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Two students prove piano lessons have no age limits

Practice makes perfect, and one is never too old to learn something new.

That’s what Kathryn Coleman is trying to teach some residents of the Boston Commons assisted living community in South Boston as she leads piano lessons once a week.

Coleman, who offers the classes free of charge to residents, began the class with seven and now has two students, 81-year-old Edwin Chaffin and 58-year-old Deborah Hall.

Chaffin had never used a musical instrument before joining Coleman’s class.

“I didn’t know anything. I had the opportunity, so I started, and I’ve just kept on trying,” said Chaffin.

He has been playing the piano since Oct. 23 of last year but admits he’s not ready to perform for an audience yet.

Coleman’s other student, Hall, has had previous experience and said she loves how playing the piano makes her feel.

“I enjoy playing,” said Hall.

She played in her 20s and even recently played a duet during the Christmas holiday with Coleman for the residents.

The two take lessons with Coleman on Saturday afternoons when they immediately “get down to it.”

“We get to the songs. I evaluate their lessons and assign homework in their assignment books,” said Coleman.

The piano teacher suggests each student practice for at least 60 minutes a day, breaking it up in short segments throughout the day.

“If I was a quitter, I would have quit,” said Chaffin.

He wore out his first lesson book and said he forces himself to continue because he doesn’t want to quit. 

Coleman believes Chaffin had a “hidden talent,” and she pushes him to work hard.

“It gives me something to do, and I enjoy practicing,” he said. 

Chaffin practices on and off every day and is most proud that he can play something by Beethoven. Now he is working on learning by heart “Ode to Joy.”

Both their families are very pleased and “tickled” the two students are sticking with their piano lessons.

Although no plans are in the works at this time for a performance, Coleman said she has ideas but wants to wait until both of them get a little further along with their lessons.

Chaffin and Hall both said if anyone wants to learn to play, they can take their advice and just “get on with it and stick with it.”

“I would like to thank Boston Commons for making this available,” said Chaffin.

Coleman said she plans to continue teaching the class as long as there is an interest.