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Irene Tanner Headshot

Practice, Proficiency, Mastery

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Who doesn't know the direction given to a tourist asking how to get to Carnegie Hall?


No amount of practice would have worked for me. For ten years I struggled with lessons from Miss Kirkland, a spinsterish teacher with halitosis, only because at that time playing the piano was thought to be an asset for young ladies. In spite of my resistance, I developed a discerning ear, loving music. My earliest talent was for drawing. Only after a half hour of banging away at our baby grand was I allowed access to crayons and paper.

There is a corollary claiming a tendency toward clusters of related abilities in artistically gifted individuals -- they possess an overall appreciation of multiple expressions and high degrees of skill and creativity.

I was never overwhelmed by Lady Gaga's fame, assuming her to be the latest flavor of the month. However, last month ABC presented "A Gaga Thanksgiving", featuring Lady Gaga and special guests, including Tony Bennett, with whom Gaga sang "The Lady is a Tramp", from his latest album," Duets II."

Tony thinks a lot of Gaga -- that's endorsement enough for me! Not only was the blending of voices and chemistry a total pleasure, Gaga later proved that she was a jazz soloist up there with the best of vocalists, belting "Out of An Orange Colored Sky" as if she were singing in the mid-forties at the Village Vanguard.

My point is that being a superb musical artist such as Lady Gaga or Tony Bennett requires years of solid study embracing many genres and generations. Having done all the homework (and hard work), a performer only then has total freedom and control over a wide range of material and can easily and confidently improvise.

The Lady's appearance reflected her versatility. Her blond hair was left long, straight and center-parted, or swept up and away in a soft chignon. Only once did a hairpiece appear. Her hats were gorgeous. Among her costumes were a smashing saffron coat by Valentino Couture and a stunning black pantsuit from Tom Ford for her interview with Katie Couric.

It is well known that Tony Bennett is also a professional painter, in addition to being an amazing vocalist and national treasure.

The same principle applies to all artists -- Instrumentalists, composers, painters, sculptors, dancers, choreographers, actors, photographers, film makers, writers, even scientists and anyone else I have omitted.

Salvador Dali was one of the most meticulous draftsmen of all time. His ability to draw realistically was literally hardwired into his infrastructure before he could render the surrealism of his subconscious on canvas.

Picasso's early work was soft, natural, realistic. His strong participation in the politics of his day morphed his mind and distorted his later paintings and drawings into powerful statements of revolution.

Georgia O'Keefe knew Mother Natures' beauty so intimately that she was literally able to enter the soul of a flower, portraying all of its secrets.

Contemporary jazz artists are often classically trained musicians -- their impromptu riffs emerge from the spontaneous interaction of the melody with the range of their instruments plus their leaps of faith.

The choreographer George Balanchine, schooled in traditional ballet, brought a breath of fresh air into the twentieth century, along with Isadora Duncan, Martha Graham and others, changing the body of dance... I rest my case.

Something similar is possible during maturity in life, unless you are born a genius. A life well lived is a process of reinvention, much of it involuntary as the clock ticks.

No one instructs a baby how to develop its body through childhood, adolescence, adulthood, old age.

The mind and spirit are guided by programs, inherited or learned through experience, and forever stored in memory. They are the rules we live by, to be recycled forever.


An Inspired Thought

An Inspired Word

An Inspired Note

An Inspired Shape

An Inspired Movement

Reconfigures everything!

To quote Phil Wood, teaching a Master Class in jazz at NYU, "It's not the tune, it's the treatment."

That is to say...It's not life, it's the way you live it.