I heard two remarkably gifted young musicians play the other day. One was a nineteen-year-old pianist and one a sixteen-year-old violinist. And it was pretty humbling, because when I was nineteen I wasn’t nearly as accomplished as either the nineteen-year-old or the sixteen-year-old. But I didn’t quit when I was nineteen, or even when I was in my early twenties and only too well aware that I was still far from a finished product… and eventually I was able to make a career as a professional musician.
The lesson here, a hard one to learn, but one that I’ve always tried to teach my students, is that everyone makes progress at his or her own pace, and what’s crucial is where you eventually arrive, not how fast you get there. Early accomplishment is wonderful, and sometimes even amazing…But comparing yourself can be needlessly discouraging. If people are enjoying your performance now, they won’t care whether you blossomed at thirteen… or at thirty.
A Minute with Miles is a production of South Carolina Public Radio, made possible by the J.M. Smith Corporation.