Chicago music instructors give lessons to adults

Chicago music instructors give lessons to adults

Wayne Barkus dreamed all his life of learning guitar, but never got the chance until his wife surprised him for his birthday with guitar lessons from highly rated The Right Pick in Naperville, Ill. “I’m 33, going on 34, and guitar has been one of those things I could never do and I never thought would happen,” says Barkus, an Angie’s List member in Bolingbrook, Ill. “Now I have the confidence to play in front of my family and friends and can’t put the guitar down.”

Whether you dream of doing windmills like guitarist Pete Townshend or tickling the ivories like Cole Porter, highly rated music instructors say picking up an instrument later in life reaps great rewards.

“My clientele is about an even mix between kids and adults,” says Right Pick owner Jonathan Bobbe. “I get people who always wanted to learn, or learned a little bit when they were young and wanted to come back to it. Sometimes they just want to learn to play a song from their favorite rock band.” He charges $105 per month for half-hour weekly lessons.

Picking up an instrument in adulthood presents drawbacks, but also advantages. “When you’re a little bit older, you tend to have preset ideas as to how things should be done,” Bobbe says. “But that’s part of the joy of learning an instrument — overcoming that hump. As you get older, you keep up the hand-eye coordination and think logically and creatively at the same time.”

Bobbe recommends finding a music instructor with experience and with whom you’re compatible. “You need to learn from someone you respect and can have fun with,” he says. Some of his students rent instruments, but price decreases have made them more affordable to buy.

Barbara Silverman, who teaches voice and guitar at the highly rated Old Town School of Folk Music in Chicago, says music brings intangible benefits. “Often there’s an element of self-doubt when they’re starting, but once adults commit to it, they can have vast amounts of passion,” she says. “It sensitizes them on an emotional level. You get from it what you put in — sometimes even more.”

Member Bob Markowitz, a senior citizen in Chicago, began taking lessons at Richard Heiberger Classical & Jazz Piano downtown to pursue his lifelong goal of learning piano. “I always wanted to learn the Great American Songbook,” he says.

Kathleen Schenk says the weekly violin lessons she takes at highly rated Cassandra Strings in Algonquin, Ill., provide a physical and mental workout as well as insights she particularly values at her age. “As adults, we come equipped to appreciate the delight, subtleties and intricacies more readily than some youngsters,” the Mount Prospect member says. “We have, after all, been around the block already.”

Cassandra Strings owner Cassandra Thuneman says adults comprise about 10 percent of her clientele, and they often find loosening up the biggest challenge. “Adults tend to want perfection and can get stuck on a certain thing,” says Thuneman, who charges $22 per half-hour lesson. “You don’t have to be Yo-Yo Ma! Just shake it off and come back at it again.”


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It's never too late to learn how to play an instrument. (Photo courtesy of Stacey Marmolejo)
It's never too late to learn how to play an instrument. (Photo courtesy of Stacey Marmolejo)

Highly rated music instructors say it's never to late to pick up an instrument.

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