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What advantage is there to being a, "child prodigy" #501124 01/16/09 05:28 PM
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xxmynameisjohnxx Offline OP
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I've notice that a number of famous pianists were once considered child prodigy's. I was just wanting to know what you considered the advantages and disadvantages of being one is.
From what I've seen, but the time that they are of an adult age, all the normal musicians have basically caught up to them in technique and musical ability. What do you think? It seems that although they may have a huge advantage over other young children, when everything is done they're at about the same level as other professional pianists.
I guess the biggest advantage I can see is already having a name for yourself...not needing to make one. That's always a plus.
But what do you consider the advantages and disadvantages of being a Child Prodigy?


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Re: What advantage is there to being a, "child prodigy" #501125 01/16/09 06:26 PM
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I knew a fellow in college whom I would consider a prodigy. Everyone else did. He was thirteen years old and a year behind me in college, and said to be able to play all 32 LVB sonatas by memory. I don't know how many "normal" musicians ever learn all 32 LVB sonatas by memory. Seems abnormal to me at any age. He was ahead of us all musically, and he stayed there.

Socialization was the downside. He was thirteen and was beginning to think about girls, and all the girls around him were nineteen or twenty, and stood a foot and a half taller than he did. He had a rough time making friends.

Tomasino


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Re: What advantage is there to being a, "child prodigy" #501126 01/16/09 06:44 PM
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I think it is an extraordinarily difficult situation.

For a few years you are the 'star'. As others catch up to your abilities you are no longer the center of attention. That can be a difficult adjustment.

Beyond that point there are two possibilities: you have to achieve beyond your (already considerable) accomplishments - it can be a very daunting task to live up to everyone else's expectations. You have to work twice as hard.

The other possibility is that you peak at an early age and the rest of your life fails to meet your expectations. frown

Neither scenario is particulary pleasant.


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Re: What advantage is there to being a, "child prodigy" #501127 01/16/09 06:49 PM
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It is perhaps beyond the bounds of your original question, but I have often wondered about the effect of the 'child prodigy' on the careers (or potential careers) of musicians who were not prodigies.

You can't help but think the ubiquitous biographies of soloists that talk about starting the piano (or violin, or whatever) at age 3 and soloing with the "____" Symphony on some outrageously difficult concerto at age 8, have an effect on non-prodigies who are trying to make careers.

If I was a teenager, thinking of a potential career as a professional musician, I would assume that if I didn't already _have_ the career started, and was not playing pro-level rep and winning good competitions, then the hundreds of teenagers out there who *are* would be way ahead of me, so why bother?

Intellectually I realize that it doesn't work that way, but it reminds me of the reason I did not choose to complete my PhD (in another field)...hundreds of stellar applicants for each low pay/long hours job....people with way better CVs than I could have, fighting for part-time, adjunct jobs.

In the violin world, you have people like Midori, who, if memory serves, had a complete, world-class career as a solo violinist as a child and teenager, and ditched most of it to go get a psychology degree in her 20's and have a second, 'normal' career.


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Re: What advantage is there to being a, "child prodigy" #501128 01/16/09 06:50 PM
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Re: What advantage is there to being a, "child prodigy" #501129 01/16/09 07:10 PM
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FWIW Midori was touring the US just a year or so ago. She did not ditch her violinist career but decided to try out other things. She is currently chairs the Strings Department at a music college.


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Re: What advantage is there to being a, "child prodigy" #501130 01/16/09 07:13 PM
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I've met a few at some of the bigger competitions I play in. They always seem to take the top prize.

At 15, I consider myself an average pianist for my age. And although when I was younger, I sometimes wished I was a prodigy, now a days, I wouldn't have it any other way. I couldn't imagine the pressure.

Matt

Re: What advantage is there to being a, "child prodigy" #501131 01/16/09 07:24 PM
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i would rather be a child prodigy than a prodigal child anyday.


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Re: What advantage is there to being a, "child prodigy" #501132 01/16/09 07:33 PM
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I think many of the advantages and disadvantages discussed here apply. A few more I would add:
-people who have had a huge amount of public performance experience by age 12 seem to possess a certain degree of security on stage for the rest of their lives that it is very difficult for 'non-prodigies' to catch up to.

It is unusual for commercially successful prodigies to become fully-developed, world-class artists later on. It happens, but not nearly as frequently as burnout, quitting, etc.

Let us take two examples of well-know concert pianists, Dimitros Sgouros, and Leif Ove-Andsnes.

They are both almost exactly the same age. The former was among the biggest and most commercially successful prodigies of the century. He played Rach 3 in Carnegie hall at the age of 13 under the baton of Rostropovich. Andsnes played in the school brass band, and was anything but a prodigy. Talented and hardworking, but only started practicing hard in his early teens (by which time Sgouros had practiced well over 10,000 hours and memorized a good fraction of the standard repertoire).

Look at them now: Sgouros tours eastern Europe and plays quite a bit in his native Greece. Andsnes has one of the biggest careers around right now. Both are the same age, with completely different trajectories.

It is difficult for the great prodigies like Sgouros and Kissin to improve in their late teens/early twenties. When you played SO well at age 12, not only have you created such high expectations for your own future, but there simply isn't much more you can do (besides develop artistically-not easily done when you are already a hardened veteran of the world stage while going into puberty).

Others catch up quickly-Leif, for example. Sara Chang and Midori don't sound that great these days if you haven't noticed. There are plenty of young pianists out there who play much better than Kissin.

Being a prodigy has its advantages and disadvantages. Many great musicians have commented that the life of a prodigy is not the right environment for great artistry to develop. Too many concerts to learn new repertoire, too many concerts to study the music of other instruments, symphonies, string quartets, operas, read literature, poetry, watch plays, develop socially, etc. All of these things are central to living human experience in the richest and most fulfilling manner. It is this experience that is the breeding ground for truly great artistry to develop.

Re: What advantage is there to being a, "child prodigy" #501133 02/05/09 11:13 AM
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Quote
Originally posted by whippen boy:
I think it is an extraordinarily difficult situation.

For a few years you are the 'star'. As others catch up to your abilities you are no longer the center of attention. That can be a difficult adjustment.

Beyond that point there are two possibilities: you have to achieve beyond your (already considerable) accomplishments - it can be a very daunting task to live up to everyone else's expectations. You have to work twice as hard.

The other possibility is that you peak at an early age and the rest of your life fails to meet your expectations. frown

Neither scenario is particulary pleasant.
Yes, this point was brought up by some lady (I can't remember her name at the moment) who studies and wrote a book about child prodigies of all fields. She said many of them fail once they become adults. She stated something like "at the moment they will look at this kid say wow. But when he's 13/14 they don't care. If they don't break through to the next level it will leave them empty/depressed".

She was on a show about Marc Yu. "my brilliant brain: episode 1".
There is a google-video link to this. I'll have a look later.

On the other hand I think its wonderful when someone it born with a talent and gets the opportunity to nurture it.

Re: What advantage is there to being a, "child prodigy" #501134 02/05/09 07:45 PM
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It would also depend if the child's talent was supported and nurtured by the family and if they had the resources to provide traditional technical training and reading and the ear.

A prodigy would also need the passion to study, the chemically mental and physical energy to develop the gift and hopefully develop the necessary social skills to prevent isolation among friends and peers. A prodigy could feel out of place among others, considered "weird" or eccentric in social circles.

The movie "Shine" which was the story of classical pianist David Helfgott, a prodigy himself, had some real problems and issues growing up and with his father. This example cannot however be considered the normal plan of a particular prodidgy
in their future sucess.

Re: What advantage is there to being a, "child prodigy" #501135 02/06/09 01:19 AM
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Well definately one advantage is the vast amount of repertoire that can be learned compared to a pianist of more average ability.

As well as feeling absolutely comfortable performing.

Although, I would reason that only a minority of child prodigies make it through to playing professionally for life, it does seem the most famous of concert pianists were once child prodigies.

Are there any great concert pianists that were not? To me it's almost a prerequisite.


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Re: What advantage is there to being a, "child prodigy" #501136 02/06/09 01:23 AM
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Quote
Originally posted by tomasino:
I knew a fellow in college whom I would consider a prodigy. Everyone else did. He was thirteen years old and a year behind me in college, and said to be able to play all 32 LVB sonatas by memory. I don't know how many "normal" musicians ever learn all 32 LVB sonatas by memory. Seems abnormal to me at any age. He was ahead of us all musically, and he stayed there.

Socialization was the downside. He was thirteen and was beginning to think about girls, and all the girls around him were nineteen or twenty, and stood a foot and a half taller than he did. He had a rough time making friends.

Tomasino
Do you know what became of him?


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Re: What advantage is there to being a, "child prodigy" #501137 02/06/09 02:28 AM
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We see prodigies (obviously) in other areas too, and one only has to look at the case of Brad Renfro.

Very sad. The best movie he ever made was his first, from 1992, The Client with Susan Sarandon and Tommy Lee Jones. Utterly amazing, this young actor seemed to have had it all. Yet I saw many of his subsequent films and none of them had any of that 'magic'.

Mr. Renfro made a supreme effort at becoming a great actor- and he had plenty of work- but it was all clearly the case of a child prodigy not fulfilling his early promise.

The drug use was well known -I had hoped he would get over that- but the 'demons' finally won over and he passed on several years ago. What a tragic waste, I really felt betrayed, much like River Pheonix several years prior.


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Re: What advantage is there to being a, "child prodigy" #501138 02/06/09 03:26 AM
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I think actors are a different case. All a young actor has is money and recognition, but did it really take a lot of work or discipline to get there? I don't think so. That's why they fall so quickly, when they lose the public's attention they have nothing.

Re: What advantage is there to being a, "child prodigy" #501139 02/06/09 10:06 AM
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I think a person's prodigious talent matters most at a young age when their musical world consists largely of lessons and competitions.

When prodigies hit adolescence, they face the same issues that affect all teenage pianists - to what extent the piano contributes to your identity and whether or not it's going to be a hobby or a career.

Once college comes and pianists move out of the competition world and into the professional world, it becomes less and less about how well you play and more and more about personality, business sense, and the role your playing will have in your career.

I know someone who was a prodigy at a young age who is now a stay-at-home-mom, one who's now a college piano professor, one who's a private piano teacher, one who quit piano and joined the army, one who quit piano and one went to med school.

In other words, prodigies are just like everyone else. Some are completely happy, and some are miserable. Some are very successful musically, and some choose to do other things.

Asking whether or not being a prodigy is an advantage is kind of like asking whether or not being male is an advantage in the business world:

Of course it's an advantage. But plenty of men fail miserably and plenty of women do very, very well. smile


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Re: What advantage is there to being a, "child prodigy" #501140 02/07/09 12:31 AM
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Interesting topic.

I don't know much about the musical prodigy experience, but I did go to the SC Governor's School for Science and Math, which is now rated in the top 10 public high schools in the nation.

Yeah, we all had really high SAT scores. Still, everyone has followed their own unique path. We did not all become doctors, lawyers, or college professors, and thank goodness for that! I've found in my own life, after going through some major ups and downs, that doing something that makes you happy and builds your relationship with others is all that really matters. I'm pretty sure my high school friends, and for that matter anyone, all are on that never-ending search for better happiness.

To paraphrase - "If I play Rachmaninoff and have not love, I am like a clanging cymbal."


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Re: What advantage is there to being a, "child prodigy" #501141 02/07/09 12:40 AM
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Quote
Originally posted by izaldu:
I think actors are a different case. All a young actor has is money and recognition, but did it really take a lot of work or discipline to get there? I don't think so.
How do you know that? Are you also an actor? Methinks you oversimplify... quite considerably...


Jason
Re: What advantage is there to being a, "child prodigy" #501142 02/07/09 01:34 AM
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Quote
Originally posted by argerichfan:
Quote
Originally posted by izaldu:
I think actors are a different case. All a young actor has is money and recognition, but did it really take a lot of work or discipline to get there? I don't think so.
How do you know that? Are you also an actor? Methinks you oversimplify... quite considerably...
I agree argerichfan. It takes a lot of work and discipine to learn and succeed as a great actor. There are a lot of crappy actors out there though, that happened to get a break because of who they know for example, maybe that is what izaldu is talking about.


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Re: What advantage is there to being a, "child prodigy" #501143 02/07/09 01:53 AM
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Quote
Originally posted by pianobuff:
There are a lot of crappy actors out there though, that happened to get a break because of who they know for example, maybe that is what izaldu is talking about.
Thanks, and maybe izaldu hadn't thought it 'through'. I watched The Client many times -definitely a favourite film- and I always found Brad Renfro's performance an absolute marvel. To me, I didn't see much difference from a young prodigy playing Rachmaninov 3. Renfro's performance in The Client was of true 'virtuoso' proportions. Watch his interaction with Sarandon... she was reportedly awestruck.


Jason
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