Gifted, Talented, Skilled or What?
I teach writing in our homeschool co-op. One of the ﬁrst things I try to impress upon my students is that no one is born a good writer. The ability to write well is not a mysterious gift- it is a technique or skill that can be learned with diligence and practice. (Lucille Vaughn Payne explains this brilliantly in her highly-recommended little book, The Lively Art of Writing.)
The gymnast who appears to glide effortlessly through his or her ﬂoor routine has put in countless hours of sweaty practice at the gym. The math wiz who aces algebra 2 has wrestled with hundreds of frustrating higher-degree equations. The pianist who dazzles us with a Beethoven sonata has spent years alone in a practice room playing ﬁnger exercises.
Yes, music is a sport. Musicians are athletes of the small muscles. Practicing is training the body and the brain and the ear. Playing well is a technique or a skill that can be learned with diligence and practice (and a good teacher). Repetition, repetition, and more repetition.
Not many of us will write like a Shakespeare or play like a Mozart. No doubt these select few geniuses were uniquely gifted by God himself for a special purpose. But we can all practice and learn and develop a good degree of skill in music, or writing, or math with a bit of effort and discipline.
How do I know if my child is talented in music? Give him or her the tools- a good teacher, an instrument, opportunities, and time. Teach him or her to be patient and diligent - to practice until you get it and donʼt give up- and watch what happens. Even Bach himself is said to have remarked something like this: “If everyone practiced and worked as hard as I have, everyone could do just as well.” Well, maybe not, but I for one am going to keep practicing!