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#936264 - 12/16/08 07:19 PM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
sotto voce Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/15/06
Posts: 6163
Loc: Briarcliff Manor, NY, USA
 Quote:
Originally posted by Larisa:
Steven, it matters because these definitions can be, and are, used to hurt, and that countless students are turned away from music because of such definitions. I think the world needs more music-makers, not fewer, and that the world needs fewer miserable people who realize, too late, that their childhood piano teacher was wrong and that they did have "talent" after all.

As for "everyone knows what it is" - only in obvious cases. Yeah, if you've got a kid who can play a piano arrangement of a symphony after hearing it once, it's easy to tell he's got talent. What about the example I cited earlier - my father? Is he "talented"? How would you tell? And what would you tell him if he asked you? What about a random 8-year-old who comes to you for lessons? How do you tell if he's talented, and does it matter? Would you teach him any differently if you knew he was "talented"?

Are you talented? How do you know? Who told you, and how did they know? How did that affect you, and how did that affect the instruction you received? As a grownup, do you think they were right? [/b]
That people may allow themselves to be defined by the judgments of others would seem to be the problem, then, and I don't know how that can be changed; it seems like it's human nature to scrutinize and to judge. But if shielding people's egos from the ways in which we are all different were the criterion for what's considered appropriate and acceptable, there would be no beauty contests, no athletic competitions, no spelling bees, no academic scholarships, no game shows like Jeopardy!, and certainly no talent competitions.

Steven
_________________________

"There are two means of refuge from the miseries of life: music and cats."
—Albert Schweitzer

Chopin: Allegro de Concert Op. 46
Schumann: Toccata Op. 7
Fauré: Ballade Op. 19

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#936265 - 12/16/08 07:44 PM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
keystring Online   content
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Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11574
Loc: Canada
 Quote:
there would be no beauty contests, no athletic competitions, no spelling bees, no academic scholarships, no game shows like Jeopardy!, and certainly no talent competitions.
One step closer to paradise! How wonderful if that could actually happen. Imagine if such folly could leave our planet.

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#936266 - 12/16/08 07:47 PM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
sotto voce Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/15/06
Posts: 6163
Loc: Briarcliff Manor, NY, USA
 Quote:
Originally posted by keystring:
 Quote:
there would be no beauty contests, no athletic competitions, no spelling bees, no academic scholarships, no game shows like Jeopardy!, and certainly no talent competitions.
One step closer to paradise! How wonderful if that could actually happen. Imagine if such folly could leave our planet. [/b]
Hey, not so fast! A new season of American Idol is revving up to begin next month! (Oh, and if it weren't for academic scholarships, I wouldn't have gotten my degree, either.)

Steven
_________________________

"There are two means of refuge from the miseries of life: music and cats."
—Albert Schweitzer

Chopin: Allegro de Concert Op. 46
Schumann: Toccata Op. 7
Fauré: Ballade Op. 19

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#936267 - 12/16/08 07:59 PM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
keystring Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11574
Loc: Canada
I missed the scholarships - reminds me of "Five of these things belong together..." of Sesame Street. Haven't watched t.v. in about 3 years so I'll take word for it. \:D

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#936268 - 12/16/08 08:32 PM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
Larisa Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/03/08
Posts: 498
Loc: Philadelphia
 Quote:
Originally posted by sotto voce:
That people may allow themselves to be defined by the judgments of others would seem to be the problem, then, and I don't know how that can be changed; it seems like it's human nature to scrutinize and to judge. But if shielding people's egos from the ways in which we are all different were the criterion for what's considered appropriate and acceptable, there would be no beauty contests, no athletic competitions, no spelling bees, no academic scholarships, no game shows like Jeopardy!, and certainly no talent competitions.
[/b]
But would there still be piano instruction? Generally, one chooses to enter a competition, and one is free not to. For example, I know I am not especially beautiful, so I do not enter a beauty contest. But what if, every time I went to the store to buy makeup, the salesperson would yell at me "Why do you need makeup for that ugly mug of yours?!!!" Factually, it is true - I am a possessor of a singularly ugly mug. Factually, there is such a thing as beauty, and some folks have it to a greater degree than others do. But is it relevant to my purchase of makeup? And is the salesperson's insult "appropriate and acceptable," and what result is it likely to produce, other than make me even uglier?

We're not talking about piano contests or other such things, where people voluntarily sign up. We're talking about people who want to play the piano. These are not necessarily people who want to compete with others - they are people who want to acquire a particular skill. Piano is not a competitive sport.

Personally, when I sit at the piano, I am competing with myself. I want to play better today than I played yesterday. I know there are people around who are more talented than me, and people who are less talented - but so what? It doesn't change the fact that every day, I must sit down at the piano and practice. If someone told me tomorrow that I have no talent whatsoever, I'd still sit down and practice. If someone told me that I am the most brilliantly talented musician who ever lived - I'd still sit down and practice.

In fact, it was competing with others, way back in music school, that made me lazy, which is a habit I'm overcoming now as an adult. Music was easy for me. I was easily at the top of every music class I took, and I didn't have to do very much. So I didn't do very much.

Now that I am competing with myself rather than with others, I have to practice and work hard. Because my standards are now set by myself rather than by others, I set them high - high enough that I have to work hard to meet them. For the first time in my life, I'm encountering musical tasks that are hard, that I have to work to master (switching from classical to jazz is tricky...) And I am mastering them, and I am proud of mastering them. I don't care whether I am doing so faster or slower than other people, or whether anyone else thinks it's even possible for someone to do this. It's simply irrelevant. If someone told me "You're such a moron - jazz is much easier for everyone else!" - would I have to quit? Nope.

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#936269 - 12/16/08 10:58 PM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
sotto voce Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/15/06
Posts: 6163
Loc: Briarcliff Manor, NY, USA
Meanspiritedness certainly isn't a part of the acknowledgment of talent, beauty or any other trait or propensity; nobody's talking about yelling at people that they are ugly or untalented or rubbing their noses in their deficiencies in any other manner.

Is it really so self-defeating just to be realistic and honest about our relative strengths and weaknesses? You know, like "I must have talent because this comes so easily to me, but I still have to work hard to be on top of my game" or "I'm not naturally any good at this, so I have to work harder and longer than some people to get results."

It can be hard to look oneself squarely in the mirror and face reality, but doesn't self-acceptance, and the avoidance of self-deception and self-delusion, require as much? Isn't that the kind of self-appraisal that's going on when you acknowledge that you're not considered beautiful and therefore won't be entering beauty contests? How would people choose courses of study, careers or make other important decisions without recognizing and assessing what they're good at and what they have no affinity for at all?

Steven
_________________________

"There are two means of refuge from the miseries of life: music and cats."
—Albert Schweitzer

Chopin: Allegro de Concert Op. 46
Schumann: Toccata Op. 7
Fauré: Ballade Op. 19

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#936270 - 12/17/08 12:49 AM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
Larisa Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/03/08
Posts: 498
Loc: Philadelphia
Well, we aren't talking "I'm not naturally good at this so I have to work harder" - we're talking "I'm not naturally any good at this so I will never be as good as the 'talented ones', so I may as well not bother." That's different. And we are talking about telling someone they have no talent and that no matter how hard they work, they'll never get good, not about telling them they have to work harder.

And we aren't talking about self-appraisal either; we are talking about appraisal by others. Not an internal evaluation of strengths and weaknesses - an external (and binary) evaluation of "talent" or "no talent." I'd trust my own internal evaluation of my own strengths and weaknesses (though even that excludes the possibility of growth and change) - I don't think I'd trust an external one.

Here's an example, related to choosing a course of study. All my life, I've been told that I was no good at public speaking. And then I went to law school. We had to do an oral argument exercise our first year, and I was absolutely terrified because I knew I was no good at public speaking - everyone had told me that. I was shocked to find out that I loved the oral argument, that I was far better prepared than my opponent, and that I did very well. Sometimes, you never know until you try. Since that experience, I participated in a legal clinic and won both of the cases I had to handle, and loved the experience.

Incidentally, had I "looked myself squarely in the mirror and faced reality," I would never have gone to law school. I knew - everyone told me - that I was not very competitive, that I was no good at public speaking, that I didn't have the detail-oriented mind that one needs to be a lawyer. "Everyone" was wrong. Again. Generally, when people say "face reality," they mean "face my vision of reality, and my vision of you, which is that you can't do this."

This is wandering far afield of the original question, and I'll be happy to continue this in email; sorry to clog everyone's bandwidth.

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#936271 - 12/17/08 01:29 AM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
Gary D. Online   content
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4750
Loc: South Florida
 Quote:
Originally posted by Larisa:
Well, we aren't talking "I'm not naturally good at this so I have to work harder" - we're talking "I'm not naturally any good at this so I will never be as good as the 'talented ones', so I may as well not bother." That's different.
Larisa, that would be terrible, but are you sure anyone is saying this? Or remotely advising ever saying that?

Are you sure YOU are not sharing YOUR feelings here?

I, for instance, am quite capable of torpedoing myself with that kind of negative thinking. I am literally my own worst enemy. But I would never do that to someone else. I don't think Steven would either.
 Quote:

And we are talking about telling someone they have no talent and that no matter how hard they work, they'll never get good, not about telling them they have to work harder.
Again, I'm not sure who said that. As a teacher I am well aware that some people will have to work much harder to achieve what others get, far easier. You have already said that you yourself were such a person. But I will never tell anyone to stop playing or stop having goals because I don't see major talent. And of course I may always be wrong. After all, kbk said that we really should start off defining talent. This time I sort of agree with him, except that it is impossible.
 Quote:

And we aren't talking about self-appraisal either; we are talking about appraisal by others. Not an internal evaluation of strengths and weaknesses - an external (and binary) evaluation of "talent" or "no talent." I'd trust my own internal evaluation of my own strengths and weaknesses (though even that excludes the possibility of growth and change) - I don't think I'd trust an external one.
That cuts two ways though. On one hand, I agree with you. There have been people who have tried to evaluate my strengths and weaknesses and have been horribly wrong. On the other hand, I've seen people encouraged to push on in something that ultimately they failed at because something was missing. There is much to be said for a dose of reality, now and then.

That's why I say it cuts both ways. I err on the side of too much encouragement, perhaps, because I don't ever want to do anything to stop someone from succeeding because I make a negative evaluation that is wrong. But I can see that potentially back-firing too. I encouraged two students who did not make it, on the university level. To this day I'm not sure whether that was my fault, or the fault of negativity coming from the university. Both students were accepted and also encouraged, based on what they showed, but coming from my teaching. Then rejected because they could not learn fast enough, did not show enough independence. I personally thought both might have done well, with just a bit more patience, since both started late. One started with me just a year before college, and he did not read before working with me. I still think he DID have talent. But maybe not. I still am haunted by this one case, decades later.
 Quote:

Here's an example, related to choosing a course of study. All my life, I've been told that I was no good at public speaking. And then I went to law school. We had to do an oral argument exercise our first year, and I was absolutely terrified because I knew I was no good at public speaking - everyone had told me that. I was shocked to find out that I loved the oral argument, that I was far better prepared than my opponent, and that I did very well. Sometimes, you never know until you try. Since that experience, I participated in a legal clinic and won both of the cases I had to handle, and loved the experience.
I've had similar experiences, but I'm still not sure where you are going with this. There are times when all sorts of lame brains make wrong assumptions about what we can or cannot do. Life is not fair. Part of life is learning how to take such punches and work through them. We won't always be encouraged, though it would be a very nice world if we were.
 Quote:

Incidentally, had I "looked myself squarely in the mirror and faced reality," I would never have gone to law school. I knew - everyone told me - that I was not very competitive, that I was no good at public speaking, that I didn't have the detail-oriented mind that one needs to be a lawyer. "Everyone" was wrong. Again. Generally, when people say "face reality," they mean "face my vision of reality, and my vision of you, which is that you can't do this."

This is wandering far afield of the original question, and I'll be happy to continue this in email; sorry to clog everyone's bandwidth.
What are you saying but that you were right to trust yourself and not listen to other people? Again, that's part of life. This does not say that you have no talent for speaking in public, or no talent for any of the things you mentioned, only that people make very wrong assumptions.

No one has talked about telling any beginner, "No, you have no talent, no matter what you do, you will never be good."

No one has said that. But others have suggested that talent, even if we can't define it, does exist, and that right now it is rather PC to act as if anyone can accomplish anything, just with hard work, will-power, and organization. Or something to that effect.

It's a Catch 22 thing. If we tell people they can't reach their goals, even if some goals are ridiculous, SOMEONE is going to be denied, and that's not good.

But if we tell everyone they CAN reach their goals, some people are going to be very disappointed when they work their butts off only to be passed by others who do very little work but who most definitely are talented, gifted, or whatever you want to call it.
_________________________
Piano Teacher

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#936272 - 12/17/08 01:33 AM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
sotto voce Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/15/06
Posts: 6163
Loc: Briarcliff Manor, NY, USA
Larisa, I don't think there's anything to say that hasn't already been expressed. I guess it demonstrates the futility of trying to talk about talent, after all, as what you're saying and what I'm saying are dramatically different.

Several posts ago, I said that the real issue seems to be with people allowing themselves to be defined by the judgments of others. And indeed, some do, and they may be crushed by the experience. But I honestly think that most people are able to transcend that. We have to; it's a survival skill! Furthermore, because children can be especially cruel, I think most of us learn those lessons early in life.

The last time we agreed to disagree, you mentioned that you tend to be a bit of an optimist. I'm not usually accused of being an optimist, and yet I wonder if my expectations of people's unfettered ability to see and judge the world and themselves clearly aren't actually higher than yours appear to be.

Steven
_________________________

"There are two means of refuge from the miseries of life: music and cats."
—Albert Schweitzer

Chopin: Allegro de Concert Op. 46
Schumann: Toccata Op. 7
Fauré: Ballade Op. 19

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#936273 - 12/17/08 01:36 AM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
keystring Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11574
Loc: Canada
 Quote:
And what the virtuoso told him was that he always told people that they should not become musicians - because then, only those who really could not live without music would continue to play.
Everything is correct about that story -- I believe the *musician* (not merely a virtuoso) was Jasha Heifetz.

"Living without music" was not the point at all. Attitude was. The answer was something like "If you even have to ask that question, you will not succeed in pursuing this career."

The *question* was wrong. Going around asking other people if you will make it is wrong. Choosing that this is what you want to do, finding out how you go about learning how to do it, and then doing it, is where it's at. THAT was the point.

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#936274 - 12/17/08 01:38 AM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
currawong Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/15/07
Posts: 5903
Loc: Down Under
 Quote:
Originally posted by Larisa:
And we are talking about telling someone they have no talent and that no matter how hard they work, they'll never get good. [/b]
Who is saying we should tell anyone this?

(=short summary of Gary's excellent post \:\) )
_________________________
Du holde Kunst...

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#936275 - 12/17/08 01:44 AM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
keyboardklutz Offline
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Registered: 05/21/07
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I know a piano teacher who told her daughter at a very young age that she didn't have talent. Years later, after a concert, the daughter said to her mother 'You see, I do have talent'. The mom's comment had, and still does (the daughter's now 65), affect both their lives.
_________________________
snobbyish, yet maybe helpful.
http://keyboardclass.blogspot.com/


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#936276 - 12/17/08 02:05 AM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
keystring Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11574
Loc: Canada
Um? Could you guys clarify what you are arguing about, Larisa and Steven? I am totally lost. What is the point, and what does it have to do with deciding to learn to play the piano and managing to do so? Or what is it about, in fact (it might not be that)? What does competing with anyone - including yourself - have to do with trying to achieve something?

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#936277 - 12/17/08 02:09 AM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
ll Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/14/08
Posts: 1101
 Quote:
Originally posted by keyboardklutz:
I know a piano teacher who told her daughter at a very young age that she didn't have talent. Years later, after a concert, the daughter said to her mother 'You see, I do have talent'. The mom's comment had, and still does (the daughter's now 65), affect both their lives. [/b]
Why do you always say something to make me sad? \:\(

;\)
_________________________
II. As in, second best.
Only lowercase. So not even that.
I teach piano and violin.
BM, Violin & Percussion Performance 2009, Piano Pedagogy 2011.

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#936278 - 12/17/08 02:18 AM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
keyboardklutz Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/21/07
Posts: 10856
Loc: London, UK (though if it's Aug...
Life is not a bowl of cherries (for some).
_________________________
snobbyish, yet maybe helpful.
http://keyboardclass.blogspot.com/


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#936279 - 12/17/08 02:26 AM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
Larisa Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/03/08
Posts: 498
Loc: Philadelphia

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#936280 - 12/17/08 08:20 AM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
sotto voce Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/15/06
Posts: 6163
Loc: Briarcliff Manor, NY, USA
 Quote:
Originally posted by Larisa:
Really, I think the best thing to tell "everyone" is that we don't know whether or not they can reach their goals; and then, that we are going to get out of their way. Because we really don't know. Unless you're inside my head, you don't know what my true capabilities are. Heck, I don't know what they are, half the time, and they change depending on my self-confidence levels. And if what the person wants is to take lessons, why bother them with all that "talent" nonsense? They'll figure it out on their own soon enough. The teacher's job is to teach.

When I took beginner ballet lessons, no one talked of "talent". It just never came up. The teacher showed us the technique we were learning, we tried our best to do it, and he walked around the room correcting us if we were doing it wrong and praising us if we were doing it right. That's all a teacher needs to do.

Did I notice that other people in the class were doing better than I was? Of course I did. I'm not stupid or blind. Why does a teacher need to tell me something I can see for myself? And why should I be "disappointed" to see others learn faster than I? I'm not that petty, and I don't think that pettiness of this sort should be encouraged or sanctioned. [/b]
"All that 'talent' nonsense"? Yipes. It's time to repeat my own words from earlier in this thread.
 Quote:
Originally posted by sotto voce:
But it does exists independently of anyone's opinion or understanding of it, and it doesn't even need acknowledgment or validation. All the things that are wrong with the concept for you seem to be consequent to how it's handled and treated; I understand those concerns and why a teacher, in particular, would have them. [/b]
Larisa, I don't mean to be rude or insensitive, but I have to make a comment at this point based on the abundance of your self-referential anecdotes and your candor about your own background as an emigree from the former Soviet Union.

You've had experiences that most readers here have not, and I have to wonder to what extent your convictions about this subject are a by-product of the social philosophy of totalitarianism to which you would have been exposed in your formative years. I find it impossible to read such doctrinaire missives here and not get a sense of unrelenting dogma concerning the denial of individual differences and enforced supposition of social equality. This honestly seems to confirm the worst stereotypes Westerners used to have about suppression of individuality under Communism.

I believe that for most people it suffices to admit that talent is nebulous, that it can be a blessing and/or a curse, and that the effects of overemphasizing it (or even acknowledging it in some situations) can be deleterious. The vigor of your assertions, on the other hand, compels me to wonder about the reasons for it; the temptation to try to connect the dots is irresistible.

Steven
_________________________

"There are two means of refuge from the miseries of life: music and cats."
—Albert Schweitzer

Chopin: Allegro de Concert Op. 46
Schumann: Toccata Op. 7
Fauré: Ballade Op. 19

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#936281 - 12/17/08 01:22 PM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
MAK Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/14/04
Posts: 153
Loc: New York Metropolitan Area
I wanted to play the piano ever since I was a little kid. However I never tried as I was told by my mother that I had no musical talent. And you know what: I probably don't have much talent. But finally, in my mid-40's I thought, "what the heck" and started taking lessons. I bought an inexpensive digital piano. Now, a few years later, and I am enjoying playing Chopin, Bach, Schubert and other music that I really enjoy. And I have a nice little Bosendorfer grand in my living room. I get enormous satisfaction out of working on a piece and then being able to play it after a few weeks or months. Maybe I am not Rachmaninoff or Horowitz, or even the high school music major living down the street, but when I come home at night, and can sit and play a Chopin prelude over and over again, it makes my night! Hey, that's ME playing Chopin and those chords sound wonderful! Lesson: don't ever let someone tell you that because you have "no talent" you should not try something that you think you will love.
_________________________
Michael

Bosendorfer 175

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#936282 - 12/17/08 02:03 PM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
-Frycek Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/06/05
Posts: 5921
Loc: SC Mountains
I've got no talent either but playing the piano is still the most satisfying thing in my life.

(So there. Stamps foot. Think I'll flounce off and go practice.)
_________________________
Slow down and do it right.

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#936283 - 12/17/08 02:11 PM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
sotto voce Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/15/06
Posts: 6163
Loc: Briarcliff Manor, NY, USA
 Quote:
Originally posted by -Frycek:
(So there. Stamps foot. Think I'll flounce off and go practice.) [/b]
Time for an off-topic tangent!

I love the rich vocabulary of English, and the number of colorful words we have to depict ways of moving is a great example of it.

Flounce, traipse, sashay are among my favorites. Can anyone hear these terms and not have a corresponding and distinct mental image?

Does anyone remember the episode of The Simpsons in which Bart and Lisa argue about whether they are going to amble or saunter around the block?

Steven
_________________________

"There are two means of refuge from the miseries of life: music and cats."
—Albert Schweitzer

Chopin: Allegro de Concert Op. 46
Schumann: Toccata Op. 7
Fauré: Ballade Op. 19

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#936284 - 12/17/08 02:16 PM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
playadom Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/21/06
Posts: 1366
Loc: New Jersey
Ahh yes, there's nothing like gallivanting down the street on a summer's day, hand in hand...something like that...
_________________________
Practice makes permanent - Perfect practice makes perfect.

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#936285 - 12/17/08 02:34 PM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
childofparadise2002 Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/13/04
Posts: 540
Topics related to talent are always tricky... However one wants to define it, whether one believes that it exists, it's simply true that people are all different, what name we give to the differences is less important than how we deal with it. It's simply not true that we can all accomplish the same things given the exact same amount of hard work. But whether talent matters depends on one's goals: if your goal is to enjoy music, whether you have musical talent is irrelevant; if you want to become one of the top pianists in the world, talent matters a lot. And of course hard work ALWAYS matters.

Whether it's bad for a teacher or a parent to tell a kid that "you lack the talent" probably should also depend on the kid's goal. If the goal is too unrealistic, blind encouragement will only hurt.

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#936286 - 12/17/08 02:38 PM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
keystring Online   content
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Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11574
Loc: Canada
I still don't get the debate on talent between our two horn-locked peers, but in regards to telling someone they do or don't have talent - what is the point of that? Anyone trying to learn to do anything will have a set of strengths and weaknesses which will be bolstered, exploited, strengthened, brought into balance over the course of time. Even talent (consisting of any number of things) has its disadvantages that must be brought into balance. You define the goal, you work toward it, and you see what you are working with which is a thing that will also change as you grow.

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#936287 - 12/17/08 10:53 PM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
Larisa Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/03/08
Posts: 498
Loc: Philadelphia
It's true that my background, growing up in Soviet Russia, has something to do with my assertion, but not what you think - not a totalitarian byproduct (and don't you think that someone who barely managed to escape from a totalitarian regime will be anything but a totalitarian?), but a cultural assumption. In Russia, no teacher would even take a child as a student unless they had "talent". The idea was that a teacher didn't want to waste their time teaching someone who was never going to become a concert pianist, or a professional ballet dancer, or an Olympic gymnast.

The problem with that is that sometimes, these evaluators of "talent" would be wrong. How can you tell, with a 5-year-old? It's not always that easy. So, you got stories about musicians who were rejected by the "establishment" but who picked up music at a later age and got really good. Such stories always entailed a certain amount of pain, of lost opportunity. Why do that to someone? It took me years, long into adulthood, to learn to enjoy physical activity, after a determination of "no talent" made when I was 5.

So yeah, people have different abilities, and everyone is different, and so on. But lumping it all into "talent" oversimplifies the issue.

And moreover, isn't it nice to have the freedom to learn whatever skills you want to learn without the teacher making this kind of arbitrary judgment about you? Would you want your piano teacher telling you that you have no talent? This is one of the things I really like about the United States - that here, anyone, no matter who, can learn a musical instrument. No one will stop you, even if you are tone-deaf and missing 8 fingers; as long as you want to learn, you can learn.

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#936288 - 12/17/08 11:20 PM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
Gary D. Online   content
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4750
Loc: South Florida
 Quote:
Originally posted by Larisa:
The problem with that is that sometimes, these evaluators of "talent" would be wrong. How can you tell, with a 5-year-old? It's not always that easy. So, you got stories about musicians who were rejected by the "establishment" but who picked up music at a later age and got really good. Such stories always entailed a certain amount of pain, of lost opportunity. Why do that to someone? It took me years, long into adulthood, to learn to enjoy physical activity, after a determination of "no talent" made when I was 5.
I understand very well what you are talking about. If people in this forum are doing that, to me it is wrong. But I have no heard of anyone doing such a thing, not here. So in this context, it remains a potential problem.

For the record, I have NEVER told someone not to play, to study, or to dream by saying, "You don't have what it takes." Not for reasons of potential, what I might guess. I have warned people about lack of motivations, hard work, etc.

Instead, I warn everyone that making money in music is very difficult. I continued with music because I just could not stand to do anything else. I don't even think I made a wise decision. It just seemed the only path for me.

As I suggested before, I feel that you are creating a straw man here. I don't disagree with many of your points, but I don't think your points are responding directly to what any of us have said.
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#936289 - 12/18/08 12:00 AM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
Larisa Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/03/08
Posts: 498
Loc: Philadelphia
 Quote:
Originally posted by keystring:
I still don't get the debate on talent between our two horn-locked peers, but in regards to telling someone they do or don't have talent - what is the point of that? Anyone trying to learn to do anything will have a set of strengths and weaknesses which will be bolstered, exploited, strengthened, brought into balance over the course of time. Even talent (consisting of any number of things) has its disadvantages that must be brought into balance. You define the goal, you work toward it, and you see what you are working with which is a thing that will also change as you grow. [/b]
That was my point, in fact. Thank you for stating it better than I have.

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#936290 - 12/18/08 03:58 AM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
keyboardklutz Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/21/07
Posts: 10856
Loc: London, UK (though if it's Aug...
Actually I've only just remembered (it can't have been that important), the same mother and daughter declared I was not 'musically talented' (but the mum always insisted I was a genius otherwise - quite a compliment from her!). I think it's the Eastern European thing of sorting wheat from chaff at the age of 5 that Larisa mentions - not the sort of talent I'd be interested in anyway.
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#936291 - 12/18/08 09:12 PM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
Larisa Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/03/08
Posts: 498
Loc: Philadelphia
 Quote:
Originally posted by childofparadise2002:

Whether it's bad for a teacher or a parent to tell a kid that "you lack the talent" probably should also depend on the kid's goal. If the goal is too unrealistic, blind encouragement will only hurt. [/b]
You know, I think that what got me going in this discussion in the first place was the sentiment expressed in your last sentence. I've been thinking about this quite a bit today, on a long train ride, and came to a few realizations.

First of all, I like unrealistic goals. I always set them for myself (and sometimes I meet them). Goal-setting is one place where realism will hold you back. When you're punching a punching bag and you want to give it your strongest punch, you are advised to visualize your punch going right through the bag, in complete and total defiance of the laws of physics. If you visualize your punch "realistically" - i.e. complying with the laws of physics and stopping shortly after you hit the bag - it won't be as strong. Try it on a pillow or something - it really works. Goals work similarly, in my experience.

I am a pragmatist. If visualizing myself performing in Carnegie Hall will get me practicing more and get me to play better than a "realistic" visualization of myself performing for my parents and friends, I will visualize myself performing in Carnegie Hall. My goal is to coax the best possible performance out of myself, by any means necessary, and if manipulating my subconscious will get me there, I will do so. In my case, and in the case of a lot of other people (including my students), unrealistic praise gets much better results than "realistic" assessments of their talents. People are not robots, and their performance - including their level of "talent" - is very much affected by their teacher's assessment of their ability (there have been countless psychological experiments that prove this). I refuse to handicap my students, and I refuse to handicap myself. No one gives out gold stars - or competition prizes - for the most "realistic" assessment of one's ability. Gold stars are given out for results.

Also, while blind encouragement can, and does, hurt sometimes, blind discouragement hurts a lot more often. There may be a few deluded souls out there who think they're the next incarnation of Liszt, despite having only mastered "Mary Had a Little Lamb" with one finger - but how many do you really think there are? And do you really think they'll listen to you if you tell them they have no talent? On the other hand, there are lots and lots of people who have some talent who are told they have no talent, and whose talent shrivels away as a result. This, I think, is far more common and far sadder, and if one must err, it's better to err on the side of encouragement.

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#936292 - 12/21/08 02:45 AM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
Lisztener Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/12/06
Posts: 921
Greetings,

After just finishing every word of this marvelous discussion, you all have sated my voracious appetite that began with the first word of the thread and ended as a satisfying meal of mind food. Bravo! This discussion should be stickied and made required reading upon registering for access to PW.

Sotto Voce and Larissa,

I commend each of you for eloquently projecting your viewpoints on the nebulous concept of talent. I must say that I am particularly taken by Larissa's point of view because she personalizes and makes applicable that which otherwise is always subjective and abstract. The viewpoints expressed by all are most valuable, but the act of encouraging talent rather than debating its existence, valiantly carries the day for me.

Thank you all for your knowledgeable and thought provoking insights.

Happy Holidays to all.

Sincerely,

Lisztener
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#936293 - 12/24/08 02:32 PM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
ahvat Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/19/08
Posts: 125
I've been told I'm talented, But I just take it as an encouragement. I started late learning piano at age 19. I forget how I started. There is so much to learn about music.

I dont know if talent really exist. There are those who are good and something others aren't good at. Everyone is different. Experience? Talent? gee, I don't know. I can only stand with my statement "practice"

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