and want lots more time for one dominant reason... to be able to play and play and play.
Good for you...you keep playing, and don't apologize for not being cute or as good as someone else, play the music that's inside your spirit...it will touch and move someone, somewhere who has the good fortune to hear you play.
This is the link to our little group of adult learners on facebook, I hope you can join us.
More power to you!
You are so right! Why is it that no one is interested in adults involved in any kind of learning process? Why should learning something new and be proud of it be exclusivly for kids?
What you did takes much courage and is very noble Rosita! Best of luck!!!
I am somewhere between the kid learner and the adult learner since I'm a late teen learner (now an adult and busy student who misses time to do my number one passion...)
As you, I want to dedicate the rest of my life to this passion. I just hope my job will allow me this and that it won't be as crazy as my crazy studies!
Tom, I hope you are right : ) Also, I think adult beginners can bring less known repertoire and beautiful music to the audiences(how many beautiful music isn't played by pros because it's too "easy"...) Amateurs bring a friendly and light approach to classical music!
I feel like a void has been filled. This is something I always dreamed about doing and kept intending to do. I ran out of excuses and just jumped in. I never intend to quit.
While I wish I had started years ago, I am making it my new goal to play the Bach Chaconne by age 45.
I have confidence in my ability to do absolutely anything I set my heart on.
Kudos to all adult violin beginners. Follow your dream!
I too was once one of those folks who wished they'd tried (or had the opp when a child).
Now, I still wish I had tried much *sooner* -- and yes, would still wish I had the opp as a child -- but we can't just hold on tightly to what cannot change now and be paralyzed by that.
Well, actually, I do still wish I have more time (and resources) to put into learning, practicing and actually making music, even if it's only good enough for my own (and my Maker's ;-)) enjoyment and edification, but we all must make do w/ what we can actually do...
And yeah, so true about being an amateur violist too although I've only played in my kids' youth orchestra now-and-then so far. They were happy as long as I didn't stick out like a sore thumb while giving them something of use -- I think the conductor (even though she's a rather stern one) and coaches probably also liked having my presence (and efforts, despite my lowly skill level) to be an encouragement for the kids on multiple levels as well.
And yes, I agree that my own kids certainly liked it a whole lot more when I'm also learning, practicing and making music alongside (or rather, fumbling behind) them. ;-) There's a sort of camaraderie there that would not exist w/out my own active participation -- and that's also one of the great things about the Suzuki approach (if one does more than just the nominal thing), which is what we've been doing as well.
I recently participated in my first recital after a 20 year layoff of violin and 8 years back. It was both exhilarating and scary and I would have liked to have done better.
We play for the love of the instrument and that is good.
Previously I played the Bach D-Minor Allemande in a recital. What I experienced afterward was a kind of "release" from the pressure of preparing it for recital. That's when the real improvement started to happen! From that point forward, practicing was organized around the simple ambition of playing it better than I did the day or week or month before, rather than stressing out about what anyone else might think. I play this piece a couple of times per week, it's kind of a "touchstone" (credit Hilary Hahn).
One interesting thing about the way I was taught violin as a child is that the curriculum, if you could call it that, was pretty traditional, but I was never required to memorize my pieces, even those played at solo-and-ensemble festival, and in general I was not pushed to improve on a steep learning curve. Maybe my teacher (or my parents) thought that would be too stressful and lead me to give it up, and they could have been right. The result, however, is that now memorization is very slow and painful, and it is dreadfully stressful to attempt a recital performance from memory. The fear of a serious memory lapse is more than I can bear. So, when I play Bach later this week, even though it is memorized, I will have the music in front of me.
I am a returner who studied from ages 5-17 and then for the past two years (mid forties). I am amazed that some adult beginners and returners can improve rapidly. I read the post of the person who is in Suzuki Book 4 and wants to play the Chacconne in five years time. I hope you meet your goal. As for me, I think I have improved but despite faithful practice the improvement has been incremental. It's true that my teacher had to fix a number of serious problems before I could really make progress again, so maybe there is still some hope. I do find that I am able to conquer fast passage-work more quickly now than I could a year ago.
The great thing about being an amateur is that one can enjoy the violin on one's own terms. If ever I am able to play any of the well-known concertos, fine. If not, as I have said before, "just because you can play Tzigane does not mean I would trade my life for yours."
Taking joy and pride in such small steps is harder for adults. We're impatient, we're embarrassed at our beginner status, we're discouraged if we can't meet our own expectations, and we wonder if it's too late, a waste of time.
Thanks, everyone, for putting up w/ us older folks who haven't given up yet. After all, what's easier, getting cuter, younger, or better at playing? Okay, on some days, it's a tough choice, but I'd rather be a better player.
I love your writing, your honesty, and your attitude. Whether one is an adult beginner, a life-long adult amateur, or a former professional--you are right: we should make our own music as well as listening to the music of others.
I have a lot of experience on other instruments, but I only started studying violin 2 1/2 years ago at the age of 59. My previous teacher got me into things like the Bach double and the Vivaldi A minor concerto, but I was playing sloppily. My current teacher took me back to Suzuki books 3 and 4 and the Wohlfahrt etudes, pushing me to play them cleanly before moving on.
When I see people my age and older becoming bored with their lives, I think that they need something like the violin to keep them going. I can't see myself becoming bored as long as I'm trying to improve my violin playing. And it's so much fun playing with others. Thanks to the influence of a violin-playing friend, my wife has taken up cello. Now all we need is a violist - too bad you don't live close to Vancouver, B.C.
• We don’t have the pressure of a professional that have to perform such and such pieces under time pressure, and we don’t have to be on top condition all the time;
• We don’t have to try to be both a musician and businessperson and juggle the gigs to make ends meet;
• we don’t have to deal with headaches of neurotic parents and difficult teenage students;
• we don’t to fight unethical student-stealing issues from other teachers;
• we are less likely to get occupational injuries; and most of all
• I firmly believe that we can achieve the level almost as good as that of the professionals in terms of music-making and appreciation, if we really want to and put our effort into.
I’m not nearly close to a professional level after more than 10 year playing and with a long hiatus in between, but a professional violinist did tell me after one of my performances that she had heard professional played worse than I did. I don’t really believe what she said but hey, that just made my day! I’m sure you’ll feel that after a few years of hard work with proper guidance from a good teacher.
Maybe you can try playing in a park somewhere, just for fun...you might meet some other frustrated intermediate musicians who'd like to join you...and you can start your own group !
Thank you to all of you who contributed.
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