The way back to the keyboard - some notes

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I HAD TWO years of weekly one-to-one lessons in my mid-20s at the Guildhall, having stopped learning when A-levels loomed. Result: I found out what my limits really were (about halfway through the Chopin Studies), could play in groups with a confidence I did not have before, took up conducting, and went on to a full-time postgraduate academic course at Leeds University.

The key is to ask the right questions in the right places. Here is an action plan.

Contact your nearest conservatoire or university music department and ask about adult education or part-time study. They cannot all help, but the options are surprisingly varied. Some examples are:

Blackheath Conservatoire, south-east London: Well attuned to adult returners or late starters. Meet the principal to talk about your needs, but there is no audition. (Other London possibilities: Morley College, City Lit, Goldsmiths' College.)

Birmingham Conservatoire: Daytime classes, half an hour per week, with an audition at Grade V standard.

City of Leeds College of Music: Above Grade V, you contact the course manager about shared lessons, in which one or two other students will join. Good on jazz, light music, African and Asian.

Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, Glasgow: Advanced daytime teaching, half an hour per week. Try Glasgow University for evening classes.

Look through your local education authority's list of classes (in London see Floodlight). The bigger ones will offer weekly group teaching in a range of instruments; rural areas will have several options if you can travel.

The most expensive option: ask the Incorporated Society of Musicians or the Musicians' Union for a list of private teachers in your area.

Toe-in-the-water for the cautious: a week at one of the summer schools in Britain and abroad. The best list appears each January in the fortnightly magazine Classical Music. Bigger schools, such as Dartington or Canford, have options at various levels: I had an enlightening week at Canford on an accompanists' course, which paired us off with singers and instrumentalists. Tip: make sure your marriage is secure before you go.

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