This week I had the opportunity to interview internationally renowned operatic soprano Christine Brewer, who lives in Lebanon Illinois, the small Southern Illinois town where I grew up. Since I’m writing a piece for my new book about understanding exceptional people, I could think of no better candidate to give me her insights. Christine does not disappoint, on the stage or off.
Successful people of all stripes have a similar story. They have a God-given talent that they hone continuously and religiously. They steadfastly commit to ongoing learning and hire the best coaches and teachers to help them along the way. Christine’s story didn’t differ. On the contrary, she offered a roadmap for those who want to stand out or be outstanding.
Christine began her operatic career with the Opera Theatre of St. Louis in the much-sought-after role of tree holder. Actually, the company hired her to sing in the chorus, but she realized she’d need to do more if she hoped to learn quickly from the best around. So, she volunteered for any and every job that let her be around the principal artists. Her debut literally involved standing on stage holding a tree.
Of course, the decision makers in St. Louis saw something else—a rare talent. Although singled out early for the distinctive quality of her voice, Christine did not start singing the very difficult Wagner pieces she’s now famous for until she had passed her fortieth birthday. She simply hadn’t been ready, but she practiced and studied until she was.
I have heard Christine sing a number of concerts and operatic roles, including the difficult Wagner pieces. I have said stars consistently deliver above average performance—that’s one of the prerequisites for other’s considering a person a star. In Christine’s case, every performance I’ve heard has been stellar. Only a true star can create a constellation, but you might have to start by hugging a tree.
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