I think it is safe to say that the talent-spotting season has arrived.
Judging by the wealth of advertisements, our weekend viewing is on the verge of domination by programmes designed to unearth the hidden talents of people across the country. I am sure there will be many people who have taken part in the X-Factor auditions and who will now embark on a series of nerve-wracking rounds to decide which of them truly has the talent required to become a global superstar.
In these early rounds I always find it easier to spot those who will not progress than those that will. When we hear the toe curling renditions of songs previously performed by women with amazing vocal ranges, one has that gut feeling that they might have reached the end of the road. And then there are those who grow before your very eyes.
As the weeks progress they morph from a raw, rough edged performer into polished and sophisticated acts. No doubt they undertake many hours of practice and receive guidance from professionals in the field, but it always amazes me how they grow and develop from nervous hopefuls to polished professionals.
My preferred viewing on a Saturday night is Strictly Come Dancing. If I am honest, in the early rounds I struggle to watch the celebrities with two left feet as, despite many hours of practice, they stumble around the dance floor. I appreciate their commitment to the show and their desire to both entertain and improve their performances, but there are times when it isn’t easy viewing.
However, I delight in the grace and athleticism of the professionals. Their talents were discovered many years previous but their agility, strength and prowess as they glide across the floor still takes my breath away.
I usually return to Strictly as the series draws to a close. I find remarkable the journey that the celebrities have taken over the weeks and months. As bodies develop in tone and flexibility, timing sharpens and movements flow with grace and ease, the result of their commitment of time and energy to their training is evident. The delight on their faces as they wait expectantly to achieve the perfect score of ten, rather than Len’s humorous “seven” never fails to amuse me.
As the launch of this series of Strictly took place on Saturday evening, I chose to miss it in favour of an evening of talent of a very different kind.
My husband and I were very fortunate to be invited to attend the Hallē Orchestra Concert at Lincoln Cathedral. My exposure to classical music, and indeed to live concerts, is very limited but I was excited at the thought of hearing first hand the talents of these extraordinary performers.
The performance was mesmorising for a number of different reasons: the unique setting of the cathedral, with soft lighting illuminating the performers and accentuating the beauty of the cathedral’s physical majesty; the performers, making deft, nimble, subtle movements on their instruments that resulted in the creation of sounds like I never heard before.
The music, the result of the collective efforts of the performers and their conductor, captivating the audience and filling every space in the cathedral with wondrous sounds that resonated through the air and the bodies of the audience. It was a beautiful experience and one I will never forget. And it was made possible not only by the talents of the performers but undoubtedly by hours of practice, both individually and collectively, to ensure that they performed to the very highest of standards.
And next weekend, as I return to view the X-Factor hopefuls, I hope they appreciate that their journey to fame and fortune will not be as smooth and simple as they may hope.
During my career in education I have tirelessly promoted to my students that ability is only a small part of the ‘success package’. To make the most of one’s talent and to truly unearth potential, time and effort is required to practise and hone performance in any field. Whether it be musical performance, mathematical problem solving or scientific discovery, time, effort and commitment are key to success.
Over the next six weeks I will be travelling across the county to meet young people and talk to them about the opportunities available to them at Lincoln UTC. One key part of my message is that I am not a talent spotter. I am excited to meet students with passion and commitment, who will devote time and effort to be the best they can in their fields of study.
I firmly believe that these attributes will bring them both professional success and personal happiness, and I am confident that they will be taking centre stage as award winning scientists, engineers and innovators in the years to come. I will look back on their development and see how far they have come and think about that wondrous Saturday night with the Hallē when it all really began.
Dr. Rona Mackenzie is Principal of Lincoln University Technical College (UTC). She has a strong background in education, having worked in six local authorities during her career, and is passionate about providing an education that meet the needs of young people and their community industries. She is a keen sportswoman and mountaineer, recently trekking to Everest Base Camp, and has an interest in photography.