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Wednesday, October 9, 2013


Why do we give our children lessons in ballet?  Why are piano instructions for kids a good idea?  Why do our schools even have art and music classes?

If your child is destined to be a musician, he will find the music.  You will not be able to keep him from it.  If your child is destined to be an artist, he will find the brushes, paint and canvas.  You will not be able to hide them.  If your child is destined to become a dancer, her feet will feel the music and she will dance. 

If art is in the child, the child will find it.  Your children will learn to walk and run and talk and think.  It is in them, it does not need to be taught, it can only be suppressed.  If they are inclined to the arts, it will come out. Encouraging will help of course, but unless intentionally suppressed it will come out. 

I write in “Maybe It’s Just Me” that if you had locked Beethoven in a closet at the age of five with a case of empty bottles, a pitcher of water and a pencil, he would have learned to play a symphony.

So why bother teaching the average child to play an instrument, or paint a picture, or to dance? 

First and foremost, you don’t need to have talent to enjoy trying.  Second, without trying you cannot appreciate and enjoy what the truly talented artists achieve.

Years ago, I tried to teach myself to play guitar.  I could pick a tune, and strum a bunch of cords.  I could follow the cords on a music score and fake a tune or two.  Basically I sucked.  I could play for no one but myself, but damn when I see and hear someone who can really play guitar it is amazing.

I once learned to juggle.  I could do some pretty good tricks with any three objects; when I went to four…not so much.  When I watch someone preform juggling four, five, or more objects and do it with different rhythms and do it while playing a kazoo…damn do I appreciate it.

Mrs. C has me watching “Dancing With The Stars.”  She has taken years of ballroom dancing instruction, and she can tell who is doing well, and who is missing the steps.  I have no clue.  Since I don’t know half of the “Stars,” I had trouble even telling who was the professional.  Now I can tell.  The professional is the one that does not look like he is trying.  He is not thinking about his next move, he just flows and the music is reflected in his feet, hips, arms and face.  He is the one who is in tune with his body.

It is the same with musicians.  Anyone with enough practice can learn to play a song on guitar or piano.  A musician will ask, “What key?”  Like the dancer, you can tell the musician by his face and body language.  He does not think about what he is playing, his fingers know where they want to go just as you or I know how to shape our lips and tongue to form a word.

The artist chooses his brush and his tints and his touch without thinking.  He sees, he feels.  It is in him and it needs to come out.  Most of us can’t do that.  Most of us have to feel for the next step, or search for the right key, or guess at the right color.  It is not in us, but unless you attempt, unless you see for yourself, you can never appreciate the gift that truly talented people have to give us. 

The artist is given a gift, and he shares it with us.  It is up to us to learn to appreciate this talent, in order to truly receive their gift.  


  1. I have always said, one of my greatest talents is being able to appreciate the talents of others.

  2. Artists have a difficult road so I am all for helping open doors and enhancing education whenever and wherever possible. What a drab world this would be without art.

  3. I'm not so sure that I agree with you. As a former professional artist I can say that I doubt I'd have become a professional were it not for the support I received from teachers along the way. When my brother was winning sports trophies it was teachers who showed me that art was something I could do and that it was something to be proud of. This might sound foolish but no one in the history of my family had any interest in art and I might have given it up without proper encouragement.

  4. well. I hate to be a ditto cat but ... I'm dittoing what Stephen said... you may have a natural talent but validation and encouragement helps ... just one adult could make such a difference in a growing wondering mind.

  5. To those who think my intention in this post was to discourage teaching the arts and to minimalize the talent, work and effort it takes to be a true artist, I am very sorry, that is the exact opposite of my intent obviously I am not true writer ...but...still trying!

  6. I understood your intention & I AGREE!!

  7. 'to enjoy trying' - i like that.

  8. So often when times are hard the first thing some governments cut are the arts. I've always considered this to be a mistake. For me it is the arts that make life special and give it meaning. The arts reflect who we are and what we aspire to be. When times are hard it is more important than ever to that part of our nature that is creative, that part of our nature which separates us from the other animals in the kingdom...

  9. I've always known my major talent above all else is my abject lack of talent. But like you said, seeing others with talent soar like eagles leaves me awestruck. And pissed that I was probably goofing around in the line when God was passing out talent. ;)


  10. We've taught our grandkids a lot about all kinds of music, but school is where they get to perform as part of a chorus or an ensemble, and they can come here and teach us a thing or two. I believe the arts help a society in many, many ways, and teaching kids how to appreciate them is important.

  11. Nice post - well argued. I think as well, it's part of being well-rounded, to learn a bit of everything at school. Hence I do the thing I swore as a kid I never would do to my own kids, and refuse to allow them to skip phys ed. (which I hated hated hated to the point of despair and bitter tears).


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