Tuesday, February 28, 2017

An Overnight Success

There is no such thing as an overnight success, of course, but the mere mention of that concept within earshot of my mother could render her somewhat testy. In her younger years, she had tried her hand at breaking into acting, and had gotten to know—or at least hear about—the struggles of some of her peers in the industry. Nothing could make her go ballistic more quickly than a suggestion that someone was an overnight success—for those she personally knew, her immediate defense was usually, "she worked hard to get where she is!"

I imagine the same can be said for those who have "won" a title in any contest—especially a beauty contest. Admittedly, some people are fortunate to be born with some exceptional qualities. But it still takes work to capitalize on those benefits. Raw talent in any form is just that: undeveloped.

So it was no surprise, as I trawled through the several newspaper citations I found for my fifth cousin in the Tilson line, that young college coed who fancied herself a beauty queen. Let's take some time to rewind her story from the point where we met her yesterday, back to her earlier years to find out what kind of price Joan Spinks Melton paid in order to place well in those competitions she participated in during her college years.

The first mention I found of Joan was a blip of an entry within a larger article buried in the back of the April 21, 1946, Greensboro Daily News. The title announced the overarching theme: "Cherished Dream Realized by Eight Young Musicians." What followed was a listing of those eight, and their accomplishments which led them to the invitation to appear as a soloist with the North Carolina Symphony.

To attain the honor of being named a child soloist, each musician had to audition. Of the roster of those who were included in the final selections, none was over the age of seventeen. The youngest of the group, by far, was Joan, who at the time was only eight years of age. For her appearance, Joan performed the Mozart concerto in A major.

This, of course, requires the observation that one does not just pop up on stage at the age of eight and perform such a piece on the piano without considerable preparation ahead of time—like years ahead of time. One of the later newspaper articles mentioned that our Joan had been studying the piano since she was three years of age. You can be sure that included hours of practice daily, well before she arrived at her eighth birthday.

By her eighteenth birthday—about the time Joan participated in the Miss North Carolina pageant—she was an accomplished classical pianist, one who had a goal of continuing her education to become a piano virtuouso. While she may not have previously had much recognition for her talents—and hard work—her choice to step out on this particular stage was about to change that for her.

Though she may have seemed to suddenly burst into the public's view, you can be sure she wasn't just another "overnight success." She worked hard to get where she found herself at that golden moment of her appearance on stage for the Miss Carolina pageant.

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