In November 2019, a 40-year-old mother in Mississippi was surprised to learn that one of her children received a full scholarship. Nicole Jackson works hard to put food on the table and to stay current on paying off a couple of loans she took out to keep her 21-year-old daughter in college, but she will not have to worry about the higher education of her son Jeremiah Travis, a musically gifted 5-year old child. Though young Jeremiah is not expected to graduate from high school until the year 2032, he has already been granted a full scholarship at Alcorn State University.
NBA fans who attend the home games of the New Orleans Pelicans have already seen Jeremiah play the snare drum during halftime shows; he has a deep sense of rhythm, but the reason he caught the attention of the music department at Alcorn State is because it is obvious that he wants to learn. Whenever older drummers play a new beat, Jeremiah becomes serious and shows great interest in learning. He has not even enrolled in elementary school yet, but he is showing an uncanny dedication to music, one that could lead him to become the next Bernard Purdie, Phil Collins, or Max Roach.
Signs of Musical Gifts
According to Jeremiah’s mother, she first noticed her son’s proclivity when he was about three years old; he would beat on the carpeted floor while keeping a rhythm, and he later turned toys such as building blocks into percussion instruments. By the age of four, the focus on drumming was so strong that Jeremiah would lose interest in video games after about five minutes unless they were music and rhythm games such as Rock Band for the Sony PlayStation 3; what he really wanted to do was play drums.
In Jeremiah’s case, it was easy for his mother to pick up on his deep interest as a sign of being gifted. Here are some other signs you may want to look for in order to determine if your little ones have a potential of becoming prodigies:
An Inclination to Match Pitch
This is a sign that can be observed right from the crib, and it is a good reason why you should sing lullabies and play melodic sounds: Some babies are actually able to utter sounds in an effort to match the pitch they perceive, and some of them may actually try to sing along even though their vocal chords and cognitive capacity are not yet fully developed.
A Preference for Complex Music
You have probably heard that the works of Mozart have the potential of stimulating intellectual development in babies and toddlers; while the precise reason why this happens has not been ascertained, some children tend to fall in love with sophisticated compositions from a very early age. If you notice your child becoming upset when Mozart stops playing, this could be a sign that he or she really enjoys masterful music. You can also try different genres to see if your baby enjoys musical complexity such as:
* John Coltrane’s “Ascension” album.
* Bonnie Raitt instrumentals.
* Richard Strauss’ “A Hero’s Life”
Children who prefer the musical pieces above over the “Baby Shark” song are showing a predilection for complex music, and this is a sign that they will likely enjoy a music curriculum during early education.
When American drummer Bernard Purdie was a child growing up in Maryland, he listened to the beats of nature and life in general; he found rhythm in everyday sounds, and by the age of six his parents decided to give him a drum kit as a means of upgrading from cans that he used to hit with sticks.
This is known as vertical listening, and you may be able to notice it in your child if he or she focuses on just one instrument.
Children who move or hum along to bass lines, or who start beating in sync with the drums, are showing an understanding of music, one that would be worth stimulating.
This sign is easier to observe as children grow up, and it is easier to notice when the following happens:
* They become pensive when they hear haunting music such as Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata.”
* They smile or laugh when a song such as Pharrell Williams’ “Happy” plays.
* They get overly attached to a toy musical instrument to the point that they want to take it to bed with them for the night.
What is interesting about emotional intelligence is that it may not always be a sign of musical genius, but it certainly suggests intellectual sophistication that should be developed.
Talent Versus Skill
When children get a toy piano or a set of desk bells, one of the first tunes they learn to play is “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.”
When they are able to play this familiar melody soon after hearing it, this could be indicative of talent. If they do not get it the first time around but insist on playing the tune until they get it right, this may suggest skill.
Talent is innate; skill must be developed over time, but both situations deserve attention and an opportunity to participate in musical education.
How Parents Should Foster the Lives of Musical Prodigies
If you become aware of one or more of the signs above, it is important to be proactive without falling into certain mistakes.
First of all, you must keep in mind that children can turn interests into obsessions if they solely focus on their gifts instead of being exposed to a well-rounded development; to this effect, socialization and playing with other children should be highly encouraged.
Second, you should avoid falling into irrational expectations; no one can predict the future, and there is always a chance that a child may develop a greater passion for another activity down the line.
Just like with all other disciplines, musical education should be an age-appropriate endeavor. While giving a prospective musical prodigy a second-hand instrument is a good idea, it is better for these children to follow programs that are adequate to their age.
Colorful and friendly instruction is the way to go, and this is the approach followed by Prodigies, a program that is unique because it focuses on more than just music; it also stimulates movement, song, and other life skills.
Musically gifted children respond well to Prodigies because they can easily assimilate music theory and the language of music. Internalizing musical notes and the way they affect our lives is crucial during early stages of development, and this is what the Prodigies program offers to children between the ages of 3 and 12.