Can you create prodigies or are they born? I'm mostly curious how teachers handle a student like this, and what methods they would use.

Please give credentials before you answer.

Edit 1: I was thinking it might help if I created a case. Let's say the student is 3 years old, shows incredible ability to learn and perform works on the piano, and the parents are on board. How can a teacher turn this child into a prodigy?

Edit 2: People misunderstood what I meant by 'credentials' (My own fault for not being clear enough!). By credentials, I want to know: your teaching experience in years, and if you've actually been able to teach a prodigy.

For example, my creds would be: Have taught piano at both a larger studio and my own private studio for a little over 10 years, I've also taught some online YouTube music lessons, skype lessons. My greatest success with a student was a 15 year old who in 3 years went from beginner piano up to Liszt Hungarian Rhapsody no 2, without skipping anything, and placing either 1st or 2nd in competitions against students who had been playing 10+ years.

People were wanting me to define what a prodigy is: The google definition is: a person, especially a young one, endowed with exceptional qualities or abilities. "a Russian pianist who was a child prodigy in his day" As an example: I'd consider someone like Emily Bear to fit with that, but there are many other examples.

The essence of what I'm wanting to know is, When a child prodigy is being taught, how does the teacher take advantage of the prodigy's talents, and not waste the opportunity? What is a good practice regime? Should they be taught a different method which skips some elements, or the same method and let the prodigy accelerate their own progress due to their natural abilities?

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    Can you instead of giving a hypothetical, give an example of a pianist that you consider a prodigy? In my teaching experience, the single greatest factor in how much and how quickly a student learns is their love for the instrument and the playing of it, which leads to increased practice time. As long as a student does not injure themselves, practice is king. Having perfect pitch also seems to help, but practice is more important by a lot. – Todd Wilcox Sep 5 '16 at 22:00
  • What sort of credentials should we present before answering? A teaching degree? Or would book work on known, past cases be sufficient? – Andy Sep 6 '16 at 7:31
  • The term prodigy assumes inborn talent. Therefore they are born like that. The 3 yr old is already a prodigy - perhaps an undiscovered one, but nevertheless a prodigy. " When I was teaching young Wolfgang, I had a heck of a job keeping up with him". Our credentials or those of the prodigies we've discovered? – Tim Sep 6 '16 at 7:44
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    They completely forgo all other parts of a healthy childhood. – Neil Meyer Sep 6 '16 at 8:13
  • "Can you create prodigies or are they born?" I think your search for musical "credentials" is misplaced...understanding what makes a prodigy a "prodigy" is probably more a study in either semantics and or science, depending on where you see the issue. – Beska May 29 at 0:01

Prodigies cannot be created - except at conception. The term is used for people who have an innate ability. Few are so blessed, which is one reason they are so remarkable. They are taught so quickly because they are prodigies.

Credentials are irrelevant for this question, unless I'm missing something.

Handling cases like this can be a mixed blessing. A prodigy will learn extremey fast, but could either be a perfectionist or someone who 'gets that concept', but needs to move swiftly on to the next, thus not feeling the need to play a piece perfectly. Good or bad? your decision.

Keeping up is difficult, not because the prodigy knows more than the teacher, but because he will often leave the teacher on a point, which he thinks he understands, although the teacher is aware of subsequent implications that need covering; the prodigy happy that he knows all about that part.

It's a balancing act between keeping the challenges coming, and ensuring that the prodigy actually understands enough to build on. Although, for me, understanding everything just isn't necessary. If you disagree with that - you drive a car, don't you? Please explain how the gearbox works. Oh, you can't - so you aren't a very good driver, then...

There is great pleasure to be derived from teaching a prodigy, but it's also very, very hard work.

  • What's your background? How long have you taught? What's the greatest success you've achieved with a student? What methods did you use to attain success? Break down those methods so we could try them ourselves with our own students. Thank you. ^_^ – afurmanczyk Sep 7 '16 at 19:45
  • +1 for this solid extensive answer. (Okaaay, maybe the +1 is partly influenced by "Prodigies cannot be created, except at conception") :) – user45266 Dec 4 '18 at 5:23

(I feel like the "credentials" thing is a red herring. I've seen music theory "teachers" on here confused by first-semester concepts. So I'm not addressing it.)

My understanding of this word in English is that the very definition of "prodigy" implies some pretty serious innate abilities. So it's less about teaching children quickly and more about child prodigies simply not needing much teaching in order to get to a high level.

Thus it's less about "turning" a child into a prodigy and more about the child winning the genetic lottery.

A child prodigy of course needs good teachers in order to reach the highest level, but in the case of the prodigy, the initial talent comes from the student him/herself. In your case, if the three-year old shows an incredible ability to learn and perform, they may already have this (woefully undefined) "prodigy" status. Find them a university teacher, quick.

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    I, and probably others, need to know why this has been downvoted. Try to give a reason - otherwise it looks like trolls. – Tim Sep 6 '16 at 7:30
  • (Credentials was just so I have an idea of your background. I don't care about degrees, so much as actual experience.) I'd like a suggested practice regiment as an answer. – afurmanczyk Sep 7 '16 at 19:38
  • @Tim I agree. This got a +1 from me; I cannot understand why it deserved two downvotes. To be fair, though, it may have resulted from OP's question seemingly being bypassed (the question is being refuted, which may have been misunderstood). – user45266 Dec 4 '18 at 5:27

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