So, I have a question for all you musicians out there reading. Particularly those of you who teach (or have taught in the past). I got into a discussion not that long ago with a new friend at our new church about whether or not there is such a phenomena as The Child Prodigy. Now in this conversation I embarrassed myself badly by being over-enthusiastic and under-articulate in stating my opinion, so I feel the need for a Do-over. Hence this blog post-- an invitation to you to join the conversation and a chance for me to redeem myself.
Here are my thoughts; I doubt many of you would disagree with me that the term "Child Prodigy" or "Child Genius" is at least waaay over-applied these days. Perhaps it always has been, but at least in modern times every child that seems to show any kind of bent toward music or drama is labeled a prodigy. I would, myself, go so far as to say that there really is no such thing. Barring, of course, the idiot savant or a child who has some other physical characteristic or mental aberration that lends itself to phenomenally improved musicianship in some way. I don't include these because I think one could perhaps accurately call these people Prodigies, but I rarely hear the term applied in situations like that. More often the term is used to refer simply to a young child who seems unusual in their focus and ability. Ie; the six-year-old playing major concertos on their toy-sized violin.
Being the good Suzuki teacher that I am, I believe that environment, encouragement, habits and parental effort have a major role to play in any child's musical development. Again, I would go so far as to say that these play a much larger role than heredity or that mystical Something that people like to ascribe to the Prodigy.
I think that you can take any child and put them into an environment that has produced a musical genius and that child will be become a musical genius. But you cannot take a musical genius and put them into any other environment and have them still develop musical genius.
I think that a child that shows remarkable abilities in the field of music and performance has nothing intrinsic to his nature, nothing mystical in his spiritual makeup that causes this, but rather that his environment has been nurturing in him a desire to excel in his field.
What do you think?