We're never too old to learn, right?

By Diane Hrabe, Staff Writer

I am taking violin lessons. Yes, that's right. At my age, I've decided to pursue a dream of mine, a dream I've had for more years than I can count.

I should tell you this decision didn't come out of the blue. I have played piano since I was 9 and clarinet all through high school, so I can read music - rusty as I am.

But let me start at the beginning. Years ago, I mentioned to my husband Ed and kids that I would really like to learn to play the violin. They all looked at me, like I had just told them I had just seen a flying saucer or a pig flying or some other outrageous sight. It was just a passing comment.

But lo and behold, on my birthday (three years ago!), I opened the most heart-warming gift I have ever received - a beautiful, used violin, complete with bow, carrying case, an electronic tuner and most importantly, a how-to book and how-to CD. I couldn't believe they had remembered. I was truly touched by their thoughtfulness, and I couldn't wait to get started with lessons...

But life gets busy, and schedules fill up with other things. I don't know if it was having our oldest son graduate from high school and seeing him start a new chapter of his life or just me telling myself, It's time to start learning again yourself.

So in July, I took the plunge. I connected with the violin instructor Chris Ruzin of Belle Plaine, who teaches weekly lessons at Downtown Sound, just a block from The Times office.

I am pretty sure I am one of her oldest students, because I see children's crayon-created drawings on the walls of her studio and young ones toting their cases to and from lessons with their parents. Undaunted, I think... if a child can learn this, so can I.

It was a squeaky, ear-piercing couple of months after I got started. In fact, even our dog Macy would politely leave the room when I practiced, a soft growl in her wake. That was the first time she heard me play - talk about instilling confidence. It's funny, come to think of it. No one was really around when I took my violin out of its case and began to guide the bow across the strings.

It's been six months now, and I can see some progress. Our dog no longer leaves the room, I'm midway through my first book and I am loving my new hobby. Songs I play are becoming somewhat recognizable. I recently played Adeste Fideles

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