One of my students, Mark, who daylights as an architect, recently loaned me a copy of David Shenk’s wonderful book, The Genius in All of Us. It quickly dominated my reading time as it debunked the old theories that intelligence, talent and genius are determined by our genes. It was surprising to learn that there was so little evidence to support that old way of thinking, and that there was so much solid research that proves otherwise. One of the main points Shenk makes is that our genes can actually be turned on or off by our lifestyle and environment. There is plenty of discussion here as it relates to musicians…about how “deliberate, serious and sustained practice…causes biochemical changes that stimulate growth and transformation of cells…,” along with a common blueprint shared by so many successful people in a variety of fields.
When someone says, “musical genius,” who do most people first think of…Mozart? Mozart’s own words: “People make a great mistake who think that my art has come easily to me. Nobody has devoted as much time and thought to composition as I.” For those who truly want to achieve something special in music, this book places the responsibility on your shoulders, not your gene pool. My own experience has many examples of musicians who have come from humble beginnings, yet have transformed and refined their playing to such a high degree that they have been called geniuses. Although these great players know the secret of their success, it was great to find their process well documented by the scientific community. I found the book inspiring, as I think anyone with dreams and goals will.