Question: I’m a 40-year old mother of two and now that my children are more independent, I would like to fulfill a dream and learn how to sing. Am I too old?
–Cecilia Dry, Middlebury, VT
Bill Reed: Nearly every week I am asked if I think that a student is too old to begin singing lessons. Often they are dancers and actors in their mid twenties!
Your voice is designed to sing beautifully and expressively for the entire length of your life.
I can remember hearing Peter Pears, the great tenor and interpreter of the music of Benjamin Britten, in his middle 70’s, and the voice was amazing. Pavarotti is still very active in his 60’s. A woman nearly eighty years old attended one of my workshops a few years ago and sang with the sweetness and clarity of a teenager. I am currently working with a former engineer in his 60’s who has discovered the theatre in his retirement and is developing, for the first time, a professional quality singing voice.
Various parts of our bodies mature at different ages. Our eyes are their sharpest around twelve years of age. The brain reaches its full size at fourteen. The body matures at around twenty-one. We perform various sports best at certain ages. Female Olympic swimmers tend to be in their teens, as are gymnasts. Endurance sports champions are often in their late twenties or early thirties. The human voice reaches full maturity in the late thirties and begins to age around forty.
Of course the aging process for the voice is gradual, as it is for other parts of the body. After forty, cartilage in the vocal mechanism begins to ossify. Vascularization decreases, and the nerves that control the muscles in the larynx don’t work as effectively. Further, the glands of the mucosa-the tissue that covers the vocal folds-begin to dry up. Don’t let this discourage you.
If they have general good health, sufficient sleep, and nutritious diet (including plenty of water), regular exercise, a joyful spirit, and proper instruction, adults can improve their singing significantly.
Tips for the Mature Singer
- Find a teacher you trust and enjoy.
- Reward yourself for each step you achieve in improving your singing. Adult learners tend to be impatient and heard on themselves.
- Join a church choir, community chorus, community theatre or other singing organization. If you make music every week singing with other people, you will be more likely to stick with your training.
- Remember that singing is its own reward when you make a joyful noise straight from your heart. We are never too old for that!