Child Musicians

North Carolina’s governor proclaimed a day in honor of soul musician Nina Simone (born Eunice Kathleen Waymon in Tryon, NC in 1933). Nina was what we often call a child prodigy: she started playing piano at age three and gave her debut concert, a piano recital, at 12. She overcame poverty and racial discrimination to record more than 40 albums, induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2018, and the lasting title, “High Priestess of Soul.”

Well-recognized classical composer and musician Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart is one of the best-known child prodigies. By age five he was playing keyboard and violin well enough to start composing. His older sister Maria Anna recalled keyboard lessons with their father while her brother observed (Otto Erich Deutsch, (1965). Mozart: A Documentary Biography):

He often spent much time at the clavier, picking out thirds, which he was ever striking, and his pleasure showed that it sounded good…. In the fourth year of his age his father, for a game as it were, began to teach him a few minuets and pieces at the clavier…. He could play it faultlessly and with the greatest delicacy, and keeping exactly in time…. At the age of five, he was already composing little pieces, which he played to his father who wrote them down.

Please share some of your favorite musicians and other artists who are or were highly talented children. I’ll start things off with another genre switch: this young musician channeled John Bonham, the late Led Zeppelin drummer, to win the Hit It Like a Girl contest last year at age eight.

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