When I first heard this word, I thought it was a career, so I always said “I’ll be a prodigy, when I grow up.” The moment I learnt the meaning… sadness.
What does it mean, then? According to Encyclopedia Britannica “A child prodigy is a child who, by about age 10, performs at the level of a highly trained adult in a particular sphere of activity or knowledge. In this sense, neither high intelligence nor eccentric skills by themselves qualify a child as a prodigy”.
Mozart is a very well known prodigy. The list goes on with Paganini, Liszt, Beethoven, Rubinstein, Wieniaski, Yehudi Menuhin and Yo-Yo Ma. These were all accepted as exceptionally musically gifted at a very young age. Others absolutely amaze us, not so much because of their sheer talent or confidence, but because of their far greater ability to move us with their musical sensitivity.
Lucie Renaud, warning against the abuse and misuse of some of these children’s talents says in her article “Some prodigies seem like well-trained circus animals”. She sets young prodigy Maria-Elisabeth Lott as an example of a sad child prodigy. Maria does not enjoy spending time with her friends because herparents want her to practice all the time in order to become better and better. Itzhak Perlman, a violin genius, blames parents who impose their own lives on their children as they want to achieve fame through their child. When we look into the studies which show parent pressure on child prodigies, we see many examples of its harmful effects. Jennifer Capriati is an example of “withered prodigy” (www.articlesbase.com/parenting-articles/natural-nurturing-parenting-prodigies-767040.html#ixzz185CH3U9H). She became the youngest Wimbledon semi-finalist in 1991 at 15 and in 1994 she was caught for possessing a prohibited drug called marijuana. Chandra Sekhar, another example, was pressurized so much by his parents he became the youngest person to pass the Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer tests at age 10 in the year 2000. In 2003, he is believed to have joined an elite group of scientists to work on the hacker-proof security systems for India’s major computer networks.
Bedri Baykam (right), born in 1957, started painting when he was 2 years old. He had his first exhibitions at six, in Ankara, Bern, and Geneva. He was noted as a child prodigy in the 1960’s by European and American art centers.
Idil Biret (left), started music when she was two years old, and was masterfully playing the preludes of Bach when she was four. In 1948, when she was only seven years old, the second president of Turkey, Izmit Inonu, asked the parliament to consider her as a child prodigy and issue a law, to sponsor her in the Paris Conservatory. She gave her first French recital when she was 8.
Fazil Say (below), born in 1970, started playing the piano when he was 3. He was not only masterfully playing the piano, but also composing ingenious pieces of music.
Mertol Demirelli (featured image), is a child prodigy born in 1995. He is currently studying at Bilkent University Music Academy. He started playing music when he was 5, and began withthe piano; he received his first prize when he was 6. He played at Carnegie Hall when he was 7, and played Mozart’s Eleventh Concerto at 8. When he was only 10, he joined Idil Biret in playing Bach’s piano concerto. At 16, he still continues to impress the world as a young child prodigy.
Lucie Renaud suggests that the responsibility is mostly on the educators because they are the experts and they need to warn the parents about their children and how they should be helping and assisting them. Educators, however, also complain that parents can sometimes be very determined to force their children and educators themselves cannot help.