Have you ever watched a musical prodigy on YouTube and concluded that bug-catching, rather than music, was your true calling after all? Yeah, me too. I mean, I’ve got tee shirts that are older than some of these little ones. Where does this otherworldly skill come from?
In my early days as a player, I remember feeling utterly discouraged. After all, in spite of their ages, these musical wonders play at an expert level. In my jealousy, I cast around for reasons to explain their exceptional skill. They must have musical parents, I groused to myself. It’s their environment. They’ve gotten more encouragement than the rest of us. They get excellent instruction.
I don’t know. Maybe it’s a combination of all of the above. Maybe, as so many through the ages have believed, these unique youngsters have been touched by a divine force. Because the questions seem so utterly unanswerable, my thoughts turned to something that I believe all of us share. And thankfully, it doesn’t matter if you’re a three year-old golf champ, a ten year-old gourmet chef, or a sixty year-old student drummer. We all have this miraculous life force.
I guess right about now I should be inserting links to some of the research I’ve found, but I’m not going to do that. What I’m writing here is purely subjective, my opinion only. It’s a view I’ve developed after being humbled by prodigies, talking to fellow musicians, and reading everything I can on talent and learning.
It’s a cyclical thing, talent. It seems that if you love or have a keen interest in something, you’ll engage in it every chance you get. The practice, in turn, builds skill. As your ability improves, your skill might draw attention from others. Any compliments you get encourage you to keep on going, which in turn, continues to ferment your talent even further.
But it’s a bit like considering the chicken and the egg: which comes first-passion or talent? Are we attracted to things that we do well, or does a fire ignite that causes us to chase that dream, regardless of whether that skill comes naturally?
My heart tells me that passion comes first. Passion will see you through all manner of hardships. If you love something enough, it won’t matter if it doesn’t come naturally. You’ll do it anyway. And the more you try, the longer you stay in the game, the more likely your skills will improve.
I will never reach the heights of a child prodigy. I don’t have a bright drumming future in front of me. But I keep playing. I’m not “gifted,” but if I have anything in my favor, it’s that I just keep chasing. Maybe that’s enough.
Please share your thoughts and comments.