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Riley Music Academy Music Cast: Too late to take up a musical instrument?

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Too late to take up a musical instrument?

Yesterday I took my sons on the train to Birmingham.  It’s a trip I haven’t taken in a while and while the boys were obsessing about travelling on a train, I was taking in some of the new sites.  New Street Station has had a radical overhaul and the new Birmingham Library is quirky and jaw droppingly beautiful.

At one stage I was playing gigs almost every week in this city but more recently my work has moved further South so I was in full sight seeing mode.  Anyway, let me get to a point of some sort!


That’s the point I was considering this week and yesterday’s trip summed it up for me. Birmingham as a city has gone through some development changes.  People have had many strong opinions about it (not always pleasant) and yet it continues to move forward and become better than it was before.  It takes risks with prominent buildings such as Selfridges, Birmingham Library and The Cube and it also recognises when ideas don’t work well and steers in a new direction.

Development in a city is very similar to the learning development of a musician. One of the joys of my job is that I see growth in people of all ages. From Primary School to University of the Third Age I encourage many people to take on the challenge of playing music. The progress rates differ but the journey is universal.

Now many people decide that learning a musical instrument is futile because they are too old.  I can understand this in a way. You have your habits and creature comforts. You compare yourself to others.  You see the end goal as being so far out of reach that you avoid it altogether.  Im not going to make anyone feel bad by saying that these arguments are actually excuses. I would never pressure anyone to take on a challenge that they weren’t really up for.  In some cases some of these arguments are valid too; I sometimes compare myself to others and it’s not a nice feeling!  Why would you want to put yourself through this unease?

Well…when you take the escalator to the top of Birmingham Library…

You see this view…

You can see the journey, the evolution, the growth and it’s exciting.  From here you can see the old (believe it or not, I used to work as a security guard in Alpha Tower) the new (the amazing Cube) and the work in progress.

When I analyse my own musical progress I see the old (my habits, my influences), the new (my recent advancement in technique and tone) and the work in progress (I will refrain from writing these as it will take up too much space)!

So, is it too late for me as a musician?  Well, I’m certainly no child prodigy.  I also wasted a lot of time in my teens and early 20′s.  So, in a lot of respects I’m way behind if I compare myself to conservertoire graduates. However, despite hitting a birthday recently, I’m not over the hill and I’ve been thinking about music for a long time so I’m doing ok.

What about the classic case of taking up an instrument in retirement or when the kids have flown the nest?  Is it worth it?  Will you have enough years on the clock to get really good?  My answer is: does it really matter when you feel the day to day excitement of learning something new and you see a view like the one above?

Does this make sense to you?  What’s your favourite landmark?  Leave a comment if you wish


9 Comments Add a Comment
  1. Andrew Gibbs
    March 31, 2016

    Hi Jay,

    I started two years ago on the DB. No music before and am now 63. I’m rubbish, but I’ve never been so good.

    • Jay
      March 31, 2016

      ha! Thats funny and also massively inspirational. Well done Andrew!

  2. Jo
    March 31, 2016

    Very nicely put Jay, enjoyment is everything for me :)
    Played my tenor sax yesterday after a break of over a year and loved it.
    Struggling with electric guitar but really enjoying the challenge!
    You are never too old to have a go.

    • Jay
      March 31, 2016

      Thanks Jo. Glad you’re back on your tenor. I didn’t realise you were a guitarist too! Awesome.

  3. Sophia Dady
    March 31, 2016

    I couldn’t agree more Mr Jay!

    • Jay
      March 31, 2016

      Thanks Sophia

  4. Roger Hughes
    March 31, 2016

    Well as a late starter (as you know I didn’t pick up the clarinet until I was 48 and the sax only 3 years ago),I would have to say wholeheartedly it is worth it. To many people focus on the destination, when the excitment is in the journey. A destination is fixed, a journey can take many routes!

  5. Keith
    March 31, 2016

    Your words really resonate with me, Jay. I first picked up a sax at 53, after being loaned one as a result of a drunken conversation with a sax player. It was the first instrument I ever seriously tried to learn. Now 60, I have just played my best performance ever. It’s a great feeling! Onwards and upwards is the only way!

    • Jay
      April 1, 2016

      That’s great Keith. Thank goodness there are a lot of drunk saxophonists out there!

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