Years ago I learnt to ski in Germany. The children here go to school early in the morning which means that by 2 pm they have all finished for the day, and by 14:30 have all hit the slopes. It is incredibly frustrating as beginner, snow-ploughing gingerly down a slope, to find yourself being cut up by whizzing knee-high Franz Klammers who are younger than the sunglasses that you are wearing.
If you are wondering why I’m talking about skiing rather than music, let me explain. I arrived early for my last lesson whilst the pupil before me was still finishing off. At one point she stood up, and her chin was barely above the keys, and must have been no more than six or seven years old. The term precocious sprang to mind. The dictionary definition is: exhibiting mature qualities at an unusually early age, however nowadays it is normally seen as a derogatory term. Examples being; the bratty children of your partners work colleagues, of who’s mastery of Kumon maths you hear chapter and verse on at dinner parties.
Getting back to the girl at the piano lesson; when she shuffled back onto the stool to finish off her lesson she was playing at about grade 1 level, but for a second I thought that she was going to be one of those mini Mozarts that you see on the internet. If you haven’t seen them before I urge you to look them up. Some of them are absolutely incredible, playing really complicated classical pieces to an amazing standard. They all need extension blocks so that they can reach the pedals, but regardless of this they can play better than I will be able to for a long time. But then some of these kids, even the 7 year olds, have probably put in hundreds more hours than I have. After all what else is there to occupy your time when you’re five?
It might sound from this post that I’m having a go at precociousness but I’m really not. I’m jealous, I would have loved to have started off at that age, there is a theory that younger minds pick things up more quickly than older minds, I’m not so sure about that, but children do have a lot more time on their hands than adults. So those that are introduced to an activity early, and possess a modicum of talent will naturally have a head start on the rest of us. This holds true for music as it does for skiing, and fair play to them. These skills will hopefully come to be cherished by them in the years to come.
As an example, below is a link to a 5 year old pianist Tsung Tsung: