Adult Music Student.
Perhaps this phrase conjures up an image of a nightmare recital where you, the quaking gray-haired student, stumble through a beginner piece while the 8 year olds play like virtuosi and take the pressure in their stride.
Banish that vision from your thoughts. Being an adult music student is about freedom and possibility, adventure and fulfillment. At least, it should be.
In the 1959 movie Gigi, a white-haired Maurice Chevalier watches his nephew Gaston suffer through a string of love affairs and sings his relief that, “I’m glad I’m not young anymore.”
You, my adult music student friend, should be feeling the same way. You may have come to music lessons because you wanted to try something new, or maybe return to an instrument that you learned long ago. Maybe this is a bucket-list project or just a whim. Whatever brought you to music, you should be enjoying the pursuit.
And just in case you’re feeling uneasy following that 8 year old virtuoso that has the lesson before yours, here are some reasons that you can be glad you’re not young any more, at least when it comes to music lessons. Let’s call them the privileges of age.
1. You can choose your own path. You get to have the last word when it comes to music that you do or don’t want to learn. You decide when, where and if you will perform. You choose the place that your music will have in your life.
Naturally, the student teacher relationship is completely different when the student is a grown-up. Your teacher is your guide and instructor, but also a partner with you in your studies. You don’t have to follow your teacher’s instructions without understanding the reasoning behind them. Together with your teacher you will chart the path to your musical fulfillment.
2. You have the discipline to take responsibility for your progress, beginning with your daily practice.It’s not just about when you practice; it’s also about what you do in your practice sessions. Musical success requires the ability to break down complex tasks – like learning a piece – into small, manageable steps.
Children usually lack the experience and insight to determine the practice strategies that will help them accomplish those steps. And adults students also bring their understanding of their own work habits and can use this to make their practice more effective.
You also have the vision to play the long game, the patience to work for results that can only be achieved over time.
3. You understand balance. You have many responsibilities and interests to juggle and commitments to meet. You have the wisdom to know that sometimes even important things will find themselves on the back burner, and your music is no exception. You have the perspective to be patient when necessary and to persevere or even push hard when appropriate. You know that progress isn’t made in a day or even a week, but over time and with persistence.
These are some of the qualities that make you not just an adult music student, but an ideal music student.
If you’re new to the musical community – welcome to the family. If you’ve been at this a while, I trust you’re enjoying the journey.
And should you ever find yourself regretting that you didn’t start lessons when you were four years old, or can’t play with the dash and panache of youth (at least not yet!) please remember that age has its privileges!