Student Characteristics

Music Prodigies

A prodigy is described as “a child who, at a very young age (typically younger than 10 years old), performs at an adult professional level in a highly demanding, culturally recognized field of endeavor.” We tested this definition by asking musical experts to evaluate the performances of music prodigies to determine if their abilities are indeed comparable to professionals. The panel of experts listened to randomly distributed audio clips of prodigies and professionals playing the same pieces and identified the performer as either a prodigy or a professional. Preliminary results are consistent with the definition; in many cases even musical experts are unable to distinguish the audio recording of a prodigy from a professional performer above chance (Comeau & Peretz, 2015).

We compared prodigies’ starting age and rate of progress with a large sample of piano students to quantify the acquisition of advanced musical skills and determine whether these skills can be explained by practice. Based on preliminary results, it appears that musical prodigies move to the most advanced levels in record time as they are progressing by 1.5 to 2.5 grade levels per year compared to 0.5 to 1 grade level for regular piano students. Furthermore, it seems that practice alone cannot account for their faster learning (Comeau & Peretz, 2015).

Deaf Children

Several studies suggest that deaf children with cochlear implants who are exposed daily to music enhance their ability to recognize, enjoy, and reproduce music. However, no studies have yet focused on teaching music outcomes and then assessing those skills. This experiment is using a multi-sensory (auditory, visual and tactile) approach to teach piano to a group of cochlear-implant children. After six months of individual formal piano training, they will be evaluated on their performance skills as well as their ability to identify melody contour and pitch discrimination (Marković, 2015).