Not So Child Prodigies

Friday, January 29, 2010 - 05:34 PM

This last week I had a dream come true. I got to guest host The Leonard Lopate Show on WNYC.

I had a great time discussing everything from international foreign policy to the TV show GLEE. The entire show is archived if you’d like to hear it.

One segment I truly enjoyed was interviewing author and artist Hugues de Montalembert, who was blinded in an attack 32 years ago. Despite this horrible incident he has a zest for life, from which we can all learn. One of the aspects of his story that inspired me the most was his decision to learn to play the piano as an adult.

So here are my questions to you: Did you start to learn an instrument or start to take voice lessons ‘later in life’, whatever that means to you. Do you think you appreciate it more, since nobody was forcing you into it? Are you afraid you won’t really master it, because you’ve started later, or does that matter? How is it going?

I’d like to hear your stories.

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Comments [87]


That is an incredible achievement! I have always wanted to learn to play the piano, but I never got around to it. I would love to find a music school I could go to after work and learn! The piano is such a beautiful instrument.

Jan. 04 2012 11:31 AM

Dear Elliott-it was such a treat to have you as host last night! You are wonderful!

Apr. 07 2010 09:35 AM
Charlotte from Connecticut

I have a Master's Degree in piano performance from Manhattan School of Music in New York. However, a debilitating arthritis-family disorder put a halt to my career. I taught, worked in another field and raised a family that includes a son who is a gifted tenor and studying classical voice in college. I did a lot of accompanying for him, and am now able to be the pianist for a local orchestra. I did some composing in and right after college, but in the past 8 years I resumed composing for voice, piano, cello and orchestra. Several of my compositions have won awards locally. I have been encouraged to get them published, but have found that this is next to impossible to get any publisher to even reply to inquiries, except to say they do not accept unsolicited music compositions. Who has knowledge of how to find a publisher? Why is it so hard for publishers to even look at new music from new composers in the "contemporary classical" genre? At least one of my cello compositions has been, and is probably still occasionally performed by a well-known cellist. I'd love to hear from anyone with similar experience, or anyone with ideas for a solution

Mar. 29 2010 01:02 PM

It is great to hear from Jane in Spain. I hope that Jane is a member.

Mar. 23 2010 07:44 PM
Jane C from Jimena de la Frontera, Spain

Coming to this blog late, and from far away. I live in Spain and listen to WQXR on my computer. I just discovered this Not So Child Prodigy post, which confirms what I have been hearing from people ALL OVER THE WORLD for a long time. Making music, for many people after a lifetime of being 'too busy' to play or practice, can be quite life-sustaining.

I had the great fortune to retire at age 52 from a career in New York government, and since then I have been organizing and playing in chamber music gatherings in many beautiful places in this wide world, meeting wonderful musicians (both professional and non-professional) along the way. Many people are able to 'return' to music and rekindle the creative passion that was always within them. Anyone who wants to meet some of these people should have a look at

Mar. 21 2010 09:23 AM
Steven J. Cooper, M.D. from Monsey, NY

Hi, Elliott. (I am a long-time fan of yours from the good old days of WNCN.) I had no music education (other than my college freshman music appreciation course), although I have learned a great deal from Karl Haas ("Adventure in Good Music") and Bob Greenberg (The Teaching Company). At the advanced age of 52, I have finally decided to begin piano lessons. I have found a very amiable teacher. Although he is a jazz pianist, and my interests are in the area of late-19th century romantic composers, he knows how to teacher us late bloomers. (He keeps saying, "If you could graduate medical school and join the faculty at Columbia, you can master these inverted chords!") (Sigh!) I hope soon to be playing Chopin and Rachmanninoff, but for today, it is "Mary had a little lamb" and "When the saints go marching in."

Feb. 12 2010 02:09 PM
Renee from New York City

I always loved classical music but never played an instrument. After playing around with some of the instruments displayed at the Boston Early Music Festival this summer I have taken up the cello at the ripe old age of 52! I have a wonderful (and patient) teacher at the Lucy Moses School in NYC. I'm loving every minute of it.

Feb. 08 2010 04:37 PM

I'm a native New Yorker who grew up in a very musical family. While I understood that it was more of an avocation than a profession for them, I recognized, early on, that music nurtures the soul and lifts the spirit.
As a young girl, I enjoyed picking out melodies on the piano, participated in dramatic workshops, attended dance classes and performed at Carnegie Hall.
About 10 years ago, at age 50, (and after many years of working in health care and education), my mother became ill. In my desire to lift her spirits (and mine), I would bring her music books to the nursing home and attempt to play them, hoping she would sing the Standards as she did so beautifully when I was growing up.
A few months prior to her passing, I began writing piano music, with very little knowledge of music theory. Subsequently, I had the music recorded on a CD, of which I am quite proud. To this day, it strikes me as somewhat of a miracle that I could write this music, but I guess it was my way of coping with her illness and my saddness.
In addition to writing this piano music, I began taking voice lessons. These days, I'm singing my heart out -- and even performing a bit. This legacy of music has passed to me, and I cherish it more than I can say!!

Feb. 06 2010 08:36 PM
John Jordan from Rockaway Beach, NY

When I retired from a six day a week job at the age of sixty seven, I needed to fill that gap. Since I have always loved music and had, in my younger days played brass (trumpet, french horn, baritone horn) and sung on some occasions, I auditioned for a chorus as a bass and was accepted. I can't express adequately the joy that I get from our weekly rehearsals and the performances. As an added bonus I got to do something that I never would have dreamed of before. We (with me in the back row) appeared at Carnegie Hall last March with Ronan Tynan. I must tell you that was the thrill of a lifetime. I am now seventy one and still enjoying every minute of et no matter where we perform

Feb. 06 2010 04:56 PM

Dear Lois,

I'll see what I can do.

Mallory, would you like to meet Lois?


Feb. 06 2010 11:27 AM
Lois Tepfer from Fresh Meadows, Queens, NY

I enjoyed your conversation with Mallory Hart this morning, Sat. Feb.6. I also returned to the piano after a hiatus of many years. I now play chamber music and accompany vocal and instrumental soloists.

I was particularly intrigued by Mallory's request for help in finding a partner for piano duets. I have a large collection of piano duet and two-piano scores, have recently aquired a second baby grand, and love to play two piano music.

Please help me get in touch with Mallory so that we might see about forming a twosome. I live in Queens, but am mobile although my pianos are not.

Feb. 06 2010 11:18 AM
Sidney from United States

Your blog it started me thinking about a friend who took up the viola for the first time, never having played as a child, after he retired from his law firm. It had always been his dream. He applied and got into Julliard and he had to hire private tutors just to keep up with the curriculum. He loved every minute of the experience and he opened up a whole new life for himself. That said, I wonder if your original question shouldn't be restated to include all of the creative arts. Painting and writing, which I have recently returned to after a 50 year hiatus, take that same commitment to learn or reawaken a skill in order to practice the craft. All the creative arts employ neurons you forget you have, allow you to rediscover the person you really are and were before life distracted you along the way and open you up to the future. I think that's the real issue. It's the creative drive that lights the spark and is particularly invaluable in later life!

Feb. 06 2010 10:25 AM
Elinor Gipfel from Brooklyn, NY

I started playing the flute when I was 46 years old. I had played piano from age 8 to 11, and had sung in some amateur choruses, but had never played a woodwind instrument. I began at a music school and soon studied with a private teacher for years. At her urging, I auditioned for a community orchestra, started playing chamber music in coached groups, and went to music camp (for adults) for a week every summer. She stopped giving lessons, but after a hiatus of several years I began with my present teacher. I'm the 2nd flutist in a community orchestra, and I play chamber music every term in coached groups at the 92nd St. "Y." I practice daily. I'm 74 years old.

Feb. 06 2010 10:07 AM
Rick Smith from Glen Cove, N.Y.

I grew up in Manhattan in a tenement on the site of what is now Lincoln Center. I was an only child, so when I was dragged along to go visiting, I had nothing to do while the adults were talking, so I went over to a piano, which most people had in those days, and started picking out tunes to amuse myself. I fell in love with music and always wanted a piano, but since we we had no money or space, I went without a piano until I had a house of my own years later in Long Island. I was in the auto restoration business at that time and one day I saw a neighbor's old MG in his garage which needed a paint job. He also had an old player piano. The trade was made and I had my first piano! My passion increased, and now, 37 years later, The Piano Exchange of Glen Cove, is the largest vintage piano sales and restoration business in New York with over 400 pianos of all kinds. I also have one of the world's largest collections of records, sheet music and player piano rolls.

Feb. 06 2010 09:48 AM

Before reading all your emails, I thought I was the only old guy starting late. Started piano when I was about 5 - hated to practice, so stopped. Just before graduating college, began organ and piano for a short time - stopped again. Became a professional dancer for twenty years. At age 50, started piano again. When asked why I was doing it - is it fun? My remark is usually - it's a great deal more than fun. I'm now about to retire and get really serious about music. Am now registered for music degree program.

Feb. 06 2010 09:07 AM
Mildred Rust from E. Brunswick, NJ

I took piano lessons from age 4 - 12; stopped because I didn't like my grandma telling me how to do it! (She was an accomplished concert pianist.) Tried later unsuccessfully to pick it up on my own, but finally at age 46 joined group lessons for 2 years, and as others above have said, it came back surprisingly well! My basic musicianship however is as a choral singer; and listener to WQXR!!

Feb. 05 2010 03:48 PM
Alina Rubinstein from NYC

Another story for your collection:

As the child of a musician who actually was a child prodigy, I found it thrilling but intimidating to grow up surrounded by such outstanding musical talent. I took piano lessons until I was 17. Lessons had been a fraught endeavor, even though I always loved the piano and never stopped playing for myself.

But at 56, a month after 9/11, I sought to play with others again (I'd played four-hand piano with my brother as a child, and only once, the Poulenc Sextet with other doctors while in med school). I have joyously been participating in chamber music groups ever since, playing Brahms, Schubert, Schumann, Beethoven, etc.

At 61, I realized another ancient dream: I got a cello and began lessons, which continue to this day. It is certainly challenging, but I’m embracing the struggle and making gradual progress. Unconflicted motivation, concentration, and discipline do wonders as does a sense of the brevity of life! I have a wonderful teacher, Diliana Momtchilova and am happily working on one of the Bach unaccompanied suites as well as playing “intermediate” chamber music. And I find that my newfound pleasure and patience in practicing and trying to overcome technical and musical challenges on the cello has pushed me to continue improving at the piano, too, even at this late date! The only problem is trying to fit it all in with work and everything else in life...

Feb. 05 2010 02:46 PM

Can anyone recommend a "forgiving chamber group in NYC that needs a piano? Thanks. Susan

Feb. 03 2010 03:15 PM
willette gould from jersey city, nj

i played piano from 9 to 10 years old. at 10 my lessons stopped when my parents died. My son played piano for 8 years and I started playing a year ago at age 47 because I have time now and that piano longing was like unfinished business. In the beginning, it was hilariously annoying when my 17 year old teenager would yell, "it doesn't sound right--quit" (two rooms away mind you). though he helps me sometimes. thanks elliot and fellow musicians for these blog gems.

Feb. 03 2010 02:06 PM
katherine Matheson Kaplan from nyack. ny

Dear Elliott,

What an inspiring blog. I was a piano player and stopped after high school when I got more serious about filmmaking. Studied electronic music on crude synthesizers at Manhattan School of music in order to make soundtracks for experimental films. I started playing again in my thirties when someone housed their grand piano at my loft. Had a wonderful teacher who stopped teaching called Dagan Juilty. Lost track of him, the piano was sold and life went on. Have had piano in house for years and rarely find the time to play it - these tales make me think of going back.

Feb. 03 2010 11:39 AM

Elliot is great!

Feb. 02 2010 07:36 PM
Oliver Sacks from New York, NY

Dear Mr. Forrest,

I have been fascinated by the "Not So Child Prodigy" stories, and will tell my own.

I went back to the piano at the age of 75, after an interval of 63 years - the piano teacher I had had as a child died when I was twelve. After a year and a half with my new teacher I am back to playing some Bach Preludes and Fugues - the easier ones - as well as a a little Brahms and Bartok. I find my old fingers are getting nimbler by the day, and the old brain is still up to learning new pieces. Going back to the piano gives me a joy I had almost forgotten.

Oliver Sacks

Feb. 02 2010 10:22 AM
nancy goodman

The Music Conservatory of Westchester has programs for all ages see

Feb. 01 2010 08:08 PM

Nancy Goodman - I read your comment - do you know if the conservatory offers programs for young children, too?

Feb. 01 2010 05:18 PM
Jonathan Schneider from New Jersey

Dear Elliott:
I took a few lessons on the piano as a 10 year old, but had to stop because they were too expensive for my parents. I continued to play because I really loved it and I had the opportunity to use a piano at my local church. I've been a professional musician all my life as a result of sheer desire on my part and the encouragement of others. Due to life circumstances however , I was never able to study the piano as I would have liked. Now at the ripe old age of 56, I have been taking lessons again with a wonderful teacher and pianist by the name of Sophia Agranovich. Although it has been a lot of hard work and practice, I can honestly say it has been a supreme joy and well worth the effort. I am now playing Mozart and Beethoven sonatas as well as works by Tschaikowsky, Schumann and others. Hopefully I can connect and network with other musicians in the near future and apply what I have learned and play the classics that I know and love.

Feb. 01 2010 03:53 PM
Mallory Hart from Manhattan

From the age of ten until 17 I studied piano at the Juilliard Prep School when it was at the uptown Claremont Avenue digs (that will indicate my age) and stopped when I left for college. In the ensuing many, many years heavy career, marriages and family duties interferred with any practice until a few years ago when I turned in my old Baldwin for a new ebony grand. Now this piano called to me and I started to practice again and was also admitted to a night course at the (new) Juiliard. I got the fingers moving again and I'm thrilled now to be back to my Brahms Intermezzos, and Chopin Etudes. I'm 82. I want to suggest that a shiny, new piano, if it can be afforded, really starts the practice energy going again! It does.

Feb. 01 2010 11:24 AM
George N. Wells from Dover, NJ

I was first introduced to the violin, and all the other instruments in the orchestra while in Junior High School in Basking Ridge NJ. Although I had not had a single lesson, I managed to play some notes without screeching to bow across the strings. However, music lessons were not in my immediate future for a number of reasons, most of them family finance related.

It was many years later, in my late 20’s when I discovered a violin in my Mother-In-Law’s house that the desire to give it a try came back. I found a teacher willing to start an adult student who was patient and kind, I got the family fiddle fixed up and started lessons. I discovered that I had some ability. I played with a local student orchestra (deep in the second section) and my love of string music blossomed.

In my early forties work and the addition of business travel made practicing and the orchestra impossible and the violin wended its way back into the closet.

Now, in retirement, I’ve taken it back out and I’m working through the Episcopal Hymnal so that I might be able to play an occasional piece in my parish church. Oh yes, I’ve also become the parish “DJ” as we play recorded hymns on an electronic keyboard. I’ve used my ability to read the G-Clef to teach myself to play the intro to some service music that the congregation sings a-capella.

I’d love to find another violinist a cellist and a violist (or a second cellist) to form the “Limited Expectations Quartet” and play standard four part hymnody as an outlet. But, for now, working my way through “Vocalise” is my current musical project. Perhaps I’ll treat the congregation to that piece someday.

Feb. 01 2010 08:54 AM
Birgit Matzerath from Maplewood, NJ

Hi Eliot,
I'm a pianist and teacher and I have seen adult students do amazing things over the years. My oldest student was 82 and went back to the piano after a break of 60 years, because she wanted to make up for a memory slip she had on stage when she was 12, which led to her quitting lessons. She did make up, and performed the Chopin c-minor Prelude at a student recital when she was 84. Another student played her first public solo recital the year she turned 70. She entitled it "Never too late", and in fact, it isn't. Motivation can move mountains, and adults often experience playing as a life support. Sometimes, they appreciate it more than children.

Jan. 31 2010 11:49 PM
Bob S from NJ/ NYC

Hi Elliot:
I was a trumpet player in high school and a pretty good one. I stopped after ti graduated but picked up again after about 15 years when I joined a British brass band (like Black dyke Mills) here in the US. I progressed and eventually played the flugelhorn in that band. I also started getting jobs with a local theatre company which culminated in a high quality performance of Chorus Line. I think I had the talent to become a professional but when I was in HS I was too stubborn to listen to anyone about music school or college. My loss. And, my regret. Now I'm 53 years old and about to start taking my first private lessons with a very accomplished jazz musician. Maybe there's still hope???

Jan. 31 2010 06:35 PM
Rosemary Stein from Croton on Hudson, NY

Some years ago,as an incentive to my daughter to continue playing the piano, I purchased a beautiful new Yamaha upright. Of course, being a 14 year old teenager, she had had enough of Mom trying to coerce her into taking lessons & practicing every day. She abruptly quit at the end of her freshman year in high school. Her piano teacher & I were crushed; she was just beginning to reach a level of competence & proficiency. But the fact of the matter was that she hated it & was only doing it to please me.

I felt a tremendous sadness seeing that beautiful instrument sitting in my living room not making music. So I decided to take lessons myself. I never had a music lesson as a child --no one in my family ever played an instrument. But I was determined, and went to a former teacher who had taught my daughter.

She was very encouraging, patient & supportive, with a great sense of humor. She and I both needed her humor, because I was just awful. Once after playing a lesson for her, she commented that I had worked very hard on learning the music, that it sounded very nice, but that was not the way Mozart had written the
piece!! After struggling for a year, I gave up taking lessons.

However, it being a new year, I feel the piano that sits in my living room calling out to me. I believe that once you've struggled and tried to learn to play an instrument, you will always hear music differently and have a profound appreciation for music.

This is my first blog -- reading all these comments is very encouraging -- who knows, maybe I'll resume taking lessons.

I'm so glad that WQXR is out there!


Jan. 31 2010 05:57 PM
nancy goodman from westchester, NY

I had played the flute through college and on and off after that, but quit for 20 years because I couldn't manage a full time job and raising children AND practicing.
I started lessons when I retired at the Music Conservatory of Westchester in White Plains with the goal of "getting back to where I was as a player in my 20s." To my amazement, (and thanks to my great teacher Stefani Starin) I am a far better flutist than I was back then. How many things can you say you do better in your 50s than your 20s?

Jan. 31 2010 05:05 PM
Leda Young from Union, New Jersey

Not so long ago I was inspired to begin playing the piano 18 years after abandoning the keyboard. I started practicing on a piano at the restaurant in which I worked with the books I learned from as a twelve year-old. It meant arriving quite early in the morning so as not to create a disturbance and the lack of heat at such an hour did not make any easier but, alas, persistence pays off. Within six moths I began to feel as if I had rediscovered myself. I continued to practice wherever I could find piano and now have started to play professionally. Though it has been a struggle, it truly has been worth it!!

Jan. 31 2010 01:20 PM
Kathleen Rosenberg from NYC

As a child I made flutes out of aluminum foil, but never played because I'd been labeled as lacking music ability. As a 55 year old adult, my husband asked on December 24th if there was ever anything I'd wanted for Christmas and didn't get. "Yes, a flute" was my answer.
On Christmas morning there was a flute under the tree and I have been studying and playing joyously since then!
Unknown to me, my father had been 1st flute in his high school orchestra and played since then. I sent him a flute which at 85 he enjoys having . I hope these blogs encourage him to join we "not quite child prodigies"

Jan. 31 2010 01:07 PM
helga busemann

My mother was a music teacher who met my father at a music academy. My sister went on to marry a musician. But I hated to practice -- did not want to expose my mistakes in public. I finally put aside my pride and asked my mother for piano lessons when her mind started to deteriorate. Even if she did not recall what she had for lunch, she could still play (and correct me) ) at age 87 !! Being instructed by her became a wonderful way of communicating and bonding with her during her last years. I continue to play the keyboard for my pleasure.

Jan. 31 2010 12:41 PM
sandra Mann

i played the piano as a child and stopped when i realized i had no innate talents.
however, about 7 yrs. ago, when i could no longer endure my painful marriage, i decided to go back to piano learning.
what started as a refuge has become almost obsessional. i have learned more about process, the joys of practicing one passage a hundred times,understanding how to listen to music in so many ways, appreciating accomplished musicians, including my wonderful piano teacher, michiyo morikawa, and much more that i won't bore you with.
thanks for this opportunity to express my appreciation for rediscovering and discovering the world of piano.

Jan. 31 2010 12:20 PM

After a knee injury put an end to my dancing days with New York City Ballet, I went on to earn a B.A. in English at Fordham University only to panic at graduation day -- what to do now? With a family to raise and a full-time job, I still needed that "wow" factor I had found on stage. Although I had a baby grand piano (my mother;s), I had never studied the instrument. All that changed in mid-life when I began lessons at the Lucy Moses School and progressed to the point of attending summer music festivals in the Berkshires, ultimately enjoying the thrill of playing in masterclasses. At 72, I'm still at it, fighting frustration and discouragement but always working toward becoming a better sight reader, achieving faster, clearer runs and trills, and producing a more beautiful sound. Love the piano!

Jan. 31 2010 12:10 PM
margo vignola from Manhasset New York

When my children moved on to the violin, the lovely Steinway sat largely untouched for a decade I finally took the lesson plunge after retirement. Learning to read music and play as an adult is a daunting task. And the kiddlie music in beginner books is boring Last year, however, I finally made it to Fur Elise, a lifelong ambition I still struggle through the piece, but it really is Beethoven and certainly worth the wait.

Jan. 31 2010 12:07 PM
pat wiley from new york

on weekend mornings your program is the back drop to my yoga practice so i typically focus on the music, less so on the words......but this weekend's blog topic came right through on conscious and unconscious levels.

my instrument was the flute. band in grammar school, orchestra in high school. then like other things, dropped off until about 2 years ago when i decided to have the instrument looked over and outfitted with new pads. i bought a starter instruction book. but like many other good intentions, all the equipment was sitting on a shelf 12 feet from where i was doing yoga in a lovely music-themed tote bag. unused.

until now. the instrument is together. warmed up by my breath. my to do list for this week includes exploring lesson possibilities.

thanks to you and your bloggers for the inspiration.

ps this is the first time i have blogged

Jan. 31 2010 12:02 PM
Leslie from Glen Head, NY

Reading these stories has been a pleasure, and the topic comes at an appropriate time, since I'm looking for an activity to relive stress from a work situation that's making me crazy. Now 58, I've had a piano since I was 16 but never got a chance to have lessons until around 10 years ago. After about a year I injured a finger and then somehow after it healed never went back to the lessons.

Recently I've been thinking about having another go at it. But, reading all these posts, I'm wondering if it would make more sense to try a different instrument, since it's not the piano in particular that I love, but music in general -- classical, jazz, folk, etc. I've sung in choral groups since I was in junior high and can read the treble clef well. Would it be a better option to learn an instrument where I wouldn't have to read bass and treble at once?

The stories are inspiring and have served to reinforce my belief that music can help everyone of all ages in more ways than we realize.

Jan. 31 2010 11:52 AM
David from Nyack, NY

Hello Elliott,

When wondering what to give my mother on her 85th birthday, I decided to give her a violin. As a child she had studied it briefly and was told she had more promise than any pupil the teacher had ever had. Unfortunately, the teacher moved away and there was nobody to replace her in the small town where my mother lived. She had to stop and switch to the piano, at which she also excelled exceedingly well.

She is thrilled with her violin and has begun taking lessons again and is thoroughly enjoying it. She is lamenting not buying one for herself long ago and pursuing her first real musical love.

Jan. 31 2010 11:06 AM
Louise M. Naples from Woodhaven, NY

A close friend was ultimately responsible for kicking my old ambition to play the violin into high gear. He had begun studying cello 10 years before at the age of 45. He said to me, "Louise, don't wait until you are 55, and wish you had started at 45.
A mature adult who pursues musical study does so for a different set of motivations than does a child. I was taking music lessons for myself, not for my parents. I didn't need to be told to practice, I knew that. I read some years back that adults who begin study of a musical instrument rediscover child-like qualities. A certain amount of pride must be sacrificed when you need to trust a teacher, allowing yourself to be vulnerable, and to make mistakes in front of others. I must confess that I felt like a kid when I had a particularly good practice session, and my fingering in the first position showed signs of consistency, reliability, and accuracy. I considered a successful play through of a simple etude nothing short of a miracle. And can I tell you the delight I experienced when I could play well today something I had mastered yesterday?
Adults don't have the easy ability, dexterity, and fearlessness that younger students possess, and maybe we can't retain as fully each day's learning. But we bring to the effort a deeper life experience, general knowledge of music, and intelligence that the young need time to acquire.
I played violin three or more hours a day for nearly 15 years; joined the local orchestra for four seasons, and had a ball. Eventually the musical passion gave way to another one, and I stopped playing (I can only sustain one passion at a time). I don't regret a single moment or dollar spent in the effort. I learned to much. Learning to play the violin as a adult enriched my musical appreciation immeasurably.

Jan. 31 2010 10:33 AM

Anne, I'll leave a comment here, since I'm not sure I can say "boobs" on the air. Thanks for the great story. Glad the brass has called you back, but I can pretty much guarantee you, I will not take up the tuba again!

Jan. 31 2010 09:29 AM
Tom Dudzick from Nyack, NY

Hi Elliott,

I wish this story had a happier ending. I’ve played piano since I was 5, was a music major in college, but always wished I could play the violin. One day, about 10 years ago, I decided I had enough time on my hands to practice, so I looked for a teacher here in Rockland County. Found a great one, bought a violin and began. Worked very hard, drove my family nuts with the squeeking and squawking. Joined in the little recitals in my teacher’s home, with all her 10-year-old students – me the big adult taking my turn, the parents applauding politely (“Who is this guy?”). And after about 6 years I actually joined the Rockland Symphony Orchestra as a second violinist and played some concerts. Had my family come watch. But finally, after 9 years of studying, I ran up against a brick wall. The frustration of not being able to produce that beautiful violin sound was fast outweighing any fun I was having. And I stopped. I still look at violinists with great longing, and a little heartbreak. But, hell, I can say I was a violinist in a symphony orchestra. That’s something!

Jan. 31 2010 09:28 AM
Kate from Rockland County

I too had piano lessons as a kid. I could play sonatas and variations but not well.
I grew up Then one rainy day in June In Cambridge Mass I visited .my favorite antique dealer who had ten upright pianos on the sidewalk. He said "Lady you can have this piano if you take it now for $100. " So my kids had piano lessons on and off I kept playing. Not too well but I enjoyed it. We moved to suburban New York.
By now I had four kids. I started volunteering for this and that. I became a literacy volunteer and started teaching Adult Basic Reading to some local school dropouts.
The mehod is to build on existing strengths right? Well these kids could play blue grass style piano very well. They were taught by their grand -dad.

I said come play on my piano..About this time I received my Mom's Steinway baby grand...

I started playing with the kids. I bought a fake book and a book or two on how to read it. I dug out my old Hanon books. I started practicing an hour or two or three day. My style evolved into a light swing. I cribbed a lot of cord changes from Schubert and Beethovan.

The problem is once you can improvise why bother with the notes.. For a while I joined a local church and taught myself to play their organ. My foot work was never great but it was enough to rock the house.

I love making a joyful noise. and once you give up trying to play other peoples notes every tune is perfect...

Jan. 31 2010 09:28 AM
Anne from Staten Island

Hi Elliot-when you mentioned tuba/high school band-it struck a common chord. As a child I was handed the family cornet (leaky) and a copy of Willow Echos and told to "go at it" (pre-Verrazano Bridge Staten Island idea of lessons). Switched to F horn when competition became fierce until exasperated by the backbeats. In my 50s have decided to learn music theory and improvise, returning to the cornet/trumpet. Music is a vital part of one's life and has taken the place of many therapy sessions. And one never knows where it will lead. Last year my friend and I found ourselves participating in the vaunted British WhitFriday Marches with the all-girl Boobs n Brass band. Yipes!

Jan. 31 2010 09:10 AM
John Cassidy from Westbury NY

I had two failed attempts to play the piano (2 small children & 2 terrible piano teachers). Several years later facing a bad case of empty nest syndrome I decided to take on a few things to fill my time & keep my brain active. I had always loved Renaissance music & Dutch painting, especially those paintings that had lutes in them, & so decided to take up the lute. I have been fortunate in having 2 fine teachers, including the extraordinary Chris Morrongiello. Asked him if many people take up the lute as a first instrument and he said, "You're the first in 200 years." Have been playing 5 years & am no good, but am giving myself another 5 years.

Jan. 31 2010 07:33 AM
Bill Walters from NYC

When I was a little kid, everyone was taking music lessons. My older sister was taking piano from a lady down the street. My sister was pretty good and I was impressed. I wanted to take lessons too. So I was sent to the lady down the street. I was mastering John Thompson and getting along very well. My sister and I used to go to lessons together. Then in December that year, going to the piano lesson, I slipped on the ice, fell down, chipped a tooth and I decided that piano lessons were dangerous. I gave it up. Later my father got a trombone from a friend and sent me to trombone lessons. More frustrations: my arms was too short to reach seventh position. I gave it up. I became a stage manager. You know the rest.

Jan. 31 2010 07:24 AM
Carol Blum from Jackson Heights, NY

I have wanted to play the violin since I was a small child. My mother was a very talented violinist, who played professionally when she was a youngster. But I don't have the talent. So, it was a bit of piano, and later, as a teenager, the cello. But the violin was my desire. I inherited my mother's violin in May 1998. By June 1998, at the age of 54, I was taking violin lessons. At first, it was not only difficult, but painful as well. There were plenty of "3 tylenol" nights. But as time has past, I have become better, not good, just better. I am so glad that I started. I love it. I will never be good. My intonation tends to be "unstable". I am extremely lucky to have found a teacher who is an excellent musician, a former concert master, who is also an excellent teacher, with untold amounts of patience. This was one of the best decisions I have ever made.

Jan. 30 2010 07:33 PM
Joan from New Jersey

I studied piano for 2 years as a young child. At the age of 59 I was fortunate enough to find a very fine teacher with whom I have taken lessons twice a month for several years. During that time - I have been reminded of important things - the value of patience, the pleasure of performance, the need to accept limitations, and the joy in collaboration. Indeed - given guidance and encouragement - it is possible to memorize a Chopin Etude, to find excitement in Ginestera's sounds of the city, and to share a tender moment with a composer long gone. I will never be an exceptional pianist but I hope I can continue to improve - and perhaps one day - find a patient and tolerant cellist with whom I can play a duet.

Jan. 30 2010 05:13 PM
Pat from Passaic

Shortly before my 50th birthday I took the opportunity to begin studying a musical instrument. I chose the euphonium because when I sing I sing bass or baritone, and that led me to make some assumptions on what parts the euphonium would be called upon to take in an ensemble arrangement. My assumptions were incorrect, but it turns out that the euphonium is given some wonderful parts in many arrangements. I found a great teacher and studied with him, first using a rental instrument and then using a second-hand instrument. With only about eight months of lessons behind me my teacher connected me with the kind director of a local community band. Six seasons later I'm still one of the least proficient members of the band, but it does not matter. We play everything from rock and roll to swing to classical transcriptions, with the occasional march thrown in. I even have a steady gig marching in a Memorial Day parade, although I march like a drunken sailor. I've been fortunate to play alongside of some very talented amateur and professional musicians and I owe many people a debt of gratitude for their support, encouragement, and patience.

Jan. 30 2010 03:54 PM
Marigene at Rockland Conservatory of Music

I can certainly say that it is never too late to make music a part of your life and open yourself to creativity! So many of our students at the Rockland Conservatory of Music, a non-profit community music school in Rockland County, are adults.

They are returning to an instrument they started in their youth, or finally answering and fulfilling that wonderful, long heard call of "I'll take music lessons when..." We find that our adult students, (almost 9% of our student body), do very well, because this time, it was THEIR idea to be musical.

We are members of the National Guild for Community Arts Education, mentioned by blogger Ken, and find that adults derive amazing joy from taking music lessons.

We even have an Intergenerational Women's and Men's chorus to accommodate singers of all ages (parents, who were tired of standing in the wings watching their teenagers have all the fun, now sing WITH them)! I encourage anyone who has the desire, to jump in and make music.

Jan. 30 2010 02:20 PM
bob from princeton

Well, I played this very Hayden trumpet concerto (not nearly as well) to audition for the NJ All State Band in 1968. I made it! After entering college and additional professional education, I left the trumprt behind. My wonderful wife had the very same trumpet (a beautiful silver Le Blanc)refurbished for me as a Christmas gift 3 years ago, and I began playing again (quite badly I must admit) for several months, but I never regained much of my former attributes. I still have the trumpet and a music stand available in the corner of my home office. I have now been given the new motivation I have needed to try it again! Thanks!

Jan. 30 2010 11:43 AM
Marie Alpert from Briarcliff Manor NY

Perhaps I'm the latest to start--began around age 70 after a lifetime of loving and listening to classical music. It just never came up when I was a child and when I began to feel illierate, I was already past 40 and the circumstances of my life at that time precluded taking lessons.

When I began lessons I could not read a note of music and my goal was to play Bach -- badly. I have achieved my goal.
But however badly I play, when I can read a new piece and begin to play the notes, it is such an incredible joy sometimes tears come to my eyes.

Jan. 30 2010 11:35 AM
Nadine R. Gill from Manhattan

Ok....this might sound like bragging, (maybe a little), and not all about music, (same approach to challenges in all arts). One of my daughters, while doing her PhD (took her 12 years to accomplish this), decided at 29 to play the cello. By the age of 32, she was playing with a string quartet chamber music.
And, I, at the ripe age of 77, am having a solo show at a gallery. ain't over till it's over and it is never too late for anything.

Jan. 30 2010 11:13 AM
Tony from Manhattan

Hi I played the clarinet and oboe in high school and a little recorder as well. I love music and although I have a hectic work schedule I would love to re-study the clarinet or recorder. I have a pretty severe vison impairment however, and haven't explored whether sheet music is obtainable in large font sizes!

Jan. 30 2010 11:04 AM
Philip Foster from 28 West 27th Street, 10th Floor, Buzzer #27, Manhattan

The Open Music Circle, which has been meeting regulalry now for five years, welcomes all older acoustic instrument players to join us for our regular improvised music gatherings in Manhattan on the second and fourth Sunday evenngs of each month. Our only rule is "There are no mistakes!". For full information visit

Jan. 30 2010 10:58 AM
Ken from Weehawken


Your story about Hugues de Montalembert's blindness reminded me that Lighthouse International has a community music school especially for the visually impaired. A truly wonderful place:


Jan. 30 2010 10:43 AM
Zanne Hall from Kew Gardens, NY

Hello again. Would like to comment that this is wonderful networking going on right now on this blog. I've been looking into playing with groups, possibly volunteering for hospitals, senior homes, etc., but have not come up with anything solid so far but want to thank your listeners for their information.

Also would like to add that I'm a late-in-life Delta Air Lines mechanic, going back to school to obtain my Airframe & Powerplant certificate in my late 50s.

Jan. 30 2010 10:43 AM
Irene T. from NYC

Age doesn't really matter, only an enthusiasm for music. Years ago in high school I bought a cheap "Gibson Hummingbird" guitar knock-off. I taught myself with a Beatles chord book and played well enough to strum along with a song. I don't have any aspirations (or illusions) about stardom, but did at one time perform in a friend's trio (although my playing and singing quickly morphed into just singing). Time passes, life gets in the way, and (in my 50's) I hardly have played it in a while. A friend recently got me back into it when he gave me a very thoughtful Christmas gift-- new strings, and he even re-strung it. I played with friends for the first time in well over a year at a New Year's Eve party. This was just the kick I needed to start again. If I have any resolution for 2010 it's to play guitar more often.

Jan. 30 2010 10:38 AM
Richard Simons from Bergan County, NJ

Signed off a ship in the mid 70's and made the wrong decision to by a bassoon instead of a french horn. Alas one good mouthpiece an I would have been set but no elusive double reed questing was may fate.
Played in a community band for years but the needed a bass clarinet put the bassoon aside for decades (price of lacking lower brass) Finally returned to bassoon, bought a better one and started lessons again and am first chair in the community band. Of course there is only one bassoon player but makes me feel better as the young bassoon majors who occasionally join us are so much better. Fingers doing ok but that damn reed still makes wonder about that decision. No doubt punishment from a previous life. Probably a bagpiper....

Jan. 30 2010 10:30 AM
Dick LaVine

Forty plus years ago, my teacher, mentor and friend of a decade Boris Matusewitch, arranged over 600 pieces for the concertina, specifically for me. This was done over a 10 year period until his death in 1977.

I put down my instrument at that time, thinking I'd resume in a few weeks. Those weeks turned into months and years.

I decided to play again 25 years later.
In retrospect, I lost so much time but I am here now and playing in earnest and loving my music (and I'm performing).

Most of the music I play comes from the Great American Songbook---music of Broadway, musical theater, Hollywood film and tin pan alley from the 1920's to 1960 (Gershwin, Berlin, Kern, Porter and the like).

It's a thrill to be back!

I always joke that my 600 arrangements are invaluable and of no value.
Invaluable in that I'm the only one in the world who has them and of no value in that no one else in the world wants them.

Jan. 30 2010 10:29 AM
Jim Schermerhorn from Maywood, NJ

I started taking piano, and keyboard lessons at age eighty (about five years ago) from a retired school teacher who offered to teach any senior citizens in our town free of charge. About a dozen have responded so far and several of us are still attending once a week. We perform at recitals twice a year, along with teacher's younger pupils and have all had a great boost in our outlook on life generally. Our teacher, Marie, has given us a wonderful gift and our town has generously allowed us the use of local facilities. Age should never deter us from new learning.

Jan. 30 2010 10:28 AM
Eileen Pollock from New York City

Always sang, only started voice lessons when I was 32. For the next 16 years studied with a professional opera teacher on and off. Did so out of love of music, love of Mozart and the lieder literature. Sang Schubert, Schumann, Brahms, Strauss, Mozart lieder, Mozart concert arias. A joy! But when I felt my vocal time was receding, I put an ad up at Juilliard to sell my precious music. My Schubert, Schumann, Brahms, etc. went to Juilliard students and my music is helping the next generation master this exalted literature.

Jan. 30 2010 10:26 AM
Faith from Annandale, NJ

Until last June, my most recent formal lesson was on the violin at age 8. I didn't continue that for very long, but the lessons gave me the great gift of sight reading music, which I've continued with choral singing. Last summer, some 60+ years after that last violin lesson, a celtic harp master performed at my local library, bringing with her half a dozen harps for a "group lesson" after her performance. I was hooked! Since signing on for lessons with her last June, I've bought a fine celtic harp, practice daily, LOVE working on scales, and thrill to my own playing of Bach preludes (rewritten, of course, for beginning students!).

Jan. 30 2010 10:24 AM
Ken from Weehawken

Elliott: My employer, the National Guild of Community Schools of the Arts, supports and advances access to lifelong learning opportunities in the arts. Many of our member institutions (nonprofit community arts schools such as Third Street Music School, Westchester Conservatory, Harlem School of the Arts - there are more than 50 in the NYC metro area) serve students of all ages. There is also a growing movement, to which the Guild's Creative Aging Initiative is an important contributor - to develop music and arts education programs designed to meet the specific needs of older adults. A recent National Endowment for the Arts study showed that such programs can produce significant health benefits for their participants - it's exciting stuff. Your listeners may also be interested in learning about New Horizons Bands (and many orchestras) - ensembles designed for adults who are taking up instruments for the first time or returning to playing after many years. Most of these programs are quite affordable, some are free, others offer financial assistance.

As someone who's recently starting singing again (I joined the NYC Master Chorale earlier this month after a five-year hiatus), I find I get a lot of pleasure not just from singing (which I can do in my shower) but from making music with others. What a joy. And that's what many of the programs the Guild supports (we provide "how to" information, training and funding to organizations that run such programs) are about - self expression, learning, and socialization.

If folks would like to learn more, I invite them to read Creativity Matters: The Arts and Aging Toolkit (free online at, google New Horizons Bands, visit the creative aging page of the Guild's website (, and check out the National Center for Creative Aging at Those interested can also find a community music school near them by clicking on the "Find a Member" button at

Hope this doesn't sound like too much of a commercial but there are many opportunities for adults to make music out there and I just wanted to spread the word.

Jan. 30 2010 10:14 AM
catherine marcial

I've had a long on and off struggle/love affair with the piano, starting in my early adulthood - in my early 50's I started taking lessons again from my daughter's piano teacher and have kept with it a number of years. The problem is I don't really like to play in front of other people but prefer an imaginary audience. I really do enjoy playing and get an inexplicable sense of accomplishment, perhaps because I don't have any native talent, I construct huge mnemonic edifices in my effort to play fluently , and this is very stimulating for me. Perhaps I will one day be able to play with and/oar for other people.

Jan. 30 2010 10:04 AM
Marilyn Rosenblatt from Upper East Side, NY

I took piano lessons as a child, went to Music & Art High School, and then put my music on the back burner. Decades later, with grown up kids and grandchildren, I heard about a Chamber Music program at Lucy Moses for adults. I joined as I entered my 70th decade some years ago. My love of music was revived more than ever. When I play I forget stresses and I don't even get nervous when we perform at our annual recital. This is a positive function of the aging process. Music has become a great gift and I thank you for recognizing how much seniors benefit from it.

Jan. 30 2010 10:00 AM
joseph zemann from New york, New York

At 40 I felt as though something was missing from my life. I decided to pursue the saxophone path in the jazz world. My passion for the creative aspect of improvisation often took me away from acquiring the necessary skills needed to improvise. Fortunately I was blessed by teachers who saw this drive in me and created a balanced and very effective approach; scales, jazz licks, etc and playing on tunes, both at the same time.
After 12 years of affair- like infatuation , I have reached a level of fairly solid musicianship. I know play the baritone sax (it was alto orig.) which is much more my voice. The sheer size and weight of the instrument, the large pickle sized mouthpiece and the breath support needed have all proved to be challenging. I relish this type of test; its just you and the instrument.
My current jazz teacher,brilliant world renowned jazz guitarist Roni BenHur and same level Bassist Santi Debriano started a week long jazz and Afro-Cubean workshop in Provenance, France. For me ,this has proven beyond any doubt the power and magic that music possesses.The musicians( all impassioned amateurs) were put up in the homes of the local towns people of San Cezaire.(about an hour from Nice) We were treated like folk heros, they simply could not do enough for us; the French have always loved jazz. The culmination of this incredible week of music ,wine and the fabulous hospitality and cuisine of the southern French is two concerts. Friday afternoon and Saturday night in the center of town. This years attendance was over 700 people. The past 12 years of longtones, scales and embarrassing public moments has allowed me to experience playing well enough to move a very appreciative audience. I also now have a second family who happen to live in the South of France. My inner sense is that this journey is just beginning.

Jan. 30 2010 09:48 AM
jack g rabinowitz

I started piano lessons at the age of 15 ,stopped at 16 to study medicine , and did not touch a piano for over 30 yrs. I finally purchased a piano and started teaching myself. This was an on and off and mostly off experience with little progress. I am presently an ex chairman of radiology at the Mt. Sinai Med Center and have encountered during the the past a few colleagues who were studying the piano.They convinced me to commence lessons and at the young age of 73 I began once again. I am now 82 years of age and despite a handicap of regenerative arthritis in my hands, I have played Beethoven Sonatas,Chopin Ballades and Nocturnes and am now learning a Bach Partita.So it is never too late and my biggest regret is having waited so long.

It is a wonderful means of relaxation,great stimulation for the mind, and seems to keep my arthritis in check.We have 2 to 3 recitals a year. These are quite challenging but a wonderful experience.

Jan. 30 2010 09:43 AM
Gabos Andras from NYC

As a child I used to play piano. I even made it to the finals of a Bartok conatest in Hungary back in the early fifties.
Since I do not have the room for piano I started to play the recorder at age 70. It is much fun and slowly improve my playing

Jan. 30 2010 09:35 AM
Robert from Manhattan

I just started taking violin again after a 35(?) year hiatus. My reason for quitting? Same as Alec Baldwin 's—too much time devoted to sports. But I've found a Juilliard Masters student through WMP (Workshop for Music Performance, E. 28th St.) where I regularly attend the Strad for Lunch series. But out of the ordinary, I went to an evening concert and heard my teacher perform. After exchanging emails about his performance and my wanting to get back to studying, he pushed me into it sooner than later. I'm glad he did.

Getting back to violin is opening a new world for me. (I'm 51.) It's teaching me patience all over again. I'm relearning all my bowing which is going to take months or years. But I'm making a decent sound now, trying to bow parallel to the bridge, and not accent every down-bow. My pitch is getting better and my finger-memory for pitch is slowly returning.

As a classical music lover, my teacher can throw out a name and I have an idea of the composer's music. I look forward to practicing a half hour a day. 7:00 p.m. after work is the sacred hour. It's like being an athlete again only now it's musical. I love it & don't know where it's going, but it's great fun & my teacher's very very good.


Jan. 30 2010 09:33 AM
Peter Schug from Elmhurst NY

Music has fascinated me since childhood. I was not a natural musician but have always been affected by music and wondered why.

I fooled around with the guitar in my twenties (I'm 72 now) and then took recorder lessons, always trying to figure out why music did what it does to me and others.

Finally, in my late fifties I gave in to the urge and built a fiddle. I have considerable woodworking experience from building large radio controlled airplanes and most of the skills needed for fiddle making were already in place. As the fiddle took shape (a long project that involved more reading than woodworking) I started lessons with a really good teacher. When the fiddle was done I brought it in for her to play. I could see the worried look on her face, as in "What am I going to say if this is a hunk of junk?" The worried look was replaced by a smile as soon as bow touched string. She called her husband to give it a try.

Today I play mostly Irish and folk music. I no longer wonder about why music affects people, but I am getting the feel for how to make it affect me as I play. The magic, for me, is to vary something to bring attention to it.

I'm not amazingly good on the fiddle, I started when I was 58, but it is the most flexible instrument I've played thus allowing me to shape the music the way I want. I never do get it to sound as good as in my head, but that's what drives me to pick it up again and again.

I never found an answer to my original question, but the books "This is your brain on music" and "Musicophilia" both help me understand a bit.

Peter Schug

Jan. 30 2010 09:22 AM
Amy from westchester, ny

I played the cello as a child, through college, and then didn't touch it again for decades. When my children started taking lessons it struck me there was no reason why only they should get that oppportunity. So I treated myself to a new cello and began lessons. It was amazing how fast it came back, and how quickly I was surpassing where I was so many years ago. It is now about ten years later, and this morning I had to turn off the radio (wqxr of course) since I am practicing before running over to the local conservatory to play in a string quartet. Returning to the cello has been one of the most important parts of my life. I strongly recommend to the many people who abandoned music lessons sometime in childhood that they can go back to it and get much pleasure from it. Music lessons are not just for kids!

Jan. 30 2010 09:15 AM

What a great question, especially for me now.

I'm in my early 60's (how did that happen?) and have been struggling with taking up the piano.

It has been very frustrating and I have pretty much lapsed.

These other blog posts are encouraging to me. Just bringing the subject up is a help. Maybe I'll start practicing again.


Jan. 30 2010 09:13 AM
Connie from Westchester

I tuned in this am for the first time. I enjoy your voice...having heard you on WQXR and on WNYC. I don't have a "late in life" story to tell but maybe these people will inspire me!

Jan. 30 2010 09:07 AM
judith goldsmith from Manhasset, N.Y.

Last summer,when I approached my 70th birthday I decided to learn to play the cello, figuring it was more satisfying for me than to learn to play bridge. I knew it wasn't going to be a" piece of cake", but there was a fascination in learning to produce a sound. I found a Russian musician who was 1st cellist with the Leningrad Philharmonic for forty years, and began this fascinating journey.. After 6 months of dedication, he finally told me that I am producing a good sound. That was a good start, indeed. I have no expectations- the learning is enough for me-I see progress a little at a time, but it is satisfying. And since my teacher told me that it takes 20 years to become a cellist-- I hope it will only take 18 years- I'll wait.

Jan. 30 2010 08:58 AM
tim s from Manhattan

My parents, as children were forced to take piano lessons. As adults they passed on to me their love of music, and as a spoiled child I demanded a guitar with the caveat that I didn't need lessons. Needless to say I was 17 before I started guitar, which I practiced obsessively but without direction until medical school -abroad- took precedence. In New York in my late 30's I took up classical guitar, teaching myself to read music for the first time. I attended many recitals, bought the sheet music for the pieces I loved, and figured out that some passages I would never be able to play and others I could. About 7 years ago I attended a free summer recital in Morningside Heights. Its purpose was to expose children to classical music. I went to see the guitarist but was captivated by the cellist. A week later I had bought a beginner's cello from Sam Ash. Then I set about to learn how to read bass clef. Trust me if you learned how to read G clef as an adult, and then switch to bass clef- it is confusing. I'll never play the cello as well as I can play the guitar. And I'll never play the guitar well. To paraphrase an article from the NYT, that is taped to my refrigertor, learning to play the cello is a metaphor for striving to master any aspect of life.

Jan. 30 2010 08:46 AM

The theme for the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center is the Tchaikovsky: Trio, Op. 50.

Jan. 30 2010 08:45 AM
Zanne Hall from Kew Gardens, NY

I am in my early sixties and about two years ago I took up the flute, an instrument I always loved the sound of and knew I would play someday. I have played piano off and on for many years, so I have some sort of background in music.

I have been playing with an excellent Mannes College instructor, Mary Barto, who was a flutist with the Met for 15 years. Under her stellar instruction, I have advanced rapidly.

I love both classical and jazz music but prefer the jazz path with the flute. I sheepishly told Mary I wanted to study jazz and without batting an eye she said "Let's see if you have the feel for it." She's a tough, honest lady and will not waste time in the wrong direction. At the end of my first piece she said "You get it." The CDs with band accompaniment have been very helpful - something not available in my early piano years.

I have aspirations to play in front of audiences with possibly a group, but the hurdle of my age and sex is a real one. Male jazz performers are not accepting of female jazz performers and do not hold blind auditions like their classical counterparts. I plan to keep practicing and studying, though, as it makes me feel good, a reason to continue anything you feel is worthwhile.

Jan. 30 2010 08:43 AM
Alan from Woodbury, NY

I know that this is not on point, but can anybody please tell me what the chamber piece being played in the Chamber Society of Lincoln Center commercial is?

Jan. 30 2010 08:38 AM
Shelley Robinson from westchester

One of the most forgiving instruments to take up later in life is the small harp, also known as the folk harp or lever harp. My husband says it's a pleasure for the ears even when you're a beginner. I took up the harp in midlife about ten years ago. Now I like playing background music for the neo-natal unit in my local hospital. The nurses sigh with contentment as soon as I arrive with my little 19-string harp. Nobody cares whether I hit every note right. There's a group I join once a year to be with other harpists. It's called Beginning in the Middle.

Jan. 30 2010 08:37 AM

I have an electric keyboard, and with earphones, I play. Play is all it is, banging out blocks of sound, using the white key then some black keys. Climbing octives then wiggle around like I am at the top of a wispering pine tree, then jumping down like a flying squirrel to crash on those big bad bass keys. Fun.
My neighbor has lessons, and must have played from birth, though the sound is muffled from the concrete walls for two or more hours those fingers journey through glorious tonalities that resound joy and the confidence of artistery that envy cannot combat, I love hearing it and, wish I were in the vase with the fresh cut flowers which most certainly are brought to each practice.

Jan. 30 2010 08:31 AM
Stan from New Jersey

I played piano for a few years as a kid; but never continued. In my late 50s I started again and have been enjoying playing classical and popular music. I have had three teachers - all very fine. My second teacher, a composer, encouraged me to compose. I had no idea how to compose a piece; and my initial compositions were quite simple. With the help of my teachers and practice and some theory study on my own, my pieces have matured. Most are piano pieces, although I have written for piano and cello and piano and harp. I have also performed some of my pieces at musical programs at my place of work. I would love to email you a midi or mp3 recording of one of my pieces.

Jan. 30 2010 08:26 AM
John Stone from Wantagh, NY

When I was 40, the local American Legion decided to form a bagpipe band. Since I'd always loved the bagpipes I signed up to learn, along with about 25 others. We hired a college-age instructor who had been a piper since he was a child and after several weeks of lessons six of us remained. Our average age was about 40. I was the only one with any prior musical background, having played clarinet & saxophone in high school and being a tenor in our church choir. This was 17 years ago and I have enjoyed greatly the music, the "sub-culture" and wonderful experiences that this has afforded me. From the many who have come to us to learn the bagpipes over the years, I will say that the older you are the more difficult it is to pick up. There have been exceptions, however, so I wouldn't discourage anyone from trying. Any prior background in music is a huge advantage. Like anything else, however, you must be willilng to devote time and energy, otherwise you will never get anywhere. This is particularly true of the bagpipes.

Jan. 30 2010 08:17 AM
Elaine Stillerman from Brooklyn, NY

I started voice lessons in my 40's to better appreciate the herculean task operas singers undergo and the superhuman talents they have. My teacher was the music director of "La Gran Scena Opera Company" (Ira Siff, Director) and when I first called him to schedule my first lesson, Ross asked "Are you opera or Broadway?" "Shower" I replied.

Let's face it, some of us have it and others don't. But it didn't matter - I loved the struggle, the obstacles (many) and never had so much fun! We worked together for 10 years, during which time my voice grew and improved (let's hear it for Strauss Lieder!) and I had a baby.

But my repsect for REAL singers only grew stronger and stronger. Upon meeting Ruth Ann Swenson in an airport once, I went up to her and asked, "how do you DO it?"

Well I may not, but I am glad singers today can.

Jan. 30 2010 08:09 AM
Harriet from New Jersey

Where do I begin? I'm in my early 60s. As a child I studied violin briefly – at 5 (I think I was). I got to perform Twinkle Twinkle Little Star on stage, but decided at 6 years old it was “just too difficult” and quit (just kidding). About 3 years ago while I was recuperating from orthopedic surgery on my foot and immobile – a friend who knows I am an “A” type personality decided I needed to revisit the violin so she brought one over to me and told me to learn Twinkle all over again. I decided to take the violin a step further so I’ve been taking lessons every since with a violin teacher that really relates well with me. (I think I can play at least as good as a 9 year old even though mastering those sharps and flats aren't easy.) My friend who re introduced my love of the violin is also in her 60s is taking lessons as well. I've almost completed Book #2 of Suzuki I have a long way to go but I having fun doing it.

Jan. 30 2010 07:45 AM

I studied the saxophone and clarinet through grammar school, high school and college. I was a music major in college, at Boston University. But, truth to tell, the 'cello had always been my favorite instrument so I started studying privately in my sophomore year in college with a member of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. It was, at once, a richly rewarding and terribly frustrating experience. I loved playing the 'cello but it was so difficult and I had such little time to really practice (great excuse!). One day at a lesson in my second year when my teacher was still telling me I wasn't holding the damn thing correctly between my legs I knew it was time to call it quits. Two years and I still couldn't even hold it correctly, never mind play much of anything. Learning an instrument is harder than it looks. Musicians should be paid more.

Jan. 30 2010 07:42 AM

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