Perhaps the most exceptional child prodigy in any domain ever, was Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
Most people – including music educators – assume that the reason for Mozart’s musicality was mostly to do with genetics. They say ‘he was born musical’. But can Mozart’s precocity be explained in any other way?
Some people argue that Mozart’s musical feats can be explained rationally. It is difficult to separate fact from fiction 230 years on, but several factors help to account for his accomplishments. Mozart was immersed in a concentrated musical environment from his earliest days. His father, Leopold, was an excellent music educator and took every opportunity to earnestly promote his son’s musical ability. Stories such as that of two-year-old Wolfgang identifying the sound of pig squeals as G-sharp should be taken with a grain of salt, as they were most likely spread by his father, who was not always honest in relation to his son where music was concerned. Leopold was known to subtract a year from the ages of his children, Wolfgang and Nannerl, when advertising their performances. Leopold knew that lowering his children’s ages would augment the specialness of their appeal and perhaps enhance his own reputation as a teacher.
A close inspection of Mozart’s childhood compositions indicates assistance from his father as well as thematic material borrowed from other composers, especially Johann Christian Bach. Mozart collaborated with JC Bach in London at the age of nine when he stayed in Soho, London, for about 6 months. If we accept that these are normal processes that lead to achievement, even extraordinary achievement, then none of this is an issue. Imitation is a natural part of the learning process, and lying about a child’s age does not detract from the skills exhibited. However, it does skew the picture. Genetic pre-birth fortune cannot be ruled out, but Mozart’s early musical environment was encouraging and inspiring. Having a great passion for music—and an overbearing, micromanaging father—led him to practise for several hours a day from the age of three. It is likely that Mozart accrued 10000 hours of practice by the age of eight or nine. In other words, the quantitative component of his practice was already at an expert level, and given the expertise of his father, Mozart would have certainly been guided in the principles of ‘deliberate practise’.
from ‘Learning Strategies for Musical Success’ by Michael Griffin
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Also by Michael Griffin
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Music and Keyboard in the Classroom: Let’s Get Creative! is the fun and creative extension to ‘Fundamentals of Notation’.
View Table of Contents. “We have been using your keyboard course and the results have been amazing!” – St George College, Australia
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