Parenting Musical Prodigies - Naomi Aldort
Interviewed by Tracy Chiniewicz, exclusively for the Home Educators Resource Directory

Naomi Aldort, author of Raising Our Children, Raising Ourselves shared some of her insight with us on raising gifted children. “We raise our children in real life, not in school and not as medical subjects. My children were never diagnosed with anything. I didn’t take them to diagnose their flu, their talents or their behaviors. I took who they are to be the wonder to respond to.”

She noticed her second child was a musical prodigy in steps that culminated at age three-and-a-half. At age one-and-a-half, Lennon sat on her lap on the piano stool, demanding she play. Naomi played some easy Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven from an easy classics collection book. Within days he would take the thick book and open it at the page he wanted to here pointing to it with passion (Lennon didn’t speak with words till almost three and then spoke all at once two languages in full sentences and no baby talk.) He often asked her to play the same piece over and over again, even twenty times.

After a couple of weeks she decided to test his ability to recognize the music. He pointed to a page and she played another (from memory.) He stopped Naomi and pointed again going ah ah ah. She played yet another piece of music. He interrupted and repeated his clear demand. Only when she played what was on the page, was he satisfied.

After a while, Lennon lost interest in these piano encounters and she forgot about it. At age three and a half, Lennon went to the piano and started figuring out by ear a piece of music by Leopold Mozart. He mastered the melody and asked her to play the left hand. Within a short time he learned both hands and played the whole piece hands together. You can find some of his three-year-old playing on youtube. He played on his own, by ear, hands together, music by Bach, Schumann, Beethoven, Purcel and L. Mozart. He moved music from key to key, played it backward and switched hands. His parents were speechless. And, Naomi was devoted to let him develop his own way and not force him into lessons. His nature was very clear and she knew he would just stop if taught.

When pregnant with her third she said to herself, “No two prodigies in the same families.” She therefore expected another wonderful normal child like her amazing firstborn. But nature had a different plan. Like a clock, at the same age of three-and-a-half, Oliver started playing music by ear on the piano. He plays Beetles songs with chords, Raffi songs with chords, songs from the musical “Annie” and other children’s songs. And, he made up his own music. He wanted to perform right away, and when, at age four, he got into a talent show, he had to be gently taken off the stage, as he was ready to play all his half hour worth of repertoire and improvisations.

By that time Lennon was improvising and composing his own rich, fully harmonic and melodic long compositions. He was playing Bach gigue from partita No. 1 at the speed of Glen Gould playing. And he was making up his own amazing music.

Naomi played lots of classical music at home on the stereo, and took the children to concerts. She never suggested lessons. Naomi recognized the prodigal talent and let life unfold, child’s directed and parent’s enriched.

After one chamber music concert, all three children came to me asking for instruments, clarinet (Yonatan, the oldest), violin for Lennon and cello for Oliver. A year later Oliver gave his debut recital on both cello and piano and the following year the boys did a joined recital. At ten Oliver was already a soloist with orchestras on both instruments and won his first competition.
When it comes to suggestions for parents of gifted children, Naomi suggests taking her phone session for how to nurture a child’s musical talent and “teach” basic skills through play: If the parent has musical education, one session is sufficient. If the parent is not musically educated, it usually takes two session a few months apart.

She also recommends avoiding teachers in the early years. There is so much your child can learn by herself with you providing a piano, some other instruments when available, and listening to classical and other high quality music. Parents will learn at the phone session how to start creative and expressive games on the piano and through dance. These games will give your child all the basic concepts of music in a joyful way that retains his love of music and his freedom of self-expression. No wrong notes. They are all right notes.
Naomi shares the most important resource is a good conservatory with great teachers and high-level programs. Conservatories provide teachers, but also full musical education, orchestra, chamber music, and opportunities to play in concerts. In addition, a conservatory and a good teacher would provide a gifted child with opportunities to perform in outreach programs, as soloist with orchestras and other events.

Conservatories also become a wonderful social connection for a child who yearns to be with friends who have passion for music. Some conservatories are their own institute, like the New England Conservatory in Boston, or the one in San Francisco. Others are a preparatory school attached to a music college like Julliard in NYC, Colbrun in Los Angeles, and Cleveland Institute in Cleveland.
When asked if she ever felt overwhelmed with it all, she replied, “I don’t really feel this way ever. I find this ride exhilarating with joy and surprises like all of parenting.” The financial burden can be grand; if children are prodigal they get summer program for full scholarship and can get grants and help at a conservatory. Sometimes the instruments are costly, or the master teacher must be paid privately. There are also flights and instrument maintenance, video camera and good computers for uploads and printing DVDs, all adding up to high costs.

It is time consuming just like all of life is and she never found being a mother of musical prodigies to be anything but joy with lots of wonderful work and never a dull moment.

She believes the reason she never feels overwhelmed is what she teaches parents in all areas: Flowing with the miracle of children as it unfolds. Overwhelm can only be felt if I say to myself, “It is too much,” or “I can’t do it any more,” etc. Without such stressful thoughts, one does the next thing as it arises. Re-hair the bow; find another teacher; move to another city; fill up competition application; buy flight tickets; go to the TV station for an interview; get the next size up dress clothes; and, respond to the child request to be listened to or give feedback.

Life is always full. You do the next thing. It can be laundry, watering the garden, changing a diaper, playing with your child or reading to her. As children grow what we do changes. It can be providing sports clothes, science teacher, backpacking trips, or driving a child to karate class or theater rehearsal. Or, it can be packing for a concert; driving to a lesson; writing notes at the lesson; calling the piano tuner; attending concerts etc. All of it is life. Nothing is more overwhelming than another thing. It is all love of who the child is and nurturing his path; doing the next thing.

She compared gifted to special needs for us as well. You can say that it is very similar in terms of focus on high need, although, at least in terms of the high costs, sometimes special need children are taken care of by the system while, at least in the USA, gifted children cost as much but it all falls on the shoulder of their parents.

The main similarity is in the strong focus that can leave other children in the family feeling left out or not as important. With a special need child you may move to another city in spite of sibling’s protest, to provide a better healing opportunity. Likewise, Naomi’s family has roamed to different cities in order to provide the best teachers, against the will of their oldest son.

Some gifted children can have all their needs met in their own community. Good universities can provide for gifted scientists and those who are advanced in academics. The performing arts are uniquely demanding and costly and music requires the most financially, with private lessons, theory lessons, harmony, orchestra, chamber music and playing an instrument that cost tenth of thousand on the lower end.

“I sound like I talk a lot about money. It may be that for us the greatest obstacle was money and all our plans for security and future education fell apart and were replaced by huge loans.” (Naomi Aldort)
Some children of the same level of talent never get the opportunities they need because in this country, there is not community financial support for such gifts. Instead the parents are considered “lucky” and left to sink in debts. To Naomi every parent is lucky because every child is the greatest gift.

Naomi Aldort is the author of, Raising Our Children, Raising Ourselves. Her advice columns are published in progressive parenting magazines worldwide.
Aldort offers guidance and counseling by phone/Skype internationally regarding all ages, babies through teens: attachment parenting; natural learning; peaceful and powerful parent-child relationships and more. Products, counseling, and free newsletter:

Home Educators Resource Directory (HERD)
is owned, managed, and maintained by parents passionate about giving their children the best education. The Directory’s mission is to provide resources, support, and information helpful to the diverse community of educators around the globe. Along with offering a rich store of varied resources, the Directory maintains a catalog of local and global support groups and calendars highlighting local events.

The HERD monthly newsletter keeps educators apprised of current homeschool events and supplies informational articles for both the new and experienced.
We invite you to stay informed with your own newsletter subscription, explore our many resources by visiting the Directory and check out all the information to be found on our blog.

Permission to reproduce this article granted only with the entire article, bio and all links included.