Talent, development thereof and Mr. Perlman

Mr. Perlman teaching valuable lessons
The violinist, Itzhak Perlman runs a summer music camp for exceptionally talented string players from around the world.  It is on Shelter Island and happily I can look from our beach to the north and spot it among the trees on the opposite shore.  You don't see many kids moving about even when you are on the campus;  there are only about 3 dozen and a little more of them so there isn't much chance of a crowd.

Perhaps there is an equal in the great music program in Venezuela or at the Southbank Center in London, and of course at some of the prep divisions at the conservatories but this one seems rather special.  I won't give you a "brochure report" but suffice to say the kids get there on talent alone and the process is almost not fair.  Once you "make it" you can come back every year until you hit 18 so a 12 year old can hold a place for 6 years and when an exception crop of younger students get in the openings reduce to almost nothing. I say "unfair" but that statement isn't fair at all.

These kids, the ones who get there and the ones that don't, learn a hard musical lesson; that no matter how good you are, there might not be a place for you.  Think of that.  4-6 hours of hard, intense practice a day, high competency, the best in your city, state, region - a savant, and there is no room at the inn. On the flip side is you make it at age 8 and you have a spot for 10 years because there is no expectation that you will stop improving.

Then, on a given day, Mr. Perlman wheels out dressed as the donkey in Shrek and acts as narrator of the story with the orchestra members either playing accompanying music or acting out the narrative.  Kids, just kids really, up on stage doing something that is out of their norm by a long shot. Kids who carry their instruments like the air around them are now in silly costumes with their leader, perhaps the most respected violinist in a generation, braying and generally having fun.

So what is the valuable lesson here?  Among dozens of them, there are kids who spend and have spent much of their lives in practice rooms in exquisite concentration striving to perfect a talent that few possess and perfectly understanding how lucky they are to possess it.  Then, in the blink of an eye are with someone with a talent even they can't imagine having fun without pretense or guile; someone so comfortable in his skin with or without a fiddle, that he can do this without condescension or falseness - just in the spirit of fun and learning.

Perhaps a lesson for all time.