As a late-starter myself, I’d say ‘probably’.
It was 1992 when I first took up a student Yamaha B flat trumpet in my hot clammy hands in Allan’s, Burke Street, and from the outset I had doubts whether I would ever make an acceptable sound by blowing through its twisted tubes. However, I’d just heard some kids from our local High School playing through some tunes in a small jazz ensemble that included a trumpet, and I was blown away with what I'd heard. If these teenagers could learn to play like this, surely I, who was 25 years their senior, could do almost as well. After all, I thought, I’ve got Willpower.
Yes, welcome to the world of the late-starter musician. With our bravado and our Willpower, surrounded by all the current chatter about brain plasticity, I wonder sometimes if I and my kind are not doomed to wander forever in that disappointing cul-de-sac, the Rue de Frustration.
Am I the only late-starter musician who gets all tensed up at the least provocation? Who can never hit those high notes when he really needs them? Who is constantly puzzled by the truly awful sound coming out the end of his horn, except when playing where absolutely no-one can hear him? Possibly – but it’s unlikely, I suspect.
Twenty-something years after I picked that first Yamaha trumpet, I find I’m still – let’s face it – in a constant struggle with my instrument. I rarely achieve an ease of playing that I feel convinced much better players than myself achieve often. But why? Is the reason that I’m a late-starter, as such – or is it, rather, the WAY I’ve approached being a late-starter, throwing myself into trumpet as if it’s an exercise in lifting weights (‘come on muscles, get stronger!’), the ultimate challenge to my Willpower?
My current hope (and late-starters can certainly live in hope) is that I can find a way to approach the trumpet that side-steps my own ‘late starter’ mentality. If I can achieve that, then I might finally (paradoxically) begin to approach the trumpet just as a much younger learner might do, feeling under no particular pressure to ‘catch up’ with anything.
Watch this space...