Q&A from Anna Shields & Emily Garsin

Anna Shields and Emily Garsin are the founders of Startling Arts, an arts and performance company that runs a range of vibrant singing performance and training workshops for businesses, arts organisations, schools and communities. Following their insightful talk last year on ‘Why the World Needs to Sing’, Emily responds to our Q&A, shedding light on the age old question of the importance of talent vs hard work.

Why should the person reading this article consider attending TEDx Square Mile?
TEDx Square Mile 2015 was a day of unexpected inspiration, where everyone was exposed to things we didn’t even know we didn’t know! TEDx talks take you back to an almost child-like curiosity, which is why we were so keen to get involved in TEDx Square Mile. You don’t go to a TEDx event because you think you know everything, you go because you are the type of person with a thirst for new ideas, skills and perspectives. In 2015, the two of us used our experience of running Starling Arts to speak about the power of group singing in bringing people together (and even got the crowd belting out Whitney Houston…) alongside sessions on Mindfulness, Laughter Yoga, Men’s Health and expeditions to overcome depression. Part of the joy is being surrounded by others with the same insatiable thirst – and it rubs off. The atmosphere is almost electric and you will walk away buzzing.

Which top three skills do you think one should develop regardless of the industry in which they work?
Curiosity, passion and collaboration. It’s all very well knowing what you know and plodding on with life. But that’s where boredom and complacency set in, surely the biggest killers of creativity. Passion gets things done, it cuts through the monotony of smaller tasks to reach the bigger goal. Collaboration is the key to supporting both curiosity and passion. It’s the thing that turns good ideas into reality. We sing with large groups of people from all walks of life – from schools, to businesses and communities. Often these groups have no experience of singing, which can feel very daunting for them at the start. Yet groups are able to achieve amazing and surprising musical results, which is only possible because those singing choose to be open and curious about what they can achieve together, contributing their passion and ultimately working together.

Which is more important: talent or hard work?
Talent is pretty useless without a driving force to turn it into something. Although natural talent might get you so far (especially in school), it can breed a sense of entitlement, leading to laziness. That’s when the hard worker takes over. The nimble and athletic hare lost the race to the slow and steady tortoise because it lacked the stamina and drive to succeed. Take a lesson from the shell and don’t stop walking. You’ll get there eventually. Not everyone is born with the natural vocal talent of Adele, but anyone who can speak can learn to sing in a way that improves their health, well-being and sense of community.

Emily Garsin, co-director of Starling Arts, getting groups singing

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