Learning at a late age

Marg Caspell said: Jul 17, 2006
Suzuki Association Member
Calgary, AB
1 posts

Is there any hope for success for a child who is starting piano at age 14? By success I mean things like winning competitions, not just knowing how to play.

Also, if a child is on a high piano level, and has won many piano competitions, is that beneficial for applying for college? Do those things look good on a college transcript?

Many people say playing a musical instrument strengthens the brain in many ways. I believe that’s true, but how much does playing an instrument effect the mental brain?

Melissa said: Jul 17, 2006
 151 posts

Although I have a hard time with the focus of success as to winning competitions, but since you asked the question as you did, the answer is yes.
A very good friend of mine started piano at age 15 and won numerous competitions as well as going on to Julliard and is now concertizing.

Yes, music and many other things that you undertake and accomplish as a youth can help you be accepted into a college.

I cannot answer your last question specifically because I am not an authority on the subject as to, how much… but I can say that I do agree with you that studying a musical instrument as well as other mental excercises are good for the brain.

Kirsten said: Jul 19, 2006
 103 posts

I wonder if Honeybee’s friend began the piano for the love of music first, and not just with the goal of winning competitions.

And if she was sick on the day of the competition, or the judge liked the piece her competitor was playing better, or she just happened to be up against someone who played better, would she have felt that she (or he) was not a “success” as a pianist?

Anyway, the Honeybee’s friend’s success is very inspiring.


said: Jul 19, 2006
 22 posts

If by winning competitions is the way your daughter would measure success, then she would probably be disappointed more often than not. The thing about competitions is that there’s so many talented competitors, that it is a lot about luck, if you just happen to be what the judges like that day, then congratulations! But, yes, your daughter even at age 14 could go on to be a fabulous pianist….I believe that music does indeed do something for the brain

“Practice! Practice until you go crazy….then do it five more times.”

said: Jul 20, 2006
 104 posts

Hmmm, well, Dr. Suzuki didn’t begin playing the violin until he was 17, so clearly success and great achievement are possible. However, I have to add that Dr. Suzuki wasn’t interested in winning competitions, building up his resume or improving his “mental brain,” whatever that might be!

Nobuaki said: Jul 20, 2006
Nobuaki Tanaka
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
Mount Prospect, IL
115 posts


not sure about strings. but I can say that some brass and winds players start learning in early teens. Then some were in A level orchestra.

For strings, it may be different story. I heard several people who start playing around 10 and now playing in some professional string quartets. But don’t know abou age 14.

thank you

Jennifer Visick said: Aug 4, 2006
Jennifer VisickForum Moderator
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Suzuki Early Childhood Education, Suzuki in the Schools, Violin
1069 posts

anything is possible, but if you’re looking for averages,

  1. it is likely (—but never certain—) that if you take the winners from every prestigious competition this year, the majority of them will have begun to study their instrument before they turned 14.

  2. This means nothing unless you can compare the percentage of winners who started before age 14 with the percentage of applicants who started before age 14, to find out if, out of the people who apply to competitions, one kind or the other is more likely to win. For example, if there are a hundred competitions, and 1 “late” beginner won one of those, and the other 99 were “early starters”, you could say that 99% of competition winners are early starters. BUT, say there were only 3 applicants who were late starters, and there were a thousand other applicants. Then you could say that one third of all late starters who join competitions are winners, while “less than one tenth” of early starters who join competitions are winners.

  3. Still this means nothing because of the unknown ratio of ALL—not just competition entrants— late starters to early starters is not known.

  4. Then there are the people who come along and point out that “all you ever need to know about prizes is that Mozart never won any”—meaning that one of the musicians whose birthday we are still celebrating after 200 something years because he was such a great musician never won competitions either! (no one could accuse mozart of being a late starter, though).

Regarding musical learning which strengthens the brain, well—learning music makes a person better at making music. Like a light turned on in a room which may shed light into another room if a door or window is open, learning music may shed light on other disciplines such as math or science or languages or history or physical ed (sports) or other arts or “emotional intelligence” (the ability to be successful in all kinds of interpersonal relationships) or politics or spirituality/religion or whatnot. But of course if you want to shed light on THOSE disciplines, you really have to turn on the light in those rooms.

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