Mozart began learning composition at age 6. Beethoven published his first work at age 12. Debussy was 18-years-old when he began to compose prodigiously. Bruckner finished his studies at age 40 and soon after produced his first mature work. Elgar didn’t start composing until he was over 40-years-old.
What do all of these composers have in common?
They’re all in the history books. That’s right! These are famous composers who began their studies at different ages and developing their unique “voices” in various stages of life.
I used to think that I started my musical studies way too late to amount to anything notable. I spent a few good years moping around and sulking over the fact that I hadn’t started earlier. Thank God I finally realized the truth. I was turning into a real Eeyore! (For those of you who need help remembering the sad little donkey, click here.)
The English poet and novelist, George Eliot, once said,
It is never too late to be what you might have been.
And I love this brilliant passage from Mitch Albom’s The Time Keeper,
“It is too late.”
The old man shook his head. “It is never too late or too soon. It is when it is supposed to be.”
He smiled. “There is a plan, Dor.
Isn’t that great? That’s a comforting thought, right?
You see, I can take rest in the fact that I’ve made the leap, and I’m working hard to become the best I can be at what I do. I’m working on my craft day in and day out, and it’s paying off. Sulking isn’t going to get me anywhere on this grand journey, and it’s not going to do you any good either!
I want to tell you about two very different people I know.
Alex is a past piano student of mine. He’s super talented. This kid can play intricate little piano pieces with an expression that rivals that of some professional pianists I know!
Alex expressed an interest in music composition at age 9. We began to focus on his short piano compositions in our weekly lessons. This little guy wrote beautiful music. And it’s not because he was some super monster of a talent. I mean he was gifted, for sure. But he was able to compose these striking little pieces because of his eagerness to explore a newfound passion.
I could have discouraged him by saying something like, “your mom and dad pay for piano lessons, not composition lessons.” Or, “you’re way too young to learn how to compose. Just wait till you’re older.” His mother and father could have discouraged this creative spark by saying similar things. But they encouraged him.
Actor, producer, kickboxer, and blogger, Kenney Myers, has this to say about kids and passion,
The world is a big place and you may be tempted to guide your child along the path that you took, but it’s important for them to pursue things they’re interested in. […] Support your child’s interests and encourage him to learn more about what interests him, even if the interests don’t make sense to you.
My dear friend Paige is a mega talented guy. He’s a professional guitarist and bassist, playing rings around most musicians I know. He’s also a gifted music teacher with a unique ability to deeply connect with his students on an intellectual and personal level.
Paige began studying classical composition on his own at age 55. He digested every piece of content the internet had to offer on the subject and eventually enrolled in the music composition program at Vermont College of Fine Arts.
Paige, a brilliant and eclectic musician with a primarily pop and jazz background, has fallen in love with classical composition. He’s composed many pieces since beginning his journey, has become an expert on the Latin Mass, composed masses, and will present his Master’s thesis to the music faculty at Vermont College of Fine Arts this August.
Way to go, Paige!
I love his story because it defies the status quo. We’re used to learning new things at a rapid rate when we’re young, but as we age, the desire to learn new things becomes less prominent and we grow complacent.
After we gain a certain level of expertise in our current job, we reach a critical point. Up until this point, learning has been somewhat mandatory but it is at this point where learning becomes optional. We no longer need to learn new things to survive. We can just occasionally update our knowledge and still be ok. This is the point where some choose to continue learning new things while others choose to stop learning.
I hope you continue learning. Don’t conform to the status quo. Push the envelope and pursue your passions.
Never let anyone tell you that you’re too young or too old to do something that inspires you. You can’t let anyone hold you back from learning something new. It’s how you’ll find “that thing,” fall in love with “that thing,” and begin to pursue it with passion and excellence.
Encourage those around you who are exploring their creative interests. Don’t pull out a sharp needle and burst their beautiful balloon!
I want to leave you with this brilliant and thought-provoking quote by the American novelist and short story writer, Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald,
For what it’s worth: it’s never too late or, in my case, too early to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit, stop whenever you want. You can change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. And I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find that you’re not, I hope you have the courage to start all over again.
Let’s start a conversation! Please leave a comment below. I’d love to hear from you!