“Every block of stone has a statue inside it and
it is the task of the Sculptor to discover it.”
Every child is given a different block of stone; some are given smaller stones while others have bigger stones. As quoted by the famous artist Michelangelo, it is the task of the sculptor to discover the statue that is hidden within the block of stone.
The size of the statue does not determine its value, rather, it is the craft of which the stone is carved that determines its worth.
Every child has a different set of skills, some excel in mathematics, some in linguistically abilities and others in creative thinking. It is ultimately the child that discovers his/her strengths, works on his/her areas of improvement through the necessary guidance of the more experienced - parent, teacher or mentor.
Have you heard a parent say that their child has “no talent in music”? Or, that their child has no “musical genes” nor a “musical ear”? Somewhere along the lines, they must have heard a 3-year old jamming on Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata with ease, or even Korsakov’s Flight of the Bumble Bee! (If you haven’t, I’ll leave a link at the end of the article)
Let’s face it! Not every child is “talented” in music; but that does not mean they cannot be good enough on an instrument to ENJOY music!
Let me propose a perspective that you can take on evaluating your child’s abilities:
Instinctive Vs. Acquired Learner
Infants have a world of skills awaiting their discovery, such as skills for reading, counting, expressing themselves and the list goes on. One might realise that developing some skills tend to be easier, requiring less time and effort to see extrinsic results of the skill.
Every child has a set of skills that they can pick up easily, with little guidance; while other skills tend to require a little bit more time and effort to see the results of those skills. The first set of skills are developed instinctively while the latter, are developed through acquisition.
In music, there is a myriad of skills that are required and hence, the reason why the brain works extensively during the process of musicking. Let’s take aural skills as an example; some children are highly sensitive to pitch and at the age of 2 or 3, they are able to sing a song in tune. This is a characteristic of having instinctive aural abilities.
Some children, however, require guidance in discovering their voice and how to use it. As they try to sing a song, they find it difficult to sing in tune - we can tell, and they can too! With guidance from a teacher, the child will soon acquire heightened sensitivity to pitch through systematic practice and awareness. In this case, the child is an acquired learner of the concept and practice of pitch.
A child can be an acquired learner for some skills but yet, an instinctive learner for others, forming their strengths and areas for improvement.
Whether your child is an instinctive or acquired learner of music, the right educational approach will help your child to discover their skills - the strengths and the areas for improvement.
Talent is not everything.
While I’m not suggesting that talent should be disregarded, I do strongly suggest that music education should not be disregarded based on the perceived lack of talent.
Finally, the ultimate goal of music is to enrich the soul - and everyone deserves to, at least, be good enough for that.
Here's a link to a 3-year old playing Korsakov’s Flight of the Bumble Bee: