Every once in a while I explore the musicians under the age of 8 or so who have parent-made videos up at YouTube. Here's a little tour of the spoils of the day. The operative word here for many of the posting parents on YouTube is "genius." I prefer to think that musicality is something that is normal, particularly in a very young child who spends most of his or her time using sounds to label and explore the ever-expanding and always-interesting world of life before school and socialization.
This video of Nini's first lesson offers great insight into how really young children learn to play. Notice the Nini's mother is singing in solfege while she is playing. Nini seems genuinely pleased with what she can do, which makes this one of my favorite videos. Then we have Emily Bear who is certainly adorable and accomplished. She has remarkable stage and camera presence, and has already, at the age of six, made her way (by way of her parents, no doubt) to television and even the White House. She already has her own commercial website and has already made recordings of her own music that she sells there. I will be playing a Mozart concerto with her in April, at which point I imagine that she will be seven.
This violinist who was fearless at four has served as an inspiration to many of my beginning students. Now she is seven and seems to be equally fearless, though the musical excitement of her four-year-old crescendos may take time to get back. Her progress is preserved on YouTube for all to see. I imagine that we will all be able to follow the progress of this four-year-old pianist who gets his mature sound with the help of a nifty underfoot pedal-extending device.
I suppose that in order to "make it" in the competitive musical world of the future a lot of current parents of young children seem to think that getting an early cyber leg up is the way to go. Only time will tell.
Call me old school, but I think that growing as a musician is a kind of private matter--something to be shared with family, friends, teachers, and immediate community. The kind of musical sincerity that a lot of children enjoy (because they are young, musical, and sincere) is usually something that they themselves grow out of. Many of the teenagers and young adults I know, who were small children not too long ago, long for the innocence and irresponsibility of childhood. Many of us spend our "mature" adult lives trying to find that spark that some identify as our "inner child." Maybe that's the root of adult fascination with child prodigies. Childhood, musical or otherwise, is something that none of us can regain. It is something that slips away before our very eyes and ears.