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What's the Perfect Age to Take Up an Instrument?
40. 60. Or 85.

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Marjorie Forbes really wanted to play the oboe. For years, she vowed that she would learn but never felt that she had the time. When she retired at age 68, she found a teacher she loved, and all the pieces fell into place. Now 82, she plays every week with chamber ensembles at Kaufman Music Center’s Lucy Moses School (LMS). “I’m just having the best time of my life,” she says. “The experience of playing with other people is so wonderful. It’s the best way to be in the moment that I know of. It’s hard work, but it makes me happy.” Like many musicians in LMS’s Adult Division, Marjorie played an instrument as a child and gave it up in her 20s, but never lost her passion for music.

LMS’s adult students are a very diverse group,” explains Alicia Andrews, the school’s Assistant Director and Adult Division Manager. Ranging in age from 18 to 90+, they include musicians and singers at all skill levels, from absolute beginners to adults who studied an instrument seriously as children or teens, took a break, and then returned to music. “We certainly have a lot of options for musicians who are more advanced in their skill level – some classes are available by audition only” says Alicia, “but we also have many classes for those who are just starting their musical adventures with us.” Alicia carefully matches students interested in private lessons with faculty members suited to their skill level, schedule, learning style and musical interests. Other great options for beginners include group classes, which add a fun social element to starting an instrument. 

What inspires adult students to return to an instrument, or take up a new one? Alicia hears two reasons over and over again: “Now I finally have time.” “Often, when people retire or when their kids go to school, they finally have time to pursue something that they either pursued as a younger person and then had to put aside, or have always wanted to do and haven’t gotten a chance to do yet,” she explains. “The other thing that I hear frequently is ‘I didn’t realize how much I would miss it.’” The demands of careers and families can push music and the performing arts onto the back burner, but many LMS students return to music as adults because it’s so valuable to them as an outlet for creative expression and a way of connecting with others.

“Through music you can immediately touch someone’s heart without words,” says Jazz Ensemble member Mahazi Roundtree, a vocalist and bass player. “It’s very powerful. I take that very seriously.” Mahazi appreciates the supportive atmosphere at LMS and loves performing with her ensemble at the end of each semester – an opportunity that makes the program unique.

In many cases, parents take lessons along with their children or grandchildren. “One of the huge strengths of LMS as a performing arts institution is that multiple people in a family can be part of our community,” says Alicia. Phyllis Tobin, who recently turned 80, returned to the flute when she saw a flyer in the elevator while taking her then 4-year-old granddaughter to a piano lesson at LMS. “The best part for me is how much I’ve grown,” says Phyllis, who loves the sense of community she feels when playing with others. “I have developed a musical family.”

Is it harder to learn music as an adult than as a child? “Some parts of it come very easily to kids, and some parts come more easily to adults,” says Alicia. “It’s a different kind of process, but I don’t necessarily think it’s harder. Many adults are lucky enough to know a lot about how they learn, so when we’re matching someone with a private lesson teacher, we really take that into account.”

Serious and inquisitive, LMS Adult Division students want to learn and are open to fully
developing their creativity, says saxophone player and Jazz Ensemble member Henry Young.
“One of the best experiences you can have is when a community of people is playing music
together. For a brief moment, everyone is part of a collective making a joyful noise.”


There’s a perfect class for you at Lucy Moses School! Discover our music, dance and theater class offerings for adults at KaufmanMusicCenter.org/LMS, email us, or call 212 501 3360.

Chamber Ensembles at Lucy Moses School at Kaufman Music Center

Photo above: Marjorie Forbes (oboe) with her chamber ensemble at Lucy Moses School.

Photo at top: Lucy Moses School Adult Division Jazz Ensemble players Henry Young, Barry Gottlieb, Anthony Leone and Mahazi Roundtree take a break during a rehearsal led by LMS Jazz Program Director Roni Ben-Hur. Photo credit: Richard Termine