One of the first lessons I teach young musicians is how to keep a steady beat. I explore with the kids a list of “what if’s.” What if your heart didn’t keep a steady beat? What if it just stopped for a few minutes? What if it raced and then slowed and then raced again? The kids quickly pick up on the necessity of a steady beat.
We soon move to rhythm, which is the movement of the sound in a song. We compare the syncopation to the steady beat. It’s a great lesson, and all my music students learn it at a young age.
Nevertheless, though, there are always those who, at a slightly older age, decide that their own beat and rhythm are just fine. It doesn’t matter that they’re trying to play within an orchestra… at least not to them! As a principal of a school for the gifted, I don’t mind kids “marching to the beat of their own drums,” but I expect unity of beat and rhythm when we’re an ensemble!
It’s all in the timing. Now, I know that a time signature in music isn’t exactly what’s meant by the word timing, but I think there are a lot of parallels. Timing is a tricky thing, whether it be in learning as a toddler when to step onto and off an escalator or knowing as an adult when to shoot a gun at a moving clay pigeon. But there are signs and truths about timing, just as there are in music.
One of the hardest things for gifted children is to wait for the right time. They are often in a hurry to grow up. Gifted kids want the privileges of older siblings, and gifted teens just wish they were adults already. It’s important that we teach our gifted children and teens to enjoy the now. The beauty of timing is the anticipation and the successful execution. If we teach our kids the time signature, they will enjoy the experience much more. For example, if we tell our children when we hit our growth spurt and encourage them that they, too, will hit a growth spurt at a similar time, our children will anxiously compare their heights to ours, noting each little half inch of growth.
Having said that, though, I must admit that half of the fun of learning timing is working it out on your own. Sometimes I enjoy it most when I’m reflecting upon how much better God’s timing was than what I would have chosen. About my fourth year at Lawton Academy, I remember becoming convinced that God was going to fund a new secondary building, complete with a cafeteria, library, and auditorium... soon. While my students played sports at PE, I would step out the measurements of the auditorium on the grassy field. While visiting other cities, I would take pictures of features in rooms that I wanted to put in my secondary building. It’s been fourteen years, and God has just now seen fit to give us a multi-purpose building. It’s not exactly what I had in mind, but it’s exactly what we need when we need it most. As I look back on the years between that dream and now, I realize how the recession that occurred could have made the payments on a new building close to impossible to maintain. God had protected us once again from bad timing.
As I get older, I learn that just because God reveals the plan now, it doesn’t mean the event will occur now. Goodness, He anointed David king of Israel as a boy, but God didn’t allow him to be king until he had suffered enough to write some of the most inspiring praises in history (the Psalms). David was a man after God’s own heart because he waited on God’s timing.
Whether or not you share my belief in the Bible, you have to know that the learning occurs during the waiting. In a world of instant gratification, this is going to be hard for our children to believe. In fact, they will mostly learn from hindsight for a while. Teach your gifted child that his time will come, and show him what he will learn as he waits. Just like in an ensemble, things go better when we time it just right.