Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Gifts of Talent and Hard Work

I had the privilege to spend a large part of this weekend with some of the most talented individuals in the Houston area - the TMEA region 9 Region Bands.  Watching these students prepare for their concerts, seeing their dedication to their instruments and to music, really motivated me.  The energy and the fervor they brought to their rehearsals was impressive.  Each of these students was finding a way to express one of the many gifts the universe had bestowed upon them.  The next step for the top portion of these students is the All-State audition in January.
Samantha and I used to disagree about our All-State audition experience.  I was always of the opinion that people made All-State because of their talent.  Samantha disagreed and said it was due to hard work.  Sitting in front of the kids for 8 1/2 hours of rehearsal and four hours of concerts, I learned a lot about the audition process.  They taught me a different perspective, one I am surprised I didn’t have before because now it seems so simple and obvious.  The students on the stage reaped the benefits of a combination of hard work and talent.  How simple and silly that I didn’t see this before.  I do have to admit, thinking back on Samantha and my discussions, I am pretty sure this is what she was suggesting, and I have to admit she was right.
I read some brain based research recently (I am always reading some random facts on the internet and in books) that delved into the concept of genius.  One of the examples the author used was Mozart.  The Western world generally regards Mozart as a musical genius who sprung from the womb writing symphonies, operas, and masses.  While he was fairly prolific as a child, and he did begin early - 4 - Mozart was essentially no different from the rest of us.  He had a penchant for melody, an amazing ear, and a brain designed to understand the mathematical relationships involved in chord structure.  I could sum this up and say Mozart had musical talent.
On the other hand, from an early age Mozart worked at writing music.  He had teachers, he learned to play piano and worked diligently at perfecting his piano skills.  His performances on piano at a young age brought him into contact with some of the best musicians of the time, furthering the opportunities he had to improve his skills.  Mozart developed as a composer for a decade before achieving significant notoriety for his compositions.  
Mozart was the combination of both talent and hard work.  Both of these were his gifts.  Talent alone would languish and eventually fall silent with out a work ethic to develop it.  Hard work alone produces nothing - the raw materials for the end product must be present from the very beginning.  Any person with the right combination of mental aptitude in the appropriate disciplines and the ability and desire to apply and develop their skills can access Mozartian levels of success.
Crazy, right.  Its true though.
After sitting in front of the Wind Ensemble at region weekend, I am pretty confident I could point out to you the kids who earned their position through more hard work than talent, and vice versa.  I could show you the kids at my school who didn’t earn a position in the region band because of a lack of work ethic despite a plethora of talent.  It definitely works both ways.
The universe blesses us with different gifts, helping shape the world in different ways.  My students demonstrate the difference in their gifts every day.  They vary drastically: the ability to understand chemistry concepts quickly and present them in a simple way so other people can understand as well; the ability to hear a melody and recreate it on the piano; the ability to memorize, catalogue, and recall pop song lyrics; the ability to run forever, the ability to paint and draw; the ability to lead a group of students; the ability to lead a discussion during class (even when they aren’t supposed to); the ability to be polite and responsible; the ability to plan a social event; the ability to dance; the ability to relate to individuals.  All of these talents are gifts; each of these students has the potential to foster and develop them into something meaningful with the right motivation and inspiration.
I work with people whose gift is simply the ability to motivate others.  Their contribution ensures the planet has a fresh crop of hard working, talented individuals eager to develop their blessings.  
I am exceedingly glad the universe guided me into a situation where I could learn such an important lesson.  I can’t imagine any of the region band students had any idea they were gathering to do anything other than play music, see friends, and have a good time doing something they love.  Little did they know, their actual purpose in my life was to demonstrate such a profound, yet impossibly simple, lesson.

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