Paul Wolsk, 80, has been a student in the Jazz Program at Lucy Moses School at Kaufman Music Center for three years. Photo: Christina Cardona
Paul Wolsk started playing the saxophone in elementary school. He would go on to play in his high school's marching band and kept up a little bit in college. Then he put the horn down.
Some 35 years later, a friend started a jazz band, and Wolsk picked up his alto once more.
Now 80, Wolsk is still learning. But a few years ago, he thought his chops had hit a plateau, that he still had untapped talent.
His wife suggested he check out Lucy Moses School. Wolsk, a retired music business lawyer, has been studying and playing at the West 67th Street school ever since. And he's learning.
“I took an ensemble here that was way over my head, people were all very good. They were way above my level. At the end of the song, they would always go out of their way to compliment me on what I had done,” Wolsk said, adding that the school is welcoming to everyone, no matter their skill level. “And they were very appreciative of the fact that I was there. People are at all different levels. Even if you're just starting out your effort is appreciated here.”
In advance of the school year, the Center will host an open house for the Lucy Moses School Adult Division Sept. 6 from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Older adults, particularly retired New Yorkers, will have a chance to try out new instruments, discover new pathways of learning music and an opportunity to try out a sample class. All skill levels are welcome, beginners to advanced musicians.
“I think Lucy Moses School is a wonderful home for older adults. We have a really vibrant community of musicians and artists of all ages,” said Alicia Andrews, the assistant director adult and division manager at the Lucy Moses School. “Our community includes kids as young as 18 months all the way to senior citizens, and everyone comes together to create a building that is humming with music.”
Music, Andrews said, is good for cognitive health. She said learning to play an instrument keeps your brain active. There are physical benefits as well.
“Working on something like Dalcroze, a method of teaching music through movement, can really build skills for balance,” she said. “I think music, besides being a wonderful way of creativity and self-expression, can be a tool for continuing to live a full, rewarding life.”
Ellen Landsberger, a recently retired obstetrician, played the clarinet in high school, but only played intermittently since then – until she, too, enrolled at Lucy Moses. She's been attending classes – music theory and Dalcroze, among others – there the past two years.
She said the school fosters growth, development and stimulation with a wide variety of programming.
“I'll speak for myself, and I know many of my friends get very caught up in work, family, and move away from some of your passions,” Landsberger said. “I'm finding that since my retirement, being able to do a variety of different projects and get back to things I loved in the past, it's been very remarkable.”
Playing music, she said, has been one of her most soothing and meditative experiences.
“I think that music is very healing, so I think as we age and experience different medical problems, being able to play and listen to music is also very healing and beneficial,” Landsberger said, adding that the school is something of a second home for her.
Andrews, the adult division manager, said it's apparent that the older adults cherish the sense of community and endeavor that playing music with others can bring.
“I think for many of the older adults that are a part of this program, what they really prize is that sense of teamwork, in a chamber music group or a jazz ensemble, you're not only learning to play your instrument, but you are part of a team,” Andrews said. “I think music really brings people together. And the opportunity to be with like-minded individuals working on a project together I think is really valuable.”
To sign up in advance for the 10-minute mini lessons at the open house, call 212-501-3360. For more information about Lucy Moses School at Kaufman Music Center and the open house, go to www.KaufmanMusicCenter.org/LMS.