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She's Got Rhythm

A wannabe drummer goes from shy to fly.

Newbie musician Alla Marinow was one part terrified and two parts triumphant. Perched behind a drum set, she could see the faces of the 80 people in the audience — though she tried not to look. Her band played its first two songs, and gradually her fear fell away, the panic replaced by elation. "It's like freedom," she says of playing live. "It's like flying."

This recent Walnut Creek, California, rock show was the entrepreneur's first paid gig. She started lessons about two years ago, at age 56, knowing "nothing, zero, zipola!" about drums. Weeks after her first lesson, she began feeling tired. Doctors implanted a pacemaker. Then came two more surgeries, for a thyroid disorder and for breast cancer.

But Marinow kept practicing, even when she was so exhausted she couldn't walk. When she began attending jam sessions, meeting fellow musicians and forming a band with them — just for fun — it led to playing for pay. "I feel great now," she says, fully recovered from her surgeries. "Why should the kids have all the fun?"

Interested in Mastering a New Instrument?

Playing with others is the surest way to develop your musical chops. So hire a great teacher (for tips on how, visit and ask for help finding a band. For a supercharged start, schedule a week at camp. Interlochen Center for the Arts in Interlochen, Michigan, welcomes all skill levels at its adult band camp ($425 tuition). Puget Sound Guitar Workshop near Bremerton, Washington, also offers one-week courses in summer ($799). See to find more players and programs.

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