For all those who keep asking, “Am I too old?”

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    Quote from the author:

    I have had many reports from ordinary people who take up a new sport or a musical instrument in their 50s or 60s, and not only become quite proficient, but derive great joy from doing so. Eliza Bussey, a journalist in her mid-50s who now studies harp at the Peabody conservatory in Baltimore, could not read a note of music a few years ago. In a letter to me, she wrote about what it was like learning to play Handel’s “Passacaille”: “I have felt, for example, my brain and fingers trying to connect, to form new synapses. … I know that my brain has dramatically changed.” Ms. Bussey is no doubt right: her brain has changed.

    Music is an especially powerful shaping force, for listening to and especially playing it engages many different areas of the brain, all of which must work in tandem: from reading musical notation and coordinating fine muscle movements in the hands, to evaluating and expressing rhythm and pitch, to associating music with memories and emotion.


    I loved this Barbara- thanks so much for printing it.

    If I hear someone ask if they’re too old, I generally think the answer is “yes”.

    If you have to ask, you’re already in a negative mind set that would be too much of a burden to doing what you’d really like to do.


    Yes, I’m inclined to agree, Sherry. A friend of mine always says, “Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re probably right.”

    Karen Johns

    And to add: “Attitude is Everything”! (with special thanks to my niece, who is wise beyond her years)



    Hmmmm, this makes me think of my friend who started studying harp 6 mths after I did – actually that’s how we met.

    Barbara Evenson

    When I hear someone ask “am I too old?”, what comes to my mind is that they just need reassurance and encouragement, the kind of information spoken of in the posts here.

    Jerusha Amado


    I agree with you.


    I’m 50 and have been playing the pedal harp for 5 months. It’s a challenge to be sure, but that’s one of the great things about it! My favorite day of the week is my lesson day, and my favorite part of the day is when I get to sit down and practice. My teacher is having a student recital at the end of this month, so it’s going to be me and a bunch of kids!

    My favorite quote:

    “We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.” -George Bernard Shaw


    I am 55 years old and I play the harp for almost 2 years now. It is really a dream that is coming true. I dreamed of playing a harp since I was 10 years old, but unfortunately there was no teacher nearby. So I began to pay clavecin, piano and guitar. Two years ago there was a harp concert in our village. I said to my husband: “That is what I always wanted to do: playing a harp”. He said to me: “How long do you want to wait to try it?” So I have been started playing the harp and I love it. It’s really a passion. Now I dream of playing better, playing with other people, playing by ear, playing blues, etc., etc.

    I love this forum for sharing this passion with others and I learn a lot. Thanks all of you!


    Wonderful response, Edith! Your husband absolutely did ask the right question.


    Age truly has little to do with whether one is too old to play the harp, or for that matter, take up any new skill. I have taught many women older than 65 both harp and piano, and found that they were often more flexible (mentally) than the young ones.

    Physical disabilities can be deeply discouraging though. I am remembering one of my first harp students, who was 71 I think. She didn’t read a note of music, was nearly blind, and had a skin condition which rendered playing the harp painful. We both worked very hard for nearly two years, and she still could hardly pick out a basic tune. Finally the effort was abandoned, to both our disappointment. Yet she remains one of my favorite students ever, and her zest for life was certainly not diminished by the “failure”.

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