I’ve chosen this is as the #1 myth in the countdown because I work with tons of older adults, but most of my peers are in their 30s. So, when one of my friends mentions “Oh, it’s way too late for me to pick up music again” or “I haven’t picked up the clarinet since middle school, and it’s my biggest regret,” it drives me crazy! This post is for YOU, my dear friends who have hangups about how you wish you still played music. (The point of this post is only an aside to the topic of music therapy because of course, no level of musical skills or ability is necessary to benefit from music therapy.)
I know from real life experiences and clinical experiences that it’s never too late in life to play music. In order to back my argument up with substantial evidence, I had to dig around to find some research and ask the experts. First, check out one of my favorite books: The Brain that Changes Itself. It’s all about brain plasticity, and the author shares stories of people in physical rehab and people with special needs who end up teaching their brain new tricks at different ages.
Also, I asked Blythe LaGasse of the Music Therapy Research Blog, a blog with a community of readers interested in maintaining evidence-based practice. I can’t say enough good stuff about her work. You *have* to read her blog. She explained that two studies show neuroplasticity in adult non-musicians after a short period of musical instruction (Pascual-Leone 2001 and Lahav et al. 2007). She says, “In essence, it takes longer [to learn music at a later age] because it is new and our brains aren’t wired for music. BUT we can change that with practice in a relatively short amount of time.”
And now for some light-hearted venting: If it truly is your biggest regret to not have continued to play music, then get off the couch, quit playing video games, and play some music again. Your regrets will dissipate, and you’ll feel good about yourself. It really is that simple. Join a chorus, community band, or orchestra to give yourself some accountability. Or perhaps, find a great teacher and take some lessons to prepare for a recital. Jam with your friends. Sing in the shower. Boogie in your car. Then please, have no regrets.
And if you think it’s “way too late” to pick up music again, and you’re only 30, then come along with me to any given session in the middle of the day, drum with some older adults, and get inspired! If an 88 year old wheelchair-bound, arthritic woman can play a drum, smile, and have a grand time, then you can pick up either a drum or an instrument with a little more fine motor action. Just do it. Don’t drag your feet. Chin up, do it, and quit giving yourself excuses.
Do you have any friends who wish they’d never “quit” music? What would you say to them?
#9 Music Therapy is Therapy for Musicians, Right?
#8 Making Music is Just for Kids and Professionals
#7 Drumming is for Hippies Only
#6 Mozart Makes Your Kid a GENIUS
#5 You Either Have Rhythm or You Don’t
#4 Take 2 Bachs, a Bob Dylan, and Call the Music Therapist in the Morning
#3 Music Therapists are Entertainers
#2 Kum Ba Yah Campfire Tours
Image above courtesy of Ian Kahn.