What is Talent? How Do You Spot Unusual Talent In a Singer?

What is talent? And how do you know talent when you see it?

Barbara Lewis, long-time singer and vocal coach, talks about talent in the video on the left....

Click the arrow to watch the video. And read along as you watch. Here is the conversation from the video:

WHAT IS TALENT?

Claire Duchesneau: When you meet a student for the first time, regardless of whether the student might be sixteen years old or sixty years old, and you hear them sing for the first time, what are you looking for in determining if that person has the capacity to improve the quality of their singing and communication?

Barbara Lewis: Well, I think everybody does. It's very rare that someone can't improve. Whether they can improve to the point of being a professional singer or not is something else. But I don't think I've run into anybody who can't improve. They may want to go faster. They may want to do better than they eventually will do, but everybody can improve. So that's just a given.

the best singers - girl with camera WHAT IS TALENT - video conversation begins...
But when I first hear somebody, I often can tell if that person is going to be able to go deeply into themselves in expression, and if the voice can handle it. It would be hard for me to tell you how I know that. I think a lot of it is subliminal. It's subtle, and having looked at and listened to and worked with, sung with so many singers over so many years, you just pick up on some things.

If I really had to articulate what it is, I think that the voice somehow just works. The emotion is very present. It flows out on the voice with hardly any effort. Now you know that that person is going to grow and develop and the voice will grow, but you sense a seed of poetic potential in that person. And I've seldom been wrong over the years. Now I might have been wrong when I didn't see it in somebody. I might have missed it. But when I've looked at someone and when they first walk into the studio and I say, "There it is," I usually see that happen later in time.

Claire Duchesneau: I've heard you use an expression where you've suggested that you have the feeling you will soon have the vehicle through which to express that feeling that you're giving off. You've said that in a variety of ways. In other words, you identify that the person has the poetry, the poet, the capacity for an intimate musical experience. They just don't have the instrument yet.

Barbara Lewis: Right Yes.

Claire Duchesneau: Can you elaborate on that?

What is talent? Barbara Lewis: Yes. I think that it's a positive thing. I think it's…the person's being needs to be ahead of their voice. And then that desire to express pulls the voice forward. I think it's harder when it's the other way. The voice is in good shape. The voice does things that the soul can't do. So you listen to a kind of an emptiness when you hear a fine singer with not too much connection to the being. I would much rather see someone who's struggling…a certain kind of struggle…struggling to let everything that's inside here come out on the wings of the song. So when I see that happening, I go, "Yes!"

Now let's work on the vehicle and get that vehicle into condition that will allow the poetry to emerge.

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