My husband took up the violin 3 years ago, after having learned to read music and play the piano in his 40’s, dropping it, and starting up again in his 60’s. He took to the violin quickly, considering how difficult an instrument it is to play. You must read the music, place your fingers on the correct string, hold your bow correctly and in the proper place on the violin and then move the bow correctly in order to get a desired result. Read: no screeching noise. He continues to take lessons once a week. Unlike piano, the violin lends itself to playing with others, ones timing can be improved and the music itself is far richer when playing with other people and he has been looking for an opportunity to do so.
We discovered there is an “orchestra” in New York City specifically designed for “late starters”- those who learned to play a string instrument as an adult, or perhaps learned as a child and dropped it and resumed playing as an adult. They are called the New York Late Starters String Orchestra. There is no test to get in, everyone is welcome. They meet for 6 sessions in the fall and again in the spring. A selection (repertoire) of music was emailed before the sessions began. The music includes pieces by Mozart, Beethoven, Enya, along with traditional songs like Greensleeves and Morning Has Broken. My husband decided to try it out and yesterday was his third session. The first hour is spent with real beginners who are given some instruction and helped with tempo and staying on key. The 2 hours after that a much larger group convenes along with a conductor and they play for 2 hours. The ages seemed to range from 30’s to 80. I attended with my husband and after the first session they asked if anyone knew someone who would be willing to take some photos for their Facebook page. My hand went up, as I was glad to have something to do during the 3 hours there besides just listening. I also have little experience with photographing people and was glad for the opportunity.
The group consists of violins, violas and cellos, and everyone comes together to play and enjoy playing with others. If you can’t keep up, take a break and sit it out, no one cares. If the sound is a little off key, it doesn’t matter. Not everyone comes every week, the faces change, the group anywhere from 20 to 30 people. The conductor leads and stops to go over things, to improve where the timing may be off, or to discuss the bowing, but there is never criticism. I found it awe inspiring to watch the orchestra in action, the uniting of this group of musicians coming together with their love of playing and determination to do so together. Music the great unifier.