The Upponia Music Center, run by pianist Tran Thi Tho, is one of the few music centers in the southern metropolis where people of all ages, from toddlers to senior citizens, are welcome to take a shot at learning the piano. Especially notable is a free-of-charge piano class it offers for the elderly.
“I know it’s late to begin but this was my favorite when I was young. At that time I could not learn the piano due to difficult circumstances. Now my children have grown up. So I want to learn it,” said Nguyen Thi Lam from District 9, Ho Chi Minh City.
“I really love learning the piano. I think when we are playing it, we recall the past, and are moved in the present, and optimistic about the future. I think this is a magical remedy for our age,” said Phan Anh Tuan from Phu Nhuan District, Ho Chi Minh City.
The free-of-charge piano class at the Upponia Music Center at 149 Linh Dong street, Thu Duc District, Ho Chi Minh City has dozens of learners, mostly retired people. Born and raised to a poor family, Tran Thi Tho did not have a chance to learn playing the piano in any appreciable way. She did, however, draw musical notes on the ground in order to learn. Yet she never gave up her long-burning passion for the piano. When growing up, she came to Ho Chi Minh City and fulfilled her dream of becoming a piano teacher. On top of that, she has helped many people to realize their dreams as well, including elderly people.
“Earlier on, I was teaching kids when I noticed that a lot of parents and grandparents who came to pick up their kids shared with me the passion for music but regretted that they did not have a chance to follow it due to wars and the vicissitudes of life. To them, the dream was just a dream and everything seemed that it would be too late," Tho said.
"I used to teach children with autism, depression, and DOWN syndrome. I saw that many elderly people have a sound mind and are still in good health. They could absolutely learn it. So, I invited them to my class and they performed very well. I then duplicated the model and introduced the class to more people. It has been four years since the first class. Now there are about 40-50 elderly people studying at my center,” she said.
|Tran Thi Tho teaches elderly students at the Upponia Music Center. (Photo: My Lang)
Tho said elderly people from 65 years old and above can join the class for free. She added that the center only charges tuition for learners from 4 to 64 years old so that it has budget to run other classes. Every three to four months, the music center holds a recital to give all of its learners the opportunity to perform in front of others.
Looking at the people with grey hair and rough skin playing the piano, one is filled with love for life. Bui Tuan Kiet is from District 8, Ho Chi Minh City said: “I thought it was hard to play the piano when looking at my grandchild. But thanks to the teachers here, I can learn it. It is not as difficult as I used to think.”
Tho said some of the elderly students are stressed and tired at the beginning of studying. But after 1-2 months, they have improved. She said she is delighted to see that elderly people, despite the ills of old age, are happier and healthier when joining the class.
“Let’s imagine a class with about 30 pianos and students seated at the bench with grey hair! It touches my heart seeing them learning and singing at the end of each class. It is really something to be treasured. Seeing that every day gives me happiness,” said Tho.