Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Where are They Now?

The life of a child prodigy through the window of YouTube is very different from the lives of child prodigies of decades past. I do like to keep up and watch my favorite YouTube kids develop.

The five-year-old who played an impressive and expressive Bach Gigue

is now nine, and playing a Chopin Waltz.

Then there's Umi Garrett who played a highly-impressive Gnomenreigen at eight,

a slightly faster Gnomenreigen at nine,

and she has also been playing chamber music.


Marjorie Kransberg-Talvi said...

All the so-called "child prodigies" I've personally known throughout my life have suffered serious setbacks. The little girls are so adorable in their flouncy dresses, aren't they? One former child star told me that her mother asked a physician if there was a way to delay physical development, the onset of menstruation, etc.

Behind many "prodigies" is a monster for a parent.
I would never, never exploit my child.

Elaine Fine said...

Thanks for your wise comment Margie. You have been there (aren't you glad that YouTube wasn't around when you were a kid?)

My hope is that for these girls it might be different. My hope is that they will grow as musicians, and that they are not playing mainly for approval. I KNOW that hope is useless. It is so tough to have any kind of musical innocence in the YouTube age. Really tough, particularly when you can so easily "go pro" through the computer in your home.

At a time when you could be exploring all of life's possibilities, which can best be done through anonymity, trial, and error, you have a "public" (in addition to your parents) that has expectations of you.

Erik K said...

Like Ms. Kransberg-Talvi, the overwhelming majority of my work with child prodigies has mostly made me a bit sad. It's like on a video game where you can create your own character and you hve 100 "attribute" points to assign...and you give all 100 to music. I can't think of a single one I've worked with who had even mildly decent social interaction skills; mostly looked straight to the floor, accepted congratulations with a slump of the shoulders, etc. There just seemed to be no spark in them, aside from when they were at the piano or with their instrument. I hope these girls have a more positive experience.

Elaine Fine said...

The "burnout" rate for the very young "stars" seems to be pretty high. There's one I have watched who seemed to have reached a peak at four, and another who is doing the commercial thing (or has parents who are doing the commercial thing) in a big way, but I notice nothing in the way of musical growth.

Developing as a musician takes a lifetime. Developing as a person takes a lifetime. If you rush the process, you are in danger of creating problems.

I speak from the perspective of a person who spent far too little time being a child and progressed too quickly into adulthood.