In this guest post, Sebastian Quirmbach, Modern Music School’s education director, busts the myth about ‘natural talent.’
Talent isn’t something God-given or fixed at birth, it’s a muscle we can grow with time and practice.
In fact, all children can develop talent in almost any area — as long as they experience a positive and nurturing environment filled with enthusiasm and supportive feedback.
Talent doesn’t thrive on long hours of hard work; it builds on the joyful moments of play. The moments where we forget everything around us and are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter. Hard work — or “deep practice” — comes in later. Only after developing the necessary cognitive capacity and concentration span, can children “work hard” towards certain goals and goal-setting becomes a motivator within itself.
We can observe this playful learning state in children all the time.
My nine-year-old daughter Lulu, for example, spends hours playfully practicing dancing, singing and English vocabulary (she is not a native speaker) without even thinking about it. She does so when playing with the Musical.ly app on my smartphone. If I let her, she would play — and learn — all day, because learning is the natural outcome of this playful engagement. (Musical.ly is a social media app and platform that allows users to make 15-second lip-synching videos of themselves to popular music.)
If we want our children to become really good at piano (or ballet, soccer, Chinese, etc.), we have to ignite the same playful passion and make learning as much fun as recording a 15-second music video.
“Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” William Butler Yeats
At Modern Music School, we “light the fire” (or ignite passion) by:
- Making everything easy, fun and playful.
- Patiently helping our students to discover their own flow-states in “deep practice.” In flow, learning happens as if by itself and feels so good that we definitely want more of it.
- Being passionate ourselves. It’s our passion for music that makes study subjects come alive. Passion is contagious!
- Fostering creativity. Creativity and passion go hand in hand. By allowing our students to express themselves and having them pick the songs they want to learn, we foster their creativity and passion.
As we said before, to excel at any skill, we have to make ourselves passionate about learning it! (Read more in #1 secret to getting great at anything.)
Only based on passion — and this is especially true for young children — can we put in the “hard work” (or deep practice) required to achieve excellence.