- May 15, 2012
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Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Frederic Chopin and Alexander Pope, just to name a few, famous past childhood prodigies. It is always exciting to see a child prodigy in person and to feel humbled and astonished by their abilities. My family and I recently attended a symphony concert featuring Sarah Chang on violin. I told my children that I remembered her playing when she was 6 years old and that she was a childhood prodigy. My 9 year old daughter asked me what a prodigy was and I tried to explain the basic definition — a person, usually a child, who has extraordinary abilities. Then my daughter continued, “But how do they get like that?” “That’s a good question but I think they’re just born like that,” I responded. “Could I be a prodigy?” she asked. “I guess,” I answered. I really wasn’t sure of how to respond but I didn’t want to discourage her from trying.
I told my children that I remembered her playing when she was 6 years old and that she was a childhood prodigy
It started me questioning how these tiny little kids get to be so “extraordinary?” Sure they were probably born with some level of intrinsic motivation and curiosity but then what? Did they go out and buy their own piano? Did they walk down to the library to check out their own physics books? Did they purchase painting supplies on their own? Michael Jackson didn’t just go out and buy his own microphone, music equipment, and recording studio when he was 5 years old.
The answer is that someone had to go out and invest in these children’s curiosities and interests. It may have been a parent or other influential adult who took interest in this child’s curiosity. It’s not a coincidence that often many of these prodigies come from parents who were in the industry or field of interest themselves and had the instruments, books, or other materials needed already available. It made me realize that perhaps there are a lot more prodigies out there who just haven’t had access to tools or instruments that would let them shine. Unfortunately, most children’s curiosities are not reinforced, end up being unsupported and are sadly eventually forgotten. There are many creative and inexpensive resources (the library, Jr. Music programs, subsidized basketball camps, etc.) to expose your children to diverse experiences. You just have to wake up and listen to their interests and follow through. You’re the one who can make the difference in cultivating a prodigy!