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Recognizing Talent, or the lack​ of…Lesson #2

Chuck Anderson

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In Lesson #2, Chuck Anderson continues explore the many aspects of Talent.

Next, taking a look at the commitment to goals.

If the end is clear in your mind and you proceed to develop the means needed to attain that end, talent may be present.

And of course, proper sense of ego: The Greek golden mean of moderation, harmony and balance assists the musician in developing the necessary self control for serious musical progress.

Since excessive reactions are so common in those who are pursuing music, the concepts of avoiding extremes, developing patience, control and perspective are helpful in the search for musical progress. 

It is important to remember that different individuals display different signs of talent. Some display many indicators, others display only one. Without question, the most common indicators are a strong desire to play, a willingness to sacrifice time and energy to develop one’s potential and a determination to keep trying. Age and maturity are important variables in recognizing talent indicators. Every individual is unique. Talent must reflect individuality. This unveiling of the unique individual reflects varying degrees of depth, perception and maturity. The uniqueness of an individual does not primarily center on physical ability. The physical ability to play is a mechanic and can be acquired by most with sufficient work and determination. Physical aptitude should never be equated with the possession of “talent”. The physical is an essential means to the ultimate goal of revealing the self through music but it is by no means the only factor. 

Talent strives forward and upward on two fronts: the technical (physical), and the musical (creative). Missing or limited development of either interferes with the development of the musician’s totality. The fusion of the physical and creative aspects of music reflects the ultimate possibilities of development for a particular individual. 

Within each person seems to be a genetic reservoir, which contains the entire range of possibilities for that individual.

The question is how much of this reservoir will be developed? Supposed talent without development is not talent. It is rather potential — potential existing within the reservoir. The next two sentences have become a cliché— but they are still heard consistently. “He had so much talent. It’s a shame he didn’t do anything with it.” This interpretation of “talent” is based more on aptitude — a level of physical coordination or quickness to learn. Talent must encompass an element of accomplishment. Circumstances, personal relationships and specific types of personalities are just a few of the variables. The variables are very influential since the potential of different individuals lies at different levels. A potential might be close to the surface, anxious to be developed. In another individual, it may lay deep and dormant resisting attempts to surface and develop. Regardless of the circumstances, an essential element of talent is that degree of determination and commitment necessary to transform potential into reality. 

Since talent remains a question mark in the developmental phases, doubts are understandable. The time required to develop instrumental proficiency, knowledge, maturity and the freedom to express oneself is slow and often tedious. It is necessary to allow this time to evolve before talent can even be considered. There is one very common fear. What if after physical and intellectual abilities are developed there is no talent or what if it is not great enough? The matter is at best highly subjective. Who decides upon talent? One fact emerges clearly – that which exists within you is uniquely yours. You need to strive forward to develop your potential. As it develops, call it talent. If it’s not important for you to label it — merely accept it. There is no need to identify or categorize it. No one is responsible for the potential within him. The individual is responsible for the development of his own potential and then only if he accepts the challenge and the importance of developing it. 

I’ve discussed briefly the relationship between potential and talent. A similar relationship exists between two other levels, i.e. talent and gift. I have suggested that talent is a fact in retrospect. What about the “gifted” person? Remember that potential, talent and gift are terms used to assist in the identification of stages within the developmental process. They are not objectively defined nor are they universally agreed upon. They are merely beneficial to us in the context of this chapter. Do all musicians painfully struggle through a common time period in which these stages develop? There is no common time period. Certain individuals have shown their talent and/or gift very early with apparently little work. The timetable is not at all under consideration – nor is the degree of “suffering”. Some individuals live fuller lives in two years than others do in twenty. It is not at all unreasonable that certain unique individuals would develop their potential in a shorter time span than others. That is a characteristic of their own uniqueness. 

Since the question of one’s musical development is a matter of one’s lifetime, evidence of a talent or a gift need not be obvious in the early years. Too many are discouraged from pursuing music seriously because they lack “talent”. The fact of the matter is that, in many cases, they did not allow sufficient time to pass in order to make a fair and objective evaluation. Objectivity about oneself in such emotional matters and decisions is extraordinarily difficult. The loneliness of trying to make a personal decision about pursuing music seriously is a major obstacle. 

Discuss the problem with someone who can assist you – someone you trust. It could be a close friend. It could be your teacher. Regardless of who it is, a very special relationship must exist between you and this individual. Though you always make the ultimate decisions, it’s helpful to listen to yourself discuss problems with another. It’s easier for him to be objective than it is for you. If the individual has experience and expertise in the field of music, so much the better. If not, the experience can still be beneficial. 

For many people, it is hard to believe that a musician once successful ever had to struggle with this problem of talent.

Some musicians did not – more did! Prejudice and fear about a career in music are familiar to anyone serious about music. Fears concerning security, income and self-respect are quite common. Perhaps the deepest most insidious fear is a personal fear of failure. Failure is not only measured tangibly as in income or status. Failure can be internal and personal. The fear that one is incapable of attaining success because of some shortcoming is a real difficulty to many. What shortcoming? Perhaps coordination – perhaps creativity – perhaps – sensitivity – perhaps . . . anything! Naturally, part of the problem is that there is no immediate solution. At least not when the problem is at its greatest. As we have seen, achievement is fundamentally the only proof of the ability to achieve. So what happens in the meantime? You practice and work and think and try. And if things are going poorly, you work harder — you must strive harder to achieve. It often hurts — to struggle against what seems to be hopeless odds. It sometimes seems hopeless. If the pain of the struggle ever permanently destroys your desire to develop yourself — you were not “talented”! 

The above is an excerpt form Chuck Anderson’s Music Pursuing the Horizon.

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