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Since it is so difficult to define or even recognize, talent, or the lack of it, has created more than its share of anxiety in aspiring musicians. Perhaps the greatest problem centers around the fact that talent is a fact in retrospect. Only after it has been developed does it become obvious that it exists. So how does one know that talent is within him? Is intuition or hope the only recourse? Though there is no way to prove the existence of talent or at least the degree of talent before the fact, there are some general indicators.
A) Unusual Determination in the Face of Difficulties and Setbacks
Discouragement and frustration are so common that they bring many to the point of abandoning music altogether. Though the emotions may press upon one to quit, the will of certain individuals strives forward. "Something" renews the energy and the enthusiasm. That "something" is quite possibly an early sign of talent.
Many people feel that if they were talented they would not feel frustration. Nothing could be further from the truth. To be discouraged is human and being talented or not being talented does not excuse anyone from being human.
B) Consistent Search to Know
If there is potential to develop, the individual feels a desire to learn, to expandto be able to do today what he could not do yesterday. To "learn," as we refer to it, is not restricted to the intellect. It encompasses the entire life experience. As one matures, one begins to expand into different directions, different levels of depth. This growth is and should be exciting. However, never assume that it will be constantly encouraging. Growth is a slow and subtle process and must be characterized by the inevitable evolution of time. As long as the individual continues to reject complacency, he is probably moving in the right direction.
C) Awareness of the relationship involving current obligations, accomplishments and ultimate goals
It is most important that aspiring musicians develop a realistic and objective analysis of their goals considering their circumstances. An individual aspiring to be a virtuoso musician needs time and energy to develop that virtuosity. If this individual holds down two or three jobs, has a family and assorted other obligations that drain his time and energy, he must put his goals into appropriate perspective. This perspective involves the extent of his goals and a realistic timetable within which to accomplish them. He would obviously lead himself into utter frustration if he expected virtuosity with fifteen minutes a day available for practice. Though an individual is to a certain degree in control of his situation, circumstances play a significant role in his realistic expectations for himself. If the desire to achieve the goal is sufficiently powerful, the circumstances which are prohibiting this achievement must be adjusted.
This is an emotionally based feeling which manifests itself physically. The phenomenon is related to the familiar "butterfly stomach." It is a feeling which combines excitement with anticipation. This surge is an internal upward type of feeling which is characterized by an undercurrent of energy and vitality. Peaks in this feeling are experienced when the creative side of the musician presses to be recognized. This response is a very specific one and should not be confused with more common physical responses such as chills, etc. These are valid emotional responses but they are often superficial and do occur in people without extraordinary artistic creativity. The surge that I speak of in this section is a creative one. It is a desire to share, to give. It develops from the intuitive need to show others your concept of beauty in the hope that they will share it and then project it on to others.
E) Commitment to goals
If the end is clear in your mind and you proceed to develop the means needed to attain that end, talent may be present.
F) Proper sense of ego
The Greek golden mean of moderation, harmony and balance assists the musician in developing the necessary self control for serious musical progress. Since excessive reactions are so common in those who are pursuing music, the concepts of avoiding extremes, developing patience, control and perspective are helpful in the search for musical progress.
It is important to remember that different individuals display different signs of talent. Some display many indicators, others display only one. Without question, the most common indicators are a strong desire to play, a willingness to sacrifice time and energy to develop one's potential and a determination to keep trying. Age and maturity are important variables in recognizing talent indicators.
I love jazz because anything is possible; it has few rules and the best jazz breaks those ones. I prefer free improv because it doesn't really have any rules at all.
I was first exposed to jazz in my teens (in the late sixties).
The first jazz record I bought was Filles de Kilimanjaro by Miles Davis, shortly followed by Extrapolation by John McLaughlin.
My advice to new listeners is to listen as widely as possible and not to make snap judgments--stick with it.