Learning the fiddle as an adult

Most of the fiddle students that I teach are adults, some who have been playing the fiddle for years, and some who are just getting started. And not a few of the latter have been folks around my present age (although I’m not giving out any figures here…). I have great admiration for, and belief in, anyone who enthusiastically takes up an instrument to learn to play traditional music later in life and really works and plays at it. You don’t have to have been born with it, nor have learned when you were four years old.

I ran across this video, which is part of a fascinating series of documentaries on Ireland’s TG4 about adult learners taking on an instrument. This one has two master Irish fiddlers, Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh and Martin Hayes, teaching the British actor Jeremy Irons to play the fiddle. It’s a very well done and entertaining video, with some wonderful Irish traditional music. You get to see Irons struggling with the difficulties, but also making great progress in learning due to his enthusiasm and dedication. There’s some great stuff here for teachers as well as older students of traditional music. Two of the things that strike me are eternal verities in learning any kind of traditional music: first, it should be fun! second, you have to be somewhat obsessive about it, so that the music becomes part of you.