Genius, Aptitude or Sweat?
By Lori Hope Baumel
Last night I went to the symphony. I was very moved by the passion and brilliance of a concerto and solo performed by the twenty-five year old Armenian cellist, Narek Hakhnazaryan. Upon leaving the Kravis Center, I said to myself, “What a brilliant young man.” Genius, I thought. He must have spent his entire life dedicated to his craft.
Poor fellow, during the performance, he was sweating profusely, which is very common amongst great performers; like the violinist Joshua Bell or the dancer Savion Glover, both of whom I have seen drench the floor. The late Luciano Pavarotti simply held a towel or large handkerchief at every solo performance I was fortunate to witness. Most likely, these recitalists get a rush of adrenaline, which causes the heart to beat faster. Performing under hot lights with speed and accuracy requires extreme concentration. Under those circumstances it’s not usual to break a sweat.
When I returned home from the concert, I delved deep into thought. I wondered what type of childhood the cellist had. How many hours of practice a day did it take to accomplish so much at such an early age? Did he have time to go out and play? He must have demonstrated great potential early on. Apparently, Mr. Hakhnazaryan comes from an extremely musical family. Perhaps the cultivation of his talent was a product of his environment. Of course, he would not have come this far if he didn’t have the aptitude to learn. Aptitude, combined with an almost painful passion for the sonorous notes he played gave him the drive to become what he is today.
Let’s get back to the genius part of this discussion. What does it take to be considered a genius? I’ve taught many students in my musical career. When I teach piano to a really bright child, one with the capability to master just about anything he or she sets their mind to, I don’t say “You’ll be a great pianist some day.” I say, “You’ll be a really well-rounded person when you grow up. If you have the drive and are willing to work hard (i.e. sweat), you can become a great pianist who happens to be Secretary of State one day!”
Perhaps you’ve read this before, but studies have shown musicianship and high math abilities often correlate. You may have heard of the violinist, Albert Einstein, who discovered the theory of relativity? One of my youngest students has said to me, “I would like to be a teacher when I grow up.” I respond, “You CAN be a teacher one day,” (although I know she’ll more likely be a professor of astrophysics).
When I was in the first grade, our class did an experiment on how electricity is conducted. Attached to a small board was a large 12-volt battery with a red wire and a black wire attached to it. The teacher took the wires and wrapped each one around a tiny screw. Also attached to the board was a small flashlight bulb. When the wires made contact, the bulb would illuminate.
My grandparents had an old electric keyboard (which we referred to as “the organ”) positioned right next to Grandpa’s black recliner chair. The organ was perfect for me to take my small fingers and demonstrate what I had learned in my piano studies that week. One day, the organ stopped working! Apparently, the instrument was not getting any electrical power. Battery power was not a common electronic keyboard option back then. My grandmother unplugged the organ and said she’d have to call someone to come fix it. The plug was a vintage one, with only cardboard covering its prongs. See photo below:
Grandma walked away. I looked at the plug on the floor. I removed the cardboard cover. I saw two screws and two loose wires. I noticed the wire was not twirled around the screws. Imitating my teacher in school, I proceeded to wrap a wire around each screw. I then replaced the cardboard cover (kids, don’t try this at home). Voilà! I plugged the cord back into the outlet and it worked. I proceeded to sit down and play. My grandparents rushed into the living room rather surprised. Genius, they said!
At that point, should I have been destined for a career in electrical engineering? I certainly had the aptitude. Perhaps? But in the late 1960’s, girls would never be encouraged to do that. “You’ll be a music teacher, or have a music school,” they said. My destiny was signed, sealed and approved. Children love approval. The first phase of my road in life was paved. I continued my musical journey. I had blinders on to any other possibilities and immersed myself in everything having to do with music. I wrote it, taught it, performed it, directed it, recorded it and mentored others to do the same. Admittedly, I sweat through many a performance. My career was not very lucrative, but it was satisfying. I’ve taken many a bow.
Those who have high aptitude are good observers. Over the years, I took notice of my best teachers. In my book, there were either really good teachers or there were the ones who just did it for the paycheck. I singled out the most notable ones, analyzed their methods and took notes. The best educators were the ones that recognized a student’s strengths and would guide them. They had a keen ability to measure a pupil’s aptitude and nurtured their interests at the appropriate pace.
I’ve put these notes to good use and have incorporated them into everything I do. Marriage and children were the second phase of my life. When raising my children, I sat with them and used creative methods to make their homework more interesting. When I quizzed them prior to tests, it thrilled me. I was exposed to subjects that, in my youth, I would never have thought as pertinent. I memorized the subjects along with them. As a result, AP history, creative writing, literature, politics and a multitude of subjects – other than music – fascinated me. I learned about the world and developed an insatiable desire to travel. In my own way, I was able to attend high school all over again.
Most importantly, now that my children are starting their own careers, I’ve begun to mentor myself, pursue everything that interests me – from writing this cultural column to exhibiting my photography in a juried show. To this day, I am still passionate about technology, electronics and design. Fortunately, my husband shares the same interest. He and I could spend hours in a Radio Shack and we’re frequent flyers at the Apple Store. I have begun a third phase in my life and I’m reveling in it.
In my heart, I am and always will be a musician. I had the aptitude. The right people took me under their wing at the right time and, in turn, I try to pay it forward. As to what’s next, who knows? Hmm, maybe astrophysics…
Live… Go… Do!
Top Five List For December 2013:
1) Read (or write) some poetry:
Gone are the days of adherence to iambic pentameter. As I witnessed at the Miami Book Fair International 2013, contemporary poetry is very much alive today. In preparation for my interviews with notable poets, Richard Blanco and Julie Marie Wade, I immersed myself in their poetry. I learned that the words don’t have to rhyme – they just have to flow. I actually found myself starting to think like a poet… even tried my hand at some prose in email correspondences with my eldest son. He wrote back poetically in return.
2) Plan ahead:
TICKETS ARE ON SALE FOR THE
MULTIPLE TONY AWARD®-WINNING SHOW
At the Raymond F. Kravis Center for the Performing Arts
“The National Theatre of Great Britain’s epic WAR HORSE, winner of five 2011 Tony® Awards including Best Play, will make its premiere at the Kravis Center beginning Wednesday, February 12 through Sunday, February 16. Hailed by The New York Times as “theatrical magic,” WAR HORSE is the powerful story of young Albert’s beloved horse, Joey, who has been enlisted to fight for the English in World War I. In a tale the New York Daily News calls “spellbinding, by turns epic and intimate,” Joey is caught in enemy crossfire and ends up serving both sides of the war before landing in no man’s land. Albert, not old enough to enlist, embarks on a treacherous mission to find his horse and bring him home. What follows is a remarkable tale of courage, loyalty and friendship, filled with stirring music and songs and told with the some of the most innovative stagecraft of our time.” – Kravis Center Press Release
For more information go to: Kravis.org
3) So much talent… right in our own backyard.
Grab a beer and hear Fire In The Kitchen on Friday and Saturday nights!
We had a BLAST over at Bull McCabes! I urge you all to try their outstanding craft beer and authentic Celtic rock cooked dishes. The best treat of all is their live music, performed by Fire In The Kitchen on Friday and Saturday nights. Fire In The Kitchen is an outstanding trio of performers specializing in Celtic music. I look forward to hearing their CD – coming out in January. Here’s a little bit about their background:
Bobby O’Donovan hails from Cork City, Ireland, and is a wonderful singer and multi-instrumentalist, playing mandolin, fiddle, bodhran, whistle, bones, spoons – you name it, he probably plays it! He has a long career playing with numerous groups, including, The Irish Rovers and The Sons of Erin. He has played all over the world, and has just returned from New Zealand, where he played with Scottish singer/songwriter Isla Grant. He has played as a session musician on many, many recordings, including a Jimmy Buffett album, “Banana Wind”. He is also very funny!
Bob Noble, a native Brit, accompanies them on keyboards and sings backup vocals and has performed Irish music for about 15 years. Bob has also played all over the world with many different artists. Including Dexy’s Midnight Runners, Aha, Joan Armatrading, Cliff Richard, Bob Geldof, Judie Tzuke and Tanita Tikaram. He has also arranged and produced several albums since coming to South Florida.
Vincent Griffin is a native of Montreal, Canada, and traces his family roots to County Kerry, Ireland. He has a beautiful tenor voice and also plays acoustic and electric guitars. Vincent has a large repertoire from standards to popular classics. He has also been a member of several bands that have toured Canada and the USA, including four trips to South Korea and two tours of New Zealand and Australia with Will Millar, the founder of the Irish Rovers. We are fortunate that he has joined Fire In The Kitchen this season at Bull McCabe’s Irish Pub.
Check out our AW YouTube video of Fire In The Kitchen at:
“The Norton Museum of Art announces the opening of a pair of exhibitions exposing visitors to dynamic pictures, moving and still. New Works / New Directions: Recent Acquisitions of Photography highlights photographs recently added to the Norton Collection, but not yet exhibited. L.A. Stories: Videos from the West Coast showcases “Left Coast” creativity. The exhibitions are on view through Sunday, January 12, 2014.” – Norton Press Release
5) Finally, it’s winter break! Travel to a place that’s fun for all ages.
I highly recommend you take the drive up to relax and enjoy the gorgeous blue water and beaches of Sarasota, on the Gulf Coast. While you’re there, visit this extraordinary gem of a museum, planetarium and aquarium all under one roof! The exhibits below, in particular, demonstrate the true meaning of mentoring a student who had the aptitude, talent and drive to succeed. Read on…
“Two exhibitions, running until December 29, 2013, are currently showcased on the second floor of the Museum’s galleries: Fine Art Botanicals by O.M. Braida and Aspects of Art by Julia Rega. Ms. Braida is the founder and an instructor at the Academy of Botanical Art in Sarasota, as well as a member of the American Society of Botanical Artists and the Copley Society of Art.
One of the Academy’s talented graduates, Julia Rega, 25, displays how her skill developed over the course of her journey with Academy studies in the exhibition. Her accomplishment at such a young age was the foundation for a unified personal focus. The abilities and sensitivities she gained paved the way for her career as a graphic designer. The work provides a case study of the training required to become a certified botanical artist. Julia received her certification from the Academy of Botanical Art before going on to become a professional illustrator and designer for such corporations as Victoria’s Secret in Manhattan.” – South Florida Museum Website
See this exhibit and more at:
Lori Hope Baumel and her husband Eric live in Wellington and have three children.
Their eldest, Sam, 27, is a media producer and conceptual artist who currently resides in (extremely hipster) Brooklyn, NY. Her younger children, Evan and Rachel, wrote the Around Wellington “Teen Talk” column in previous years. Rachel, 24, is an arts administrator for the Masterworks Chorale in Boston, MA and Evan, 21, is a senior at American University in Washington DC. Eric has practiced radiology in Wellington since 1991. His many talents include artist, cook, photographer and, recently, medical app developer. You can learn more about Lori at www.loribaumel.com or read her blog: www.grownupcamp.tumblr.com