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Some clips of some Korean early teenager's play


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It's not just hours, it's the total environment the child is put in. That's why it almost always requires the efforts of a child's parents, not just a music school and lessons or whatever. Yehudi Menuhin wrote that his mother would listent closely and constantly to his PRACTICING when he was a kid and come in and yell at him whenever he made a mistake. That's for a kid that was practicing several hours every day. Another illustrative anecdote from Menuhin's life, (Menuhin is a great case, because he wrote extensive and very honest autobiographical material about himself) was a story he told where his mother hired a French tutor to teach him French, and on the first day, to impress the child and show him the beauty of the language, the tutor read him a French poem and said, "Maybe some day you will be able to recite this poem to me." Well, Yehudi's good mother forced him to stay up all night long memorising the poem by rote, then the next day recite it for the French tutor and pretend like it was done with little effort at all. Menuhin wasn't a genius at learning French, but after that morning his French tutor THOUGHT that he was. And that's the whole point of child prodigy and how the parents cash in (not necessarily economically). These kinds of stories exist for all child prodigies if you are willing to dig deep enough to see them, but they often get lost amid all the lies and myths. So you look at a 13 year old kid like Elman, getting upset over something that most kids would never care about, and you have to realize that children aren't born with the idea that playing Tchaikovsky is a matter of grave personal pride and that they are a total failure if they can't do it. Of course, some children are more naturally adept than others, but the whole idea of the natural prodigy is simply a myth.

I do say "Big deal." to anyone with a superior technique and a poor interpretation or musicality. What a lot of time and effort they have wasted to gain nothing worthwhile. For a child, that remains to be seen, at least they still might become a good musician (as opposed to the technically brilliant but musically dead adults, for whom there is no hope), but I still say "So what?" Show me a child (or adult) that can play some piece in a truly moving way, and then I will be impressed, whether it is easy or hard. If they master Paganini at age 14 or age 18 or age 22, it really shouldn't matter, but it does matter, all because of the propagation of myths and lies about prodigy.


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Having read both Menuhin's Autobiography and the Humphrey Burton Biography, I have to say that I think you're exaggerating slightly. His Mother would encourage him to play well, and tell him that he was "no better than a cobbler" when he "scraped away half-heartedly", but I think that "yelling" at him for every inperfection is inaccurate. Also, I seem to recall that he did not practise for very many hours every day in his childhood.

I tried to give up the violin when I was about ten (I never practised at all then, and could only play in first position) but my Dad made me stick with it. I would say that now I have a self-inflicted musical upbringing (I persuade my parents to take me to concerts and I buy loads of CDs etc) but my Dad has always been very encouraging and it is because of him that I even play the violin at the moment. So I guess parental encouragement is vital.

Sorry, went off on a tangent there.


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Again, I thank you for taking the trouble to point out a few things very clearly. You sound like an expert teacher. But that doesn't mean that every one else can just criticize and feel big because of it.

Anyway, I personally feel that the very fact that that child learned enough to play it like that, and even hardly missing a note, even in Pizz. or harmionics etc, and with that speed and co-ordination shows that nothing is truly beyond her, even though the time may not yet have come for every aspect.

But some things are simply a question of time and physical/mental developement.

I now just heard a recording of Heifetz playing the Lalo and he Waxman, and you can actually hear him saying through his playing "I've been there, done that, many many times". And the sound of that not-too-hidden message distracts me. So there is some charm which those (two which I'm refering to) have and Heifetz is missing.

Also, there are brain waves Delta, Alpha, Beta and Theta (If I remember correctly). Adults have the latter two and children the first two? something like that. This is something well-known. If you read about it, you will wish you had the attributes of a child (teenager) which you might have lost. And they makes a big difference in the playing.

It maybe that these two children are better off with constant support of a teacher, but I don't think that it is because they still have much to learn. (unless their own ear isn't good enough, but I don't think a teacher alone could have got them to where they got) But maybe more to do with the transition from child/teenager to adulthood etc.

I know for myself, that If I could do (already now) what those children can do, then I would automatically know how to take care of the things like what you mentioned, simply because my mind is already developed, as well as my ear for listening to myself and others, and understanding of what I want to get to. And yet, my actual playing is much much worse than those children at the momment. Still, I only need an occasional consultation with a big expert.

But some might disagree with me, and they may be right about themselves and many others. But not about everyone.

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This girl definitely needs more lessons. Her technique is imperfect and her musicality needs encouragement and a LOT more developement. If she doesn't burn out early, with the help of a great teacher she could become a great violinist. Unfortunately, without that help, she'll just become another wasted talent (at least in my mind). I'm not sure what you mean by "pro" STaylor, but by pro I meant professional... meaning a soloist or an orchestra musician in a top orchestra. Sure, she's has faster fingers than your average town performer, but she doesn't even match the performances I've heard by college freshman at school; as she shouldn't... she's still very young.

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As I was trying to explain, if she stayed like she is, simply grew 10-20 years older (hypopthetically, since a person doesn't usually stand still), I think she would automatically become equivalent to a top class pro, or more, by own efforts, with a fully matured physique and mind and musicality (naturally), within a short time, and what's missing is basically only age and what it naturally brings.

Perhaps you feel that Kim is far better? Kim seems to have a different personality. This Carmen girl might need general personality intergration.

Well, I don't know if Kabal or Redrobe are pro's according to you.

Lessons might be necesary, but the main purpose would be to stop her burning out and to slow her down a little, and to get her to be communicative and to continue developing and maturing into an adult, under observation, so she doesn't just go off the deep end, but takes her music with her as she matures, instead of leaving her music behind like some old childhood pastime.

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I am sitting on my hands waiting for the clip to come up. I would like to know if the performance of these students is similar in quality to the children I was while I was in Matsumoto with the well healed Suzuki community by the time Dr. Suzuki was in his 90's.

The first time American teachers saw Japanese children in the American tour group in the 60's they could not fantom the kind of musical community and support that these children and their teachers received for their efforts. You don't get these kind of results from the children of non musicians with out great cooperation between highly motivated teachers and parents who provide children with many opportunities to share a musical life style with one another.

Sensei often spoke of listening everyday that you breath and practicing only on the days that you eat. He also advocated a good diet and healthy phisical activity. He encourage students to make freinds and have healthy social lives. To day many American families have thier children in such communities to provide them with high quality social and accedemic experience to immerce themselves into.

I think the longer such a community is in existance with combined the luck of having motivated and insiteful teaching the higher the quality of the musical production becomes.

Many of the Suzuki students I met in Matsumoto did not neccesarily become performers or even teachers. If you have the talent play Lalo that way at 14 you may also find you can make very good carreer as a biochemist or a neuroligist after you finish a college degree.

Just as Kreiser was a Doctor who just happend to play the violin very well.

P.S. One of the most important things a developing young violinist does beside work on his phisical abilities is listen. For a musicican practicing is about 90% listening and the difference between the skillful amature and the professional. To be a performer one must also realy like playing for people not just for ones self. Some people would rather be in a lab coat rather than on stage with a violin even though they can play all the notes. That doesn't mean that they didn't bennifit from their musical studies.

I finally got to see one of the last clips Ms. young of 19 is showing her teenage musical peers what to do with a bow. If I were a Korean male teenager I would be careful around her. You have to admit it beat watching teenagers smash electric guitars on stage.

One graduation in Japan Suzuki Sensei had 50 teens and preteens play the Tchaikosky 3rd movement for 3000 of their peers on the floor of the national sports arena. (many of which were fellow teenagers) all vying to do the same thing someday. Its a national pastime that beats sumo wrestling any day. I will be pleased when more american kids can swagger on stage and use a bow like that. And then just like their asian counter parts go out on the lawn the next day a play a rousing game of soccor with thier musical peers behind the same auditorium.

Incidently I've been competing with the soccor coaches for rehearal time. The coaches just love our kids for their agility.

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I live in an area that has a large population of Asian families. My son's school orchestras are probably more than half Asian. Some of the children play extremely well and have expensive instruments and bows. Most of them have no desire to become musicians and as got2twinkle said, they want to be physicians. Still they play as if they are aiming for a career in music. It can never be wasted, even if they never pick up the violin again.

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An excellent violinist must have two things: technique and musicality. Without both, in my opinion, you will never make it. I must say that Esther is one of the few young violinists I have seen that has both (me being a music student at Juilliard and Aspen, I have seen her play in a two concerts, both of which were excellent). Having a teacher that teaches both the necessary technique as well as the phrasing, color, etc. is paramount. My own teacher (who taught Sarah Chang and a handful of other well-known violinists alongside Delay) is absolutely perfect at balancing the teaching of musicality and technique (for example, he will give me ideas that will help me to interpret a particular phrase, and then go note-by-note with the piano to listen for intonation). In my opinion, technique is the foundation on which musicality builds, which is why technique exercises tend to be so fundamental. You cannot have good musicality without having good technique (but it is easy to have good technique without having good musicality). For example, you cannot play a Beethoven Sonata the way Beethoven would have wanted it without a sufficient level of technique. By saying this, I do not mean that it is impossible to enjoy a performance of Beethoven with flaws or impossible for a beginner to really appreciate and enjoy a Beethoven Sonata... In any case, I look forward to studying with Esther's current teacher for a few months this summer!


Just for the record, I'm not asian (and thus I'm a minority at my school!)...

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  • 5 weeks later...

I would like to announce that Esther Kim will perform Mozart Violin Concerto no.3 with Seoul Sinfonietta at The Seoul Art Center Concert Hall on July 31,03. She is also going to have a recital at the Kioi Hall in Tokyo on September 11, and in Osaka on September 12,03. The program includes Mozart Sonata, Ravel's Tzigane, Wieniawskie's Souvenier de Moscou, Bazzini's Dance de Leuten, Sarasate's Zapeteado, Brahams's Hungarian Dance no.5, and others. All violin lovers are welcome!

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Thanks for these clips too.

Esther Kim seems to be very special, also! Possibly a tad more. She can also afford to smile. But Julliard isn't Korea, it's in the heart of Manhattan of all places, isn't it?

I don't know what bow hold it is that she uses. Can anyone explain to me? And being whatever it is, isn't it a bit awkward? How can the first finger command so much control out there?

And, I'm prepared to put a question mark to everything I was trying to defend about my opinions earlier on. Maybe it's not quite as I was trying to say. I had reasons to what I was saying, but I wouldn't fight for it as all being definate.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Now I see why this post has 10 pages! I’m just arriving here and I can’t but report my experience too. That little girl on Lalo really made me laugh nervously as I couldn’t believe it. Tzigane, the most recent piece incredible too and the Haydn raised my skin hair for the self-confidence of the little player in expressive passages. But everyone made my chin fall. Fantastic. No matter if they'll be great adult stars. They're surely great kids and if they change maybe they become composers or so - sometimes it's even better...

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  • 6 months later...

I've only now listen/watched all through the Tzigane. Again, it seems surprising to see the technique of such young people.

I'm now beginning to wonder how many there are around this age who can play at, or near that level? (I'm not making my own statements anymore! but would like to hear if anyone knows the answer to my question).

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The school I was in from age 14-16 was for children specially gifted in music. There were about 4 out of 50-60 students who could play advanced violin aroung age 14. They were playing some parts of standard repertoire, quite well and competently.

They were the true players in the advanced orchestra and were sightreading competently (I was at the back, and violin was anyway my second instrument).

But they were no where near these five (and perhaps Esther Kim).

But they could easily be mistaken to be in that league. I'm speaking about those who are well ABOVE those who were in my school.

But still I agree, anyone with children like in my school can also be justly proud.

I was like that in piano, but I suppose piano is garbage compared to violin

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In December my son's youth orchestra played Zigeurneweisen with an 11 year old soloist who attends Juilliard Pre College. He is wonderful and there are many like him at Juilliard, Mannes and Manhattan Schools of Music. The level of teenage (and younger) playing ability in the NY area is amazing. Don't get me wrong, the majority of young players are just regular kids that play well. But I know many that are outstanding. In my son's class at school alone, there are 3 (and my son is not one of them).

The funny thing is that quite a few of them don't want music for a living, they want to be doctors, researchers, engineers and such. But they will have a love of music all their lives.

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