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Doniell Cushman loves to use her teaching experiences to inspire ways to improve music, teaching, and learning.
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Learning music is a commitment. It can be a serious one, or a casual one - but it's still a commitment. We all have lives, and let's be honest about it: Some days are better than other days. As adults, we have jobs, children, grandchildren, chores, work, errands, appointments ... and an endless amount of capability to organize it all. So can we fit in learning piano?
If you're deciding whether or not you can learn piano, you must set some sort of goal or at least have one in mind. Many of my adult students come to me and say they always wanted to learn so they had a hobby, or a pastime. This is a great motivator to learn! I have others that have come to me and said that they want to accomplish a specific piece of music. Also a great reason to learn. Rarely have I had an adult come to me and say they'd love to play Chopin level 8 pieces, or that they want to be a pianist. But this can also be an excellent driving force. I'm going to be brutally honest about all three of these types of adult beginners (or returners) for a moment, and I hope I don't hurt your feelings.
The first adult I mentioned is the most successful adult student. The second is the least successful adult student. The last student is so rare, that I've had only 1 adult in my 10+ years of teaching have this goal - and they fell off the face of the planet when a family crisis occurred.
There are a plethora of reasons for the success of the first student, and why I've retained several of these for years. These adults always come to me with an awareness of self and ability. They are timid, they are receptive, and they are candid. They knew that there would be times when it would be difficult to practice, yet they persevered through lessons that may have felt overwhelming or unsuccessful. They understood that not every lesson would be exciting and fun, and that there is a substantial amount of sweat and tears involved in the learning process.
That leaves the other two types of students. The second type of student tends to fail because they don't live in reality. Most educators are unwilling to teach you something they know you don't want to understand. That said, learning a intermediate piece of music that isn't Mary Had a Little Lamb can involve more than 50 musical concepts. Sure, you can learn by rote ... but are you really learning music? No. Are you really learning the song? No. There's more to music than just the right notes and the right lengths of the notes. People with a piece goal in mind want to play NOW, and then never come back for lessons. In truth, this is distracting and leads to disinterest on not only behalf of the student, but also the teacher.
The final student who wants to be a great musician is genuinely rare at an adult's age, that there isn't much to say really. As an educator, I'd equate it to a drastic change in careers: A mechanic suddenly becoming a financial consultant. It's a dream, and dream chasers can be valuable students and can learn very well. But, when obstacles block their path, they can end up more reluctant to change their ways and will easily settle for less.
All types of adults and goals can be successful, but in my experience, the adult that knows the level of dedication involved is the one best prepared for success in lessons. They can truly learn piano. Good or bad, they have the thick skin required and the resolve.
Now let's get to how to overcome your challenges being an adult.