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A new note: learning an instrument later in life

Wednesday, 03 October 2012. Posted in Shootin' the Breeze

A new note: learning an instrument later in life

Whenever someone used to ask, “Do you play a musical instrument?” I’d hesitate and say “No” and then follow up with, “Well, not really. I used to take violin lessons as a kid.” To which the enthusiastic response would always be, “Oh wow! So you can play violin!” – to which I’d sadly respond, “Well, not really.”

For me, taking violin lessons as a kid involved a lot of arguing with my mom about practice time, a lot of brave effort from my tireless teacher, Mrs. Wood, and a lot of panic before music festival. Taking violin lessons did not seem to actually involve much playing of the violin. Finally, after about three years of half-hearted warbling, the violin was put back in its case for good. Or so I thought.

I lugged that violin around with me after I graduated high school. And then held onto it after university. I moved a few times. Got married. Moved again. And still the violin waited patiently – dusty and determined to have the last word. I told myself I’d held onto it because it was valuable, and could be worth something one day. Besides, it was a relic of my childhood.

One day, I was asked that dreaded question – “Do you play a musical instrument?” – and this time, when I delivered my customary response, I was answered with, “Well, why not take lessons again? You know there’s a violin teacher in town, don’t you?”

After some hemming and hawing, I decided to call the local violin teacher, Shelly Groves with Groves Music, to inquire about lessons. Before I knew it, I found myself and my dusty old violin sitting in her home one evening, ready for my first lesson. Belatedly, I remembered my fingernails were in need of a trim – a big faux pas according to my old violin teacher, Mrs. Wood. When I pointed out my transgression to Shelly, she smiled brightly. “Don’t worry,” she reassured me. “You’re not actually going to be playing anything this week!”

Learning an instrument as an adult, I discovered, meant having to unlearn a lot of other bad habits – mainly figuring out how to be more patient with myself and getting over being so self-conscious. Luckily, Shelly’s enthusiasm was pretty contagious and, within a few weeks, I was happily warbling away short little songs that I practised diligently – much to my husband’s delight. Actually, I don’t know how delighted my husband was about the resurrection of the violin, but my dog, on the other hand, loves to sing along!

Aside from the satisfaction of learning a new skill, violin lessons have been a lot of fun. And even better? When I’m at my weekly 45-minute lesson, the only thing I think about is violin – I forget about what I need to pick up at the grocery store, work deadlines, bad weather, and focus all my attention on learning something new. As an adult taking music lessons, I appreciate taking the time to invest in a new skill much more than I did when I was younger.

Now, when someone asks, “Do you play a musical instrument?” I am more than happy to reply with an enthusiastic “Yes!”

Erin Fairhurst is a freelance writer living in Crowsnest Pass. When not practising violin, she enjoys canning, cooking and playing outside with her husband and two dogs.

Story by Erin Fairhurst

 This article was taken from the Sept. 26 print edition of Shootin’ the Breeze. Check out the full paper here!



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