Children come across as blank slates, needing to be taught the ways of the world. And while it’s true they need much guidance and education, sometimes they can astonish even their parents with an incredible display of natural talent. Sometimes this comes out at a school event, other times it’s an even more visible venue. Regardless, there is a rich tradition of kids showing off, in girls pageant dresses and other gorgeous formal wear, what they can do to the amazement of those around them.
A local talent competition is something that has been known for centuries. Parents would beam with pride as their child took the stage, either competing for a prize or just showing off what he can do. As the technology to share these moments expanded, the best of the best became more widely known. Radio was the first forum people used to share their voice. The Original Amateur Hour, starting in 1934, gave people the opportunity to hear talent never before seen as hosts scouted the country for skilled vocalists.
As televisions became widespread, talent shows migrated to the screen. Now, in addition to beautiful singing, performers could start displaying some dance moves. Seemingly overnight, an unknown singer could become an American idol. In fact, you can find performances by Rihanna, Justin Timberlake, and Beyoncè, all under their given name and before they’ve even reached puberty.
Now, talent shows have evolved past simple singing and dancing to give people the opportunity to show any fabulous skill they may have. On America’s Got Talent, you can see musicians, magicians, jugglers, sword swallowers, and almost anything else. Amazingly, the idea of taking a massive group of performers and slowly trimming it down until there were only a few left is a new idea. The first time it occurred on television was in 1999. Since then, huge numbers of reality TV shows have followed suit, ending with one ultimate “winner.”
Yet sometimes, it’s not the title of “winner” that you want for your child. It’s the moment of bravery when that tiny, innocent person stands up in front of every person she’s ever known, opens her mouth, and starts singing. When that scrawny boy in a new boys dress shirt takes a leap of faith and attempts to flip or cartwheel across the stage. Sitting in the audience, you can see the fear, the hesitation, and the determination that pushes him to accomplish the impossible, the unthinkable. To stand up and put his pride on display and hope beyond hope for recognition, compliments, and praise. That, to be sure, is the real talent.