President's Opening Remarks at the 10-year Anniversary Celebration of the Founding of AMSF

by Joyce Morton

Welcome to the 10th Anniversary Celebration of The Adult Music Student Forum. It is traditional for the Forum to have a beginning of the season combination party/business meeting. But the nature of this year's event and the scope of the planning for it has far exceeded that for any previous year because after 10 years of existence, we have cause to celebrate! That such a small grass roots arts organization has survived 10 years is perhaps reason enough to celebrate. But the Adult Music Student Forum has done much more than merely survive. It has offered Washington area adult music students opportunities to advance their studies that are available nowhere else. It has opened up the world of performance to the non-professional adult music student. It has given its members the opportunity to experience the exhilaration of performing that too often is the exclusive domain of the professional musician. It has given its members the opportunity to find resources within themselves they might otherwise never have known, as they face the challenge of performance and learn to cope with sometimes public failure.

As Matthew Harre's article in the most recent issue of Keynotes indicates, there is typically little interest shown in adult music students. It is widely believed that they are not capable of the degree of learning and development that is available to younger students. I have only to look at my own experience to know that is not true. When I resumed lessons as an adult approximately seven years ago, I didn't expect that I could again approach the level of skill I developed as a teenager. What I found was quite different and exciting. I had missed some basics in my earlier studies that Matt began to help me with. After a few years, my playing not only sounded more interesting, but it was also more personally satisfying. After a few more years, I realized I had surpassed the level I had reached as a teenager, that I had developed greater maturity of expression and perhaps even greater technical ability. I know from listening to others of you in recital that I am no exception. I hear evidence over and over that you, too, have experienced the same phenomenon.

Even if the capacity for such development in adult students is recognized, often the value of it is not. What is the value of music education to a person who pursues it for reasons other than livelihood? Adulthood is often a time when the pace of learning slows, due largely to diminished opportunity. Typically, our formal education has ended and we, of necessity, pursue careers and family responsibilities in which we practice skills and exercise knowledge at which we have become expert. Certainly, new learning occurs, but it is usually a broadening within our chosen fields, or is domestic in nature, or relates to interpersonal relationships. Sometimes that is not enough. People become stagnant; they year for challenge; they yearn for new dimensions to their lives; they yearn for continued growth and development; they yearn for satisfaction of inner needs that are often hard to pinpoint; they yearn for an engaging activity of their own choosing.

Perhaps at this point an adult thinks about resuming study of an instrument that once brought satisfaction, or perhaps even decides to plunge anew into the study of music. The benefits of music study are unique to each individual. We bring different needs, perceptions and basic abilities to the experience, and each of us has a unique relationship with the person with whom we study. But perhaps an almost universal benefit of music study to adults is that it reaffirms the capacity for growth--even during middle age and beyond, a time when little growth is expected but also a time when growth is crucial to well-being.

Further, music making provides an outlet for self-expression. The self-expression may at first be tentative and feel awkward, but if allowed to emerge, it can lead to greater expressivity in general. Music study teaches us lessons about ourselves--how we learn and how we react to unfamiliar demands. And music study brings the emotional power of music to us in a very personal way. It is not remote. It is not under the control of others. It becomes a personal resource we can invoke when desired.

So back to my original question. What is the value of music education to a person who pursues it for reasons other than livelihood? It is significant. It is worth taking seriously. Members of the Adult Music Student Forum take their music study seriously. We know we have the capacity to grow and to benefit and we believe the rewards are worth the investment. Members of the Adult Music Student Forum are fortunate to have an organization that supports their efforts. We have cause to celebrate!

This beginning-of-the-year kick-off event is long on celebration and short on business. This is as it should be. We have worked hard for ten years to achieve this milestone. Now it is time to celebrate and reflect. It is time to congratulate, and time to bond with a common spirit of gratitude and encouragement. For we need this strength of spirit as we look forward to another ten years of growth and opportunity for adult music students.