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talent - singing and pots - long

updated tue 30 apr 96


John Sproule on sat 13 apr 96

The ability to sing is a very interesting analogy to potting.

I would bet that most of you out there, except Richard and me, would not
join a choir, and, like Carla, try not to "inflict" your voice on someone
else, even to sing "happy birthday". And I would further bet that at
some deep, distant past moment someone said something like, "why don't
you just mouth the words, dear," or "If you can't sing it right, don't
sing it at all!" or something like this.

This experience probably happened within three years of entering grade
school, when, we're told, natural abilities are being constantly assessed
and measured. So, there you are, eight years old, convinced FOR LIFE
that you can't sing, because someone measured your 'talent' and found it
wanting. THis was probably done in the context of singing in the school
choir or the class group in a hastily prepared holiday assembly. Or even
singing the national anthem. Once, or twice. Or maybe it was your
parents, who experienced the same thing as children.

I know, because I am a choir director, that at least thirty percent of
the adult population of any community WILL NOT SING, alone or in a group
or even to themselves for comfort or entertainment, because of an
experience like this. Lots of people say to me, "oh, I could never sing
in a choir," (sound familiar, Carla?) "I have a tin ear" "I can't hold a
tune". The truth is, if you can listen to music and tell that it has a
melody which is in ANY way different from ANY other melody, you can sing.

THe ability to distinguish tones and to match tones is a developmental
stage and develops in people at
different rates. Some people who have been cursed at age 8 may only
develop the ability to match tones when they're 11 or 12, or 45! But
they'll never know, because someone somewhere told them the have no
"talent", so they're never going to try, because failing would be too
painful. It's also a big step for an adult to assume the role of a child
in the learning process of something he or she "should" have learned as a

It also takes a patient teacher to do "pitch matching", and LOTS AND LOTS
of singing. AND often, what
people think is "no musical talent" simply means they were never taught
how to read music!!!!!!!!!!!! Think of the consequences to the next
generations of educational cutbacks, and "back to the basics" where music
and art are considered frills.

Then there's the question of subjective opinion of "talent".
In fact I was once made fun of by an EX boyfriend because my voice was
too "operatic".
In other words, I was hitting the right notes, but I wasn't singing like
Springsteen, who was his idol. I had a choir-trained voice, not a "pop"
voice, and I'm a woman, not a man.

Okay, so in this whole little diatribe, substitute the words, clay,
throwing, potter, style and thickness of walls, and see what you get.

Can we really talk about "talent"? I think we can talk about
opportunity, exposure, teachers, drive, interest, passion, conviction,
self-worth, imagination and INSPIRATION.

In the context of this, does John Leach have "talent"?

There. We have a new $2 coin in Canada now, so that's my $2 worth.

preparing for the "Spring Sing Thing" with a choir of 25, ages 12 to 70,
16 of whom can't read music, and 6 of whom NEVER SANG BEFORE!!!!