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Piano teacher Candi Long gives lessons to Phillip Parker, 69, at Emiron Music in Decatur.
Daily photo by John Godbey
Piano teacher Candi Long gives lessons to Phillip Parker, 69, at Emiron Music in Decatur.

Facing the music
Adults find itís never too late to learn, but what about those recitals?

By Danielle Komis
dkomis@decaturdaily.com ∑ 340-2447

After six months of piano lessons, Phillip Parker can boogie.

The boogie bug bit the 69-year-old Decatur man after experiencing the musical style on a trip to a blues club in Mississippi last year.

Guitar instructor Larry Waldrup, left, plays with Greg Herron during a lesson at Hargett Music Center in Hartselle.
Daily photo by Jonathan Palmer
Guitar instructor Larry Waldrup, left, plays with Greg Herron during a lesson at Hargett Music Center in Hartselle.
Like other adults taking music lessons, Parker's longings for something fun, rewarding and a little out of the everyday humdrum motivated him to sign up for lessons.

Parker chose piano teacher Candi Long when he overheard her giving lessons to another piano student at Emiron Music in downtown Decatur. She was teaching the student a boogie.

"I poked my head in and said, 'I want to learn how to do that!' " he said.

And now he can. But he is still working toward his greater goal of learning 20 solid pieces in three years and one day playing in jam sessions up and down the Delta.

Long says Parker's goal is within reach because he is one of the fastest learners and memorizers she's ever taught. He also had a solid foundation to build on because he was a piano student when he was a child.

Along with Parker, Long teaches about 10 other adults, who make up about one-fifth of her students.

Her adult students range greatly in age, background and careers. Long teaches a factory manager, retired military personnel, an insurance salesman and a dentist. Ages range from young adults, parents with young children, recent retirees and all the way up to her oldest student, who is 83.

"I teach anybody who wants to take," she said. "You're never too old to learn music or excel in music. A lot of adults think they can't do it because of their age."

Yet adult students — as long as they're willing to let go of their hang-ups about knowing less about music than some children — have many advantages over children, music teachers said, though their schedules are usually more hectic.

Adults often learn at a faster pace, practice more, are more motivated and understand concepts better.

"Adults want to get more for their money, whereas children have no concept of money," Long said. "The adults know how long it takes to make that money."

Escape stress

For adults, it's also a good way to escape the stress and pressure of the world, said piano and guitar teacher Larry Waldrup, who teaches at Hargett Music Center in Hartslle.

"When you're in the studio, that's one time when you're not really dwelling on things that are happening," he said. "This is a very good way to focus and get your mind off things."

Greg Herron, a guitar student of Waldrup's, agreed. He often practices guitar as a way to unwind after work.

"When you have to deal with the public all day, some days to be able to go home and sit down and play is really nice," he said.

Herron, 43, started guitar lessons as a way to bond with his 9-year-old daughter, who also took lessons. He bought them both guitars a couple of years ago for Christmas. However, she soon lost interest, but he kept at it.

'Real exciting'

"It's real exciting to me. It's a challenge, basically," he said.

But before he tried, he worried the challenge might be too great.

"I was really apprehensive at first," he said. "I thought I was too old to learn. ... It's proven to me that I can be taught something."

Sometimes he sits in with his friends who play guitar in a bluegrass band and learns a lot from watching them. If he ever got good enough, he'd love to play in a band, too, he said. However, he's definitely not looking to get famous — but you never know.

"I don't see myself moving to Nashville anytime soon or anything like that. But who knows? There might be a call for a 40-something guitar player or something," he joked.

Recitals

But students like Herron can be lighthearted because they haven't had to deal with one aspect of music lessons that many students dread — the recitals.

Marian Cook of Athens has had to face that music alone. Last year, the mother of two was the only adult who participated in her piano teacher's recital at Athens State University. Other adults planned to participate in the recital but backed out at the last minute.

"I was embarrassed at first because I was the only adult participating," she said. "Plus, I don't really like the spotlight."

However, it turned out to be fun, she said, especially because her son played in the same recital. She's still not sure, though, if she'll participate in the upcoming spring recital.

Major challenge

Her piano teacher, Nina Claxton of Athens, said it's always a major challenge to convince her adult students to play in the recitals.

"For every one I can talk into it I have four or five who back out at the last minute," she said.

And if they do actually follow through, she worries the most for them when they're up there.

"They're the ones who will take it to their grave (if it doesn't go well)," she said.

Many teachers don't even have recitals anymore for those reasons.

But students like Parker aren't worried about impressing, they just want to feel the music through their bones and enjoy their time away from everyday life.

Besides, if you get older and don't do anything new, then your life can become very small, he said. And learning has been a breeze for him.

"There's been nothing hard about it because I've been motivated," he said.

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