Tuesday, December 20, 2005

#100 - There's Talent... and Then There's Talent

Baby Sis over at Burrhouse gives us the benefit of her epiphanies from her recent tour of her old alma mater (such as it was). She touches on a few points that I find both significant and profound, and I think the theme bears some enlargement.

We come from a talented family. Those talents manifest themselves in many ways, of course. But the predominant theme that runs through our gene pool appears to be music. Mom and Dad are, of course, tremendous musicians. Dad, when he was alive, was very gifted both as a horn player and as a composer/arranger. The fact that I never could get into much of the stuff he composed merely means that his stuff will be famous thirty years from now. I'm certain he was just ahead of his time, as all great composers ultimately are. He did, however, compose marches for bands, and I always enjoyed his marches. Think "Sousa: Next Generation" stuff. Mom, on the other hand, has more-or-less tiptoed into the composing game, and is now a published composer of works for flute choirs. An acclaimed composer, thank you very much, who has actually done work on commission now.

(Note to Baby Sis: You are correct that Dad was the only one to seriously pursue college. I am on the rolls at University of Phoenix, but it will be a few years more before I complete my studies. Deb has studied at so many schools now that her alumni requests for donations will keep her in the poorhouse for decades. The paradox, of course, was that Dad never actually got a degree. He had been offered teaching positions in both phys ed and music, but ultimately decided on aerospace as a better means for raising a family. I think he, like myself, opted out before completing either degree and went to work. The rest being, at a minimum, family history.)

Mom also enjoys singing, and has gone from gifted soprano to gifted alto over the years. Dad also enjoyed singing, but recognized certain limitations to his ability. That didn't stop him from leading every church choir I sang in until I was old enough to conduct them myself. Mom continues to both sing and conduct, and her presence as a choir director for the church in Simi Valley is keenly missed. Baby Sis did an admirable job of filling in, but now she, too, has moved on.

Anyway, Mom and Dad were quite generous with their genes, and we kids all have musical abilities of varying degrees. I started out with violin and piano lessons, but neither took hold. I became a vocalist instead, and have some small reputation as a choir director myself. It is something that I enjoy doing, but I, like my sister, realize that I have probably reached my personal pinnacle of ability and am content with what I've acheived. Baby Sis still has a ways to go, but even she recognizes where her limitations are and is accepting of them. Likewise our brother, he of "Way Off Bass" fame, started with horn (baritone, specifically), taught himself to play string bass, and somewhere along the line acquired a rich baritone voice. He, too, has pretty much reached the edge of his personal ambition (or so it seems, thus far - one can never tell with Il Basso), and seems content with what he's accomplished musically. Another sister plays piano very well, while the other one sings every chance she gets.

None of us deludes ourselves that we are anything approaching God's Gift to Music, by any means. On the other hand, we all appreciate our talents as God's gift to us. We are all gifted and knowledgeable enough to do what the Lord asks of us, and we serve willingly. Usually. For me, that is. Oh, I may get a little surly about it on occasion, as when I've been asked to serve as Choir Director for the umpteenth time in a given ward when I'd really like to get back into a classroom and teach for a change, but generally we serve because we know the Lord wants us to.

The interesting thing is that we all have other talents as well. I consider writing to be a talent of mine (whether you agree or not is not germaine to this discussion), and I believe I got that from Mom. Or, more to the point, Mom's side of the family. Mom writes and both of her parents were wonderful writers, but it is Grandpa to whom I believe I owe most of this ability. I also have a ham-bone the size of a small third world country. I have absolutely no idea where this one came from. I guess it's just an extreme manifestation of the sense of humor we all possess, which would place the blame squarely on Dad's shoulders. However, Dad never once hit the boards, as his personal modesty would never have permitted it. Mom has, but didn't have that inclination until well into adulthood. So I have to assume that this is one of those talents that stayed just under the surface with Mom and Dad, but erupted in me when I turned eleven. (Ironic Family History Note: At one point it was rumored that we were somehow related to John Wilkes Booth, who was both an actor and a notorious assassin. I am happy to report that research bears out that we are far enough removed from that particular Booth line as to make our relationship non-existent. None of us has any assassination genes in our makeup. That we know of.)

All of our musical (and other) experiences have, and will continue to enrich our lives. We love these talents we've been given. We may occasionally feel conflicted because of them (word, Bro!), but by and large our lives have been deeply blessed.

One unfortunate side effect to report: We sometimes tend to be, um, somewhat less than complimentary of those who feel themselves to be extremely talented and whom we feel have yet to show evidence of same. We keep it to ourselves, though, and try to be gracious with all pretenders. Those discussions we save for the kitchen at family get-togethers.

Talent may be talent, but we are only human after all.

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