Studios in Seattle at Bitter Lake and Everett, WA
Young violinists playing in an orchestra
Greenwood Violin Studio
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Greenwood Violin Studio

Chris Hoey

Making Music After 50
By Julia Rudden

Chris, Hoey, 51 had always yearned to play an instrument. But his profession as a pharmacist along with his busy family life left no time. Then, his oldest child left home for college. He started lessons a little over one year ago and hasn’t looked back. Hoey debated between the violin and the piano, but chose the violin because he enjoyed its rich voice. “I thought if I were going to devote that much time and effort, I should choose something I liked to listen to,” he says.

Older adults are dispelling the myth that music instruction is for the young. According to the National Institutes of Health, “Some evidence suggests that activities requiring mental effort such as …playing a musical instrument can help stave off mental decline.” Music making stimulates the same parts of the brain that working puzzles or learning a foreign language does. Keeping the brain nimble and active is key to a sharper memory.

Hoey states that learning the violin has given him “a whole new dimension to my life. It’s such a completely different use of my mind, my brain.” Hoey finds that the difference “gives me a chance to refresh my mind and start new each day.”Hoey practices daily, averaging an hour and a half each day. “It’s a way to relax,” he says. “I work on a variety of pieces and techniques, so it doesn’t get boring.” He’s even learning to sight-read music, a necessary skill for those learning the classical pieces he prefers.

A quality instructor not only welcomes adults but understands how their learning style differs from children. Hoey found his teacher through references at local violin shops. I had an interview with her, and decided to start lessons.”

Beverly Gilyeart, Hoey’s teacher, is a Seattle-based violin instructor. She hosts informal musical evenings for her adult students. Students can play a recital piece, enjoy a glass of wine and socialize with other adult learners in a supportive environment. Spouses are encouraged to attend. Hoey finds the evenings a “good exercise for me because I didn’t go into playing the violin with any pretensions of playing in public.” He says “It’s a good idea to bring us together, I think it’s a very valuable part of the learning experience and I don’t feel intimidated as I’m sure I would at a public recital.”


Playing with others can provide an outlet for socialization and companionship. Community bands and orchestra, such as the Seattle Civic Band, welcome new members. Victory Music, a non-profit that supports local acoustic, jazz, blues, and folk music hosts open mic events throughout the region for all skill levels from beginner to expert.

Chris Hoey is glad he waited to start playing. “I put off doing this until I had the time to devote to it, and it turns out it was a very good decision. My wife is happy that I’m doing it.”

Hoey’s wife knew of his dream and encouraged him to follow it. “She’s very pleased that I’ve taken the plunge and she’s glad that I find so much enjoyment in it. Sometimes she’s even pleased with the music,” he adds with a laugh.

Hoey’s whole family is supportive. When asked about his children’s reaction, Hoey states with a chuckle “I have teenage boys, they don’t talk much. When my younger son hears me practice, he’ll pop his head in and say it sounds good.” Hoey says a lot of it doesn’t sound good, but since “my immediate goal is to play for myself and enjoy it, for myself,” he’s happy for the support.