What is talent ?

said: Mar 9, 2007
 56 posts

Hi all,

I recently saw this qn on another forum. But I will like to find out what is the views of both suzuki teachers and parents on this topic.

Is there ever a child who can just learn and play the violin as beautifully and simply as a swan takes to the water ? or is it just a myth ?

And those parents of child prodigies who can play very well, they always just say “Oh, I didn’t know why, but he/she just took to the violin easily”.

Are they like the swan who glide gracefully across the peaceful lake, but under the water, they’re paddling like crazy !

As for myself, I am more inclined to Dr Suzuki’s philosophy that talent is not inborn, but created.

What do you think ?

Talent is not born, but created

Debbie said: Mar 9, 2007
Debbie Mi138 posts

Talent is the ability to comprehend, execute, and change, and it can be taught.

Laura said: Mar 9, 2007
Suzuki Association Member
358 posts

It’s important to clarify the terminology first.

According to Dr. Suzuki, talent = ability. in other words, the skills required to do something. In that case, talent can be taught by teachers/parents, and acquired through environment.

According to the rest of the word, talent = a true giftedness for something, in which superior ability seems to come very naturally. I believe that this is something that comes from within, and cannot be taught. But it must be nurtured, or the results might not turn out very well either.

But we must remember that every child can develop musical ability. It’s just a matter of how, and how quickly (or slowly). And it’s the amount of love, patience, perserverance, and creativity on the part of the adults (teachers/parents) that will determine that.

Some children just seem to lap everything up, both technically and expressively, and advance very quickly from day one. I’d call these truly gifted.

The parents of the “average” kids often end up putting in 10 times more effort than the parents of the “gifted” kids when it comes to practicing, etc. But in the end, all of these kids can end up playing well… so overall, we cannot lose sight of this.

Consider how some kids seem to be early talkers, and turn out to be very articulate speakers with many intelligent and creative ideas. Other children learn at a slower pace, and may or many not become very eloquent. (I realize this may be result of nurturing, but let’s leave that out of the equation just for this illustration.) But all children learn to speak, period, and very fluently and functionally at that. I think we need to keep this in mind when considering children’s “talent”. We can’t label kids one way or another, and have different overall expectations of them based on this.

said: Apr 6, 2007
 15 posts

I personally believe 100% in Suzuki’s view. Talent is simply ability.

The trick is that every single thing you experience since day one in your life affects and shapes your abilities.

Also, I think Suzuki didn’t mean the “ability to play the violin” when he talked about talent education but rather the “ability to learn anything and be good at it”—The “know-how” of learning!! And that’s what Suzuki is all about, learning violin is just an application…


said: Apr 11, 2007
 56 posts

Dr Suzuki once gave the analogy of 3 babies being brought to the north pole to live in.

One baby had a weak constitution, couldn’t take the cold weather and died soon after.

The other 2 babies had stronger constitutions. One was brought back to warmer countries. This baby thus did not grow the physiological ability to adapt to the cold. Whereas the 3rd baby did.

I think the above example aptly tells me something about the nature/nurture debate. Both are important, but its up to us parents/teachers to provide the environment to the child. What the child received from the womb is the base that we need to help the child grow upon.

However, I also believe there are babies already born with the constitution of a polar bear ! :D And these are the truly gifted…and we as parents must have the steward mentality.

Talent is not born, but created

Jennifer Visick said: Apr 12, 2007
Jennifer VisickForum Moderator
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Suzuki Early Childhood Education, Suzuki in the Schools, Violin
1069 posts

I think it’s built into our nature to grow and increase and invest wisely with whatever basics we are given at conception. Physically, our growth is without our consent (i.e. involuntary). As we grow in the womb to reach a physical place where our brains can begin to accept outside input, we very slowly start to have some control over our skills, and from then on we can refine and polish and add to them. Some people may seem to start at a new skill slowly, and have little ‘talent’, but given time and appropriate nurture and determination, that small foundation can grow into something large and beautiful. Others seem to have a larger foundation for their ‘talent’ which seems to grow more quickly. But both types of people still need to grow their skills into something greater than what they started with. Both types still need to invest and work at growing their talents into something larger and more beautiful and more mature.

I think it’s a mistake to judge a person’s skill or talent by measuring what a person can do, without taking into account what they had to do to get where they are.

There’s an anecdote about Heifetz, who was allegedly approached by a woman after a concert he played, and she obviously thought that his violin-playing was wonderful. She said “…I would give my life to be able to do what you do on the violin!” His reply was “I have, madam. I have”.

I don’t think everyone should give their life in order to play music like Heifetz did, but is it not unfair to compare anyone’s “talent” to his until you see that they have, like him, given their life in order to play the violin? Even then, to compare talents would be a spurious undertaking, at the very least. For who can say what kind of nurturing and circumstances and training they had?

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