Wednesday, October 12, 2011


"Talent is the magic dust that turns hard work into something special" - Malcom Gladwell

Well I am feeling conflicted on this first post of the artist series, I had started it earlier today thinking I knew what I wanted to say, but after taking a break to grab some dinner with Dave and mulling it over, and having read this article and listening to this podcast and coming back to it, I have already had some new insightful thoughts that contradict my original thoughts...  you could say that I disagree with myself, you could even call me a flip-flopper... so I scrapped it, and started over.

I am not the authority on talent, I'm the last person that would seek to crush a persons dream by stating a thought or opinion and someone taking it as an absolute, particularly a young fragile hopeful who is in search of their personal talents and abilities. For this reason, I take this post seriously. So let me say first and foremost, I know only what I know, the following words are based upon the accumulation of experiences, thoughts and feelings that shape my perception of talents and what makes a person gifted and more apt for success. But In the words of Levar Burton, you don't have to take my word for it.

I believe everyone can sing... for fun. However, I think most of us could agree that not everyone can sing... professionally, just as not everyone can play baseball in the major leagues, or everyone can be a rocket scientists or a best selling author. Why? Well for probably too many given factors to hash out here on the blog, but I think it would be safe to say that we all have different talents that lend themselves to becoming who we are intended to be, should we so choose. Reality... Millions will hope to sing to millions, but only few will sing to millions, but then some will sing to thousands, or hundreds, maybe in the school play, in church, in the choir, at weddings, or youtube and some will enjoy a life long career of singing in the shower to their shampoo and conditioner...

That being said, you never know if you could be one of the few, I couldn't tell ya. But first and foremost is discovering if you have the goods, or the "gift"... and if you do have it, I believe you will find it...

Barbra Streisand, Robert Plant, Marvin Gay, Karen Carpenter, Chris Martin, Bob Dylan, Stevie Nicks, Alison Krauss, Carrie Underwood, Joni Mitchell, Paul McCartney, Johnny Cash, Kurt Cobain, Tom Petty, Elton John, Carole King, Beyonce... they have it, they found it. And while they are all incomparable in musical style and vocal ability, they all have one common thread... ORIGINALITY. They are distinct... identifiable within seconds, their tone, style and extraordinary ability to let their soul be heard through the power of their voice, through the message of the song is what sets them a part from the rest. Though it is fundamental, It is not merely enough to just sing on pitch technically well. Voice lessons can help us develop healthy habits, improve our pitch, and explore the capabilities and range of our voices and strengthen them, but it is my own belief that there is only so much that can be taught. Tone, unlike hair color, cannot be altered, whether it is obscure, silky, gruff, smokey, delicate, bold or clear as a bell, it is ours, it is what we are born with. This is the basis of the gift, along with other important components, but not the end all... that "tone" must marinate in life experience, be used, worked, loved and expressed and challenged to truly become something spectacular... I think it is what turns an amateur into an artist, and gives a performer a persona, and turns a singer, into a star.

We all have our own ideas and opinions of what we think is the mark of a talent, or a good voice, we've all been conditioned by what we've listened to or been exposed to, if you grew up watching Disney movies, you probably believed the Little Mermaid had it all, I did. If you grew up singing in a Gospel church, a deeply soulful delivery is the mark of a truly gifted vocalist. If your dad listened to James Taylor records on the turn table then you probably find yourself attracted to simple heartfelt melodies and a guitar. Or maybe the first time you heard your older brother listening to Led Zepplin you knew that all that mattered was rock and roll. The super amazing thing is, all of these ideas and opinions and a billion others, are true, and can exist together. There is something for everyone and what a beautiful thing! Music, art and talent are subjective... and it is impossible to discount a persons talent merely because it doesn't match up with our version of what talent sounds like.

Now, getting real for a minute, there are some things that are given. You must be able to hear pitch, if you don't, it will be difficult if not impossible to become a professional singer at any level. If you are unsure as to if you are singing on pitch, then this might be an indicator that you do not hear pitch, but in the event that you could be and you are still unsure, please go sing for someone that does... okay... or dad love you so much that you might need to branch out to someone like a choir teacher or someone who has multiple opportunities to sing publicly to get an unbiased listen :-). This doesn't necessarily mean they are a judge of your talent, but they can help you pin point whether or not you are singing on pitch. This is vital. We do live in a generation where pitch is not high priority because it can be altered and fixed with technology, which is a bit unfortunate, but thanks to Adele, I believe we are getting back to the basics and more people want to hear a real voice, not a computer. And yes human voices have tendencies to be "pitchy" at times, even the best, that is not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about being generally on pitch or generally off pitch. If you can easily hear pitch this is a good sign that you are likely musically inclined to some degree. As I stated before however, singing on pitch isn't enough to set you apart from the pack. You will need to find other indicators that you have the goods to go, and I am not sure if they are as easily defined. We've talked about tone, we could get way into Image, though I am not going to in this post, it's already growing beyond where I intended, but... YES... IMAGE MATTERS. I don't want to get ahead of myself, We will dive into it later...

But being an artist is really about having a distinct sense of identity from the inside out!

Lastly I will say that essential to your gift is DESIRE...

How much do you want it? Your level of desire and motivation will greatly influence the direction of your gift. You must absolutely LOVE it so much that your brain will explode, that there is nothing else you love more, because loving it will turn into working extremely hard at it, because without a doubt you will have to, which will hopefully turn into becoming good at it, and hopefully exceptionally good at it... and as Malcom Gladwell suggests in his podcast, what you love will become your life. That is the dream... and it doesn't happen over night.

I had started out this blog by sharing my story (you can read part of the story here) of discovering my own gifts, and I have so much more to say, but decided that will be a part two of this post. For now it's time to give your reading eyes a rest and my typing fingers a break :)



  1. As a little league and Babe Ruth baseball coach I always looked for individuals that had the gift to encourage them to seek baseball as a dream and for others to help them be as good as they could be.

  2. I always believed my gift was to be diligent in the job outside my home. Who knew it would end up being something unexpected like working from my home. I love each of these people you mention in their own right and they are all very important to the culture of music. Well written article. thanks for sharing. Tammy

  3. Great post Brooke. I love to sing but I don't have the desire to sing for huge crowds. I mostly sing for myself. You did a great job with this first post. Ty for sharing. (btw-I'm listening to your music as I work today:)J