Developing musical talent can lead to lifelong success

By Greg Smithhisler: Guest columnist

This is part of a series in which local columnists share their love for music in celebration of “Music in Our Schools Week” at Clovis Municipal Schools.

My friend Kurt celebrated his 30th birthday last week — a special joy for me as I revel in his accomplishments and all the rewards that passion, talent and hard work have brought into his life.

Five years ago, Kurt took a huge personal risk and bought a struggling dinner theater company. With the help of his wife and many good friends, Kurt has turned it into a prosperous, successful venture. And when he introduces me to his new friends, he calls me his mentor.

To be sure, I didn’t know at the time that this was what I was doing! But I was mentored too — I began piano lessons at the age of 5 at my mother’s knee. She saw something in me that I could only guess at, and made many sacrifices to encourage my love of classical music. In high school, Norville Howell taught us — as much by example as by words — to strive for excellence, to work hard and to reach beyond ourselves. He taught us that — as a team — we could make a difference; we could be the best.

When he was 16, Kurt was the first teenage boy to join my fledging youth choir at a Catholic church in Colorado. Then he was a passionate bundle of unrefined talent. What a difference 16 years makes!

There were many others who followed his lead who have since become friends. I have had the joy of watching them grow up, and to pass on the gift I was given: encouraging them along the way to follow their dreams, to work hard at refining their talents, to become everything they can be — what a privilege! And music was the tool — a gift we shared — that allowed me to take on this role.

Greg Smithhisler is the music director for Catholic services at Cannon Air Force Base Chapel.