‘I want to stretch my limits after 60 by learning new skills’

May 08, 2019
Deb wanted to learn to play the piano, but the first lesson had her off key. Source: Getty Images

I’m about to embark on tutoring a ‘knitting for beginners’ class at the Mornington U3A (University of the Third Age)! I’ve been really looking forward to it. I ran one successfully in 2018 and had requests to do another, but as we were heading into spring and summer the timing wasn’t quite right.

Recently I ran through any changes to housekeeping (attendance rolls, fire drill and evacuation point, office admin and photocopying etc.) and this year I’ve gained two extra students maxing out to 10, plus a waiting list! It’s all very exciting!

However, I’ve not only fulfilled the role of tutor, but I am also a U3A student. It was only recently that I had my first ever piano lesson. I’ll admit to feeling a bit peeved at the timing — scheduled at the same time as my tai chi class, which I’m enjoying, but I put in an apology and headed over to the music room with great expectation.

The class was limited to six people so I thought that boded well — lots of time for individual attention. I somehow pictured in my head six keyboards with us newbies plonking as the tutor explained about middle C or something, but that could not have been further from the truth.

A row of chairs around the wall. One upright piano. One Hammond organ. A whiteboard. That’s it.

Eight of us sat around introducing ourselves and our musical accomplishments, which in my case was nil. I learned that five students had studied piano as children, even took exams and became graded, but over the years hadn’t touched a keyboard. We three rank novices sighed. This was going to be long and arduous.

After one hour of the two-hour class, no one had touched a note. It was all theory, staff/stave, time signature, the names of the notes and their beats, a very boring dissertation of how music has changed over the centuries — from baroque to rap … And then the tutor played octaves, mentioned sharps and flats, diminished something-or-others and belted out a teeth-grinding version of ‘Up Up and Away’!

That was my exit tune! I excused myself from further classes and dashed over to tai chi just in time to catch the 5-minute cool down.

Deb has a love of knitting and the piano, skills she hoped to advance at the local U3A. Source: Deb Trayler

Aside from whipping up some expert yarn-bombing (see photo), I shall ponder the next step in my efforts to conquer the keyboard at no cost. YouTube is looking good!

What new things have you learned in your 60-pluses? What tips do you have for anyone wanting to learn a new skill?

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