Wednesday, April 30, 2008

'A certain kind of magic'

Emi Yañez/Flickr

While going through papers in my office, I found this article from 2002 that I had printed out and saved: What Itzhak Perlman Learned at Camp; While Helping Students, His Wife Says, He Reinvented Himself.

While Perlman is a musician, some of the things said in this article really resonate with the writer in me, especially since I feel like I'm on an eternal curve when it comes to learning my craft.

Here is the part I highlighted:

Maya Shankar, a 16-year-old recovering from a hand injury received while playing the violin at camp last year, remembers a session with Mr. Perlman in which he revealed his own feelings of terror and competitiveness.

''When we got to ask him questions about his childhood, he said that for many years he was jealous,'' Ms. Shankar recalled. ''He'd worry: 'Oh, this person has learned many concertos so much faster than I have, and this person is playing concerts and I'm not performing. There's no way I'm going to get anywhere in music.' From someone who turned out the way he did, that was so comforting for me to hear.

''Then he told us that we have our own inner clock, and it ticks at a certain rate, and you're going to get to certain places at times different than everyone else is, but that doesn't make you any less of a musician.''

What he doesn't tell his students is how to play.

''For me one of the great things about teaching is not so much what to say but to know what not to say,'' Mr. Perlman said. ''If somebody is talented, they contain a certain kind of magic, and that magic is very precious, because it is on very precarious ground. It's like a very fine leaf that if you shake it too much, it breaks. You have to let the branch grow until it becomes strong enough that if you shake it, it's won't break.''

Although six years have passed since I first found this article, this section still resonates as strongly today as it did then. I think a lot of it applies no matter where you are on your artistic journey. There will always be that other person to compare yourself against who is a little more successful or is already at the place where you hope to be.

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