Winnipeg's Jazz Magazine


The Wild Card

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Many people feel excluded, even cheated, when the word talent appears. The talent concept is fascinating to me because it presents ability as a phenomenon that is just there—as though someone just popped out of his or her momma able to play the trumpet, sink a hole in one or paint the Mona Lisa.

In my work, I get to see lots of really gifted people—a new crop every year. Some of them talk a lot about what they really love to do. Some of them just quietly let their passion sweep them away. As the year wears on, the talkers explain their slow progress as a lack of proper instruction, resources, time etc. Conversely, those that go about their business, living their passions, begin to blossom.

The world will recognize the talent of the latter student and say that they’re more gifted than the others. I find that who we are amounts to what we actually get around to doing with our time.

For every “gifted virtuoso” there’s a story of passion, focus, obsession, and compulsion. Something takes over and expresses its self through this person as though they were merely a vessel.

I see small glimmers of it in my daughter Giselle—the things that sweep her away become the things she can do really well. Giselle loves to play basketball and draw cartoons. Something just takes her over and only wild horses can pull her away from her occupations. Afterwards, she’s just burning to get back to whatever she was doing. The rapture of being swept away by what she was doing is her contract with her higher power.

People know when we are truly inspired. If we have to tell people that we love doing this or that, or that a weird force compels us, it’s like a breach of contract. Our reward becomes merely the fame of talking.

I believe that we all possess equal talent. Our personalities are the wild cards. Is it a coincidence that the ideals of music are expressed in character references like discipline and virtuosity? The key qualities are focus and hard work—and an ability to surrender to the demands of a task, even when that is an unbearable drudgery.

The endless and monotonous practicing of scales and patterns is an essential part of every musician’s training. These exercises fuse the instrument to your mind and body so that the instrument becomes like your own mouth and tongue. By surrendering to the task, whether it’s scales or floor-mopping or brake shoe repair, even the average Joe can become a virtuoso.

Most of us have a dream destination. Many are called and few arrive. If we just decide we’re there without actually doing the work, the trip we took was an ego trip. If we transport ourselves by doing the work, then we’ll surely get to that dream destination. I’m told that the true meaning of love is work. Seems fair to work for what you love.

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