Less Than Half is Talent

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Today I heard a radio interview where Guthrie P. Ramsey Jr., Professor of Music at the University of Pennsylvania, shared all the details of what made Whitney Houston's voice "the voice". Longing to sing professionally myself, I hung on to his every word. Later, as I compared his professional views with my experience as a singer, I found a universal truth invaluable not only from the standpoint of singing but in any area where one would hope to transition talent to a sought after skill.

Oh, I just need a little help

My last experience with singing lessons came by way of a very good friend of mine who is also an accomplished singer and actress.  I'd finally gotten up the nerve to start performing at various open mic events and confided, while I was proud of myself, there were areas where I lacked confidence.

Seeing none of my concerns as a big deal, she not only carved an hour out of her schedule to work with me but she also offered to accompany me at an event immediately afterwards to show her support. To say I was thankful would be an understatement.

What, you didn't like that?!

Only a few verses into a song that I'd memorized, she'd ask me to start again. After listening intently, she'd provide a suggestion for improvement and ask that I start over.  If ever I seemed unclear, she'd immediately demonstrate for the sake of clarity.  The entire hour looked this way. Starting, stopping, suggesting and implementing.

While all of that was going on, she'd suggest that I try notes in various keys, place emphasis on different words, breath and slow down a bit. At the end of our hour together, we'd chopped up the song so much, I could no longer remember the words. And, even if I could, there was no way I was singing in front of a crowd. My level of confidence was lower than when I started. For the next week, I not only refrained from singing but humming was also out of the question.

With everything I thought I knew now turned upside down, singing was technical. Not fun.  How to sustain the last note, sing from my diaphragm and stay in the same key was all taken into account before I committed to the first word of a song.  In addition to all that was the looming question, what's unique and wonderful about Sabrina's voice?

Talent isn't enough

Confirmation that we're talented comes from others. Without any formal training we realize we have a natural ability to sing, draw, paint, write, cook or create in some way. We share our ability with others, they give us the thumbs up and we run off into the sunset waving our talent about without learning how best to use it. Instead of taking the time to hammer our talent into something useful to both ourselves and others, with the dullness of a butter knife, we poke around at best.

Comparing singing lessons I've had previously to that between my friend and I, aside from the matter a fact support that only a friend can provide, the information was the same.  What I came face to face with, however, was my inability get pass not being perfect, the discomfort of a novice and an understanding why skill is much more valuable than talent alone.

To get to your next level, I'd suggest the following: 1.) Show up with more commitment than talent 2).  Be willing to unlearn, learn and relearn 3.) Work with someone you trust, that allows you to fail and that has proven themselves  knowledgeable in your field 4.) Be patient with yourself and trust the process and 5.) Practice, practice, practice.

Good is truly the enemy of great.

Professor Ramsey's full post on CNN.com can be read here.

SabrinaBlogs at Much Needed Advice for Women.

talent and success

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