Taking up music later in life good for mind and body

Taking up music later in life good for mind and body

“Mature” violin student Laverne Stearns of Fairfax Manor is hoping meet an equally mature drummer.

“We could get together, find a couple of other musicians and form a group – play for the veterans or for people older than us,” Stearns said with a laugh, but with some seriousness.

Lisa Kirkwood of Clark’s Music Center said Stearns is part of a trend of adults who are taking music lessons in their mature years.

“Many of them played as children then got busy with having families or working, and life circumstances got in the way. Now they are retired, have more open schedules and realize that there is a scientific basis for playing an instrument; it helps one maintain dexterity and balance and improves memory,” explained Kirkwood.

“Some of the students want to play instruments they inherited. It’s a time for focusing on what they want to do instead of have to do,” she said.

“I was a nurse for over 40 years. It’s amazing how quickly time passes as we get older,” said Stearns. “I just kept putting off taking lessons, making excuses – I couldn’t afford it, I was too busy, all of that.”

Stearns_02Stearns had played when she was in the 7th and 8th grades and loved it so she bought a violin in 2011. It wasn’t until February 2015 that she finally had her first lesson with Mike Kelly at Clark’s.

“He is so easy going. I was putting too much pressure on myself. I felt like I should be able to pick up where I left off all those years ago,” said Stearns. “I’m sure they all thought I’d give up, but I am determined to be as good as I can be. I practice about an hour a day and am working on hymns and Christmas music now.”

Also taking lessons at Clark’s is an 80-year-old drum student who had never played before. She is shy about revealing her new interest,  and her name, said Kirkwood. The woman had inquired at other places about lessons but said it felt like they were patting her on the head with an “aren’t you cute” attitude. She came to Clark’s and is faithful to her commitment to learn, Kirkwood said.

Stearns recently kept a friend who was having physical therapy entertained by playing for her during the sessions. “I have a group of friends who seem to enjoy my playing and my daughter is very supportive and encouraging and gives me little hand claps,” she said. “One of my goals is to enjoy life more, to have more fun and be able to fiddle for the veterans at the VA Hospital to cheer them.”

Joking with her teacher, as they “fiddled” together, Stearns commented, “We’ll be playing Carnegie Hall before long.”

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