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Thread: Playing Skills as We Age

  1. While I never stopped playing, I was not a serious student of the instrument. However, after I started teaching HS Math in 2004, I decided I had the ability to manage my time to be able to practice regularly. My goal was to see how good I could become under the tutelage of a good teacher. In fall of 2007 I started taking lessons from an excellent teacher/free-lance tubist, Michael Milnarik. Mike got me back to basics for the first year (daily routine, scales, breathing, posture, use of air, etudes, etc.). For 4 years after that, We continued to work on specific skills as well as new literature that I performed in recitals.

    In 2008, I started going to Wales for the International Brass Band Summer School. In 2009, over beers at the IBBSS, David Childs asked me how old I was. I said 58 years old. His response (along with Dave Thornton) was "It is rare someone at your age gets better. Whatever you are doing, keep it up." <smile!!! Halleluah!> I retired from teaching a year later, and for most of the last 10 years have been able to exercise my passion for playing euphonium to the max. (probably a 1/2 time to 3/4 time job, as it were). Obviously the pandemic has come into play for the last 10 months.

    As I reflect on turning 70, I have come to the conclusion that age is finally starting to become a factor. While physical skills have diminshed somewhat (endurance particularly as well as some range), my ability to focus on the written music (literally my eyes) is also starting to degrade (Sight reading, etc) I have to have very bright lighting on the music to read it well. As a result, I have decided to readjust my schedule to my level of play. I am actively seeking a good community band to become my regular "home", and will be leaving the New England Brass Band at the end of June. I will continue to "sub" for the NEBB and Metropolitan Wind Symphony. I also have two summer gigs that will probably be back up at full volume by 2022 at the latest.

    The point of all of this is that at age 49 (when I had my heart attack), I found myself not only needing to change careers, but also had refocus on being a "student" of music rather than just a casual occasional performer, and set a goal of seeing how far I could go. In fact, I found that I was able to go pretty far, to the extent that I was playing about as much as I possibly could and had a ready made "3rd career" by the time I retired for the 2nd time in 2010. The absolute key to this was to start taking serious (weekly) lessons from a professional, even though I was in my mid-50s when I started.

    So, If you set yourself a goal of improving, there is always room to move forward. Set goals for yourself and please find a good teacher in your area who will work with adult students. Depending on where you live, euphonium teachers are hard to find, but tuba teachers can be good as well. Developing discipline and having a routine are key elements of your improvement. Also having a critical set of ears (not your own) to evaluate your progress is equally important.

    Doug
    Last edited by daruby; 01-23-2021 at 01:14 PM.
    Sterling Virtuoso 1065HGS & Adams E3 Prototype 0.70 Top Sprung valves
    Sterling Virtuoso 1050HGS baritone
    New England Brass Band
    Winchendon Winds/Townsend Military Band

  2. #22
    I am in the same situation. I am not 73 and had stopped playing the Euphonium at the age of 21. I started again a little over 2 years ago. i still work because i like it and it is easy work for me, but i try to get in 2 hours a day at least practicing. My problems are numerous. i have nowhere near the range i had when i was young, my breathing is not up to par as it was then and i do have some arthritis. My intonation needs improvement. i do not think my fingering suffers on higher notes. It is the awkward lower notes that can kill me. Scales and chromatics are easy, but some pieces that jump around lower notes are difficult. I started to squeeze a ball and that seems to be building up my strength and dexterity. I will keep working on that. COVID has hurt my chances of playing with a community band right now, but i live in Florida, an open state, so maybe soon i will get a chance to play, at least maybe with a Veterans band that does not require auditions. I have to improve closer to how i was at a younger age before i attempt to audition with the Orlando Concert Band. Heck, i even need more practice reading music. My eyes do not focus like they did when i was younger. i am actually in good health, so don't get me wrong. I just need to keep practicing. I am just working on Arban's Carnival of Venice now. I will never play it as a solo, but i want to play it well enough that i could. I have my good days and bad days. I definitely tire easily, especially when i play higher notes close to High C. I do remember being young and hitting High C about High C playing a trombone for West Side Story. Those days are long gone. I will continue to practice, even more so if i decide to let someone else in my company take over more of my responsibilities. It is getting close to that time.

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