The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: It’s never too late! Retirement is the BEST time to start playing music -– or writing and painting -– says one expert who followed her own advice. | August 2, 2015

By Jacob Stockinger

The Ear knows quite a few retired people who say they would like to start learning to play a musical instrument — either for the first time or else to pick up where they left off, usually in childhood.

But they quickly add that they hesitate because they think it is something you really have to do in childhood or at least when you are much younger.

Not so, says psychologist Francine Toder (below), who herself  took up the cello after retiring in her 60s. You can see other examples in the YouTube video at the bottom.

francine toder with cello

In fact, in her book “The Vintage Years,” Toder argues that retirement is the best time to unlock your creative self. That applies not only to learning a musical instrument but also to writing and to painting and other forms of the visual arts.

The Vintage Years book cover

In case you missed it when it was broadcast on Wisconsin Public Radio, an interview with Francine Toder comes from the WPR program “To the Best of Our Knowledge.

Here is a link to the page. On it, you have to click on play the story. You can also leave a comment if you go through the security process of signing in.

And please leave a COMMENT on this blog with a comment about you own experience with learning the arts in retirement.

And here is a link to the home page for Wisconsin Public Radio’s “To the Best of Our Knowledge,” which has the appropriate acronym TTBOOK:



  1. And if you’re curious about playing in an ensemble, The Studio Orchestra ( accepts adult players of all ages and levels for a fun, low-pressure orchestra experience. If you’re not ready for the Middleton group, come give us a try!

    Comment by Mikko Utevsky — August 3, 2015 @ 9:25 am

  2. My wife teaches courses through the UW Division of Continuing Studies for adults wanting to begin or continue learning a stringed instrument. Many of the students are retired, some are learning a new instrument for the very first time. They are all there for enrichment of their lives and have a great time.
    More on her classes and more can be found at

    Comment by Steve Kurr — August 2, 2015 @ 1:45 pm

  3. Returning to a previously studied or practised idiom is, in my experience, much easier than beginning something new later in life.
    Something about that window of learning language that, when it has long been closed, or at least full, it takes some major effort to re-establish the Learner’s Mindset, as well as to learn new physical skills, especially as they relate to the manipulation of an instrument.
    I never discourage anyone from this pursuit, however, as I feel strongly that it is NOT my place to do so. This decision must be made by each older or returning student for their own reasons, and not my evaluation.

    Comment by 88melter — August 2, 2015 @ 6:04 am

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