Jeff Anderle on the difference between aptitude and talent

Jeff Anderle, an SFCM professor.

Jeff Anderle, chair of the woodwinds department; Photo Credit: Carlin Ma

The chair of the woodwinds department shares how it’s all about understanding your process.

In his own words, Jeff Anderle, chair of woodwinds, discusses how the key to a successful career is understanding yourself better.

Do I believe in natural talent? I think that some people are born with aptitude, where they pick things up faster than other people. However, that can just as easily lead to squandering and failure as much as it leads to success. There are the top 1% of musicians where it is a perfect mesh of talent and training. For most people, it's about getting the most of the talent that you have. You have a certain aptitude and you have certain interests. It's about understanding your own process and how you need to learn and work that is most useful. 

People that know themselves well will say, “I can't practice four hours a day, so I'm going to do this instead.” Then someone else is like, “I can practice four hours a day, so I'm going to do this instead.” It really comes down to understanding your individual strengths and weaknesses and saying, “Well, I can do this thing that other people can't do.” Or, “I'm not going to be the person that practices forever, but I can practice smarter than other people.” Or, “I can't play as fast as others so I’m going to be more musical.” You need an individual approach. The people that have success are the ones that understand themselves better instead of trying to force themselves to do something that’s not natural to them.

There are two pieces of advice I would give a younger version of myself. One is to stay focused and work hard while in college, where you have the benefit of practice time and weekly guidance. The other is to trust yourself. When I graduated and was trying to find my career and my path, there were some scary years when I had diverged from what all my peers were doing and I wasn’t sure how it was all going to shake out. So the advice would be to trust in your own integrity and your own actions and then trust yourself to know what's right for you. If you’re acting with integrity, then you can trust yourself.

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