As a musician and music teacher, I frequently hear "I'm just not talented." "I'm too old to learn to play music." "I'm tone deaf." This, from people who, in other areas of their lives, are extremely competent. Many people have the idea that talent is something you are either born with or you're not. They get the message that the ability to learn slows as you age or that not knowing how to carry a tune equals tone deafness.
Lets talk about talent and age. My parents grew up in hard circumstances. Music lessons were a luxury that they could not afford. My mother paid for her first lessons on the violin at age 18 even though she'd been pining for lessons since she was a toddler. She vowed that her children would have music lessons and have the opportunity she missed. As a result, I grew up in a home filled to the brim with music. I asked to play the violin and got my first one at age 3. I began taking lessons at a music school in New York called Ithaca Talent Education. Interesting name, right? This is because the owners, Sanford and Joan Reuning, believed that talent is taught, not inborn. I never saw anyone not able to learn what was being taught at that school. My mother asked me to be her violin teacher when I was 14. Imagine the humility that took for her to treat me, her teenage daughter, as her teacher. Because of her, I learned how to teach adults and they are some of my favorite students.
One thing I have learned about adults is they often sell themselves short when it comes to learning new things. The science behind the brain's ability to learn is fairly simple and can happen at any age. Do something that makes you feel out of your depth and uncomfortable and your brain will grow new dendrites to manage this new activity. This applies to anything. By simply doing something new, you grow your brain. I challenge you to try it. Pick something and do it at least until it starts to feel comfortable. Then push the envelope and make yourself uncomfortable again. Every time you do this, you literally become smarter. At any age.
My mother had this attitude of learning throughout her life. She finished her Bachelor's degree in her sixties. She loved learning about anything and everything. She taught me to stay curious. Because of her example, I have continued to push myself to do things that are hard. Like opening a music school. Musicians are not typically great at business. I wasn't born with business sense. So here I am, outside of my comfort zone, growing dendrites in my brain.
Can you learn a musical instrument at age 30, 40, 50 and beyond? You certainly can. There are things you can do to learn the talent of music. Have you always wanted to play the cello or piano? My father finally learned to play piano in his seventies . He never thought it was possible but thanks to my mother, he dared to try. I know if he can, then so can all of us.
My dear father is another story for another blog post. I know I still need to cover tone deafness since I brought it up in the beginning. I promise I will, but it deserves its own story. For today, make yourself a promise to expand your knowledge in some way that makes you feel a little out of your depth. I'd love your comments on how that goes for you.