What should we do with talent?

Where does talent come from?

 

I won’t try to pull a fast one on my readers or string them along with scientific studies (though many are interesting). I can only say,“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.”(James 1:17) Now, I know this text refers to God’s gift of salvation and care for His children; however, “And the LORD said unto him, Who hath made man’s mouth? or who maketh the dumb, or deaf, or the seeing, or the blind? have not I the LORD?” (Ex 4:11)   If God decides who will be dumb or seeing, He can easily decide who is artistic or musical, or struggles to appreciate creativity.The source may not be so elusive, but the why behind creativity remains.

 

Maybe more important – what do we do with talent?

Don’t you find it strange how differently people react to the arts and talented people?

Capture1Some are totally clueless in understanding what goes into a performance or project.

When I was the sole musician for a church and was accompanying two choir numbers, two other musical pieces, playing three Offertories plus attending the rehearsals and accompanying worship singing for three services each week, the music director looked at me in surprise when I mentioned I had to practice several hours each week.

Someone asked an artist how long it took for him to paint a picture and he replied, “All my life.” What a great response that is a bit tongue-and-cheek and yet it is all very real at the same time.

There is a lot of loneliness, too. We are those as children who brought home reports cards reading, “Loves to daydream,” “Great motor control but unrealistic use of color,” “Loves singing and sings with authority” and “Work well independently.” I remember the lonely hours as a stay as home mother. It probably didn’t hit me as hard as those personalities that need socialization. My poor children went to bed at 8 in the evening and I would begin painting (When your spouse works 2nd shift, you are almost a single parent) and would paint until my husband came home in the early hours of the morning. While church members socialized, I was practicing with those preparing their musical specials for upcoming worship services. I don’t say these things demanding pity, I am speaking a reality. Artists paint, sculpt, compose, write and practice away while peers shop, party and go to sport/art events.

Life experiences can bring lack of understanding and appreciation on the part of the viewer/listener. So people at recitals and show openings romanticize over the exciting life of artists and refuse to see the reality when an artists state that it can be a bit tedious (Don’t think so, ask Michelangelo when the Sistine Chapel’s ceiling was “unveiled.”) Don’t get me wrong, the tedium is worth it to the artist who has the result in his heart and mind.

In the late 1800’s there were over 2,000 piano makers in the country! Every household wanted a piano. Sacrifices were made to own one. Almost every house that had a piano had a child who took lessons. Playing piano was not only a form of entertainment, it was a status symbol. To some people it portrayed wealth, to others it meant refinement and an extra incentive for someone to marry plain old Betty. You can almost feel sorry for the nine-year-old boy who drops his fishing worms when his mother pulls him by the ear into the house for piano practice (lovingly, of course!). Now there were the good old days of discipline against selfish impulses for long-term gains.

Girl with a Pearl Eariing - Vermeer

Girl with a Pearl Eariing – Vermeer

Today we are overloaded with art that seemingly has no cost to it. The painting may be beautiful, but it can be easily mass-produced. The rare voice can draw tears, however, with a touch of a button it’s gone viral and everyone hears it.

Thank God there are patrons who do appreciate the object that delights their eyes and the nuances of sound that move them emotionally. I’m glad there are museums. Those hallways of subtle lighting drown out the noise of cheap entertainment and busy lives and make the viewer focus on life as seen through the artists. Sometimes it’s a life we may have forgotten.  I often wonder what “the art” sees in us as we view it?

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Politics, the National Endowment of the Arts & the Challenge

January 5, 2011

GOALS

Well, Christmas is over, the bowl games just about done (Ouch to the Big 12!) and most of us are fat and unhappy. Unfortunately my husband and I had the stomach flu and I went through a deep cleanse so complete my colonoscopy would have shone brighter than the North Star!  But – Now is the time to boost our morale by conquering something new.  Improvise!

Now, if you have never taken piano lessons – don’t despair. This is a great time to begin. Waiting lists to get into music studios are way down and many have openings for new students. Call music stores or churches to get contact information for teachers.

IMPROVISATION

Now, improvisation is a funny thing. If you can read music well enough to play the melody, you often have not learned to improvise. If you can only play by ear, you probably already know how to improvise – but you are also dreaded by most piano teachers who struggle to teach you how to read music. Let’s do BOTH. Learn those staff notes and read my page on improvisation. Let me know if you are hitting any snags (or wish to call me names) and I’ll try helping you over those bumps in the road.

A POLITICAL ASIDE – and challenge

The Climate

Our nation has gone through a great upheaval in political tolerance this last year. Let’s be honest and politically incorrect – a majority of Americans finally woke up enough to hate what Washington continues to do and decided ON THEIR OWN to do something about it. They voted. Some formed TEA PARTY groups that far underrepresented the number of citizens who agreed with them. They didn’t wait for Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and other talk show hosts to voice their opinions. They went bodily to town halls. They told their representative exactly what that representative member was supposed to represent. They cinched the belt tighter. They budgeted Christmas expenses. They stayed home for vacation. Thosee citizens pulled out their hair while Congress spent more on protecting union jobs and Congress cut defense and Congress blew the Health Education&Welfare budget. They seethed while Obama vacated again and again and again in our face and at our expense while mouthing empty, conciliatory words from a prompter.

The Challenge

Art and Music have always claimed my love and time, yet while China continues to mop up our spilled unfunded endeavors Congress refuses to budget. If the citizens (of which our lawmakers are a part) must cut drastically because of the economy, why are they exempt? They cannot be and still claim to help America. I propose a cut of at least 60-75% in the National Endowment of the Arts. Though only one department, if all NON-essential departments cut back deeply, then maybe we can survive. Let government come to a halt for a few weeks. As long as National Security and Social Security departments still move forward who cares.  Government officials are just afraid the citizen will find out how much of the government is non-essential.  Some of the 2010 NEA expenditures breakdown as:

$ 57,708,710 for 64 partnership grants to states, regional and national entities

1,050,000 for 42 individual literal writing grants for prose

1,690,000 for 169 Challenge America Fast-Track Review grants (whatever that may be)

8,395,000 for 254 Learning in the Arts for Children and Youth grants

4,020,000 for 53 grants for Arts on Radio and Television

275,000 for 16 Literature Fellowship grants for Translation Projects

The total from the above grants is $ 73,138,710 and still doesn’t cover millions more in dance/opera underwriting, visual arts exhibits and more. When a nation is bankrupt, they don’t dance the jig. Our deficit calls for only essential expenditures. There is something to be said of a culture when communities will fork down millions to build monuments to sport activities for their high school or college sports but leave little resources to allow the soul to rejoice, think and mourn. Let us mourn the condition we find our beloved nation and show our resolve by leaving our feckless lover-the NEA. Let artists beg forgiveness from our true lover – the connoisseur of the arts and the honest heart begging for self-expression. Let it not be said of artists that we bled our nation dry. Staunch the bleeding wound and feed the hungry purse by giving hope to Americans by our example and producing honest arts. When our nation is again strong, both the individual and the corporation will fund the arts.