The i-Factor

Case in point: My avocation as a musician began in 1976 when I joined the band. I loved performing but hated doing it alone back then. My vocation in music came to a screeching halt after one semester as a music major when I learned I would have to present a solo recital during second semester. I changed majors and affected my entire career path because I was scared to perform in front of my peers.

Last Tuesday, I went to Jack’s first Jr. High concert of the year. Now that he’s in eighth grade, the music is more challenging and it’s easier to listen to (prior concerts sometimes were filtered through the kind of tone deaf ears that only come with unconditional love). What I saw from the jazz band really impressed me.

No fewer than 19 talented young musicians took the microphone to play their own solos in front of more than 250 people. At 12 and 13, they had the confidence it took me 25 years to develop.

I give partial credit to their director, Mrs. Torres. I think she’s done a terrific job of shaping these young musicians. She gave them the opportunity, the encouragement and the tools to interpret the music their own way and tell their own stories. No, the solos weren’t all great. But that’s not the point. The point was they tried. And they will keep trying and keep getting better.

And of course, the kids deserve credit! They worked hard and they prepared! Then they executed!

So what’s the big deal? It’s not about being discovered. The big deal is that our kids are already learning what many of us didn’t learn until later in life: How to face an audience, tell your story and win them over. It’s a basic skill needed in almost any business and many otherwise great professionals still haven’t mastered it.

OK, so maybe American Idol and the X-Factor don’t deserve all the credit for the brilliant performances I saw at Jack’s concert. But as I look at our future, I want to believe that the creative minds being shaped today will learn how to apply that creativity to leading our country and industry. One thing I’m starting to realize about the i-Generation: they are bringing the i-Factor and it bears watching.

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