A lot has been written about talent. Everyone’s take on talent is unique. Talent is this or that or the other, but no one can say for sure, exactly, what talent is.

To me, talent is something that a person does very well without much training or effort. The capacity exhibited garners recognition from the outside world without it being sought by the talented person. Talent is “being good at” anything, sometimes profoundly good.

But the saying goes, talent is overrated. Success is 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration. And here in New York, where talented people are like bunches of grapes, collected at every market in all flavors and colors, talent and $2.00 will get you a ride on the subway or bus.

If you have talent in the arts, rather than, for instance, a talent for fixing cars or building boats, you may or may not be lucky enough for that talent to lift up your life and transform it. Luciano Pavarotti said in his first biography that he knew someone in his home town who was a much better singer than he (hard to believe), but that the man didn’t have the interest, drive or ambition to do anything with his singing other than sing at home.

The combination of things that has to come together in order for the talented person to have the talent become the driving force in his life is formidable. So many people have some of the things that are needed but not all of them. I have found it almost heartbreaking to see how close someone can come to having everything work only to miss the mark by a molecule.

If you have a room full of people who have beautiful voices, who are musical, who are expressive, who have studied to develop their capacities to sing (in any style) and who have the interest, desire, drive and capability to organize their lives so that singing becomes the goal, you will have some people who never become professional singers, some who do, and some who make a patchwork quilt of singing and other things that allows them to live somewhere in the middle. You will have some who succeed at the highest level, maybe even world fame, some who succeed and are known only to their peers, some who succeed locally and some who barely make it.

Would that it were so that only those who deserve success got to be successful! If only the world could hear all the amazing voices that exist, and all the people whose hearts are filled with song and with feeling, what a different universe this would be. Until that day, however, those who are talented and who may have ended up behind a desk, or in a restaurant, or on an airplane should remember that man who knew Pavarotti. He sang at home and was content to do so. Let that be a solace to us all.

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One thought on “Talent”

  1. Thanks for this, Jeanie!

    I’ll never forget visiting the Baltimore DMV about ten years ago with my husband, who is a low bass. We’re waiting in line with dozens of seething, stressed out customers, but behind the counter is this guy singing cheerfully to himself in deep, mellow almost subsonic tones. When he waited on us, his speaking voice had a resonance that James Earl Jones would envy. As we left, my husband remarked, “Should I just give it up?”

    Of course not. But using your voice to soothe unruly DMV customers is a worthy calling!

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