Between Talent and Training

“Wao! That’s an admirable performance. Can you see the dexterity of Ekpeyong on the violin? I had watched him play many times. He plays effortlessly.” Collins said to Tunde. “He is a rare breed. He’s got talent.” Tunde replied. “The guy is damn too good.  He must have spent many hours rehearsing.” Collins said, convincingly. “Collins, this is nothing but talent.” Tunde boldly registers his thoughts. “Man, talent may not be enough.

What I witnessed in Jack’s performance tonight further tells me that his musical prowess is beyond talent.” Collins said. And the argument went on between the duo of Collins and Tunde, who are both music enthusiasts.

Perhaps the argument may be succinctly captured thus: ‘NATURE vs NURTURE’. Take ‘nature’ to be ‘TALENT’ while ‘nurture’ represents ‘TRAINING/HARDWORK’.

Like Collins and Tunde above, many people, throughout the world, have divergent views on what makes one a real and very skillful musician. While some stand with ‘nature’, many others prefer to stick to ‘nurture’.

Let’s delve further into the issue.

Talent is a natural skill or ability for something. A talented person, ordinarily, would possess some, if few, natural endowments needed to carry out specific tasks.  Take a typical ‘talented’ pianist, for instance. He or she may have good ears for sound, longer fingers, etc. With some of these gifts, he/she might reach some heights conveniently, and also with fewer efforts.

Training denotes being prepared for a task or job. With training, a musician (whether or not talented) gains the right techniques of studying and performing music. Training could come in unique forms: formal and informal.

This writer believes that a trainee also indirectly gains discipline as a by-product of training. I took this stand in the light of the fact that in training, the trainee would, under normal conditions, have fashioned out strict practice routines and schedules, besides abiding by the ‘rules of the game.’ These, in some ways, may instill practice discipline, in the trainees’ mind, amongst other values.

Talent is a raw material. And like every raw material, it needs refinement. That refinement is gained through training. An unpolished talent will definitely hit some brick walls in the course of “duties”. That is a limitation. A talented musician who does not get trained and gives ample time for practice may dig the grave of his/her career without even knowing it.

Observation reveals that some talented people don’t give time for practice. They mostly leave their instincts to handle things for them. Resultantly, such people would constantly experience either stagnation or, worse still, retardation.

An untalented but trained and hardworking might, most probably, conveniently, outshine his/her supposed talented counterpart who does not polish his/her natural abilities, through practices and further instructions.

A talented folk, because of his/her endowments, get things done with fewer efforts in comparison with his/her hardworking fellow but not (too) talented counterparts. But if the former works hard and gets trained, he/she will outshine the latter who may only rely on ‘limiting’ instincts.

Many evergreen musicians that we know in today’s Nigeria, apart from being talented, also gained either formal or informal training. Take a look at King Sunny Ade, he was an apprentice with the late comic icon: Moses Adejumo, A.K.A. ‘Baba Sala’. Ebenezer obey too was not a lord to himself, he was, at a time, under the late Fatai Rolling Dollar. Sir Shina Peters once said during an interview that, “as an inexperienced boy, he once had a stint with Chief Commander Ebenezer Obey.”

As you have seen, talent, if not supported with good training and practice, can prove to be the undoing of a would-be or ‘supposed-to-be’ musical prodigy and/or icon.

So, take a cue from the veterans. Nurture your talents very seriously so you can reach your musical peak.


Babajide Ajayi is a trained Pianist, Organist, music theorist, and an Instructor with Tonality Music International.

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