When Midori Hall was 34, she decided to pursue her childhood dream. So, the Gilbert resident sat down and began to plunk away at the keys of a piano.
Some 30 years later, she is still living that dream, both as a private instructor and student — over time, she has added the autoharp and guitar to her musical repertoire.
"It is my belief that it’s never too late to learn anything," Hall said.
Speak of music lessons and children come to mind. But learning to play an instrument as an adult can be just as rewarding — and, in most cases, a lot easier.
"If an adult comes in here and wants to take lessons, they’ve already learned how to learn," said Randy Rausch, manager of American Music in Mesa. "Adult learners are the best and the fastest."
American Music was recently remodeled to include five teaching studios where people can learn to play instruments from the drums to a violin (30-minute lessons range from $14 to $24). About 20 percent of the students at American Music are collegeage or older.
Often, learning to play an instrument is something an adult has always wanted to do, but maybe never had the time, money or opportunity to pursue.
Mesa resident John Robinett, 51, began taking viola lessons nine months ago at Milano Music in Mesa — a chance that came about because his sister had a viola she wasn’t using.
"She asked me, ‘If I give this to you, would you try to learn it?’ " Robinett said. "I thought, ‘Well, what do I have to lose?’ Because I was given this opportunity later in life, I actually have more drive to pursue it than most."
Robinett’s determination is typical of adults who pick up an instrument for the
"It’s more of a mental challenge to say, ‘Yeah, I can be a beginner all over again,’ " said Alycia de Mesa, a professional harp player and private instructor. "The reality is, the (adults) who do decide they’re going to do it, they actually put more into it than they would have as a child.
"The good thing about an adult is if they have chosen to do it at this point in their life, they’re fairly open to learning. The adults will actually practice."
EVERYONE HAS A SONG
As the years go by, most people give up their dreams of being a rock star — and learning to play music as an adult becomes more of a personal quest.
"Music is just so emotionally healing," said de Mesa, who will perform Saturday at Kerr Cultural Center in Scottsdale. "For some people, it’s like that becomes the equivalent of doing meditation or yoga, doing something that is going to bring balance to their lives."
Others, like Gilbert resident Melanie Gibb, look to instrument playing as a potential tool for family bonding. Gibb took her first piano lesson from Hall last week.
"I’ve always thought it would be neat to sit down and play the piano," said Gibb, a 32-year-old mother of two. "I’d like for (my family) to spend time doing that, together."
Still others find playing music can be a social outlet. Robinett performs in his church’s volunteer orchestra, and recently formed a string quartet. The quartet’s three other members are ages 12, 18 and 20.
"(Music) cuts across age and socioeconomic barriers," Robinett said. "The one thing you’ll find is that people like to talk about music and making music and the techniques."
FOLLOW THE MUSE
Once a goal is met or a song conquered, making music can be satisfying.
Paradise Valley resident Bill Taylor, 41, recently decided to take lessons in jazz guitar. Although he played classical guitar in his 20s, Taylor said it still gives him a "sense of accomplishment to master new pieces."
"Music is such a great activity for the mind," said Bruce Brindley, who, along with his sister, Sandra Heistrand, owns Brindley’s Music Center in Mesa and Chandler.
Like many music stores and schools, Brindley’s Music Center offers instrument rentals — a good option for someone who isn’t sure about which instrument to pursue.
No one instrument is "easiest" to learn. Some instruments, such as the harp, will naturally sound better than, say, a trombone, on first try. But all require similar amounts of dedication and practice. Experts suggest that new students go after the instrument that appeals to them most.
"I typically show people a number of instruments and they will be drawn to one thing or another," said Walt Kuhlman, owner of Gypsy’s folk instrument store in Scottsdale.
Kuhlman said a common misconception among nonplayers is that you have to be "musical" in order to play an instrument.
"We all have rhythm. You have rhythm when you walk, you have rhythm when you talk," he said. "Making music is not necessarily a difficult process. Anybody can do it."
The East Valley is home to many music stores, music schools and private music instructors. Here is a sample of places to get started. Check the Yellow Pages for more listings.
Arizona Community School of Music: 225 W. University Drive, Suite 102, Tempe, (480) 829-7303 or www.acsmusic.com
American Music: 1020 W. Southern Ave., Suite 1, Mesa, (480) 898-1499
Brindley’s Music Center: 6134 E. Main St., Suite C-102, Mesa; 836 N. Arizona Ave., Chandler, (480) 854-2726 or (480) 963-1468
Gypsy’s, a folk instrument store: 7122 E. Fifth Ave., Suite C, Scottsdale, (480) 429-7711
Milano Music: 38 W. Main St., Mesa, (480) 833-2323