This past weekend my wife and I were invited to a friend’s house. We’ve known this family for 20+ years and our children grew up together. It’s not uncommon for all of us to see each other from time to time, but this was a momentous occasion. Their oldest son, DJ, is a junior at Miami University majoring in Piano Performance. We were invited to come over to see a preview of his junior recital.
I was so geeked to be able to attend because I knew he had been working very hard to get ready for this show. This preview would give us a glimpse of his real performance that will occur next week. As we entered their house, we were given a program DJ had composed sharing his theme of the recital and the pieces he’d be playing. The theme is “In der Nacht” (At night) and had pieces from Johann Sebastian Bach, Sergei Prokofiev, Ludwig van Beethoven and Robert Schumann. The house was filled with family and friends who caught up on life, shared stories and our anticipation of the in-house concert we were about to witness.
We all took a seat around a well-worn grand piano which engulfs the family room. As DJ came into the room, he set up a camera to videotape his performance and the room fell silent as he addressed us. He told us the inspiration of his recital theme and why he chose each musical piece. He encouraged us to read the descriptions he had written so we could try to hear the music as he did with its variation of emotion and the “stories” they each told. After he set the stage for his performance, he turned toward the keyboard, took a seat on the piano bench, stretched his arms and fingers, and then lightly placed his hands above the keys. He drew in a deep breath and let loose !!
You need to get some context about the difficulty and complexity of DJ’s recital. The first piece by Bach has seven movements alone. The Prokofiev piece is radically opposed in style and pace to the Bach suite. Beethoven’s sonata has two masterful sections, and the Schumann piece has eight sections. I followed the sheet music from the Schumann piece which is over 30 pages long. DJ had memorized the entire recital. The ENTIRE thing !! There wasn’t one piece of sheet music used. He played for 45 minutes and it was simply magnificent. When he finished the last piece, tears were streaming down my face.
DJ’s talent was evident. I can’t imagine how much practice occurred to get to the stage we witnessed. It had to be hours upon hours. I was touched about his performance for a few reasons. First and foremost, I was proud of him because I’ve been in his life since his birth. To see him reach this level of accomplishment was personally fulfilling. I was proud of him as were his parents and everyone who had gathered.
Secondly, his performance gave me a picture of looking at talent. You see I play the piano. I took lessons for eight years from Mrs. Lindemann. She was a dear older woman who taught me scales, notes and songs in the hope that I’d learn how to play proficiently. I can still “play” but I never reached the same expertise as DJ. I never had wanted to put in the time and dedication needed. I enjoy playing, but it’s more of a hobby for me.
That is how talent works. Both DJ and I can use that same 88 keys to make music. Where he can play Bach as it was written, I can play some songs from my youth that interested me from Billy Joel and various rock artists. The instrument is a common tool for us to use, but the type and level of our talent is vastly different. Each one of us has the ability to bring music out from pounding the keys to release the hammers upon the piano’s strings.
In organizations, we try to evaluate, measure and judge the talent of people. Instead of releasing their talent, we do our best to confine and restrict it in order to keep some misaligned semblance of order. What if we saw each of our employees as a keyboard just waiting to be played? What would happen if we allowed them to share their talent in the manner they did best? Can you imagine the incredible variety, creativity and ingenuity that could be released?
It’s time we gave our people the tools they need in order for them to share the music locked in each one of them. They all have a recital ready to perform. They know each note and their contributions will range from the majesty of the most complex classical composition to the simplest banging out of Chopsticks. Each song that comes forth is needed in order for the good work of organizations to perform and move forward.
This week pull up a bench in front of the proverbial keyboards in your workplace and encourage everyone to sit down and start playing. Release the talent that is all around you. When you do, you’ll see that you’ve been surrounded by virtuosos this entire time !!
Just to give you a taste of the recital I heard, here’s a video of another pianist playing the Prokofiev sonata DJ shared. Enjoy !!