A growing number of middle-aged and elderly people are turning their attention to playing musical instruments in their retirement years.

Some who have wanted to play the violin or cello since their youth are seeing their dreams come true. Others find they have time to devote to music after being freed from having to take care of elderly relatives.

Pianist Seiko Sumi supervises the Piano Academy, which runs 11 piano studios in the Tokyo area, including in Kanagawa, Chiba and Saitama prefectures, and gives lessons to about 600 people.

Classes range from those for students planning to take admissions tests at music universities to lessons for hobbyists. The academy’s most popular class is called the Piano Papa Club, designed exclusively for men wishing to learn how to play the piano.

“There is no age limit,” an official of the academy’s secretariat said. “However, there has recently been a conspicuous rise in the number of middle-aged and elderly people joining the class.”

The class now has 258 students, or about 25 times the number it started with when it was set up in 1998.

Masahiro Kashiwasako, 72, has been taking piano lessons for two years. The former real estate manager said he joined the class to play the piano as a hobby and prevent himself from going senile.

Kashiwasako relies on musical notation created by Sumi especially for those who have difficulty reading traditional scores. The notation consists of katakana and numbers for different parts of the keyboard.

Sumi said that among the elderly taking piano lessons are many who are retired or who are done with looking after relatives who needed nursing care. She also said many middle-aged people take up the piano to win their children’s admiration.

A compact disc featuring the musical notation that Sumi devised and a videotape for “fathers who cannot read scores” are on the market for people who cannot join the class.

The secretariat of the Japan Philharmonic Orchestra in Tokyo’s Suginami Ward has since last fall been operating a musical instrument laboratory for people aged 60 or older who live or work in the ward.

The instruments being taught include the violin, cello, flute and clarinet. Enrollment per class is limited to 10 students, and each classroom is filled to capacity.

The orchestra’s musicians teach the classes and offer 20 lessons a year for 40,000 yen.

Following the completion of the lessons in the summer, the secretariat hopes to hold a concert before an audience at a music hall in the ward.

Yoko Omi, 69, is in the beginner’s violin class. She said her husband died early, her children are all on their own and she retired two years ago. So she decided to take up the violin.

“I would like to devote myself to the violin for the next 10 years,” she said. “My dream is to engage in musical activities with my music friends in front of children and the elderly.”

Shuhei Deguchi, chief of the secretariat, said the laboratory will continue operating next fall and after, calling it a “grandiose experiment.”

In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.