Written by Aki Utoslahti
Published: September 21, 2013 at 12:38 PM [UTC]
"How can you start playing violin?" "Isn't it already too late" "You should have started as child" etc, etc, etc..
I learn violin because it is what I want! Do not tell me I cannot learn something! I am already progressing really fast because I am putting time to my practice and I am highly motivated. Making violin playing as my career is highly improbable. But did someone say I would want to be a professional violinist? I play for myself. For my own pleasure. And my goal is to be as good as I can.
Finding a violin teacher at adult age seems to be very hard. At least in Finland. There isn't really a good supply of teachers at private sector. Every teacher wants steady income and teaches for some kind of conservatory. And as a adult in Finland you cannot really make it into a conservatory. "You should have called 10 years ago"...
Also, some teachers seem to have a certain mindset towards adult beginners. They seem to think that teaching them is waste of time as they will never make it into and orchestra.
However I think now I have found a teacher who has both the time and skills to help me into what I want to be. My teacher seemed to understand my goals and motivation and is willing to help me towards my goals. I hope to make the best of her ability to teach me!
Continuing my journey on ripping obstacles and crushing prejudice!
As one who teaches adults ranging from 45 to 85, I have found it to be a much more relaxing teaching atmosphere. Why? Because their expectations are realistic: "I just want to learn how to play and have fun." Not one of them expects to play in an orchestra. Not to say that children's' expectations are unrealistic, just different. Most children I teach don't have an expectation of playing in an orchestra. Most of them are learning because their parents want them to learn.
In Thunder Bay ON Canada the amount of "fiddler" outnumbers the amount of "violinists". It's more of a grass roots type of movement.
It is sad that there are those teachers who will not take on adult violin students. I have a lady of 85 who is relearning the mandolin after not playing since she was 12 yrs. of age. She is learning both melody playing and rhythm, and five ladies who have been with me 3 plus years ranging from 56 to 80 yrs. of age: Their reasoning? "It keeps my mind busy and I enjoy music.
That's how it began. I was 3 years in the institute, taking the 3 basic music exams, and on the third year i got to play in a symphony orchestra for the first time, i remember we played Mendelssohn's the hebrides, and Beethoven's fifth symphony, and boy was that a challenge! :)
After getting my basic music exam i went on to secondary education, and decided to study 4 years instead of 3 because i had just started the violin.
Now i'm on my fourth year and preparing for my final exam... And for auditioning to higher education :)
On my repertoar i have Mozart's 5th violin concerto, Tchaikovsky's melodi from souvenir dun lieu cher, Bartok's Romanian folk dances and Englund's Arioso Interrotto.. And they said i would never be able to play classical violin. :)
Don't listen to them! Follow your heart and your dreams and work hard to achieve your goals! Nothing is impossible :)
I am also dismayed at the lack of extra-curricular opportunities for adults. Kids who play at my level have a vast array of activities to choose from: orchestras at the local/school, community, and regional levels; chamber ensembles; vast numbers of summer camps and festivals and workshops. Even though I may play at the level of a 12 or 13-year old kid, I am barred from these activities not because of ability (or lack thereof) but because of my age.
At the risk of sounding childish (grin), I think this is terribly unfair. I wish I knew why this was the case, but most of all I wish it were *not* the case.
To me, the only difference that the age of a student makes is that they learn differently, and the teaching has to be differentiated so that the student makes the most efficient progress. People talk about this a lot in terms of really young children at different cognitive stages, but it's equally applicable upwards.
My teacher is not only happy to go back to basics where needed, correct (decades old) bad technique, but also to push me further than I expect, engage me to have more fun that anticipated, and garner a wide variety of performance experiences (we've just returned from playing at a vineyard farmer's market in the country!).
I think learning a musical instrument as an adult takes a leap of faith from both student and teacher, to move away from the old ideal of "start 'em early" and "can't teach a dog new tricks", and towards collaborative, creative and warm engagement.
I too as an amateur who started in my late teens was told all kind of things and I inscribed myself to a conservatory since I wanted to be more serious about my music. My teacher said, you look musically bright and interested so we'll try but physically it's unlikely that you'll pick up things as fast though... It's true that I have a lot of physical shortcommings such as small/cold hands and bad coordination but even so, with a lot of work, in 2-3 years, I surprised everyone to reach the level of the other good kids there (not the prodigies since they have none of them at my conservatory) but still very good kids that I though I would never catch up with. My "older begining" brough me the maturity to practice better and auto-correct my mistakes better than most kids.
What counts is that, in the end, a late starter can, in a few years of somehow serious work, become just as good as kids who have started young.
I like to say to all teachers who think kids will end up better that only a very small % of kids will have ennough talent to be a prodigy or even very good. People tend to forget that the average violin playing kid does often not sound too good for a long time and often forever if they lack a good ear and "auto-critical" thinking when they practice.
So, there is hope... I find it odd that teacher's attitude in Finland. I think I was very lucky to not have teachers turn me away in my beginings. We did not have auditions either, just a first lesson where my teacher gave me her first honnest impressions on what we could do...
Best of luck with your current teacher!!!
The other thing I find odd is that 'everyone' agrees it's very important that a child be exposed to music at an early age and given the opportunity to learn an instrument (regardless of how far they take it). But once those kids become adults (if they're not prodigies with a music career in the works already)...should they wish to take up the instrument again...it's not very important. It's even considered amusing that they would wish to play (because they're not very 'good').
What is wrong with being an amateur musician? Nothing as far as I can tell.
N.A. you nailed something very very interesting and so ironic, I'll agree with you...
Children need stimulation, old folks too to fight dementia and those in between, we can sit on our laurels???
This is like the sticker "Baby aboard" on cars... And if it's my husband/wife aboard, it's more acceptable that you bump in my car??? :)
We are having a great time. I think he is learning from me as much as I am learning from him. He treats me with the same rigor with which he teaches younger students. And I am grateful for that.
I think a lot of the issues with adult beginners is in the minds of both teachers and students. Practice, learn, and love the music. Those are ageless pursuits.
I started violin at age 59, although I've played other instruments for quite a while before that. Now, four years later, I'm playing viola in a local orchestra, and playing fiddle at the bluegrass jams where I used to play mandolin (and still do occasionally). I realize that I'll never find myself playing the Mendelssohn with the Berlin Philharmonic - but I'm going to have a lot of fun for the rest of my life playing with my friends. That's good enough.
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