The Highlands Company Blog

Highlands and the Unfolding of Musical Talent, A Personal Story

finding what excites you

Frances Hesselbein leadership quoteWhen I was 7 years old, I started piano lessons. My aunt, who became my teacher, proved to be quite a taskmaster. Under her guidance, I carefully and dutifully improved year after year. My mother and father encouraged me in my dedication and natural talent. They were both musical. My mother played the piano, and my father played the violin. Although I loved my music lessons, I began to realize that my commitment to practice was keeping me from any social interactions!

At the age of 8, I went to sleep-away camp, where one of my activities was the camp choir. I remember that even as a young child, I sang Bach’s Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring with passion and grace. The director wrote a note to my parents saying, “Sue has natural musical talent and a beautiful tone.” Two years later, at age 10, I was given the lead role as The Captain in HMS Pinafore. I was in my element. Yes, I remember all the lyrics.

As my commitment to music intensified, I felt equally passionate about my relationships with friends. Singing and piano were left behind as I began to prefer my social relationships to my musical performances.

Fast forward (I won’t tell you how many years) to my college major and career. Because of my natural orientation toward helping people, my parents suggested that I study Speech Pathology and Audiology. The science portions of those subjects were challenging, but the people interactions were fulfilling. Although I loved working with children, what excited me the most was coaching the families of these children in the University Speech and Hearing Clinic. While I was in graduate school, I developed programs for these families. This foreshadowed my drive to facilitate and develop a team and a vision.

I still loved music, but it was lingering in the background. In college, I was part of an informal singing group, but I never fully developed my musical talent. As you know, Tonal Memory is also relevant in the study of foreign language. I did take Spanish in high school, and I studied French all through college, and I loved both languages. I lived in Switzerland for a year and thrived in my immersion in the language, but I did not pursue it further.

I moved toward a career in education, helped to start a private school and then became a life coach. You may now see the themes — working with teams and developing a vision.

In 2000, I discovered the Highlands Ability Battery (HAB).

The results were eye-opening and life-changing for me. I tested as a very high Generalist ( 83%) and a medium extrovert (55) with a long time frame (75%) – and with 99%, 85 %, 95% respectively in Tonal Memory, Rhythm Memory and Pitch Discrimination. My musical abilities are my highest drivers.

In my case, music becomes a 6th driver. The HAB gave me an Ah-ha moment. You might ask at first glance, “Why didn’t you go into some area of music or musical performance?” Perhaps if I were to do it over again, I would choose a path in music. I might attempt to pursue the dream I once had of performing on stage! (After all, I was a Thespian in high school). But my strong drive to be part of a team and work with people overshadowed my musical drive.

musical natural abilitiesAllow me to back up a little bit. As a Generalist/ Extrovert with Low/Mid Drivers, I had a relatively classic management profile. I am a born facilitator and driven to be part of a team. With my long time frame, I am a big-picture thinker. A trained and observant feedback provider might have directed me to some aspect of music that incorporated my distinct style.

Over the years, I have observed that most professional musicians are Specialist/Introverts with High Concept Organization, High Spatial Relations Theory, High Tonal and Rhythm Memory and High Pitch Discrimination. So I did not fit perfectly into the typical musical profile. In fact, I am usually disinterested in the fine details of musical theory. While everyone else is counting and reading, I say, ‘let me just hear it, and I’ll get it.’ And, of course, I am the one who organizes the schedule, contacts members for practice, and invites others to join the group! I bet you aren’t surprised.

The question is not only, “how do you recognize and develop musical talent,” but also,”how do you guide clients who may not fit the classic musical profile perfectly?” I needed an expert Highlands Certified Consultant to guide me toward a career that would help me maximize my talent in all areas and that matched my abilities and interests – music, teamwork, and casting a vision.

Incorporating More Music Into My Life

After taking the HAB, I signed up immediately for the church choir, voice lessons, a chamber choir at the local university, and a French class! My challenge is that it’s hard to fit it all in. That’s why, as Highlands Consultants, we encourage our clients to incorporate as many of their natural talents as they can into the workplace. This is where most of us spend the majority of our time. I am so grateful for having discovered the HAB. Going through the process myself has significantly changed how I spend my leisure time. I am able to understand how crucial it is to pursue my passion for music as well as my coaching, facilitating and teambuilding.

I try to live my life with no regrets and with much gratitude. But when I go to a Broadway musical there is a tiny part of me that wishes I was on that stage! For now, I’m content where I am.

I hope my own story inspires you to continue your commitment and your vision to help and guide others. In essence, our job is to help others “fine tune” their musical instruments — their lives. This is a dynamic calling for all of us.