Nature vs. Nurture – Where Does Musical Talent

It is an age old question, whether nature or nurture shapes human beings into the people they become. As modern scientists understand it, most things are a combination of both. Musical talent requires an array of different skills, each of which can be taught and each of which is influenced to varying degrees by our genes.

The Components of Musical Talent

People who are talented with music have a set of different skills they have honed as they relate to music. Some of these are:

  • Hand-eye coordination
  • Muscle memory
  • Auditory discernment
  • Music reading

No musician would be successful without at least moderately good skills in each of these areas. As you can see, some of these skills are purely learned such as music reading, while others may be more affected by genetics, such as hand-eye coordination. However, all of them require a certain amount of ability given by genes and a lot of practice.


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The “Nature” of Musical Talent

Some things that affect musical talent are known to be genetic. People have different abilities to perform certain motor tasks, for instance, which can have a genetic background. However, most of these small differences are not as important for musicians as they might be for competitive athletes.

It is possible that some people are born more musically gifted than others. This used to be the assumption that was made about extremely talented musicians. However, even if there is the occasional musical prodigy born, there is significant evidence to support the idea that most talented musicians are taught, not born that way.

The “Nurture” of Musical Talent

Evidence from a study done with musicians in their early 20s at a German music school suggests that practice and training are far more important than any talent a person might be born with. This study had teachers group the students in most talented, moderately talented and least talented groups. The main correlation that was found was number of hours of practice time.

Another study found that British school children who were more or less successful at learning an instrument in a musical school could also be separated into groups differentiated by practice hours. There was no difference in the age the children first showed interest in music or rhythm and dance. However, the number of hours of practice invested by children who were relatively successful at learning an instrument was nearly twice as much as those who were fairly unsuccessful.

Determination: More Important Than Either?

Deliberate practice, the process of working to remove errors from performance and improve skills, requires dedication and determination. Most great athletes, artists and performers spend hours every day for years in order to become as good as they are. Whether or not they have the talent, it requires dedication and determination to stick with something that may not be fun or show obvious results for a long period of time.

There is no doubt self motivation plays a large part in whether a student sticks with their new musical hobby or not. However, friends and family who provide the needed support will greatly increases the chances of success for the student.

Nurturing Musical Talent

If determination is important to talent and mostly comes from a deep interest in the subject, then kid’s interest in music is the first step towards helping them become musically talented. Many of the world’s famous musicians came from homes where music was an important and positive part of their daily lives. A child who is exposed to music in a fun and age-appropriate way comes to associate it with positive emotions and is much more likely to be interested in playing music or performing.

A child who loves music may hear a great musician sing or play and decide there and then, that he or she wants to play or sing this same way. This intense, internal motivation is the start of how people become great. They also do need outside support. Parents who are willing to give their children resources such as instruments and lessons will nurture their child’s interest and their talents.

Nobody really knows if genes play an important part in becoming a talented musician or not. However, it is almost certain that they play a less important part than interest, determination, practice, and access to resources. Perhaps some people are born with more musical talent than others but it does not seem to be the deciding factor in who becomes a great musician.

Amanda Williams is a blogger for TakeLessons. Since 2006, TakeLessons has provided safe, affordable and fun singing and music lessons to students of all ages.  Students can find music teachers in over 2,800 cities nationwide, for 38 different types of lessons.

Sibling Differences on Back to School Conversations

Driving down the road, heading home from picking up my sweet daughter from her great Gram’s house, we engage in a conversation. Well the conversation was sort of a random blurb that I made into a conversation without the daughter wanting me to.  So is the norm around here.

I don’t have any friends but one in my class this year and it just sucks. – says the daughter

Well I get that you only have one long time friend in your class this year sweetie but maybe the girls you were not friends with last year changed over the Summer and you will go back to find that they are super cool this year.

I highly doubt “insert names of girls here”, will ever change. – says the daughter {with a slight hint of attitude & wrinkle of the nose}

Okay so maybe your attitude could change and then you would think that they are super cool all of a sudden this school year.

Uh not likely. – says the daughter

Ok then …. well let’s see ….. there could be a new family who moved into town with a fifth grade daughter who you totally think is awesome and then? You will have more than one friend in your classroom this year.

silence. followed by eye roll. car door opens. car door shuts. we have now arrived home.

Enter the first grade boy …..

I have all sorts of friends in my class “insert about six kids names here”. And “insert one name here” is my bestest friend but sometimes he doesn’t let me play and tells me to stop following him around. – says the son

Why did he tell you to stop following him around? Have you been just following your friend around and that’s why he is your best friend?

Uh no. My other friend “insert name here” started the game and thought of it, he said I could play but “insert other boys name here” said I couldn’t. He didn’t even think of the game so he can’t even tell me not to play. – says the son

Oh ok, I get it .. I think. Well are you excited to be a first grader this year?

Yeah. – says the son

Two conversations about friends, with two completely differently children. My kids are growing up and new challenges are to be faced this school year, but I am ready. Are you?


Remember to Give Thanks Where Thanks are Deserved

I am a firm believer that you can never say thank you enough where thanks are deserved! Can you believe that two little words, such as Thank You, can really brighten ones day? Well they can.

Case in point, my son AJ, never really had much of an interest in school type work. I couldn’t sing the ABC song nor get him to attempt to sound out words. He has never really had much of an interest in trying to learn school type concepts, that is until this year in Kindergarten.

I am friends with Aj’s teacher on Facebook and I often have many praises for her and the team of teachers who work with my son. For this week over school vacation he has shown me that he can now understand the concept of phonics, letter sounds are really something he struggled with but he seems to be “getting it” now, thanks to extra help at the school from the amazing teachers who have a hard job of teaching our young ones the skills they need to learn to make it in this world.

My son Aj actually read me a book! Now he would always listen to story books, as that is part of our bedtime routine, us reading a story book to all of the kids. The thing is, Aj would love listening to a book but had little interested in trying to learn words, until this week!

Last night Aj sat down with me for story time and actually sounded out the words “begins” and “bath”, he read a short, age appropriate book to me before bed and to see the proud look on his face when I told him how proud I was of him was priceless.

I would have never had this moment of happiness with my son had he not been getting help from his teachers at school and for this I took the time to thank Aj’s teacher on her FB profile, because there was thanks to be said!

To all of the teachers out there who take the time to teach kids, and encourage a love of learning in little ones – I want to thank you, because you really do an amazing job with our future generation and the world wouldn’t be the same without you!

Cheers to teachers!


More Tragic Allegations Leaving Principal Arrested

A local high school principal has been arrested with allegations of simple assault. A 16 year old had a meeting with two teachers and the high school principal when allegations arose that this principal hit her on the back two or three times and the last time resulted in the student have her head hit the coffee cup on a table in front of her. Although I don’t know all of the facts of this case nor do I know if the student was a girl or a boy, I do know that it seems more and more negative news is being released in the media of bad teachers, mean teachers and plain out right horrible teachers. What happened to featuring the honorable teachers, principals and students? What happened to focusing on the positive? Oh wait, media rarely covers the positive news stories unless it is exceptionally “news worthy”, whatever that means.

To me I think local news stations should feature an exception teacher or adult in a school each month. The children in all schools can nominate a teacher, principal, teachers helper, etc for this fabulous award. The award can be given with a small one on one interview between a student who nominated this adult and the adult. The adult who won the award will receive a cute paper certificate as one would give a student for honor roll achievements or similar. Although to some a paper certificate may not sound like a lot to give to an exceptional teacher, but it’s the thought that counts and if this is done monthly then companies would surely see this and eventually the adult may end up with donations to their classroom or school to assist in promoting positive teaching skills. Teachers who still live by the rules that seem to have become old school are rarely shown in the media light and those are who should be focused on. The teachers that spent extra funds to make sure their students have a fun learning experience, the teacher that pays for a pizza party out of her own pocket for her students achieving a specific goal, or something like this.

I remember having teachers at every level of my school years who would go up and beyond what they normally would need to do. I was friends with some of the teachers helpers and recall one Miss Holly Johnson who I would go to after school some days to make friendship bracelets with one of my friends. I was pen-pals with many of my teachers from 3rd up to 5th grade, but I rarely hear of students and teachers keeping in touch during the summer months and as the children continue on in years of schooling. I am now thirty years old and although some of the teachers I had still teach at the same schools, I don’t write to them any longer because at some point they just stopped writing back to me or I stopped writing them. Life moves too fast and we let go and move forward, but I do hope those teachers realize I have become an amazing adult because they took the time to be real teachers, they truly cared about their students and taught in a way I can only hope my children get every year in school.

So even though a local high school principal has allegations or simple assault on a student, I say let’s leave the judging up to the judge when this man goes to stand in court to face his charges. Instead of focusing on the negative allegations of one possibly mean principal, let’s focus on those teachers and principals who go up and beyond that which is expected of them and give them a home made certificate to show them we appreciate all that they do!

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Four Giveaways Ended – Winners Announced

Four giveaways have ended and the winners are….

Chicken Soup for the Soul: Country Music Lovers Book

Congrats to : Valerie Mabrey

 My Pet Firefly

Congrats to: Janet W.

Vtech & Chuggington Learning Laptop

Congrats to: Ashley

 Office Max Teacher Award $50 GC

Congrats to: Nicole Fall

Read her nomination entry:
My son’s teacher this year, Mrs. Wentworth, is possibly the best teacher he has had. She is very dedicated to her students and is so great about dealing with parent concerns! She makes weekly ‘notes’ explaining what is going on in the classroom and is very fast at returning phone calls and emails. She is passionate about making sure each and every student ‘gets’ what she is teaching. She is innovative about her teaching methods – she has a variety of great teaching tools and self confidence builders that she uses on her students. I absolutely nominate Mrs. Wentworth from Gladwin Community Schools 5th grade teacher!

Congrats and please complete THIS FORM so that I can send your information along to the sponsor!

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