Adult beginners face judgement, pressures and constraints not often associated with younger students, and teachers must aim to be inclusive of late-starters, writes the violinist


Rachael Ridge

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While there is elitism and judgement in every profession, it particularly saddens me to see it in the musical community. As musicians, we should more than understand the joy of making music and the desire of humankind to create art. We also have witnessed how music enriches our lives and deepens our understanding of other subject areas and the world around us. So, shouldn’t we celebrate when someone wants to learn music and specifically how to play the violin no matter their age, goals, or limitations? And yet, I’ve heard so many stories from adult beginners on the judgements they’ve faced from violin professionals. I want to shed light on a few of the more common judgments this particular group of violin learners has faced.

First, many adult beginners face judgements based on the fact that they’re starting later in life. Teachers have critiqued adult students for their age and insinuated that they’ll never be successful starting this ‘late in the game’. Adults have also been judged harsher on their performances based solely on their age instead of on their limited years of experience playing the violin. Some professionals seem to think that all adults should learn at a faster rate than young players. They completely ignore the fact that many deal with physical and mental challenges as well as time constraints that younger beginners don’t have to face.

Second, adults have financial responsibilities including kids, homes, cars, etc. and may not feel as comfortable investing tons of money into themselves. However, violin teachers and luthiers have condemned adults for wanting to save money on their instrument purchase. Some have even gone so far as to tell adult beginners that if they ’aren’t willing to spend thousands on a violin, then don’t even bother learning.’ This statement is completely ludicrous to me as I know several reputable violin shops that sell decent student models for well under $1,000. It also implies that violin learning should be reserved for those who plan to make music their profession which is a completely irrational line of thinking.

Finally, adults face time constraints that may lead them to try online resources at some point in their violin journey. Personally, I think the amount and quality of online violin education is amazing. However, I’ve heard stories of professionals bashing online learning and denying any progress gained by a student through these resources. One adult told me how, after teaching herself online for several years during Covid, she decided to invest in lessons. At her first lesson, the teacher asked her where she had studied previously. When she told him she’d been learning online, he called her a liar and denied the progress she’d made! As a teacher of adult violin beginners, this frustrates me as it puts adult beginners in a box. The reality is, adults come with a variety of background knowledge and skills that may make online learning a perfect fit for them.

We need to do better and take a stand against this shameful part of the violin community. I know this isn’t everyone, and personally know several amazing musicians and instructors who are an encouraging force in violin education. Thankfully, there’s a growing community of inclusive and supportive violinists. However, we have to face the fact that this kind of judgement exists among us. I want to encourage violin professionals and students to take a stand against those who would spread judgements and negativity. I know from personal experience that these judgements are not reserved for adult beginners alone and many of us as professionals have faced similar criticisms early on in our careers. When we recognise that others have faced these situations, we can be empowered to stand up and make a change.

I hope you were encouraged by this article! If you want to join a community of adult violin beginners to be encouraged and supported on your journey, join The Adult Violin Academy Facebook group today.

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