I just read an article about musical prodigies in which the author of the study claims that musical talent is nearly 50 per cent hereditary. Well so what? What is 50 per cent telling us? That if you are related to musically talented people then you are more likely than most to display musical talent? This doesn’t strike me at all as a revolutionary idea. And it was a pretty small study – only 224 people.
In contrast, I’ve read some stunning research that concluded that all human babies are born musical. It was conducted over 30 and more years at the University of Toronto Mississauga by Prof. Sandra Trehub. And furthermore, she said that musical sophistication can drop away after one year if not nurtured. Now- that’s a study! I’m happy to read about studies of talent but let them be about that – the gifted few. Most of the parents reading this belong to the majority of wonderful souls who haven’t been born gifted. Nor have they put in the 10,000 hours of piano or violin practice in childhood that make an international star. But many are amateur singers and players and are great audience members.
Here’s my advice to parents. Teach your kids music experientially, from birth but especially from the age of one. Sing, dance, play the kitchen pots and pans, take them to live music events and cavort around your living room with “classical music” turned up loud on the sound system. Music activities are the way to teach music to the young child. Start them on an instrument from about age five to seven, keep them up to daily practice of 15-30 minutes. Then you know you managed the nurture side of the story magnificently. And they won’t say to you when they are twenty-five “I wanted to play an instrument but you wouldn’t let me. I could be really talented by now.”
Let me finish with a reference to the influential music educator Shinichi Suzuki (1898-1998) whose Suzuki Method is practised worldwide. His precept is that all children are born with abilities that can be developed and enhanced in a nurturing environment. In fact his method is also known as Talent Education.
Remember, there’s nothing quite like music. It speaks to us all because we are all born musical.