Lawrence McKnight enrolled in university to keep his mind active.
“One of the things recommended to ward off Alzheimer’s disease is to fill your head with music or language,” the 87-year-old said. “I had so much trouble with French in high school, I thought I better go with music.”
But, as the senior continued his studies at MacEwan University’s Conservatory of Music, it blossomed into a true passion.
He remembers the first time he played a note on the clarinet.
“Oh my gosh, I actually made that sound? That was what got me going. I had to do more of this,” said McKnight.
He went on to learn the piano, violin and the euphonium. McKnight just passed his Grade 2 Royal Conservatory of Music practical examination on clarinet.
“I do love the clarinet, but I think the piano is my favourite. They say it’s the biggest challenge that’s offered by music. They are both a good match for me.”
Music runs in the family. McKnight’s mother was a pianist and his father was a self-taught violinist. The student said playing reminds him of childhood memories.
McKnight said it took him a bit longer to find his own rhythm.
“My mom signed me up for piano lessons when I was a kid, but I didn’t take to it. I waited until I was 79 years old and I thought, ‘Now it’s time!'”
“For Lawrence, it’s like going to work. He comes and practices and gets better on his instruments,” said clarinet instructor Dan Sutherland. “Most people don’t stick it out that long. Five years for adults is usual. Then, they get interested in other things.
“Lawrence’s work ethic is exceptional.”
Sutherland has been working with McKnight for the past eight years.
“Many people have wanted to be involved with music, but they never had the time or financial stability. We are getting more adults than junior high school kids now, because they are coming back to music,” Sutherland said.
Both student and teacher look forward to many more years of learning.
“It’s been an independent journey, but a beautiful one,” McKnight said. “Every day is a new adventure. You never get bored. There’s always a new instrument to pick up and practice.”