In the midst of a really overwhelming term (please give me a good talking-to the next time I blithely agree to teach an overload that's an extra prep), I did something probably foolish and yet pretty fun: I decided to start learning a new instrument: the alto recorder.
It all started when I was studying Hebrew at a classmate's house. I noticed a music stand in her dining room but no visible instrument, so I asked what she played. Turns out that she had taken up the flute again in her older age (she's 69) and that she played it just for the fun of it. I don't know how long or how seriously she had played it earlier in her life, but she said that she now played it because she always felt so relaxed after practicing. That surprised me, since I've never in my life been relaxed after playing an instrument, and she told me that, for her, playing flute was similar to yoga breathing.
I had never in my life even thought about playing a wind instrument, but she encouraged me to think about it when I said that I could certainly use a relaxing, yoga-breathing sort of hobby. So that weekend I spent several hours online, reading about various instruments, listening to people play them on YouTube, etc.
At the end of that, I thought that perhaps the recorder was the way to go. I originally wanted to play a tenor recorder, but it turns out that people with small hands, such as I have, are better off with a slightly smaller instrument, so I decided on the alto recorder.
FGS has a music school that does lessons for community members as well as students, so I sent an email to the director and asked her about the possibility of lessons. FGS faculty get a significant discount on lessons, so all of this would be a splurge but not an outrageous one.
And wham-bang, within three weeks of that conversation over Hebrew study, I owned my own alto recorder and had my first lesson!
And it has been SO fun! First of all, the recorder is a fairly easy instrument to learn -- hence all those fifth-graders learning it around the country. But it also can be quite a pretty instrument (i.e., some people play it a good bit better than those fifth-graders) and is especially suited to Renaissance and Baroque music. I leave my instrument out on a music stand at home and practice almost every day in 10- to 15-minute stretches.
I like my teacher quite a bit; she's primarily an oboe player, probably a good 20 years younger than I am, and she's a very good teacher, which helps enormously. I take my lessons during my extended lunch hours on Mondays.
Sadly, I have learned the hard way not to talk to too many people about taking these lessons. The recorder does not get a lot of respect (again with those fifth-graders!), and I've been surprised by the colleagues who made fun of me a little for taking it on. But who cares about them? I'm having fun!
The beauty of learning a wind instrument for the first time at age 48 is that I have zero expectations of myself. And D. (who is a gifted musician) has promised not to pick up this or any other wind instrument, so that there is absolutely no one for me to compare myself to. I'm finding the whole thing quite relaxing. I don't exactly feel like I've done yoga breathing after I practice, but it is clear to me that I'm working on my lung capacity by playing. And I amazingly don't get frustrated with myself at all; sometimes I play better and sometimes I play worse, but somehow it doesn't matter.