Winnipeg's Jazz Magazine


The Value of a Dream

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A friend of mine asked me, “Which is more important, talent or hard work?” I say talent is hard work. I believe talent is the ability to focus and work hard at something. Some people do this at an early age and others never do it. Extraordinary people like Tiger Woods, Venus Williams, Wynton Marsalis, Herbie Hancock and Christian McBride, had something in common in their early lives: an ability to concentrate. They also had the gift of appreciation.

Like dominoes, appreciation opens the door to inspiration, inspiration fuels passion which triggers motivation—and we begin to realize our dreams. When most kids watched cartoons, little Tiger Woods learned how to sink a 30-foot putt. He wasn’t good at it at first but he was inspired by the poetry of it. When most kids were learning how to play Asteroids or Pac-Man, Christian McBride was transcribing jazz bass solos. Christian was intrigued by the dance of countermelodies.

Recently one of my colleagues, Miguel Zenón, won the MacArthur Fellowship. It’s one of the most prestigious acknowledgements of artistic achievement in the States and carries a cash award of $500,000. My friends have nicknamed it the “genius grant.”

Many Winnipeggers have met Miguel. He was a guest artist three years at the U of M Summer Jazz Camp, and has also performed with the WJO. The most common comment I hear about Miguel, besides how dedicated and humble he is, is how “naturally gifted” he is.

Miguel is different from the aforementioned “naturally gifted” lot. They were on their way to stardom as children—college wasn’t an issue. Miguel acquired his natural gift in his own way and at a gradual pace. He attended many schools, including Berklee in Boston, and later graduated from Manhattan School of Music with a Master’s degree in Jazz Composition. In these institutions, he learned how to focus and dedicate himself to realize his true potential. Miguel can write the book on getting the most from his work/practice time. Now his discipline has paid off.

The thing that makes all that talent and discipline work is patience. The guiding principle for patience is faith. I believe that faith makes us unique in the universe. It’s possible that our faith amounts to what we’re worth as individuals.

Occasionally even an accomplished person loses faith. To them I say: a thousand miracles happen every day just to get me out of bed. This doesn’t happen so that I can fail at some worthwhile pursuit. It happens so that I can succeed. The same goes for everyone else on this planet.

Miguel stuck with his dream. In a society of immediate gratification, many of us lose patience with ourselves and let go of our dreams. The fact that we came into this world dreaming—and I suspect go out the same way—makes me value dreams all the more.

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