JJ Rocks Article # 28: Talent: Achievement or Gift?
What is talent? Is it the result of hard work along with intense focus, or a special gift given to a few chosen people handed down from God? Well, to figure that one out all you have to do is the same thing that mankind has always been doing with all other things in the world. Break it down into its most basic elements. And the two that come to my mind are desire and determination. In my opinion the first one is from above and the second one is from inside. To put it plainly, a true musician gets the desire from God, which is his (or her) fuel and his determination is a product of his own initiative which in a sense is the result of burning that fuel. This is yet another great example of God helping those who help themselves.
Someone once said to me “you’re lucky because you have a gift, but I have to work for a living”. To say the least, that put a torch under my driveshaft. I can remember to this day how I kept thinking to myself “how dare you!” Was this person trying to say that I just woke up one morning and my musical abilities were sitting at the foot of my bed? And to even insinuate that I had to do no work at all to perform musically left me breathless! That was until I realized that the person who made the comment really didn’t know any better, and that’s why I’m writing this article. I just want to cast a light on a subject that I feel needs some attention.
This subject can sometimes be a debate in the religious world, but most of my church going friends and students seem to agree on the fact that it does involve both of the elements that I previously mentioned, but it’s only the amount of each one that occasionally invites disagreements between them. I’m cool with that because it’s not the differences in the amounts of these musical elements, but the fact that most people recognize the two halves. And the ones that believe that talent (of any kind) is purely a gift from heaven are most likely to be the same ones that think their future depends on a lotto ticket.
We all know just by bringing up this subject there will be people that use those incredible child musicians that come from Japan or China. I’m talking about the so called “prodigies” that are only three or four years old that seem to defeat all explanations. Well, I have had a direct experience with one of those mini geniuses when I was playing (not working, ha ha) aboard the wonderful Carnival Cruise Lines.
I was walking down the Promenade deck one afternoon on the way to get lunch and I heard some incredible classical piano coming from down the hall. As I got closer all I could see was a huge crowd around the grand piano that was on that deck. But I couldn’t see anyone playing. As I walked closer I could hear people saying things like “he’s amazing! Look how young he is!” So I made my way through the crowd and there was a tiny oriental looking child about five year’s old sitting on a stack of telephone books playing Beethoven! Even sitting on all those books he still had to stretch his little neck to see the sheet music. And amazingly, he didn’t look at his hands the whole time! I was blown away and I have never forgotten that day!
So of course, everyone was saying the words “child prodigy” and “gifted”. So I didn’t know what to expect when I approached this little master after his concert. After I complimented him on his abilities, I asked if he had any hobbies. He said “yes, I like to play violin duets with my brother”. I was floored to say the least! But I tried to keep my composure and continue my roll as an adult complimenting a child but after a few minutes the most amazing thing happened. I realized that I was in the presence of a normal child who also happens to be a great musician. Yes you’re probably thinking “gifted” at this moment but it seems to me that his gift was his desire to play so well along with the support from his parents and a lot of hard work. Maybe instead of calling children who have great abilities “gifted” we should first think about how many of our children are allowed to let video games consume all their spare time. Could it be that the parents of this child regulated the time that he spent on games and helped him make the most out of his practice? Because believe me when I say that even though he showed an extreme amount of talent, he still talked and acted like any other five year old when he wasn’t playing the piano.
I feel that anyone that is physically and mentally stable has the same chance of being a great musician as anyone else. Many people lack the drive and discipline to sit down with an instrument for the long periods of time that it takes to become a great musician. You see, even though someone convinces themselves that they really want to be a musician, many still make excuses why they don’t practice. These are the same people who think that some of us are just “gifted” and some us are not. I think that they should stop fooling themselves and open their eyes to what is true. And that is that talent is achieved through hard work and any good music teacher will tell you that. The desire to achieve that talent comes from somewhere else and I’m sure everyone can figure that one out. Just look up.
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Musically Speaking: Talent: Achievement or Gift?
JJ Rocks Article # 28: Talent: Achievement or Gift?