'OK boys, today we are going to do a vocal examination to see who can sing in choir'. There was a soft chatter around the room as the class nervously discussed the idea of having to get up in front of everyone and sing.
It was a cool morning in the autumn of 1999 and Mrs Southee had sprung her little surprise on my class of year three boys. I remember it like yesterday, each boy had their turn to get up and stand by the piano as Mrs Southee played and they did their little impromptu performance. No one had any idea this was going to happen that day so there was no preparation; it was pure natural talent on display for all to see.
Even at this young age it got me thinking. These were all different people from completely different backgrounds, upbringings and families, but they all had two things in commonâthey were all roughly the same age, and they didn't expect to be singing that day.
So, in theory, they should all be at a similar level of ability because everyone was too young to have really developed the talent, and no one had a chance to prepare. Surely everyone starts at the same point, right?
I remember watching as each student got up nervously, walked over and began to sing. Each had a different tone, style, soundâthey were all singing the same song, but in their own unique way.
It intrigued me to note that some students were simply better than others, some struggled to pitch the notes or stay in time, whilst others sang with ease, following the song with clarity and skill.
From potential to mastery
Some people just have 'it'. Everyone's born with different gifts and abilities; to some, mathematics is easy and simply makes sense, to others mathematics is the most confusing and abstract concept. Some are born with the ability to leap high or run fast and enjoy a certain edge in the sporting arena, whilst others struggle with the basics of coordination and loathe the very idea of physical exercise.
However, no one is born with the completed picture of their ability. There is always learning, developing, practicing and lots and lots of hard work involved before potential turns into mastery. Sure, some people find certain things easier than others, but make no mistake, there is always a journey.
Enjoy the journey
Art is where natural talent and learned development come together. There is an innate gifting in a virtuosic musician, but the gifting is only brought through by training. Like anything from sports to mathematics, everyone starts with their own unique gifting but their raw talent is only complemented by knowledge.
The first key is this: find what you're naturally good at. Everyone has their niche, often people have multiple niches, but start with one thing.
Then, once you know what it is you want to do, devote yourself completely to this. Understand there is a process and commit to it. Enjoy the journey, learn what it is to be a beginner at something and stay confident; then learn what it is to be great at something and stay humble.
Often we can look at the end picture and feel discouraged as to how to get there, wondering if we ever will. But it doesn't take money or opportunity, it takes a decision. A decision rooted in a deeply assured knowledge of who you are and what you're called to do.
If you're sure of who you are, then what you do won't define you. The process can seem scary, but everyone starts somewhere. But if you're sure of what you're called to do, then because of who you are, you will be the best that you can be at it.
Pursue your passion
If we had more Christian artists pursuing their passion with the same ferocity that so many non-Christian artists do, then I think the radio would sound very different on my drive home from work. And I hate listening to the radio on my drive home from work, so for the sake of my drive, please do what you were created to do!
Daniel J. Mathew is a musician and writer living in Los Angeles.
Daniel J. Mathew's previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/daniel-mathew.html