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Musical Talent.


How often do parents ask us the question: Do you think my daughter has musical talent? Talent, what is talent? Is it as I. G. Lehmann, in his book on harmony and composition will have it—the union of musical ear with musical conception, sentiment and imagination—or is it merely meant for the necessary qualities to become a fine player? I think that in most cases the question could be framed somewhat like this: Do you think that it is worth while to spend a fortune on my daughter’s musical education? Or, do you think she’ll make a player? Or even perhaps, do you think she will soon be able to support herself by giving lessons? I suppose that most of those parents expect the teacher to subject the pupil to a critical examination and then inform them of the result. This might do very well for him who thinks himself entitled to a “fee of consultation,” not feeling interested in the welfare of the pupil beyond the fee. Otherwise he might inflict a great injustice and commit an actual wrong. For in one case the pupil may possess all the requisites as above enumerated and yet not advance beyond mediocrity; in another, where one or several of those requisites are wanting, they may be awakened and strengthened by proper treatment. There are only two things absolutely required to “pay for the trouble of instruction.” These are love for music, and perseverance. Without love for music, music remains a dead letter, and even with perseverance “mechanical playing” will be the only possible result. With love for music but without perseverance the “carrière” will liken to the brilliancy of a shooting star, even if all other conditions are most favorable. But when love and perseverance go hand in hand the prospect is bright and the least result will be an everlasting individual enjoyment. Piano playing has a subjective and objective side, the gratification of the player and the gratification of the audience, and I think the former is of greater importance than the latter. The extremes are often met with; people who enjoy all kinds of music but cannot play, and people who dazzle others by their brilliant performance but reap for themselves only the gratification of their ambition. I remember the case of a man over 60 years of age commencing to take piano lessons and being made happy by acquiring the ability of playing a dozen hymns in a very primitive manner. I also remember the case of a young lady playing before people who were talking and chatting until the time came to applaud her, who only wanted to draw the attention of a couple of rich young men on her who happened to be present on that occasion.

Of those five requisites stated by Mr. Lehmann four can be developed by the teacher, viz.; musical ear, musical conception, musical sentiment, and musical memory. Musical imagination is an inherited gift indispensable to the composer but not necessary for interpretation and individual enjoyment. It is not necessary, not even desirable, that all pupils turn out composers or pianists; but it is to be wished that all who strive hard may succeed in the enjoyment of what they play; this result can surely be obtained by proper training, provided they love music and possess the perseverance needed for steady practice. Besides there are many noble characters who feel happy in the consciousness of being able to render others happy. For to give is sweeter than to receive.

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