You Are Never Too Old To Learn!

I took my grade one saxophone exam this week. Apart from Merlin’s bronze dog training award (which I might add he passed with flying colours!), this was the first exam I have taken since I took my finals in 1989.

I was inspired to take up the saxophone, which I have always considered to be the coolest instrument on the planet, by my son Joseph who came back from school and announced that he wanted to take it up. They say that when you look back on your life, the things that you regret are those you have not done or tried rather than things that you have done that went wrong. Prior to picking up the saxophone I have never played or learned a musical instrument in my life. I could neither read nor play a single note and went through school being told I was tone deaf and consequently have never had the confidence to try to learn an instrument until now.  So Joe and I have been learning the saxophone together and took our exams together.  Just sharing an experience like this has been great fun!

Being on the other side of the fence, a student rather than a teacher has been a fascinating experience. It has been hugely frustrating at times, but mostly incredibly rewarding. The first time I played a tune that I recognised was enormously satisfying. To get up to the standard required to take the exam has involved a great deal of hard work, commitment and self-discipline, because the only way to prepare for anything is by practising, and continuing to do so almost every day.

As a teacher it is very easy to forget that we may be trying to explain something to our students that is completely new to them and indeed something that is a complete mystery to them. To turn the tables occasionally is no bad thing. I have really enjoyed the learning the saxophone, I am really grateful to my teacher, Liz Oughton for her patience and her encouragement and I have benefited from the whole experience in so many different ways.

Coming out of the exam, I couldn’t help analysing where I had gone wrong and kicking myself for the mistakes I had made, but that of course is part of the process. No matter how much work you put into preparing for anything, you are very rarely, if ever, going to be able to put in a perfect performance, but by preparing as best you can, you increase your chances of doing as well as you can on the day, and each time you go through this sort of experience, you learn a little bit more about yourself and increase your chances of doing just a little bit better next time around as well.

A Mast Year

If you have been walking in the woods over the past few weeks, you may have noticed a surfeit of acorns, chestnuts and other nuts and berries littering the ground. Apparently we are in something called a “mast year”. It happens once every five years where fruit or nut trees drop an inordinate amount.  Some say it is a precursor to a bad winter, and helps wildlife store food for the hard months ahead. It will be interesting to see if this proves to be the case, but I sincerely hope not!