I have had a number of exceptional adult students over the years. They have been thoughtful, engaging, dedicated people who took music and learning seriously, and made incredible progress towards their artistic goals. What makes this group of successful ‘adult students’ all the more special is that they either did not fall into, or worked their way out of, challenging traps that many of our adults encounter when they try and pick up an instrument as an adult, either for the first time or as a way to hearken back to their elementary school days of musical exploration.
This first installment will address the main pitfalls associated with learning music as an adult.
Time: adults do not have the flexible schedules that children do (although, these days, children don’t even have the flexible schedules that children do!) Learning an instrument takes time, and adults don’t often have a lot of that laying around.
Difficulty: learning an instrument is challenging, and it’s not guaranteed that the skills learned on the way to adulthood will in any way transfer to easily and quickly learning music. Every instrument has its own unique physical requirements, and these skills can take a while to develop.
Expectations: if an adult hasn’t been a musician before, or maybe only played a few years as a youngster, we need to be clear: the life of a professional musician is probably not on the horizon. No one deciding to pick up chess in their thirties or forties expects to become a grandmaster in 18 months – dusting off that cello and rosin-ing up a new bow is not going to put anyone in league with Yo-Yo Ma by their next birthday, as nice as that idea might be. A fair level of musical proficiency is always possible, but it is important to realize that the greatest musicians not only play for hours a day now, they have done so for most of their lives. Read: they have a 20,000 hour (that’s a really low estimate) ‘head start’ on the aspiring amateur beginning in adulthood.
That was all the sobering, ‘bad’ news. The good news is this: each of these issues can be dealt with once they are understood, and adult students can gain a true love and enjoyment out of their musical experiences, just as much (and maybe more!) than any youngster. We’ll address these in the next post!Looking for fun lessons @ home to fit into your busy schedule? Check out these great music educators!