I love Emily Bear. She’s an eight-year-old kid from Rockford, IL, who plays piano incredibly well. I also love how her story embodies some of the patterns about developing talent. Let’s set aside some of the slightly breathless storytelling of this news clip and examine the facts:
- Emily was born into an extremely musical family (check out Grandma at 1:25 — a concert pianist and music teacher).
- Emily grew up being ignited by the presence of her musically skilled older brother and sister. (I saw this pattern — let’s call it the Michael Jackson syndrome — again and again at the talent hotbeds. The younger kids have the most musical chops–not because they have some musical gene, but because they grow up in a musical hothouse, filled with models, visions of who they might become. Simply put, they have more fuel.)
- Emily showed remarkable immediate interest, but not remarkable immediate skill (check out the home-movie clip of two-year-old Emily at the 2:00 mark). But she is having great fun — a quality that shines through all her playing.
- Emily got great instruction and, more important, a bond with her instructor (evidenced by the song she wrote for him).
Or is this a case — as with Mozart himself — where a kid was ignited to fall in love with music, then used that love, guided by a master coach, to fuel hours of deep practice, to construct fast, beautiful skill circuits?
Or do we chalk it up to some combination of the above?
(What do you think?)