Child superstars: The prodigy tale
Children are great … sometimes. But in this particular case, they are amazing. Join us in an exploration of the fascinating world of musical prodigies and the magic of their music.
So what makes a prodigy?
A prodigy is any child who exhibits amazing talent and professional abilities before they have reached 10 years of age. Researchers are throwing theories around about how such gifted children come to be – is it something in their biological mix that makes them special or is it just the fact that they have been studying and practicing real hard to get to where they are? Joanne Ruthsatz, a psychologist at Ohio State University, has been actively researching child prodigies and has found that memory plays a great role. She did a study on 8 prodigies and found out that their working memory ability was exceptional – better than that of 99% of the rest of us ordinary folk. Also, she found out that child prodigies have a great attention to detail and have a high IQ, on average – 128. Interestingly enough the other thing that sets child prodigies apart, according to Ruthsatz, is their altruism, which is considerably higher than that of the general population.
Ruthsatz also notes that true prodigies are really rare, sometimes 1 in 10 million rare. Child prodigies appear to most frequently excel in rule-based spheres such as mathematics, chess and of course music.
After learning a bit more about what makes a prodigy, let’s dive into history and rediscover child prodigies who have come to do amazing things and in the process have become household names.
Famous child prodigies
From the olden times
I think we can all agree on who the King of child prodigies is – a chap known by the name of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Just to refresh your memory – he was playing the violin at 4, composing music at 5 and at 11 was performing at renowned venues and creating magnificent piano concertos left and right. I remember when I was four I used to have real difficulties taking off a dress – I got lost in it rather quickly.
Frederic Chopin was also blessed with the ability to make great music at a tender age. He was performing and composing music at the age of 7, which made him very famous among the elite in Warsaw.
Vincenzo Bellini was singing arias when he was 1 and a half years old. Apparently, he began studying music theory when he was 2. I am sure the rest of us were exploring our drool in great detail when we were two. Bellini composed his first piece at the age of six and then went on to have an amazing career. I dare you not to shed a tear while listening to “Norma”:
Some other classical musicians who were also child prodigies include Georges Bizet, Teresa Milanollo, Franz Schubert, Felix Mendelssohn, Franz Liszt and Sergei Prokofiev.
Contemporary child talents
Our day and age are in no way lacking an abundance of extraordinary musical talent that started exhibiting their skills at a young age.
Stevie Wonder at a very early age showed great ability in playing various musical instruments and also exhibited an impressive singing voice. He got signed with Motown Records when he was 11 years old, and the rest is history.
Björk dived into the study of classical music when she was 6 years old. At age 12 she released her first album of traditional Icelandic folk songs after signing with a record label. Here is a feel-good tune from Björk to improve your mood and get you dancing:
The child prodigies of today
So let us get to know two of the incredible talents that are now taking the music scene by storm.
Alma Deutcher is a pristine violin and piano player, who has composed sonatas and a full-length opera. Surprise, surprise, she is 10. She started playing the piano when she was 2, and at the age of 3 started learning the violin after her father gave her one for her birthday. Apparently, less than a year later she was playing Handel sonatas.
Sadly, some critics have come to dismiss young Alma and her music, noting that her age was restricting her from creating mature and sophisticated pieces. Critics are the best, aren’t they? Alma has responded that she would like people to take her art seriously, despite the fact that she is just 10 years old. Others have compared her to Mozart, to which she basically replied – no, thank you, I want to be Alma, not Mozart. That is badass.
Here you can enjoy Deutscher’s concerto for violin and orchestra, which she composed at age 9 and is performing herself:
Joey Alexander is enjoying an amazing career in music and he is only 12 years old. He started playing the piano at 6 and was immediately able to replicate old jazz songs by ear. Even though he hasn’t had any formal jazz training, his inherent musicality and the inspiration from his favourite musicians dictated his style. He released his first album in 2015, entitled “My Favourite Things”, which debuted at 174 on the US Billboard 2000 chart. Joey is performing all over the place, most recently at the 58th Grammy awards, where his performance got him a standing ovation. Check it out here:
Make sure to also listen to his incredible performance at TED:
Music transcends age. No matter how old you are, we at Drooble invite you to let your inner child out and allow him or her to guide you into creating some amazing music.