Rediscovering Music in Midlife

The studies are clear.   Studying music early in your life can improve academic performance and help kids build confidence.

When we hit our teens, many of us put music aside to pursue our academic careers, start families, and get on with life.   If you become a parent, the growth and development of your kids takes precedence — and we sacrifice a lot of time and energy to make sure our kids get a healthy start in life.

For me, becoming an “empty nester” re-awakened old desires:  to learn to play the piano, an instrument that I’ve always enjoyed but had never successfully mastered beyond picking out a few notes with one hand.   I had played the violin through public school and into college — at one point had considered music as a career — but as the years slipped by, active playing had fallen out of my life.

So, at the age of 53, with the encouragement of my husband and the Christmas gift of an electric piano, I began taking lessons.   18 months later, I now own a grand piano and have acquired enough skill to negotiate a few Bach Inventions and my first Beethoven Sonata  (#19 in G minor).   At the same time, my husband has struck up an acquaintance with an instrument he loves:  the saxophone.

Along the way, I’ve talked to a number of people who share my dream of learning to play a new instrument, or returning to an old friend, and once again making music on a regular basis.   There are a lot of people like me out there, toiling in the personal private space that music practice creates.    And I’ve learned that the benefits of making music aren’t just for the young. 

This blog hopes to create connections among similar midlife musicians.   To share stories.  To find each other and get together to play music together.

Join the journey — and share your passion.

Georgeann

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9 Comments

Filed under Personal Journey, Returning to Music

9 responses to “Rediscovering Music in Midlife

  1. Georgeann,

    Congrats on your first blog post. I’m at a similar point in my life, which has given me some time to indulge in fiction and satire writing. Have fun rediscovering the piano!

  2. Audrey

    When you mentioned Bach inventions, I sighed.

    I used to play them all, 2 and 3 part alike. And run through two books of Hannon scales daily until my wrists cramped.

    But that was 20 years ago. Now my fingers trip over easy-peasy Bach minuets and I can only look on in awe and pride as my son practices…. I think it’s time I rediscovered music as well.

  3. Nanci

    It’s so interesting what you learn about people that you work with that brings more character into the mix and allows you a peek at what makes them the person they are. I can see that in you and completely relate. Oddly enough – I have been so busy on one hand – but with the kids out of the house now, a little at loose ends. Wondering and searching for something creative to do. Costuming as I did for many theatres in the past – not so relaxing. . . Gardening, alot of work, not so relaxing although rewarding. . .

    Now music – that’s a thought. I am ashamed to think that it didn’t even come to mind. Instead I have resorted to crossword puzzles, reading, etc. I would love to pick up a guitar again – played since high school, or the Piano that I played from age 8. Though rusty I am sure and would require lessons – what a treat! I tried the drums years ago – found out I am not as multi-task oriented as I thought. Love the Sax! Never played it – but love it!

    At 50 years old, an empty nester myself – you have inspired me! Maybe my only audience may be my grandchildren, but that’s not so bad.

    Thank you for sharing this. Your site and your journey.

  4. Ok, you’ve got to check out Steve’s video. I thought of it immediately when I read this post.
    There are lots of other great stories in there as well – take a minute, click around, and vote for your faves.
    Here’s the link, hope you like it:
    http://www.ahamoment.com/vote/stephen

  5. Howard

    am interested in your husband’s journey with the saxophone. Two years ago, at age 54, I picked up a tenor and started taking lessons. Two of our daughters play trombone and clarinet, and we thought it would be fun for all of us to be able to play together.
    I have been taking weekly lessons and practicing about one hour a day for two years. If I were thirteen, I would probably be very good. But at 56, my progress has been slow. I was aware at the beginning that I would only be able to improve up to a certain point. An older brain does not connect the synapses as quickly or as strongly as a younger one. And I am not sure that the tenor is a particularly easy instrument. Compliments from my own family are suspect, so I really don’t know how I sound. I have not played with a group, though my dream would be to play in a big band – no soloing – just play my part.
    What has your experience been like?

    • gherbert1270

      Howard,

      I’ll have Chuck respond. Thanks for the note.

      Georgeann

    • Chuck

      Howard,

      It sounds like our experiences are fairly much the same. I picked up a tenor this past Summer and it is tougher to play than the alto. I spend a bit of time on both of them most evenings. My biggest downfall is just wanting to play and not practice. I have set two goals for the upcomming year, back into lessons (I suspended them in February because of family issues in Virginia) and find a group to play with. There are several community bands in SE Michigan, and the goal is to find one that gives me a chance to grow without being intimidating. The lessons have already been scheduled, now to make the phone call on the community group.

      For me the bottom line is the fact I enjoy playing. I also keep remembering comments made by a pastor friend many years ago on the growth of a new church. “Inch by inch, small steps”. If I see a little improvement each week in my playing I’m happy.

      • Howard

        What an experience I had! There was an ad in the local weekly newspaper for a community band in a nearby town. So I went to the practice. There were about 40 people there, and I have no doubt every last one of the had more talent than me. They handed me 14 pages of music and away we went. I was, well, not particularly good. Although I have practiced faithfully over the last 28 months, I did not know how to play in a group. I immediately got lost in the rests, and spent most of the next two hours trying to find my place. There was another tenor sitting next to me, Roger. Roger has played tenor consistently for forty years and helped me as well as he could. He is an organizer of the band, and I am sure he was dubious as to whether I should be warming a seat there or not. But he’s a likeable sort, no airs at all, and very talented.
        The band had been working on this music so they were fairly up to speed. It was for a childrens concert, so the time was, to say the least, bright (read: faster than I can sight read).
        I got out of there at 9:00 PM bewildered and a little down. So I called my teacher. He was delighted and said it was the best thing I could be doing, I’ll be a better player for it, etc. etc.
        Since Thursday night, I have practiced as much as my ambeture can stand. I’m still not happy with it and know this Thursday will be another tough night. But I have to think it will be better.
        My wife and children are delighted. They could not be more encouraging. Of course, they hear me playing at my own speed in the den, not gasping out notes, desperately counting rests, and just hanging on for dear life.
        After hearing my lament, my best fried told me Sunday, “oh, poor me, I’m such a failure, I can’t play saxaphone like Kenny G.”
        So, what am I going to do? I’m going back, and I will practice like a demon (assuming demons do practice). I will keep going back until they change venues without telling me, or file a restraing order, or physically bar me from entering. I love playing this darned tenor. And if I can just get this monstrous pile of music down, it will be wonderful.
        Thanks for your blog.

  6. Just stumbled upon your blog. I started music study when I turned 52, with the harp. There is just no better thing to be doing at midlife, or at any other part of life, than music!

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