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My performance in the Talent Show and further competitions - meaningful talent essay

davidy 1 / 4 2  
Oct 8, 2015   #1
The essay guideline is:
Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.

And here's my essay:
It's the primary round of my school's talent show. As the performer, I was the center of attention in the auditorium. Everything was going just fine; every note flew out from my saxophone, and the background music was nice and clear. I was also enjoying this moment- it was fun watching the audience immerse themselves in my music.

Suddenly, the background music went silent, but it wasn't the end of the song. Something went wrong. I was shocked, but I couldn't stop unless I wanted to mess up my performance. After holding the last note as the music stopped, I improvised, at least improvising is better than to stopping the performance unnaturally. The judges' comment was "excellent performance with amazing improvisation without the background music, welcome to the final round!" I made it!

Improvisation, widely used in jazz, means to create and perform unprepared. However, it's not limited to jazz. I've been applying this skill to many areas in my life. Personally, improvisation means to make the best use of whatever I have.

One such example of a non-jazz improvisation could be a competition. In 2013, I led a group of 14 students from various cities in an academic research competition "China Thinks Big", organized by Harvard College. Each group needed to finish a college level academic essay based on their research questions. As always, everything seemed to be on track in the beginning; my group was one of the earliest groups that turned in our final research questions and introduction. However, as the writing went on, I received phone calls from some group members, who were all trying to procrastinate: "David, I don't think I can finish the task on time, can I hand it in later?" They were feeling all kinds of pressure; two of them even quit the competition. This situation threatened the survival of our group directly.

I suddenly realized how critical the situation was. Many thoughts were running through my head, "What should I do? The same thing is happening in other groups, and their group leaders are simply doing the work for them. Should I just ignore the irresponsible behavior of these members and do their work for them?" Thanks to my improvisation talent, I didn't surrender to my unwise idea; instead, I gathered everyone, explained the current situation, asked for their time schedule and the maximum time they can contribute to this competition. After listening to their plan and opinions, I reassigned the work load: I reduced the amount of work for rising seniors, since they were stressed from exams, and I increased the amount of work for myself and those who can contribute more for the competition. I changed some of the on-site experts' interviews into phone interviews, and I put more people into the essay editing group and changed the editing method from sequential to parallel; this way, group members could work on different parts of the essay simultaneously and cross-check each other's work. All these changes enabled us to submit our work before the deadline, and we succeeded in winning the "Outstanding Chinese Paper Award".

I discovered that, in music, academic, sports and everyday life, things usually don't work out exactly as I expected. It's like a music player in the shuffle mode, and I never know what comes next. When facing unexpected situation, most people would stop and start all over again, I don't. Improvisation saved my saxophone performance, helped my group get out of the critical situation and turned the table in many of my fencing competitions. That's why I call it a talent. I'm convinced that improvisation will be vital and useful in my upcoming university life and the life in this ever-changing world. I will be helping myself and the world in a unique way through my well-developed talent of improvisation.

This essay is quite important so I appreciate every suggestions!

vangiespen - / 4,137 1449  
Oct 8, 2015   #2
Cheng, this essay is definitely well written and quite developed. The reviewer should get hooked at the beginning of your essay because of the story that you used. It was a good introduction to something that most people would not really consider a talent. However, because you were able to directly relate it to your life as a student, I am sure that this will be one of the outstanding essays that the reviewer will be reading.

It would have been nice to find out if you had won the music competition though. We know you made it to the final round thanks to improvisation, but nothing after that. By the way, I really do not think that you need to explain what improvisation is to the reviewer. He already knows the meaning. The explanation just distracts the reviewer from the focus of your essay. Never place anything in the essay that will distract or break the flow of reading in the essay. Try to keep it smooth flowing and easy to read. No distractions as much as possible :-)

There is also no need to mention your fencing competitions since you did not really have an opportunity to expound upon that. Even without it, the reader can easily understand why you would consider improvisation a talent though. It is already crystal clear to the reader how you plan on using your talent during your college days.
OP davidy 1 / 4 2  
Oct 8, 2015   #3
Hi Louisa, thank you for you compliment :)

Yes, I was thinking about deleting the definition of the word "improvisation", what if I change the 3rd paragraph into:
Improvisation is widely used in jazz, but I also have been applying this skill (talent) to many areas in my life, for example: a competition. (and then is the paragraph about the China thinks big competition)

Does it sounds better?
vangiespen - / 4,137 1449  
Oct 8, 2015   #4
That will definitely work Chen. However, I would just consistently use the word talent instead of skill. That way the reviewer will know that you do not consider your ability anything less than that, a talent. Not everyone is capable of improvisation so yes, it is a talent and not a skill.

One such example of a non-jazz improvisation could be a competition.
- Instead of that line, why don't you instead say something along the lines of "Improvisation was the one talent that helped me overcome a pivotal moment in my life..." then segue into the Harvard competition story? Do you think that will work better?

I discovered that, in music, academic, sports and everyday life, things usually don't work out exactly as I expected
- Don't you think the effect of the sentence becomes stronger if you omit those little details? Make it seem like improvisation is a talent that can be applied anytime and during any situation in life. Just a suggestion for you to consider :-)

When facing unexpected situation, most people would stop and start all over again, I don't.
- I would add a line saying "I improvise and successfully deal with the situation". I just felt like that line was needed there :-)

Here's hoping my additional suggestions work for you :-) Good luck with your application.
EF_Carol - / 145 39  
Oct 8, 2015   #5
This essay is well done, in general. However, I do think you took liberties with the form. While you present an interesting story...it was fun watching the audience...

I think you should introduce your essay topics is the first paragraph. You should list what's going to be in the essay, to start it off right.

Then you can tell your first story, about the talent show.

start and stop all over...

This is your strength that you don't do that! You are able to improvise. I think your repetition of this point is well placed, and that you do a good job of answering the question. Just write in a more classic intro to go with your classy essay!

Good job!

ef _carol
OP davidy 1 / 4 2  
Oct 8, 2015   #6
Thanks a lot Louisa! I already made some more changes to the latest version of my essay, and I really like the phrase "pivotal moment" :D
OP davidy 1 / 4 2  
Oct 8, 2015   #7
Hi Carol, thank you for your suggestion!
Should I probably bring my talent improvisation to the front portion of this essay? Or Do you think I can put a sentence like this at the beginning:

This is a world filled with unpredictability, but I am glad that my talent improvisation makes myself ready all the time.
justivy03 - / 2,367 607  
Oct 8, 2015   #8
@davidy, there's another student who is dong the same prompt, she goes with @PokeMonica or something like this and she got a lot of response on how to enhance the essay. I know you did too but I think it will help if you have another essay to get some ideas from or comparison at least. Now, let's see if you want to include the sentence to your essay, let's have a look at the outcome.

- This is a world filled with unpredictability, but I am glad that my impromptu talent improvisation makes myself ready all the time.
( this is what I think for the first sentence that you want to add a s a header for your essay, let me know what you think )

- Everything was going just fine;, every note flew out from my saxophone,
- ...at least improvising is better than to stopping the performance unnaturally.
- The judges' comment was...
- They were feeling all kinds of pressure;, two...

Well, there you have it. a few corrections and just a reminder for future writing pieces, use a comma instead of a semi colon in breaking your sentences. Though semi colon help in separating specific elements of your essay, a comma is what you need to stress out words and phrases in your sentences.
OP davidy 1 / 4 2  
Oct 8, 2015   #9
Sure, I would have a look on that :)

I think I would keep the word improvisation throughout the essay. I have been using the same word in other parts in my essay as well, I wanna keep it consistent.

For some semi colons, I agree the change in "They were feeling all kinds of pressure...", but for "everything was going just fine; every note.." I think in here the semi-colon should be used in order to separate two independent ideas. (yea I agree that comma is probably what I need to stress out words, but I am not sure if they are grammatically correct...)
justivy03 - / 2,367 607  
Oct 9, 2015   #10
@davidy, I'm glad I was able to help, and it's absolutely fine to keep the word "improvisation" through out your essay, remember that this is just a suggestion and it's still your final revision that will matter in the end.

Now, when it comes to the confusion on the punctuation marks, this does not affect the grammar of your sentences because punctuations marks are use to stress and to give life to your sentences, notice that when the exclamation point is used, the one who reads the sentences feel a happy mood or a spark of joyful feeling, this is the purpose of this little addition to your sentences and believe me, they help a lot, specially in sending the right message across to your readers.

There you have it, you still have your final revision to do, I leave you to do that for now and I hope to read the final one of your essay.

Best of luck to you!
justivy03 - / 2,367 607  
Oct 10, 2015   #11
@davidy, the word "suddenly" is fine, it's an addition to your essay and it makes it feel urgent and surprising at the same time. Adding a few words that will spice up your essay is always good.

Though there are still a lot of words to play with, I run through your essay and I believe you are good to go, ready for submission.

Do let us know what comes out of this all - out effort, we would love to hear from you.

In the future, I wish to see more writing pieces from you, it doesn't necessarily have to be an essay, it can be any piece of writing that you can post here on EF, you can be a good writer and this is also because you listen to what is being taught to you and you learn from it.

That's about it for now!

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