Story by Edna Troiano and Photography by Michelle Brosco Christian
Darlene Adams, a La Plata resident and retiree from the University of Maryland, did something last year she hadn't done since she was ten years old: take piano lessons. The mention of music lessons may bring to mind images of children being coerced into practicing or dressing up for the big recital, but many empty-nesters and retirees find they finally have time to pursue interests they postponed due to work or family, and one interest they frequently turn to is music.
For anyone considering taking music lessons - adult or child - the three basic options are private instructors, colleges and music stores. If you are looking for a private instructor, Joan Chovanes, a teacher of voice, piano and organ in St. Mary's County, recommends selecting a member of the Music Teachers Association of Southern Maryland because members are active in their profession and up-to-date on teaching methods. The best way to find a teacher, Chovanes says, is the one advocated by the Music Teachers National Association: attending recitals. At a recital, you'll be able to gauge students' performances, which reflect their teachers' abilities. The advantages of a private instructor are the personalized instruction and the informality of meeting in a home or small studio.
You might also consider the College of Southern Maryland (CSM), which offers music lessons for adults. Dr. Stephen Johnson, professor and coordinator of music at CSM, says that the most popular lessons - guitar and piano - can be taken in groups or individually. Lessons on other instruments, including woodwinds, brass, percussion, strings and voice, are available to individuals. According to Johnson, an advantage of taking lessons from CSM is the vetting process for instructors. Most have a master's degree; those without graduate degrees have certifications or extensive experience. Adams says she chose CSM because the lessons were less expensive than those by a private instructor.
Music stores are another alternative. In addition to offering lessons, they provide instrument rentals, sales and, in some instances, repairs. Hot Licks Guitar Shop in Charles County, Allegro Music Service in St. Mary's, and Sacchetti Music in Calvert offer lessons in a wide range of instruments. If you're thinking about taking lessons through a music store, browse the websites of stores in your area to see what lessons are available and to read the instructors' biographies.
Some adults may be reluctant to begin lessons because they think it's easier to learn to play an instrument as a child, but according to Chovanes, children and teens are often involved in so many activities that they have limited time to practice. Adults also have many demands on their time, but they are often more motivated. Both children and adults can be frustrated by the slow progress involved in learning to play an instrument. The exceptions, Chovanes says, are those learning voice, because students can see immediate progress.
If you're considering music lessons for your child, first decide if your child is ready. Children surrounded by music in the home, Chovanes explains, may be ready at an earlier age, and methods are available to teach kids as young as four. Public schools introduce children to instruments in grade school, so waiting to discover what instrument appeals to a child could be a good strategy.
Adams says she made the decision to take piano lessons "because the piano sitting in my living room was not getting any use after the girls moved out, and I always had it in the back of my mind to see if I could learn to play again or was stuck at the 10-year-old level. It was fun to see I could progress."
Many Southern Marylanders are learning - or relearning - how to play an instrument. Consider joining them because, as Adams says, "It's fun."
Music schools/stores offering lessons
Bell Piano Studio, 3505 Fox Ridge Rd., Waldorf; 240-607-3330
Bullock's Piano Salon East, 4429 Crain Hwy., White Plains; 301-705-7900
St. Mary's County
Nambo's Guitar Emporium, Wildewood Shopping Center, California, Md.; 301-737-4145
Southern Maryland Music Studio, 23320 Rolling Ct., Lexington Park; 301-862-9541