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Getting (back) into music


Learn to play, read and enjoy music in childhood and, however much you neglect it in adult life, it’s always there, hardwired in, to go back to.

I was seven when they asked us at primary school if anyone would like to start the violin and went home excitedly to ask for a note to take in the next day. Put in a little class of eight with Mrs Clements for the next three years, I picked up the reading of music effortlessly along the way. I wasn’t, to be honest, the best in the class but I liked it and wanted to continue at secondary school where my father (himself a fine amateur folk fiddler) cheerfully paid for individual lessons for seven more years – happy memories of ensembles, passing exams and sometimes playing folk with my father. It all went on after I left school and into my twenties too. Then came a full-time job, marriage and children. I got busy and somehow it all ebbed away.

Fast forward 35 years or so. Two years ago, bent on a bit of down-sizing, I unearthed my violin. Decision time.  Sell it? Something snapped in my head like strong pizzicato note. No, I thought, I shall play it.

I had the instrument restored by a violin maker who also rehaired my weevil-nibbled bow. Then, out of earshot of anyone else, I cautiously tried a few notes. It sounded utterly dreadful but I persevered and after a week or two I could manage a simple folk tune slowly but more or less in tune. And I was back on the bike.

Since then I have found a local teacher with whom I do an hour a month. He and I reckon I’ve worked back to about Grade 6 standard. I’ve also joined a modest community group where no one minds if you can play only one note per bar and it isn’t always the right one. I was both humbled and moved to get right through the second violin part of Beethoven’s first piano concerto and get some of it right only a few weeks after joining, I never dreamed I’d ever do anything like that again. I’ve been on several residential course at Benslow Music at Hitchin in Hertfordshire where many of the others are ‘returners’ like me.  I play string quartets regularly in a group and have attended numerous single day workshops

Such fun, so satisfying and, as my children never tire of reminding me, music helps keep dementia at bay.


Author information
Susan Elkin Susan Elkin is an education journalist, author and former secondary teacher of English. She was Education and Training Editor at The Stage from 2005 - 2016
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