We can all learn!!
I’ve been learning, living and growing with music since I was a young adult. My life as a perpetual music student, teacher, amateur (in the sense that I love music) and professional (in the sense that I earn my living with music), has taught me a lot of things. It has shaped who I have become. It has opened my heart and soul, and also my mind and intellect. It has taken me over the edge with hopeless despair and brought me to tears of ecstatic joy.
When I was seven, it was the family joke that I wanted to be a great singer when I grew up: “Isn’t that funny? Heather wants to be a singer and she’s not even talented!” My musical background there consisted of barely audible muzak at Sunday dinner and my singing repertoire, of Happy birthday. We sang the version where we all, blissfully unaware, start on a different note. None of us had much idea about music or talent, but we all believed the story.
When I left home, the first thing I did was learn guitar. It was horribly embarrassing because, well, I was not talented. But I could not help myself; I had to do it. So I practised all day every day, and it’s true; I really wasn’t talented!!! I was tone deaf, I could not sing in tune or tune the guitar, and I had no rhythm. I took lessons and got a sense of rhythm and pitch. I studied music at university and did really well. But I had not been born talented, so I knew I never would be. Right? Besides . . . I did not just want to be talented I wanted to be a genius!!!
Okay, now I am all grown up. I have kids. My daughter wanted to play the violin when she was five and, by sheer dumb luck, we stumbled upon a teacher who debunked all the bunks about talent and genius. ALL her students play well: Even the ones who start off without those basic building blocks we call talent, develop them within a year or two. At first this was very mysterious to me, because she does not instruct much, at least not verbally. The kids just play the violin; they are in child la la land, copying what the older ones are doing. And they are surrounded by love and security.
You see, music is a language and we all speak. All these things we call talent are simply components of the language of music. They are all things that can be developed. Conversely, they need to be fostered even if you already are, uh, talented. People who start off with a good ear still need help to learn to play in tune. People with great intrinsic rhythm need to develop the coordination to play well in time. In my 30-plus years of teaching music, I have learned that what you need is passion. Passion and determination. Also a willingness to be constantly examining yourself objectively. . . And a willingness to stop examining yourself. Sometimes you just have to LET GO. Music requires it all, and to your fullest potential. Music requires you to constantly stretch the boundaries of your fullest potential. But that will be a topic for another day.