I am sitting in the chapel of St. Bede’s Episcopal Church in Menlo Park this evening. Why am I here? Because once a year, I get the opportunity to sit in and see some of the most amazing talent I am likely to ever see performing feats of musical skill that are, shall we say, astounding to me.
This is the annual Junior Bach Festival, held every hear towards the middle and end of March, and it showcases performances of children in the Bay Area performing pieces from the repertoire of Johann Sebastian Bach. The numbers range all over Bach’s published works, and cover many different instruments. Yes, the standards are represented; violin, cello, piano, organ, guitar, etc. but sometimes more exotic fare is included. Marimba and steel drums have made their way into performances as well. These children range in age from as young as six years old to eighteen years of age. All of them have one thing in common… they are all exceptionally good performers.
Each time that I come to these events, I am reminded of several things. First, these performers are indeed talented and gifted, but more to the point, they are incredibly committed. Many of them have made sacrifices to do what they do. They have put in many hours of practice, given up on other extra-curricular activities, time with friends, and other pursuits to become, quite simply, amazing. Yet amazing seems such a small word when one considers the skill level of these kids. Close your eyes, and you would not have any idea that these are “mere children” performing. Calling them “mere children” is also a disservice, because they would sound tremendous if they were full grown adults. Their age is irrelevant, their skill is what’s important, and on that front, every one of these performers, from the youngest of them to the oldest, show tremendous talent.
Any time I lament to myself “oh, I wish I was as good as…” and I fill in the blank, with some pursuit, be it snowboarding, music, software development or software testing, I stop, and I remind myself of this every event. It’s so easy to say “oh, I wish I was amazing”, but truthfully, we can be amazing, every one of us. The question really comes down to “what are we willing to give up to be amazing?” That’s the harder deal, because to truly be great at something, we have to be willing to give up other things to make “amazing” happen. It doesn’t happen by accident, and it doesn’t come with half-hearted wishing or hoping.
These kids performing tonight have given up much, have practiced long and hard, and they have the right to say that they are amazing. They may well go on to bigger and greater things. Some may not. Fact is, statistically, only one out of 1000 of these kids may become one of tomorrow’s “superstars”. Most of them know that, too. Talk to them, and the fact is, they don’t really care about that. They do this because they love it, and through their love of it, they discovered they were very good at what they did. Even with all that natural talent, they still have to work very hard to get to this level. To say they are inspiring is, well, a tremendous understatement :).