Grown up students want gold stars too

November 22, 2004 at 05:24 AM · Adult students get discouraged! I took up the violin 2 years ago at age 49, I always wanted to play. I think there's some expectation that it is only appropriate for children to take up an instrument, and that at age 51 I ought to be able to play like a 40 year veteran. Can anyone tell me how I can overcome the lack of encouragement?

Replies (24)

November 22, 2004 at 06:24 AM · Hi Dixie,

Will a bunch of black stars do in a pinch? *****

I think the archives hold more than one discussion and bits of encouragement for us adult students? I also refound, after losing it, a site devoted to adult student - albeit with a piano slant.

November 22, 2004 at 06:35 AM · Greetings,

if you can find others in the same position then why not try to make a little study group ?



November 22, 2004 at 05:40 AM · Dixie, smile, because you are not alone on this board. There are lots of discussions about adult beginners. Read and you will see that age do nothing with your progress. As any student (doesn't matter, what's your age! ) you need a good, well experienced and honest teacher (I repeat: teacher, but not a 'businessman'). If a teacher points at your age,it means that this teacher doesn't know how to teach you. So find another, who is more experienced. Actually, it is normal if a teacher asks how old are you and why you came to study violin. For example, one of my former students said that she decided to play on the violin only because she has an old instrument. She didn't try to follow my comments, didn't practice and was surprised why she is so slow learner.(Can say, that she made some progress, but gave up because didn't have habit to work hard). Since that time, before starting teaching I always ask new students why they want to play. About asking for age... You know that to place fingers on a fingerboard in 1st position one needs some 'stretches'. So teacher should be especially accurate with adults: their hands don't have same flexibility, as kids's (that's not a secret).

If you really want to play, you will and that's true. You know, it will really encourage you to play if you listen to a good music.

Good luck and don't give up.

November 22, 2004 at 09:07 AM · Dixie, I can understand what you're saying.

I just had my violin lesson, and my teacher told me she is going to create an ensemble/orchestra from all her students, and I'm going to have to play the solos *yikes*.

Now nearly all of her students are under 12 and some are better than I am.... and being the resident adult in this orchestra, I am definitely going to feel the pressure to perform... after all people will be thinking that I've been playing for years, just because I'm older. I guess that's just one of the challenges us adult learners have to face.

Well I'm off to practice now.

November 22, 2004 at 12:02 PM · This is helpful. My first teacher had me pitted against a 7 year old boy to see which of us could progress the fastest. I just started with a new teacher. She is accomplished, plays in our local symphony, and I was afraid she wouldn't want a middle aged student - she is busy and has limited time. The people around me are my critics - nobody in my family plays a musical instrument, and there are several very accomplished musicians in my husband's family. So ironically, from both sides I get an attitude of "you can't hope to accomplish anything, why bother" When I played in a recital, I didn't tell anyone about it. Why bother?

November 22, 2004 at 01:05 PM · Well there are plenty of posts on here supporting Adult learners.. read my Blog.

I think you have to make your own way to a degree. For me getting a good noise out of the instrument is enough.

Like anything in life it usually makes things easier to find other people in the same boat. Try finding an adult learner orchestra in your area. The internet is great for arranging these things.

I cant wait to join our local Symphony Orchestra but it wont be for a year or two :)


November 22, 2004 at 01:52 PM · I'm in the same boat. Although I started as a child ...I only started real lessons last year (at age 42)...but I've learned an awful lot over this past year and am probably better than I was when I stopped playing (around age 14)...

My first recital was in the spring...and I felt a little silly up there...the next oldest in age is 21 I think...but it's good for me...doesn't hurt the audience...and doesn't hurt the kids to see adults taking lessons at the same level they're good all around...

...I fit in better in my community orchestra, the lady I sit beside is a retired teacher who has only been playing for 5 years and is roughly at the same lesson level that I am...LOL...

...the only difference is that I seem to have a bit more confidence (playing the bits I know I can play) than she does...

And it can be hard to go on without encouragment - the only people who don't think I'm nuts are other musicians - I don't know why it seems so acceptable for adult women to take up tole painting, scrapbooking or cake decorating, but not music, but those activities, as fun as they might be , dont' interest me - and I'm not about to be told what I should find don't get discouraged! You're certainly not alone! :D

November 23, 2004 at 02:02 AM · Hi Dixie,

I must say I'm surprised if the negative attitude you describe is commonplace... I had hoped we were living in an age where the concept of lifelong learning was better accepted than ever. For what it's worth, I'm always glad to take on adult students, particularly those with genuine enthusiasm for the instrument, and the drive and time to see it through. Please don't feel judged or pitted against children; learning an instrument as an adult is very different to learning as a child, just as studying for a degree in your thirties is different to going to college at eighteen. However, don't think that you will have an easier ride either; it may be tougher for you as an adult to learn the violin. But in my view that commands more respect, and I was sad to read that you played a recital unsupported. Please, next time, tell at least one person and get them to go along to see you. You'll feel great, they'll feel proud, and it'll mark a personal, well-deserved milestone in your studies.

November 23, 2004 at 02:48 AM · Reading the post again, I find the idea of pitting an adult against a child or in fact pitting anyone against anyone else, especially in music, disturbing. I am glad that you have found a different teacher. Do not listen to the "critics" around you and know that what you are doing is important - why shouldn't it be?

November 23, 2004 at 02:47 AM · How funny... I have a 50 or 51 yo adult beginner student and offerred her a practice record with stickers a couple weeks ago just like my 5 yo. She laughed... but I WOULD have given her stickers if she wanted them!

I see you're in Jacksonville. This student I've been working with plays in a small adult beginner orchestra in Sarasota and it is a HUGE boost for her, not just technically and motivationally, but also in playing with other adults, and just playing with others in gerenal. I don't know what's available in your part of Florida, but I'd encourage you to look into it.

'Erie (-:

November 23, 2004 at 04:12 AM · Seeing as I'm 15, I probably am not qualified to adaquately respond to this post, but here goes, anyway..

I just wanted to say that I think it's wonderful if a "grown-up" is also learning an instrument or any new skill/hobby. I'm pretty sure the vast majority of students, whether my age or not, would agree with me about this. Kids my age *hear* a lot about the importance of lifelong learning, the fact that school is not just for grades, and that activities outside of school are for way more than getting into college. However, adult violin students (like the awesome people on this board) really reinforce the value and joy of learning for personal satisfaction.

Basically, my point is that people like Ms. Zariv, Ms. S., Mr. Meek, Mr. Mohr, and the many others are very much respected by the younger generation. They're taking time out of their grown-up, otherwise "boring" lives (sorry, I'm half kidding :-D; I couldn't resist) to do something cool simply because they love it. These people are role models, and I'm very glad they do what they're doing with music!

November 23, 2004 at 06:26 AM · Dear Cynthia, Your are most qualified to speak out. After all, how often are adults and teachers speaking on children's behalf. It is quite comforting to know that you and others feel this way, because sometimes we feel quite silly standing among the younger generation playing the same pieces or even much, much simpler things, wondering whether all the kids are wondering what that old fogey is doing up there among them. Especially when the child is playing Mozart and the adult is doing his best rendition of Twinkle! Thank you for your words.

November 23, 2004 at 09:57 AM · LOL.. thanks Cynthia.. two weeks of playing the violin and I am a role model... :)

Actually some of the emails I have had privately have thanked me for publicly making people aware of an adult learners plight. We're in this together right :)

And err... call me Don.. I cringe when I hear "Mr Meek" it usually means I am in trouble teehee..... onwards!


November 23, 2004 at 11:46 AM · I have so much respect for adult beginners. I don't know that I would have the courage to start up something that I've never tried before (like ballet or gymnastics), and I'm only 24!

Bravo to you all!

November 23, 2004 at 01:56 PM · Dear Dixie, Bravo to you for pursuing a great challenge at this time of your life. I have played the violin now for 13 years and started when I was 39. There have been some difficult years where I struggled and others where I progressed quickly. Learning the violin is not a linear pursuit. You will reach a plateau and stay there for a while -- maybe a long while -- and then move up a notch in your technique. But, if you stick with it, you will reach goals you never thought possible and I'm living proof. The best thing I have done for myself is to get good teachers. I have been fortunate to study with 4 good teachers. Second, I discipline myself to practice every day. Practice doesn't make perfect at my age but it does make better. I try to get in 2 hours a day, but if that isn't possible I at least try for an hour. That's a must. The violin is the most challenging thing I have ever tried to learn bar none. For me the sacrifice of time and energy is worth it. After 13 years I can play fairly well and am doing some really nice repertoire. I'll never be great but that isn't my goal. I just want to be better. Ardene

November 29, 2004 at 01:13 PM · I am ENCOURAGED by all the wonderful responses. My family has let me know not to look for this from them. I won't expect them to be my cheering section; after all, I don't stand around cheering them on while they watch TV! Ha, ha. In the meantime, I practice, and I get better.

November 29, 2004 at 01:54 PM · That's the spirit! Get your encouragment from others in your position...look how many of us there are? Even in my community orchestra...I'm surprised at how many people picked up an instrument AFTER retirement!

November 29, 2004 at 08:35 PM · Dixie, you know, that you encouraged me to start practicing piano? I used to play piano but didn't practice a lot. I always didn't want my sister to hear my bad piano playing(she always played too good for me, I didn't want to be compared with her), and also, because we are almost same age she could make fun of me. Now we are adults, and I want to catch up all my missing years...

November 29, 2004 at 10:10 PM · It's one of my future goals - once I get a place of my own and soundproof it - to set up my drum kit and have lessons with my old teacher again. It's been ten years since I took early retirement from playing, and I know I'll be ticking the 'adult learner' box when I eventually get back into it. But I think one of the best things about adult students (of whatever level) is that most of them are learning for *themselves* alone - which as far as I can see is one of the most valid reasons out there.

December 1, 2004 at 01:59 PM · After reading these posts I had an idea. I am an adult beginner as well. Is there enough interest and need to have an adult beginner section on this site. It could be both for the adult beginner to dialogue with others in the same boat, as well as get advice from seasoned players. I don't know if this is possible, but I for one would be iterested.


December 2, 2004 at 12:09 AM · I'm an adult beginning violin student also. I started taking lessons in August. I did take lessons in my early twenties also, but only for a couple of years. I'm now 41 and I am enjoying lessons so much. I have a great teacher which helps a lot. This is my first post here, but I've been lurking here for a few months and enjoy reading about other adult beginners.

December 2, 2004 at 07:11 AM · Glad you posted. Karen! Hope you will join us more often. I love to hear from all angles of the violin world. I have great admiration for adult beginners. It takes spunk to pursue violin. Hope this site can be an encouragement to you.

December 2, 2004 at 02:59 PM · Don't laugh, but I experienced a lot of this "late beginner" negativity and I started when I was 10!!! Sonme of the other violinists at my University would laugh and say "I played that when I was 12!" when I would get up and play in performance class. It seems as though some violinists feel you must start playing in the womb in order to to a valid musician. Unfortunately, the violin world is a bit cut-throat. the best thing to do is to remember why you wanted to play in the first place, and let the nasty remarks and attitudes roll off your back. Invite all your friends to your recital, and stand up on stage proudly. No matter where you come from, when you start, what pieces you can play, support yourself from within. I let the negative remarks get me so down, it has taken me a long time to get back to practicing for ME and not for THEM.

Congratulations on your new musical journey. Don't give up! Play for yourself, for fun!

December 3, 2004 at 02:05 AM · Thank you Emily for the kind words! This site does give me a lot of encouragement. I read the posts everyday. Right now I'm working on a Small Duet by J. Mazas. My teacher is playing the violin II part. I'm having a lot of fun with it.


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