It has been interesting to hear so many different perspectives on the same subject as I have begun teaching music, and in particular, vocal music. Parents of children who are taking music lessons or adult music students seem to be the most firmly set in their view of this topic. Can we find a balanced perspective?
Some people have more raw ability than others
As humans, we are not made out of a "cookie cutter" mold, where we are all the same. My wife and I have done a lot of reading and observation about various personality types and how they affect the way we interact. Our favorite book on this topic is Personality Plus, by Florence Littauer. Part of our personality is an intrinsic part of us, and I believe this holds true in our musical capacity as well. However...
Most music performance ability is the result of proper training and practice
For example, one of the most incredible displays of child "talent" that I've ever witnessed was while I was on a trip to North Korea this past spring. I traveled there with a men's choral group to perform in the 28th Spring Friendship Art Festival. We were shown many of the allowed sites by the government officials who accompanied us. One of these was the Schoolchildren's Palace in Pyongyang. The musical performance that we saw there was one of the most incredible sites that I have ever seen. The precision, accuracy, and poise with which the young children performed was nearly perfect. In fact, every music performance we saw in the DPRK was nearly perfect. I am sure that I will never witness such a performance by any group of children in the United States.
This incredible children's performance left me pondering several things. These children were almost at a robotic level of performance. They had obviously been worked extremely hard in their training, which is not surprising with the type of culture and government currently at work in the DPRK. This type of training for children is not what I would desire or condone. But on the other hand, it showed me what was possible, even by young people. It made the lack of discipline that I see so often in children here in the States look really pathetic. Many children today seem to want to be "rockstars," but won't put in the necessary effort to develop their abilities. And their parents often don't demand any discipline from them either.
Developing a balanced approach
As musicians, our task is to take God's creation of music and use this gift to its greatest benefit. We have the priviledge of utilizing a unique combination of creative inspiration and diligent effort. Let us not waste this gift.
What are your thoughts on musical "talent" and finding the balance between diligence and overworking?