|Get the best of Oprah.com in your inbox. Sign up for our newsletters!|
How I Did It: Learning to Play the Viola at 52
Her restless feeling
In 2006 Vivian Reccoppa found herself in an empty nest—with more time to focus on herself than she'd had in years. "I remember thinking, I want to do something different," she says. "I want to learn something." "Why don't you try an instrument?" suggested her friend Elena. Reccoppa's dreary year of piano lessons at age 10 had convinced her she lacked the discipline for music. But Elena, a violinist who cofounded an orchestra for amateur adult musicians, kept suggesting the idea until Reccoppa agreed to try the viola—which, she figured, was small enough to schlep on the subway.
Her rocky start
Reccoppa braced for the humiliation of being the lone adult towering over a line of 6-year-olds in the lobby of her local music school. But her insecurity dissipated the moment her teacher tucked a viola under her chin and helped her guide the bow across the strings. "Every once in a while, there was a note that sounded like...a note," Reccoppa says. The lessons became a bright spot in her schedule. "I always leave happy," she says.
Reccoppa bought a student viola on eBay for $120 and began supplementing her private lessons with free instructionals she found on YouTube. She aimed to practice three or four hours a week but didn't beat herself up when a late night at work interrupted her schedule. Eventually, she tagged along with Elena to a rehearsal of her orchestra. "It was wonderful to be a part of something so big and beautiful," Reccoppa says. She started rehearsing with the group every Sunday.
At first it was hard to imagine "how I'd ever hold my left wrist level, get my fingers in the right position, hold my bow correctly, move the bow straight, and look at the music while keeping an eye on the conductor," Reccoppa admits. But she now tackles works by Handel and Haydn. "I feel like I'm waking up a new part of my brain," says Reccoppa, who believes that her age, far from holding her back, has only increased her determination to succeed. "I'm not there because my mom is making me go," she says. "I'm there because I'm excited to learn this."
Please note that Harpo Productions, Inc., OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network, Discovery Communications LLC and their affiliated companies and entities have no affiliation with and do not endorse those entities, projects, or websites referenced above, which are provided solely as a courtesy. You should conduct your own independent investigation before using the services of any such entities, projects, or websites. Information is provided for your reference only.