If I’m so talented …
I get this kind of mail alot (from Gerry, in this case):
Avery, if you’re so talented, why don’t you go play in a group? If you were that great, you would still be playing, n’est-ce pas?
Well, ok. I don’t get a lot of French interrogatives, but the gist of this is a pretty common complaint from a certain kind of reader whom I hack off with something I’ve said. I usually don’t bother responding to this “comeback” because it’s a self-evidently lame attempt to discredit the person making an argument rather than engaging ideas. But for the record: as a matter of fact, I wasn’t all that talented as a keyboard player. I had a lot of natural or God-given ability, whatever you prefer to call it, that went uncultivated in any formal way until I was so reliant on bad habits and lazy methods that remediation was not exactly hopeless, but close to it.
That said, my talent really has nothing to do with why I don’t play professionally. As a teenager and young adult, I had great teachers who poured a good deal of time and energy into me, and I’m grateful to them. Had I stuck with it, I doubtless would have tried to play professionally and, I think, been modestly successful. But a career in gospel music wasn’t in the cards for me mainly because I didn’t want it. I played long enough to learn that I love gospel music but don’t really care for the life of a gospel musician and certainly don’t have what it takes - emotionally, psychologically, maybe even physically - to put myself on stage night after night. The vulnerability, the theatricality, the rigors of showmanship, the demand to make the same material new each time - for some people this is heaven on earth. For me, it was often enjoyable and regularly deeply satisfying. I would do what I did in gospel music as a performer all over again and I’m grateful to the people who helped make my time as a player possible. But ultimately it was all too exhausting and unrewarding to build a life around.
Does that disqualify me from talking about gospel music? I don’t think so, but more to the point, I don’t really care. I’m not sure where this idea comes from that one must earn one’s own thoughts. For my part, I tend to pay attention to the person who demonstrates she can listen carefully, think clearly, and write interestingly, even (or especially) if I disagree with what’s being said. Certainly playing professionally adds authority to thoughts on gospel music in some cases. But just as often, the professional’s proximity to what he or she does creates blind spots and conflicts that impede full insight and thorough discussion. There are plenty of horse’s mouths to hear from if that’s what you want (and yes, I can imagine what part of the horse’s anatomy many people have in mind for me), but frankly I find the official line from the professional class often unhelpful in its studiously crafted opacity or its incurious thoughtlessness. Thus, Gerry, do I toil on in my own talentless, unprofessional, inexperienced way.Email this Post