The key for staying sharp is to learn new things throughout life.
So when a group of senior ladies asked Terry Moon if they could learn to play the clarinet or trumpet, the bass fiddler and head of a youth music program, chimed in, “of course you can, let me see what I can do.”
That was back in April. Now, a dozen students with grey-tinged hair, gather in the Trail Alliance Church Wednesday afternoon, and learn how to read music and how to play a brass or woodwind.
“We are starting out literally at the beginning,” said Moon, the church’s program administrator for the Adult Seniors Band as well as the Trail and District After School Band.
“Knowing nothing about music, we started them right from the basics, with what music is, what is a note, and how to count.”
Moon says the program has been a unique learning experience that presented him a few unforeseen challenges.
“What we discovered in trying to help older adults, is their physical needs are playing a huge role when choosing the right instrument,” he explained.
“For example, some can’t hold their arms up in such a way to hold a flute. Or their knuckles have arthritis, or injuries throughout life, have come to play significantly in how to choose an instrument – that’s where we got caught.”
Everyone has a particular instrument in mind, says Moon. But his role is to introduce senior students to the gamut, from clarinet to french horn or trombone, and have them give it a try. If the instrument is too cumbersome to hold or blow into, then it’s on to the next.
“Some people don’t have the physical dexterity or their lips don’t fit certain mouthpieces,” added Moon.
Besides age-related physical changes, the method of teaching senior versus youth also requires certain adaptation.
“A young person’s mind is still tied to learning from school, and on a huge fast track,” said Moon. “As an adult, it takes a bit more time to understand some of the basic principles, and older weaker eyes may not see a note on the page like a younger person would. So it’s getting used to that.”
But more than anything, there’s one aspect about teaching seniors that has everyone smiling.
“Mind exercise and the physical is a really great part and I am enjoying that,” said Moon. “But most certainly, the best part with the seniors bunch is they can laugh at each other. As a kid, you hate to be laughed at – well, this is the reverse,” he chuckled. “These are the different things that made it’s so much fun, and these people are a whole lot of fun.”
When Moon was tasked with assembling a senior band program, the first to-do was finding a music teacher – preferably one with a lot of experience and maybe even a few gray hairs.
That’s when Clark White agreed to step in, lending hand and ear. White’s been teaching music since 1961, is a retired J.L. Crowe Secondary music teacher, and a well known musician in several local bands.
He says the most meaningful lesson the seniors are learning is that every aspect of being human is involved in the production of music.
“More than anything they are finding out music requires participation of the entire being, the breathing, ears, eyes, lips, emotions, the brain and mathematics, White added. “And I’ve had them say they didn’t realize they would have to push so hard to become a good (for example) clarinet player.”
That’s where Moon jumps back into the picture, by encouraging the seniors to keep going.
“Clark has a mantra, he will not allow the c-word, which is can’t,” Moon said. “And my mantra is, ‘wait until the end of the year,’ and look at how far you’ve come.”
Those interested in becoming part of the Adult Seniors Band is encouraged to contact Moon at 231.7177 or the Trail Alliance church at 368.9516.