BY R. C. TEMPLE.
We are living in an age when people want practical thoughts, and it is just such a talk I want to give to the girls who may happen to read this paper.
I am afraid, girls, some of you are making a failure with your music because you are starting wrong. Some of you are studying music because it is the fad. The Doctor’s daughter and the Judge’s daughter are learning to play the violin and piano; Fashion says it is the proper thing for you to do also.
If you have no music in your soul and are studying simply because Fashion says it is the proper thing to do, you had better stop where you are. My advice to you would be, hear all the good music you can, learn to appreciate it, learn to love it, because it will do much to make your life brighter, but do not ask your friends to spend a fortune on your musical education, when you can never give evidence of their generosity.
A young lady came to me the other day and said, “I know I have no ear for music and I know nothing about it, but my parents have bought me a piano and I want to take three or four lessons so I can play just one tune.” There are many others like this girl.
Now if you are one of them and have no more ambition or enthusiasm for music than this, you had better turn your thoughts elsewhere. Girls, do not do superficial work. It has a demoralizing influence on your life. Set the standard of whatever work you may attempt higher than that. It is a worthy ambition to do well whatever one undertakes. Do not be satisfied with halfway work.
Start at the very foundation and be an artist from the beginning. This means hard work I know, but you never can be anything or do anything without work. Whatever you may gain without a struggle is worth very little to you. An old farmer used to tell his boys when they had a tough bit of wood to split, to strike right into the middle of the knot.
In our disgust at the apparent failure of so many, we are apt to turn to the other extreme, and say, “I will not allow myself to play or sing until I can do some great thing.” I have seen girls who had a decided taste for music, but because they could not play like a Paderewski or sing like a Melba, the lips remain closed and the piano rests quietly by itself in the corner, and the homes that might have been cheered by happy voices or comforted by beautiful hymns, are lone and desolate. Her cultured ear is annoyed by the least discord and no one dares to propose an informal chorus. Now girls, this is wrong. You are losing much yourselves and depriving others of much happiness. “Neglect not the gift that is in thee.” Even though you have only one talent, use it. When asked to play or sing, do your best. “For he who does his best is always distinguished from the one who does nothing.”
Do not have for an excuse, that you cannot play or sing without your notes. If this is true of you, go to work at once and make a desperate effort to commit to memory at least one piece. Then when invited to do your part, you can gladly respond. If some of our teachers made it a rule that a pupil should commit to memory some of their pieces, we should have better results. As it is, a majority of our young musicians give us merely mechanical work. There is no heart or soul about it.
Music must show life. It is time for some of you girls who are wondering why you do not succeed, to arouse yourselves. How can you expect to give your best effort when your mind is constantly upon your notes and you are afraid you will not play this or that note correctly. You should know your piece every note, and then throw your whole life into it.
The poets tell us that Prometheus having made a beautiful statue of Minerva, the goddess was so delighted that she offered to bring down anything from Heaven which could add to its perfection. Prometheus on this prudently asked her to take him there, so that he might choose for himself. This, Minerva did, and Prometheus, finding that in Heaven all things were animated by fire, brought back a spark with which he gave life to his work.
It is the spark of life, earnestness, and enthusiasm for your work, which you need to make you a successful musician.
Again let me urge upon you to hear all the good music you can, that which comes to us from the immortal works of the great masters. Learn to appreciate these artists and their works. The influence of such music will go with you throughout your lives, for whatever is pure and true in music is as lasting and permeating as that which is pure and true in Literature and Art.
“Like a vase in which roses have once been distilled—
You may break or ruin the vase if you will,
But the scent of the roses will cling round it still.”