This week our Year 12 students have their final classes. These students have worked nobly through two of the most unimaginable years of school life. In the past few days, I’ve had the privilege of observing the IB and VCE music students present their Year 12 final recital programs. These involve around 20 minutes of the most challenging music, which in many cases was performed from memory. It is very evident that these students have acquired an extraordinarily high level of musical skill.
Often after Carey performances I hear well-meaning phrases such as ‘your students are so talented’ and ‘it is good to see you students sharing their talents with us’. What makes me feel slightly uneasy about these statements is that this almost seems to imply that these students have been handed a gift, and that their skills have been easily developed.
These students are highly skilled because they have worked hard. They have spent many hours working with focus and determination. I don’t know the details of their personal lives, but I’m willing to bet they do not spend excessive hours on TikTok or Playstation. They have worked towards goals in a productive way, and I would hope feel the true satisfaction that comes from personal achievement.
What then is talent? A part of the answer is personal aptitude. It is now decades since Howard Gardner from Harvard University opened our eyes to the many different dimensions of intelligence. Certainly, some individuals do have extraordinary capacities which the rest of us can only dream about. Johann Sebastian Bach could create an eight-part polyphonic piece of music in his head and then copy it out one part at a time without error. I have had the privilege of working with many people who clearly have a mental capacity far in excess of my own! However, the other significant part of ‘talent’ is the motivation and discipline to work.
When you come to a Carey concert (should that ever be possible again!) and hear wonderful musicians performing demanding music, or watch one of our actors entrancing you with their performance, or see a dancer performing an awesome physical sequence, please keep in mind that these student have worked in a disciplined and productive manner to get to their level of skill.
All students have great potential. In a sense we are all talented. It is our job as parents and teachers to give young people the opportunity and the encouragement to work hard to develop their skills.
Head of Music