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    #245685 - 06/14/19 06:53 PM Alma Deutscher (musical prodigy)
    Bostonian Offline

    Registered: 02/14/10
    Posts: 2587
    Loc: MA
    A Musical Prodigy? Sure, but Don’t Call Her ‘a New Mozart’
    By Melissa Eddy
    New York Times
    June 14, 2019

    VIENNA — Alma Deutscher has not yet become a household name, but it seems only a matter of time.

    An accomplished pianist and violinist, she is also a composer, having written concertos for piano and violin and an opera. In December, she will make her debut at Carnegie Hall, where she will play the solo violin and piano in her two concertos, while the orchestra will play selections from her opera and her most recent work, a Viennese waltz. Next month, she will record a retrospective album with Sony of piano melodies she composed going back to when she was just 4 years old.

    Which, as a matter of fact, isn’t all that long ago, because Alma Deutscher, who has been called by some “a new Mozart,” is 14.


    Born in 2005, Ms. Deutscher spent her first five years in Oxford, England, where her mother was teaching. While her parents were academics, they also loved music and would play together as a family, with her mother, Janie, on the piano and her father, Guy, on the flute. But Ms. Deutscher’s ability rapidly surpassed that of her parents.

    She received her first violin at age 3, and left her first teacher on the instrument begging to take a break after more than an hour. At 4 she would sit for hours at the piano, working out melodies she said were songs from the imaginary world she called Transylvanian. Recognizing his daughter’s extraordinary abilities, Mr. Deutscher tried to find a teacher willing to work with a preschool composer, but most turned him down. “They would say to call back in 10 years — that was those who were being polite,” he said.

    As Alma’s renown spread, the Deutschers gave up their teaching jobs and moved to Dorking, in Surrey, and devoted themselves to managing her schedule. These days, Mr. Deutscher said, there are so many people who want to work with his daughter that he spends a lot of his time fending them off. Having realized that no school would be able to meet Alma’s special needs as a budding musician and composer, her mother began home schooling her and her sister Helen, now 11. Mr. Deutscher has managed to keep one foot in the academic world, writing books on his specialty, linguistics.

    They are selective with her performance schedule, which last year included concerts in China, Germany and Switzerland, as well as several in Austria, where Ms. Deutscher has been embraced and celebrated for years. After spending months in 2016 in Vienna for rehearsals of her opera, “Cinderella,” the family decided last year to move, so the girls could learn German and Alma could indulge in the wide range of musical opportunities the city offered.


    #245686 - 06/14/19 07:24 PM Re: Alma Deutscher (musical prodigy) [Re: Bostonian]
    Portia Offline

    Registered: 03/17/13
    Posts: 1760
    Thank you for the article Bostonian.

    This type of thing has me on the soapbox so quickly, it makes my own head spin. She has 2 parents who had to quit their jobs in order to properly provide an education when those who teach in her field of interest refused to teach her. Now they homeschool so Alma can develop. Thank goodness she had 2 parents who COULD quit jobs and live in an area in which homeschool is legal. Otherwise, what would happen to her talents or the emotional well being of this particular child? How many as a society do we lose because the parents cannot quit or do not know how to find resources to support the development of a child? How can "teachers" refuse to develop talent she obviously had at a young age?

    How many times do we hear stories like this? How many of us live stories like this?

    Ok, rant over. Stepping off soapbox.

    #245687 - 06/15/19 07:15 AM Re: Alma Deutscher (musical prodigy) [Re: Bostonian]
    jckdw Offline
    Junior Member

    Registered: 09/15/17
    Posts: 29
    I don't know. What would have happened if she'd had a normal childhood and then had lots of support and teaching when she went to college and studied music then? Do you think she would have lost interest in composing, or would she just have become a well-known composer later? (I mean this as a serious question. I really don't know.) I kind of feel in these cases like I do about instrument-playing prodigies who spend their childhoods practicing instruments: the world needs musicians, but the world does not need child musicians.

    But maybe she would have lost interest. On the other hand, the world doesn't really need another composer. So I guess the question is whether in the long run, she would have been happier having had a normal childhood and a less illustrious career. How will she feel about all of this when she's 30? Or maybe her parents were reacting to a passion that was so intense she would have had a miserable childhood if her interests and talents weren't developed.

    This kind of thing is just very tricky for parents. (I mean, not that I know what it's like to parent an actual prodigy.) Like parenting in general, it's frequently impossible to know the best thing to do, and even after the fact it's impossible to know if you did the best thing. You don't get a do-over to try it again a different way. I think the only thing you can do is try to subtract all of your own ego from any decisions you make, or any thought about what other people will think, or any feeling that there is a rush or a race, and make sure you're always following your kid's passions rather than trying to lead them anywhere. The goal is not to maximize achievement but to end up with a maximally well-adjusted and fulfilled adult. Although for some very driven people this might mean max achievement, I guess.

    Anyway, Alma's parents know her best. I don't really mean to second-guess them. It's just an interesting issue in general, what to do about kids who show talent at a young age.

    #245688 - 06/15/19 07:26 AM Re: Alma Deutscher (musical prodigy) [Re: Bostonian]
    Portia Offline

    Registered: 03/17/13
    Posts: 1760
    I am confident Alma, herself, was not "pushed" by her parents. The higher likelihood is that she has a need to compose more important than breathing - the family is racing to just keep up. Denying her the freedom to compose and pursue her interests at a level determined by her would have squashed her sense of acceptance, identity, and creativity.

    She may not be a composer when she grows up, but she will contribute creatively to the world. And yes, given the issues of today's time, the world needs all the creativity it can get.

    #245689 - 06/15/19 09:18 AM Re: Alma Deutscher (musical prodigy) [Re: Bostonian]
    aeh Offline

    Registered: 04/26/14
    Posts: 3448
    I'm with Portia. One of ours has similar interests (although nowhere near the magnitude or precocity of accomplishment), and I cannot imagine holding DC back from creating and performing music, even if only for a private circle. We have been able to support those interests with time and opportunities because of our family circumstances, and, yes, because homeschooling released DC to a great deal more self-directed time.

    I see no reason to make a distinction between musicians and child musicians. There are musicians of various styles and degrees of talent (both inborn and trained). Some of them happen to be adults, and some of them happen to be child-aged. Some of the more skilled musicians are adults, and some are children. Likewise the less skilled musicians.

    There are those for whom music is their natural language. Asking them to wait until college to learn and develop it more would be like telling an early reader that you are not allowed to learn to read until first grade, and certainly not allowed to read Shakespeare or any other classic literature until you are at least 14. And by the way, stop writing stories.

    In any case, I think I can say with a fair degree of confidence that, though she could have had a different childhood than the one she has had so far, she would not have had a "normal" childhood no matter what.

    #245690 - 06/15/19 11:46 AM Re: Alma Deutscher (musical prodigy) [Re: Bostonian]
    jckdw Offline
    Junior Member

    Registered: 09/15/17
    Posts: 29
    The difference between a child musician and a musician is that a musician is an adult whose main occupation is music whereas a child musician is a child who is still learning (1) all of the other things (reading, writing, math, science), (2) social skills, and (3) who they are (a range of interests they might have if given the chance to develop them, what they like to think about, their feelings about right and wrong, etc).

    I'm not saying that talented children should be kept from pursuing their talents. Or that a child who loves music should not be allowed to play music. But most child prodigy musicians were forced by their parents to practice far more than they naturally wanted to (it doesn't sound like that happened with Alma though). That is one damaging thing. Even for kids where it is completely self-driven, I think promoting (as in, publicizing) the children is another thing that is frequently damaging. Do kids who develop talents precociously grow into adults who are more talented than the other extremely talented but less-precocious people in their field? Usually not. What does that do to their self-image?

    There's a big gap between letting an early-reading child have books and write stories (and even finding them appropriate books to read and reading the stories they write, and doing various other supportive things) and leaping upon the child and making it the family project to develop their talent and drilling them with vocabulary words and sending their stories to the newspapers.

    I don't disagree the world needs creativity. But the world is also swimming in it. I'm not saying "squash the children!" I'm just saying that a parent does not have to worry about the loss to the world if their talented kid doesn't develop their talents. That should not be one of the considerations. You worry about your kid; the world will be fine.

    Anyway, this is really not all that relevant to Alma. It does sound like her case is one of the rare ones where it was mostly child-driven.

    I recommend that everyone who's interested in this topic read "Off the Charts: the Hidden Lives and Lessons of American Child Prodigies", a book full of cautionary tales.

    #245693 - 06/17/19 04:45 AM Re: Alma Deutscher (musical prodigy) [Re: Bostonian]
    Wren Offline

    Registered: 01/14/08
    Posts: 1463
    There is a little girl named Harmony Zhu, from Toronto, whose parents moved to NYC to put her in precollege juilliard. She just plays the piano but composed seriously from the age of 5. Whether it is opportunity is more available, more people in the world, there seems to be more of these prodigies. Luckily they get the opportunities now. The problem for the rest of musicians is how do you find a spot for yourself when the bar has risen so high? And it is different than a child who is a writing prodigy. Many times they just don't have the experience to write about things. Though poetry is usually pointed to as a writing prodigy. Not the easiest thing to promote. I knew a reknown poet and he supported himself by writing movie scripts.

    #245694 - 06/17/19 07:17 AM Re: Alma Deutscher (musical prodigy) [Re: Bostonian]
    Tigerle Offline

    Registered: 07/29/14
    Posts: 589
    Loc: Europe
    I have some of her dad’s books and love them. Never mind whether the world needs more child composers, this Mama needed more well written books about linguistics!

    Edited to add I guess this is my way of saying that I fully agree with all the PPs who point out that what the world needs or doesn’t need isn’t what parents should base their decisions on when raising this apparently very very unusual child. I imagine „normal“ wasn’t ever really an option here. I hope „happy“ was the driver and will be, on balance, the eventual outcome.

    Edited by Tigerle (06/17/19 07:21 AM)


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