Episode 162: The Problem with “Talent” with Joshua Mazur

This episode was a product of a submission on the main page here at Choralosophy.com. The prompt really grabbed me. Guest Joshua Mazur suggested that we need to have a grown up discussion about the way we in Music Education think about and use the word “talent.” I agree.

From Joshua:

“Our society approaches talent and ability in music in a completely unproductive way. I have seen people with very beautiful singing voices forced to sing in choirs despite the fact that they don’t want to, and people with more average singing voices discouraged from doing so despite their strong desire to sing.”

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Most ordinary people think they’re unworthy of taking part in important music making (read: community and church choruses) because they don’t sound like the people they hear on their recordings. They don’t recognize the effect a musically literate choir of 30 people, despite the “average” nature of their voices, can have on their communities. We can take 12 people with voices no one would pay to hear as soloists and make them into a very good choir. This could be thought of as one of the great “magics” of ensemble music making. The whole CAN be greater than the sum of its parts. And even better, the individual parts can also be made greater in the process. It’s a win-win!

In this episode we discuss the false idea that musical ability is completely innate and fixed, how to combat this idea in our ensembles, as well as concepts from Daniel Coyle’s “The Talent Code,” which is a must read text for any teacher or coach.

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Joshua L. Mazur is a multi-disciplinary musician from Lakeland, Florida. An award winning singer, he has most recently undertaken the tenor roles of Don Jose in Carmen (Valdosta State University Guest Artist) and the eponymous Phantom of the Opera (Ocala Symphony Orchestra) and was seen previously in such baritone roles as Silvio in Pagliacci (Imperial Symphony Orchestra) and the title role of Gianni Schicchi (Florida Southern College Opera Theater).Mr. Mazur has served Abiding Savior Lutheran Church as Director of Music Ministry & Organist since 2017.

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In addition to his work in ministry, he is the Choirmaster of the Ocala Symphony Orchestra Chorus, Assistant Conductor to Maestro Matthew Wardell and the Ocala Symphony Orchestra, and Adjunct Professor of Studio Voice and Music Theory/Aural Skills at the College of Central Florida, Ocala.Joshua is a prolific composer and arranger, with a catalogue of over 350 works for various solo, ensemble, choral and orchestral ensembles. His works have been performed all over the world at national, and international choral festivals and in such places as Carnegie Hall and in services at the Vatican.

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He has scored soundtrack music for the films “After Midnight” (2016) and “I Just Called To Say I Love You” (2018). Mr. Mazur holds a Bachelors degree in Voice Performance from Florida Southern College and a Masters degree in Voice Performance and Conducting from the University of Florida. He completed several semesters of doctoral work in Music Composition and received training in Theology through Concordia University CUEnet.

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