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About The Author  
Carol Fertig

Carol Fertig

I have been active in the education community for more than 40 years and involved in gifted education for more than 20 years. At various times, I have been a classroom teacher, gifted education teacher, consultant, writer, editor—you name it. I live in Colorado, but also spend a fair amount of time in Chicago. I have two grown boys: one in Colorado and one in California. In my spare time, I enjoy skiing, mountain biking, and golfing. I also like to read, go to plays, and watch foreign movies. Feel free to send me an e-mail.

I am also the author of Raising a Gifted Child: A Parenting Success Handbook. This book offers a large menu of strategies, resources, organizations, tips, and suggestions for parents to find optimal learning opportunities for their gifted kids, covering the gamut of talent areas, including academics, the arts, technology, creativity, music, and thinking skills.

Raising a Gifted Child

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Articles from Music

The Importance of the Arts in Our Schools

 

 

Years of research show that [the arts is] closely linked to almost everything that we as a nation say we want for our children and demand from our schools: academic achievement, social and emotional development, civic engagement, and equitable opportunity.

 
This is from a recent article in Edutopia, titled Why Arts Education Is Crucial, and Who's Doing It Best. Involvement in the arts is associated with gains in many areas, including academic development and positive character traits. Over the last few decades, arts in the schools have been eroded, but there is hope. Some school districts are now revitalizing the arts, many prompted by new findings in brain research and cognitive development. In this article, you will find examples of school districts that are reinvigorating their curricula with the arts. Edutopia has a whole series of articles on the importance of arts education, including
Take some time to read these articles and encourage the arts in your child’s school. Incorporate art into your family activities. Development of the arts is at the very basis of highly civilized societies.
 
Do you want to know what your state policy is on arts education? Search the database at the Arts Education Partnership.

Looking Ahead to Summer Programs for Gifted Kids

 
It’s that time of year again to begin planning for summer experiences for your gifted students. For some, that may mean lots of free time at home to play, read, relax, and let minds wander. Others may benefit from a specialized experience at a day camp or an experience far from home. Here are some suggestions for places to begin your search if you’re looking for something outside the home. (Note: These are not program endorsements. You will want to do your own investigations of programs to make certain they fit your needs.)
 
Some summer programs are general and some are specialized. Examples of focused programs include the study of space, inventions, technology, government, music, film, oceanography, math, archaeology, debate, art, foreign languages, and Shakespeare. Search hard enough and you’re likely to find a specialty to meet every need.
 
Here are some searchable databases where you can begin to look.

More Online Resources for Gifted Education

 
In the past, I have listed many excellent websites that contain compilations of resources for gifted education. Recently, several more have come to my attention.
 
Exquisite Minds is created and maintained by Stacia Nicole Garland, a national award-winning teacher who worked with gifted children for 16 years. She includes practical, user-friendly information for both parents and educators as well as a long list of links of "Brainy Games."
 
While 96 Essential Sites & Blogs for Gifted Homeschoolers is designed for homeschoolers, it also contains some great websites for children who are more traditionally educated. If you are looking for ideas that support or supplement your student’s interests and abilities, you will find many ideas here. Topics include
  • General Blogs for Gifted Homeschoolers
  • College Prep
  • Science
  • Math
  • Writing
  • The Arts
  • Forums 
Related Gifted Education Web Sites, from the American Psychological Association has an extensive alphabetical listing of gifted associations, programs, university connections, schools, research organizations, and publications.
 
Top 10 Gifted Education Blogs, from OnlineDegrees.org, lists links to the best blogs in gifted education. I’m pleased to say that Prufrock’s Gifted Child Information Blog is included in the list.

The Value of Instrumental Lessons for Gifted Kids

 
I am a very strong advocate of instrumental music lessons for children—especially gifted children.
 
I recently bought myself an excellent grand piano and was able to get it at a bargain-basement price. I was able to purchase it at such a good value for two reasons:
  • The poor economy is limiting people’s discretionary funds.
  • Since taking piano lessons is no longer the norm in American households, there is not a big demand for the instruments.
Lucky for me. Sad for those who have no interest in learning to play music. I keep trying to figure out why instrumental lessons have lost their allure. When I was young, it seemed that almost every young person I knew took piano lessons and, once they entered junior high (today’s middle school), they often took an additional band or orchestral instrument. It was all considered part of a rounded education.
 
I am making a plea to parents of bright kids to enroll their kids in lessons. There is so much to be gained from this instruction. In his article, The Prodigious Power of Piano Playing, Brian Chung lists some great reasons to take piano lessons. These reasons also apply to lessons on other instruments. Taking lessons and practicing will help the youngster learn to
  • work hard
  • focus
  • be responsible
  • pay attention to details
  • be self-reliant
  • be creative
All of these skills can transfer to other areas of the student’s life.
 
I have a few extra words of advice.
  • Don’t expect your kids to enjoy learning music that you do not play in your own home. It may be too foreign to their ears. Play—and hopefully enjoy—a wide variety of types of music at home, including classical, jazz, folk, contemporary, and music from other cultures.
  • Take your children to concerts of many types, letting them hear many types of music.
  • Present music lessons as an honor, not a duty.
  • Be willing to sit with your child during practice, especially in the beginning.
  • Research and interview a variety of teachers before choosing one. It is very important that your child and the instructor are able to “connect” on many levels.
In Hearing the Music, Honing the Mind, the editors of Scientific American discuss studies showing that instrument training from an early age enables the brain to better focus, concentrate, and learn subtleties in sound, thereby enabling one to more easily learn a foreign language.
 
Serious practice on an instrument also helps students to acquire self-discipline. It is enormously satisfying to work very hard at something and then reap its rewards. If a student participates in playing instruments with a group, there is a great deal of teamwork involved. Above and beyond all of this, learning to play an instrument promotes a lifelong joy in music.

Gifted Kids Blogging about Academics

 
Recently I came across two blogs written by students who are "into" academics. These blogs are fun for others to read and may inspire young people to launch blogs to share their own passions.
 
Daphne’s Word Blog is written by a logophile, a person who loves words. Each entry discusses a word or words that the author finds fascinating.
 
Ivan’s Number Blog includes interesting information about number patterns and problems that require time and thought to solve.
 
Each of these bloggers encourages readers to submit their own words, problems, and solutions.
 
You may want to use these two blogs with students who have an interest in vocabulary and in math, and/or you may want to use the blogs as examples of what your own young people might create. Students could construct blogs in any area of interest (e.g. The Civil War, butterflies, favorite books, creative writing, fire engines, dinosaurs, kites, careers, famous composers, etc.). Entries may be added as time permits or a routine schedule for posts can be established to encourage self-discipline.

Mentors for Gifted Students

 
On several other occasions I have written blogs about the virtues of finding mentors for gifted students. See
The importance of mentoring is worth revisiting over and over again. Some students have such esoteric interests that it is only through one-on-one coaching and support that they can get the intellectual nourishment that they need. So I want to bring this academic option to your attention once more with some other links available on the Internet.

Bring Speakers (Based on Student Interest) Into Gifted Classrooms

 
Bringing weekly speakers into the classroom broadens the interests of gifted students and encourages individual passions. It also makes it possible for some students to find an exciting new area of passion. By inviting speakers to your classroom, you will:
  • expose your students to a wide range of subjects and people,
  • show them that their interests and ideas are valued, and
  • help them to begin their career education at an early age.
The classroom is also a much more intimate and valuable setting than a school assembly.
 
Here are a few examples of speakers that I used at the elementary school level in the Denver, CO, area:
 
Student interest: Astronomy
Speaker: A female scientist from The National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) brought a wonderful slide show on solar flares and explained their many effects to students.
 
Student interest: Animation
Speaker: The owner of a local animation company brought in a short video about his company, presented some animation production cels, showed the kids how to make flip books using their own animations, talked about jobs in animation, and explained the education that one should have in order to follow a career in animation.
 
Student interest: Snakes
Speaker: A member of the local herpetological society brought in some live snakes and talked about his own personal interest in the animals, their life habits, and what we should all know and understand about snakes.
 
Because it can be very time consuming for teachers to find speakers, parents can play a vital role with the teacher's guidance. Here are some suggestions for setting up a similar program:
  • Survey students to find out areas of interest that they would like to learn more about. Do not give them a list of possibilities to check off. Instead, just have each child write on a piece of paper at least three things that he or she would like to explore. These ideas do not have to be academic.
  • Have a small group of volunteer parents sort through the students' ideas and try to group them. Are there some recurring themes?
  • Have the same group of parents brainstorm about places where they might find speakers that would address student interests.
  • After discussing their ideas with you first, parents can begin making contacts.
  • Once schedules are set up for speakers, ask parents to contact the speaker again a week or two in advance to confirm the date and time and find out if there is anything special that the speaker will need.
  • Make sure that parents keep you informed of any communication that occurs between them and the speakers. 
Locating Potential Speakers
  • Start close to home. Are there people you know personally that would match a student's interest?
  • Are there parents at the school that have a strong personal interest or profession that would match another student's chosen topic?
  • What are some of the companies in your community that might have individuals that could present? Many larger companies actually have speaker bureaus.
  • What about people who work at museums, theaters, orchestras, or universities? Or, what about individuals who work as mathematicians, authors, or cartographers? No matter what the interests of the students may be, you can probably find a speaker nearby if you live in a large metropolitan area.
  • Don't be afraid to approach people. They can always say no, but I think you will be surprised by the people who say yes.  
Setting Up Guidelines for Speakers
  • Decide what day and time you would like to have the speaker. (I always chose Friday afternoons, because it was a nice end-of-the-week activity.) We tried to have a speaker every week that it was possible.
  • Be clear about exactly what time you need the speaker to start, the physical condition of the classroom, the types of students that they will be working with, and whether or not you want the talk to be interactive. Sometimes those outside the school system don't understand the difficulties that are presented when an expected person doesn't show up right on time, and so be careful to explain all of that.  
Making the Speaker Feel Welcomed
  • Make certain that the class has reviewed appropriate behavior for honoring a guest in the classroom. Remind them that this is a special occasion and a privilege.
  • Have someone meet the speaker at the front door of the school building. This could be a parent and/or student (depending on the grade level). Let the speaker know how much the class is looking forward to the presentation.
  • Have the student or students who chose the area of interest briefly explain to the class why they selected that particular topic.
  • Decide on a way to thank the speaker for taking time to come to the classroom. Students may write letters, draw pictures, create something to send to the speaker, or anything else that you feel suits the situation. 
It takes quite a bit of time and organization to set up a program like this in a classroom, but I know that you will find it well worth the effort.

Music Appreciation for the Gifted

The Interactive Resources at the Carnegie Hall Web site provides a range of music appreciation instruction for young learners through advanced musicians. Here is a sampling of what is available.

A History of African American Music
Here you can trace the musical contributions of African Americans from the time of slavery to today’s popular styles. An interactive timeline organized by year and genre includes notable Carnegie Hall performances. Photos and historical information are partnered with streaming audio.
 

This section was designed to teach kids, ages 6–12 about sound, music notation, text, and instruments in a fun, interactive exploration. Teacher resources are included along with the following adventures:

  • The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra, by Benjamin Britten” where students join Violet as she embarks on an instrument safari, guided by her uncle Ollie, collecting all the instruments of the orchestra.
  • “Carnegie Hall Animated History” hosted by Gino the cat who leads an adventure through Carnegie Hall from its founding in 1891 to the present day. It includes a game featuring important figures from this landmark music venue's past.
  • “Dvořák’s Symphony No. 9” teaches kids about the structure of the symphony as well as the instruments that are played. This is done with help from Dvořák himself via excerpts from his letters and instructive comments about his life. Engaging activities are also included.

This section is suited for more-advanced learners, exploring issues of technique, interpretation, and composition.

  • Leon Fleisher's master classes focus on technique, interpretation, and performance in the four late Schubert piano sonatas. This section will be best understood by advanced piano students.
  • “The Emerson String Quartet: The Bartók Quartets, A Guide for Performers and Music Lovers” is intended for performers who are preparing these pieces as well as listeners and concertgoers who wish to learn more about the Bartók quartets and about the many musical decisions that must be made in order to perform these demanding works. This section includes video footage, written commentary, and an animated score. Much of the video was taken during a workshop given by Emerson members in 2003 and has been supplemented with additional video of Emerson members and others speaking about the quartets.
In addition to these wonderfully interactive segments, the Sound Insights section of the Carnegie Hall Web site has a wealth of musical information. Additional sections include video, audio, and written material about composers, artists, and other music personalities.

Arts Education and Brain Research

 
Earlier this month, Johns Hopkins School of Education hosted a summit and roundtable discussion titled Learning, Arts, and the Brain. Much of the information from this summit and roundtable can be found at the Dana Foundation Web site. Included are the following:
The Dana Foundation has just started Arts Ed on the Web, a bimonthly feature in which Web sites devoted to arts education are highlighted. You’ll want to bookmark this. In the first posting (May 26, 2009) you will find an arts integration resource site, an education portal for teachers with lesson plans and videos, and a music education project featuring Yo-Yo Ma.

Integrated Curriculum for Gifted Students

 
Curriculum is meaningful when students can relate it to other aspects of their lives. This is more likely when material is taught using themes that integrate many subjects.
 
Integrated curriculum organizes education so that it links together the humanities, natural sciences, mathematics, social studies, music, and art. It views learning and teaching in a holistic way, reflecting the real world and prepares children for lifelong learning. Integrated curriculum includes
  • A combination of subjects
  • An emphasis on projects
  • Sources that go beyond textbooks
  • Relationships among concepts
  • Thematic units as organizing principles
  • Flexible schedules
  • Flexible student groupings
Teachers often learn the theory behind good curriculum development, but they are too often expected to create their own materials. It is difficult to find enough time to keep “reinventing the wheel.” There are a couple of very good resources for integrated curriculum that contain already-developed teaching units that target gifted students.
 
In my blog, I have frequently mentioned the units developed by the Center for Gifted Education at The College of William and Mary. These units contain in-depth activities that develop high-level thinking skills and encourage students to relate the material to their own lives. I have personally used several of these units and know teachers who have used others. The material is excellent! Units are available for elementary through high school. Titles include The Weather Reporter, Spatial Reasoning, Patterns of Change, and Defining Nations: Cultural Identity and Political Tensions.
 
The units developed by the Ricks Center for Gifted Children at University of Denver use critical thinking, problem finding, problem solving, and evaluating as an overlay for the content areas included in each topic. Multiple teaching strategies are used to address specific learning styles, individual needs, and intellectual abilities. Units are available for pre-kindergarten through grade 8. Titles include Arctic/Antarctic, Architecture, Natural Disasters, and United Nations.

Summer Arts Programs for Talented High School Students

 
Do you have a talented high school student who would like to pursue a possible career in the arts? There are a variety of summer programs that are worth considering. Some of these schools also offer programs during the school year. The following is only a sampling of what is available. To find more, use an Internet search engine or talk with a local high school art teacher or counselor.
 
Boston, MA
The emphasis of this program is drawing, painting, and sculpture.
 
Ithaca, NY
Classes include Introduction to Architecture and Art as Experience.
 
Velencia, CA
This program offers four weeks of exploration, discovery, and hard work designed to unleash creative power. Talented high school students receive intensive training from professionals in music, theatre, video and film, visual arts, dance, creative writing, and animation.
 
Northwestern Michigan
More than 2,500 of the world's most talented and motivated young people attend this camp each summer. They learn and perform with peers and educators.  Areas of focus include creative writing, dance, motion picture arts, music, theatre, and visual arts.
 
Chicago, IL
Here, students expand their creative talents and develop a strong portfolio for college admission while receiving college credit. Students study art, design, and writing.
 
New York City
This program is designed for high school students who want to enhance their creative skills, learn more about a particular field of art, or develop a portfolio. Course offerings include animation, filmmaking, screenwriting, cartooning, painting and drawing, sculpture, printmaking, graphic design, and photography.

Thoughts on Individualized Learning for the Gifted or Nongifted

 
Individualized learning can help a person of any age move through a subject at his or her own pace. Neither kids nor parents need to wait for their schools to figure out how to arrange for individualized learning. There are other choices, including private lessons, technology (much of it costing no more than an Internet connection), and mentors.
 
I am personally rediscovering how individualized learning works. For quite a few years I’ve been thinking about becoming proficient in several languages and also studying piano. A couple of months ago I took the plunge.
 
For a foreign language, I decided to start with French. The last time I studied a language was in college. Technology has totally changed the way I can now learn. Rather than spend a lot of money on a class that has a set time schedule and curriculum, I’ve subscribed to a couple of French podcasts over iTunes (free). The podcasts include pdf files on vocabulary and grammar, which I download and print out to accompany the audio podcasts. That way, I can both see and hear the language. I’ve also signed up for an online class at LiveMocha. I learned about this Web site from an article in The New York Times, titled Learning from a Native Speaker, without Leaving Home. I can progress through the LiveMocha course at my own pace with both visuals and audio. I also have the opportunity to communicate with real native speakers by writing, talking together, and even using a Webcam. Once I feel that I have a reasonable understanding of the language, I will join a group in my community that gets together with the sole purpose of speaking the language.
 
The second thing I’m doing is studying piano. (I had taken lessons as a child, under duress, and had never done very well.) I knew that I needed formal, private instruction for this. I interviewed four different piano teachers. Each had a very different style. I am very pleased with the person I chose. He is explaining techniques to me that no one had ever explained before. My teacher does not write lesson plans before working with me; instead, he listens to what I have practiced and watches the way I am using my hands, and then teaches me according to my performance on lesson day. While there is a general plan for the areas we will cover, the real value is in discovering where I am with my studies at a particular time and figuring out what needs to be taught. I can’t think of a better way to learn.
 
Before starting on either of these learning pursuits, I made a commitment to myself to work hard and enjoy each. The coupling of motivation, plus the individualized learning seems to be the perfect match. When hearing my enthusiasm for French and piano, some of my friends have used the words “obsessive” or “highly focused.” Sometimes, in gifted education, we more kindly say a person has a real passion.
 
We hear so much about the benefits of individualized instruction, but it isn’t easy to accomplish in a school setting. At least for some subjects, individualized instruction is the best way to learn. Remember that there are options outside the school setting to learn at one’s own pace.

Trends in Gifted Education

 
The NAGC (National Association for Gifted Children) Convention was held in November. Each year, I like to read through the entire catalog of presentations so that I can form general impressions about categories that were considered important.
 
Disclaimer: I do not have access to information about presentation proposals that were submitted nor do I have information about how the presentations were chosen. I do not look at this information to make judgments; only to observe trends.
 
Like everything else in society, certain topics wax and wane. Someone else may interpret this very differently than I do. But, for the record, this is what I see.
 
Some of the topics that were considered top priorities in the past 10-30 years that I see no longer getting the same attention include
  • Underachievement
  • Multiple Intelligences
  • Pullout/enrichment
  • Advocacy
  • GT resource teachers
  • Affective issues
  • Identification
  • Learning Styles
  • Differentiation
  • Theory of giftedness
Topic trends that I do see increasing are
  • The integration of technology into the curriculum rather than treatment as a separate subject
  • Interest of programs on an international level (in fact, at the NAGC convention this year, a strand was added titled “International”)
  • Special schools and programs
  • Less talk about specifically meeting the needs of the gifted and more emphasis on the need for an increase in general academic rigor, including the need to let students advance at a faster speed
I would love to hear the ideas of others on these trends. You can always leave a comment at this blog entry or email me if you would prefer that others do not see your comments.

Should Gifted Students Learn an Instrument?

When I was a young child I was forced into piano lessons. Each time I protested, my mother said, “You will thank us when you get older.” The funny thing is that I do now thank my parents, but it took me many years to get to that stage.
 
With my own children, I took a different approach. I told each of them that they would only be allowed to take piano as long as they practiced. One of them took me up on it and one did not.
 
If you do an Internet search on “children music lessons benefits” you will find a plethora of reasons why young people should pursue an instrument. At the very least, learning an instrument helps round out a young person’s general experiences, helps him to better understand the music that is heard every day, promotes discipline and persistence, and helps with motor skills. Gifted children have the potential to gain a lot from music lessons.
 
In Lessons for Life, Matthew Erikson, a Star-Telegram staff writer, discusses the value of having a child learn an instrument. He also acknowledges the difficulty parents have working their way through the maze of choices. Some of the points he covers are:
 
When do you know if your child is ready for music lessons?

First, your young person should be able to:

  • follow instructions,
  • count,
  • recite the alphabet, and
  • concentrate for 30 minutes.

Parents need to be:

  • ready for a long-term commitment, including weekly trips to the teacher’s studio and supervising at-home practice; and
  • willing to stick with lessons for 6-12 months to evaluate the child’s progress.

How do you choose the right instrument for your child?

  • Parents should expose young children to a wide variety of sounds. Kids often gravitate toward musical instruments they’ve been around. Family concerts performed by orchestras are good venues for exposure.
  • Wind and brass instruments can be a poor match for a young child’s small lips.
  • Some people believe that the piano offers a good foundation.
  • Don’t get caught up in stereotypes of boys playing big, noisy instruments and girls playing softer, more delicate instruments.
  • Respect your child’s choice.
  • Be practical. What kind of instruction is available in your area and how far are you willing to drive?
How much will it cost?

Costs of instruments can vary widely.

  • Decent upright piano--$1,000
  • Violin--$300
  • Flute--$1,000
Many band instruments can be rented from music stores for $20-30/month, with the option to buy.
 
A very cheap instrument can actually be harder to play.
 
Lessons will probably run $30-60/hour, but may be a lot more in some areas of the country. A good teacher will be much more skilled at instructing your child.
 
How do you find the right teacher?
The first teacher your child has is essential in setting the right tone and establishing good playing habits, so research this well.
 
You and your youngster may want to first observe a lesson to make certain you are comfortable with the way the teacher interacts with students.
 
To find a teacher, check out the Web site for the Music Teachers National Association (MTNA) for a list of questions to ask. On the same Web page, you will find a box to fill out to find a certified music teacher in your area.

SAT Exam, Taken at Age 13, Can Predict Career Path of Gifted


A new study from Vanderbilt University finds that the future career path and creative direction of gifted youth can be predicted well by their performance on the SAT at age 13. The study offers insights into how best to identify the nation’s most talented youth, offering opportunities for educators and policymakers to develop programs to cultivate these individuals.

The current study looked at the educational and professional accomplishments of 2,409 adults who had been identified as being in the top 1% of ability 25 years earlier at age 13. Significant differences in the creative and career paths of individuals were found, with those showing more ability in math having greater accomplishments in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, while those showing greatest ability on the verbal portion of the test going on to excel in art, history, literature, languages, drama, and related fields.

The key was to administer the SAT at a young age. When students take the test in high school, the most able students all score near the top, and individual differences are harder to see. Using the test with gifted students at a young age creates the potential to help shape that person’s education.

Overall, the creative potential of these participants was extraordinary, with individuals earning 817 patents and publishing 93 books.

With this knowledge, the policy question becomes: How best can we support these individuals, especially during their formative years?

 For more information, see:

Using Search Tools on Prufrock’s Gifted Child Information Blog

You may have noticed that the format of this blog changed a bit recently, and I want to make certain readers understand the search possibilities available. This is the 120th weekly blog that has been posted in more than 2 years, so there is a lot of information here. There are two ways to search.
·         Categories—In the left column of the web page, you will find a section titled Categories. Within that section, you will see a list of more than a dozen subjects. If you click on any of these, all the articles that fit into that grouping will appear.
·         Search—You can also search for words, phrases, or topics you do not see listed under Categories. With the new format of the blog, you will need to sign in to use the search function. There is a section on the upper right where you can register. Your user name and password are case sensitive.
 
Example—You might want to search on “underachievement.” To do this, click on the word Search either at the bottom of the Categories list or near the top of the page. Once you do this, a number of boxes will appear and you can fill in the appropriate information. (You do not need to fill in all the boxes.) Click on Search, and all of the articles will come up that meet the criteria you entered.
 
These are great tools, so make sure you take advantage of them.

Fostering Musical Talent

Sunday, May 06, 2007 - by CFertig - Category: Music
 
When I was a child, I was forced to take piano lessons. Although I loved all things academic, I really hated the piano. My mother said over and over again, “You’ll thank us when you’re older.” The lessons were in classical music, and classical music was never played in my house. It was totally foreign to me. Believe me; it took until I was quite a bit older to thank my parents. Now I play the piano every day because it is my choice. As an adult, I listened to more and more classical music and discovered how much I enjoy it. The piano is now my favorite instrument and, though I am not very good at it, I take pleasure in playing to work on my skills and also for pure recreation.
 
A young person does not have to be gifted musically to reap the many benefits of lessons and exposure to music. However, if a young person has the potential to be musically talented, he will never be able to develop that talent if the exposure is not there. Many studies have been done to link the benefits of music to improving academics, creativity, organizational skills, and more. Although many of these links may be substantiated by these studies, I don’t think we need to find reasons to develop musical ability outside of the pure pleasure of music.
 
In Musical Talent: Innate or Learned? by Julie A. Wojcik, we learn that children may be born with an appreciation for music and the ability to demonstrate it. They may also be able to develop musical ability through early exposure and structured practice. Development of this talent may be accomplished in a variety of ways. Even in the inner city, where resources many not be readily available, young people are often identified in religious organizations, where they participate in choirs and are encouraged to express themselves musically.
 
Significant factors in determining a child’s full realization of a musical gift include self-motivation, extensive support from family members, mentors, teachers, appropriate resources (instruments, lessons, and exposure to musical activities) and rigorous practice.
 
Parents can help develop musical talent in children by exposing them from birth to a broad range of music, reaching far beyond their own preferences. Some specific guidelines include:
  • Ages 3-5: Encourage youngsters to sing along to music and engage in rhythmic activities, such as clapping, swinging, dancing, tapping, marching, and using percussion-type instruments.
  • Ages 4-5: Encourage children to accompany singing with melodic instruments, such as the xylophone, autoharp, and bells.
Brent Hugh in Teaching Children to Be Musical: The Practical Application believes strongly in the importance of exposing children to a wide variety of music from an early age. He cautions not to expose children exclusively to the parents’ preferences for music, but to include all types. He also offers suggestions for weaving music into the daily routine.
 
David Shenk includes the beginnings of his research on musical talent in his blog entry On Musical TalentHe divides his findings into the following categories:
  • Primitive musicality is, without question, built into our DNA.
  • Beyond primitive ability, even basic musical development requires some modicum of encouragement and teaching.
  • Advanced musicianship requires methodical training and "deliberate practice."
  • Musical training physically alters the brain. Accomplished musicians have key differences in their brains—not from birth but as a direct result of training.

For additional resources, go to the Family Education Web site and search for “music” for an extensive list of links to all kinds of articles and tips for parents on fostering musical ability.

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