Friday, January 22, 2010

Being a Beginner Instrumentalist Is Not Just for Kids

By Mark T. Burke

I thought I would start with a story. 

Jack, a well known college professor in town is an accomplished man.  Jack is in his 50's, healthy and active.  Jack's family is grown and out of the house attending college and making their own mark on the world. Jack feels the time is right to start a new adventure, and that adventure is music. 

Jack doesn't have to think too hard about his musical aspirations. Since Jack was a kid, he has always wanted to play the trombone.  Jack's father played in a local community band and had passed down his trombone to Jack.  But Jack's earlier years where filled with college, work, and family responsibilities that made fitting in trombone lessons impossible.  Jack's father's trombone has sat idle for many years and Jack wants that to change.

Jack considers himself a pretty creative person, open to new ideas and certainly capable of learning.  During the many years of wanting to learn the trombone, something has constantly nagged at him though, keeping him from taking the next step.  Jack considers this a big step for himself.  He wants to learn with the help of a great teacher, but feels a bit intimidated.  Jack's discomfort for really putting himself "out there" in front of another person has been a real road block.

During a recent presentation at the college, Jack listened to a demonstration about a new way to learn to play an instrument.  Jack's fears of learning dissolved in an instant.  This new way of learning meant he could stay at home, practice when it was convenient for him, take lessons with his teacher using a web cam (so no traveling), review the material as many times as he needed, and send practice recordings to his teacher as they were assigned.  Jack's fear of learning were gone, he found a solution.
Jack's story is based on an actual event.  We estimate there are 1000's, 10s of 1000's of Jacks (adults) out there who want to learn an instrument, who have the time, money and determination to do so, but fear the actual learning process.  When I talked to "Jack, " he said, "I want to learn, but I am really intimidated by the thought of taking lessons."  We then talked about viaAcademies' offerings and he said, "this would be perfect for me."

Adult beginners have very specific needs.  Balancing work, family and musical activities can be complicated.  Whatever solution adults choose for learning music, it must be adaptable and flexible, yet structured and complete.  But adult learners need to learn the basics as well.  We often forget that adults who have little musical background must learn to read musical notation, just like younger students when learning to plan an instrument.  Adult beginners also benefit from learning simple, everyday songs at first, such as "Au Claire de la Lune," "Shoo, Fly," and others.  These songs are not just for younger student. They represent legitimate musical literature, great for beginners of all levels.

Adult learners also need to ensure they understand the basics before moving on to more complex musical activities.  Quizzes and tests are a great way to ensure a student of any level masters the knowledge skills necessary for an activity.  Lastly, students of all ages need the support of a trained teacher.  Teachers motivate learners from any generation to build good practice habits, set goals and analyze their own performance abilities.  Additionally, teachers who can model musical and performance abilities inspire us all to achieve new levels of personal performance.

Begin a beginner is not just for kids.  viaAcademies is currently taking pre-enrollments for our upcoming adult course sections.  Over the next month, we can help adults choose an instrument, make the purchase and get them started.  If you're an adult and you have always wanted to learn to play one of the following instruments, send us an email today (

French Horn
Mallet Percussion
How can we help you as an adult learner?  For those who have taught adults, what are some considerations to be made?



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