Can you be born a musician?


My name is Maya and I am a classical musician in my profession. I can say that I have dealt with music since as long as I remember. Many people think that classical music is dying today, but I think that anybody who says that doesn’t really know what they are talking about. So I have decided to share my insights. First, I need to tell you how I became a musician and how it enhanced the quality of my life. Maybe my little story can represent the potential of almost every child that has some curiosity and motivation. Also I think that my choice with playing a musical instrument is not necessarily the case but only an example of the seeds that we plant that will eventually grow into a big tree in our lives.

I was born into a typical middle class family. My mother was a teacher and my father was an accountant – nothing extraordinary. Like most of the people in the 70’s and 80’s, in our normal house we heard music from the radio. What you heard on the radio is what you got. No one in our family either played an instrument or had a musical education. The only thing was that the radio was on almost 24 hours a day. My mom told me that I used to go to sleep with the radio on as well wake up with it. And since I was a very happy baby, I used to dance in my bed until my parents held me in their hands.

What would you think about this baby if you had seen one like me in my infancy?

I guess you would say: “She is so musical! She is so talented!”

Was I really so talented and musical? Did I have an inborn talent, or did the exposure to a musical environment make this talent grow?

How can you forecast the future of a baby?

What do you think about this?

I would be happy to have your own stories and comments about the beginning of your musical talent and experiences.

I am going to collect all of your stories and deeply analyze them in order to create new insights about our artistic and musical development.

Basically, I am looking to develop a refined and more accurate methodology for our musical personal development as well as for our children.

Dear Readers,

My blog “My Musical Talent” has moved to a new URL:

www.mymusicaltalent.com

Please press here to read my new posts about musical talent.

You will find there all my latest posts.

I invite you to write your comments, insights and thought and share it with your friend by using on of the “share buttons” at the bottom of the post.

Wishing you a musical inspired day,

Yours,

Maya Liberman

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23 thoughts on “Can you be born a musician?

  1. I think that nearly everyone can “learn” music but it is a gift for some. The whole concept of a liberal arts education was to expose kids to all types of disciplines and, hopefully, they would latch on to one that became their passion. It doesn’t always work that way for many reasons. Some end up doing something they really shouldn’t do. They are kidding themselves for some reason. Maybe parental or other pressure. And others pass up something they were born to do. Sometimes because they think it not deserving of their attention. It may not be what they THINK they should do.Either way it creates a lot of emotional pain. People are funny. My passion was music from 8 years old so I may not be objective about this. I think I WAS meant to play. That it was a gift from God. It came so easy to me that it wasn’t until my adult years that I realized I needed to learn how to read better. To understand theory better. To KNOW what I was playing and why and how.

  2. I was brought up by two musical parents, my mother a pianist and my dad, a singer who dabbled in a few instruments. I know for one thing that the art of listening, in my home, had a big influence on the musician I am today. My mother, after a long schooling in music and piano through college, could sit down and play anything, mostly the more popular tunes, by ear. I believe that is why I too can play by ear as well as I do today. I chose violin, and can’t get enough of it. I found it very refreshing to read a passage in Joe Boyd’s book, White Bicylces, that mentioned how he would lie down under his grandmother’s piano while she played, and just listen. He ddi study piano, but what the listening did for him, other then fascinate him, was to create a music producer as his future career. Listening is such an art!

  3. Hi,
    I was born into a musical family. My father was the church accompanist and my mother played the violin in the church orchestra. I was exposed to music as far back as I can remember. We had a children’s choir at church and I guess you could call it a children’s orchestra too. I began receiving formal violin lessons when I was seven years old and still play today both by ear and reading notes from the paper. I love singing and playing the violin although singing for me is less formal. I have been in formal choirs through the years; church, school but I can say that I enjoy the freedom of singing alone at home aswell as the formal structure of playing together in an orchestra or band or singing in a choir. Music for me is a blessing from Heaven which is both a de-stresser and an expression of emotions. Thanks be to God for the wonderful gift of music.

    On the contrary, I teach a number of students the violin who have no musical background – in the sense that their parents are not particularly musical, however, they are developing at a rate which suggests they are not held back by their non-musical background. I do think there are individuals born with extraordinary musical talent but as a music teacher I woud say that practically every student given the opportunity, exposure and guidance can develop musical ability.

  4. Hi Maya,

    you have brought up a very interesting issue, because each and every musician was brought into music in his own unique way.

    I was born to parents which had nothing to do with musical talent, except my mother’s love to popular 80’s music. However, I do think that I was naturally born with a certain “gift” for music (some musician see it as a curse) – perfect pitch.

    I remember myself as a child, having a somewhat special musical memory – I could play a song in my head at the same pitch it was in, including its sonic signature and the instrumentation. Actually until I realized that this was called “perfect pitch”, I was absolutely sure that this is the way everybody perceives and remembers music, and this was not unusual.

    However, it was only when I first grabbed a musical instrument (electric bass guitar) at age 12, that I realized that it is not so common to memorize songs by the correct pitch. It made it easier for me to study music by ear, and pick up bass lines in songs and play them to a gradually better degree with time. I only became more familiar with standard notation and sight reading about 8 years into playing. Then I could let go of my perfect pitch and analyzing everything I’ve heard, and started playing more from the soul, like communicating with any language.

    My conclusion on my story is that even though I was born with some talent, I might as well could do nothing with it, but from the moment I knew i wanted to get into music, it took a lot of years to take this special skill, master it to a high degree, apply it in order to acquire more skills, then letting it go and just play.

    With that said, it is known that children that were exposed to music and playing at an earlier stage (like age 3) have the potential to achieve a much better musicianship, faster and with more ease, like learning another language, than ones that started at a later stage in their childhood.

    Good luck with your blog!

    Amit Shtriker

  5. I was not born into a musical family. Nor was music something we frequently had on the radio around the house. My mother had always wanted to learn to play the piano when she was young but her family couldn’t afford it, so she made a promise to herself that her kids would take lessons. I was forced into music at age 5 when my parents struck a deal with a neighbor who was a retired music teacher. She sold them her old piano for almost nothing in exchange for us taking lessons from her. Though the piano and I have never been an excellent partnership, I loved my lessons and playing. My teacher also had a snare drum and an organ, and I was always innately fascinated by those. I went to a private elementary/middle school and we had music classes and were required to be a part of choir for the weekly church services. When I got my first walkman I would walk around with the headphones on it singing excessively loud, and ignoring the comments to shut up from most of my family members. However, I was also fascinated with dancing. That was my first passion. I think it was the movement and the exposure to different types of music through my dancing that really started to mold me into the musician I am today. I loved the feeling of escaping into the music when I was dancing. The world falls behind. Throughout my life I always found a way to stay involved in music, even when it wasn’t supported. I traded babysitting services for voice lessons, and joined a church choir even though my parents didn’t support that decision. The encouragement and support that I got from my dance and musical families really kept me going. College is when I really dove in and started to explore music. It has never been something that came easily to me. I love it, but aside from singing I have no inborn talents in music. I had to work really hard to survive my music classes. I am now a music therapist, which is a perfect career for me. I had an opportunity to participate in a Guided imagery in music exercise in an internship. We listened to a piece of music and were supposed to draw what we saw. Many people see colors and shapes. When I was participating I saw the song in movement. How it would be danced. This really just enforced my believe that it was my dancing more than anything else that has inspired my love for music.

  6. I think that all people are born with innate gifts and talents; I also belive that how those gifts and talents are developed is very important. It’s likely that most of us do not lay hold of (and develop) even most of our gifts.

    The study of music has many applications.

    With a proper support system, anyone can develop themselves musically; a gifted person may develop quicker or suddenly become very solid in performace, expression, intonation, interpretation and such.

    Very few people become actual concert-level musicians; but all can benefit from the study of music. We used the Suziki method with our 4 children–our highest purpose was/is to shape the heart and the mind of the child in a beautiful way. We really did not have problems getting the kids to practice.

    We purchased a Boston GP 163 baby grand (for us, this was a sacrifice!) for the kids to practice on and this seemed to help. (The piano has had very heavy use by now).

    We also added a few other components to our child rearing strategy emphasizing School, Music, Church, Sports (AYSO Soccer). There was not much time for anything else, including network televsion, so we purchased movies and television series programs that we were familiar with.

    This worked!

    I had to push the music education of our children which was OK becuase I have been a church organist all of my adult life. The kids grew up and now have more performance confidence than I do!

    I encouraged our children to branch out into other disciplines and they’ve picked Education Biology, Educational Social Studies (2 school teachers), Health Science/nursing and Cullinary Arts (daughter wants to be a nurse/home maker), and our yougest (boy) is intrested in mathematics, computer programming, and economics (social sciences).

    All 4 have promised me that they’ll raise their own children via a serious study of music (piano).

    We really did not have any major problems with our children… I attribute this (mostly) to our study of music in the home, and the amount of one-on-one (parent/child practicing) time together.

    I am great ful for those who go on to become concert level musicians, and music educators in the public schools and the unversities and colleges. I love to go to Symphony Hall and to a University Campus and listen to concerts (when the kids were in Jr High/High Scool I loved those concerts as well).

  7. James R. Stewart Jr. : Of course one can be born a musician. I was. (Or, very nearly so ! ) My mother was a church organist for a total of 60 years, and her father (my grandfather) was, for a similar period. When I was 8 yrs old, she took me to the studio of a local piano teacher, with whom I studied for 8 years. After high school, I majored in music at UMass, Amherst, with a minor in education, and taught grade school music for over 12 years, after which I became an employee of a pipe organ company for 25 years. My last organ teacher was Kenneth Wilson (“The Ken and Bill show,” on WHDH, Boston.) He had been a student of Joseph Bonnet, in Paris, the year he was 21.
    Maestro Bonnet traced his musical lineage directly to JS Bach, and I have the list framed in my study: Bach, Kittel, Rinck, Hesse, Lemmens, Guilmant, Bonnet, Wilson,
    and myself. I have been a church organist for fully 50 years, at this point.

  8. Philip Shapiro –

    Dear Maya, I can’t speak for Classical music, but for music generally.I was born into a very ordinary working class family – no-one in my past ancestors were at all musical. From a very early age, I yearned to play the piano, but my father was adamant; music lessons were a waste of time and money in his opinion as he was determined that I should have a ‘proper’ job, and not waste my time and his money fooling around with something as trivial as music!!
    At the tender age of 15 I was ejected from the family home after a violent disagreement with Father and made my own way in the world.
    By sheer determination, and completely self-taught, I carved out a successful career as a Pianist and worked with many stars of stage and screen as Musical Director/Accompanist and was regarded in the profession as one of the most sensitive and accomplished accompanists in the entertainment world, and I am also known as a prolific Composer and Orchestrator.
    Where my musical talents have come from I am at a loss to say, but I am ever thankful to my Creator that they have been bestowed on me.
    The story of my struggle to achieve is being written in my autobiography “A Sunflower Smiles” soon to be published on Kindle books.
    When all is said and done, what we have bestowed on us a is a precious, precious gift, to be cherished and nurtured – we either have it or we don’t. If we don’t, no amount of forcing will achieve results, but if we do, encouragement and love will ensure that it grows and matures. I would have given the world for that, but in spite of everything, I achieved it through my own, bloody-minded determination.
    Hoping that my input has been of some value, I wish you and yours every success and delight for the future. (A trade secret – my magic word has always been ‘COMMITMENT’) God bless you all!!

  9. Pingback: Music Education by Intuition | My Musical Talent

  10. Yes Maya, Yes, children can be born as a musician. I have been told from my music teachers where children, small children have this enormous skill and talents of any adults yet the child is a child. Reincarnation , oh yes. Mozart heard sounds inside his head and wrote them onto paper. Beethoven could hear and write famously from inside his head with externally deaf ears Once he finished conducting his orchestra and someone had to reach over and turn him around to bow because Beethoven couldn’t hear the applause from the audience. You have very many interesting questions. If you gave them each space to answer we, I could answer them for you from my perspective. Thank, Margaret maaclark@yahoo.com

  11. My friends say I am talented. I am not so sure. I have explored a lot of different things and learned to play several instruments, but it takes so much work just to be acceptable. I will never be a virtuoso I started too late

  12. Hello Maya,

    My progress into and through the world of music is rather different to yours. To begin with, I am not in any way a classically trained musician – which is entirely my own fault. As a very young child, I was able to sing and play the piano (simple tunes) without having seen or learnt to read music. Consequently, when my parents decided that I should have music lessons, I rebelled against the constraints of having to learn to read notation, practise scales and wrestle with musical theory! There was no overt interest in classical music at home, during my childhood. In fact, the radio was always turned off when anything resembling classical music came on!! Added to that was the fact that my music teacher lacked the ability to discipline me, and we subsequently parted company.

    As a boy soprano, growing up in a small country town in Cornwall, where the chapel was the social centre of the town, I became immersed in a range of religious and secular music which I loved to sing, both as a member of the choir and, on many occasions, as a soloist. I was very fortunate to receive from the then incumbent organist, an elderly lady who was a wonderful musician, some basic training in singing, and as a result, from a very early age and into my teens, I sang in concerts all over North Cornwall and joined the local choral society. Transition from boy soprano to tenor was followed by leaving Cornwall to study at Westminster College (Teacher Training), where I discovered that there was a very big world outside of North Cornwall, and that musically I was very much an amateur in every respect!

    I began to discover opera, and a much fuller range of classical music and choral works than I had ever encountered in my home town, and subsequently, over the years, I have participated in a range of full stage opera productions and choral works, singing as a member of the chorus alongside professional singers.

    As music was one of my subsidiary subjects at college, I did teach the subject in some schools during my teaching career, and by default have now ended up playing a number of church organs in Wensleydale where I now live in retirement, as well as singing with a long established choral society and conducting a local community singing group.

    So, looking back on missed opportunities, I often think: “What might I have achieved if I had been sufficiently self-disciplined to study music in the correct way?” Nevertheless, despite the regrets I often have on that point, I feel I have been very fortunate to have found so many ways in which to enrich my life through active involvement in a whole range of classical music.

    Maybe I was born with the potential to become the musician which I never really have become?

  13. My parents met at the New England Conservatory, both organists. I grew up listening to good music and tried piano and clarinet. My mother tried me on violin, but none of it took until later. I tried violin again at age 20. Then viola at age 42 after my mother died and I inherited both instruments. I am currently playing viola in a group, but, at 57, I began to study Classical Guitar. That has come to be my real love, even though I continue weekly with the viola. I have had my first Classical guitar solo gig after six and a half years with a teacher. It went well and I hope to play more around town.

  14. Born a musician??? I think you become a musician through devotion and hard work though there are genetic gifts that jump start the creative process and give it an edge.
    George Li, 16, comes to mind. After I interviewed him at length about his learning process it became crystal clear that he does not wing it on God given talent, but dedicates his practice time to phrasing, harmonic analysis, voice parceling, knowing the history and background surrounding a composition etc. So while he was born with so many acute sensitivities to music, and was very physically adapted to the piano, it would not have added up to his current accomplishments without the necessary time application, attentive practicing, and dedication to his art.

    My interview with George:
    http://arioso7.wordpress.com/2012/05/07/my-interview-with-george-li-a-seasoned-pianist-at-16/

  15. Like everything, it’s a combination of what you’re born with and your life experiences. I was not raised in a musical environment. I didn’t know it was possible to be a composer until I was in high school and realized some composers were still alive and actively writing new works. I recall that over time, my junior high school brought in musical groups (to promote their group to the school children and their parents). At first, I looked forward to these events as a break in the humdrum and monotony of school. Some of these experiences lingered in my mind more than others. Unlike my classmates, my interest in rock bands fizzled when they came to showcase their music, but classical music strongly resonated with me. I became excited to see any and every classical music performer whenever they came to our small town. I wasn’t taught to feel this way about one type of music over the other, but it had power over me. So perhaps part of it is in my nature and I was lucky to have been exposed in some capacity outside of my family experience with its limited appreciation for music because it is what I was meant to do. I agree with you that classical music is not dying.

  16. The 10k hours hypothesis is quite interesting. And entirely with irrefutable foundation in many specific evidentiary circumstances. Where I hold question, is how applicable when there is the emergence of a musician of the calibre of Maestro Idel Biret. Her pianistic artistry was evident at a very tender age, nearly infant, even so, the attention of her parents in learned recognition of her talent provided the essential foundation of the best rudimentary tutelage, but incontrovertibly, the talent remained inherently hers. Many attempt, in whichever discipline or profession chosen to pursue,and all do not become that which they seek. Everyone is not created a physicist, or a neurologist, by their individual competency or capacity, no matter how hard they strive in impassioned desire and extensive protracted academic toil.

    As well, did also endure the entire literature of the opera, often locked out of the house to play whilst mother and father did of enjoy La Boheme, Madame Butterfly, or the entire Ring series of Das Rhinegold for the day, in the backyard hammering on my cello, with Bach suites my only defense against the Hammer Chorus of Il Trovatore. Such is now a sullen lot that do still hold of intense appreciation, yay prefer the symphonies and concertos but will not lose the voices so loosed still heard there when unquiet slumbers their intrusions are heard.

    Most respectfully,

  17. Interesting questions, Maestro.

    The contentious debate still continues unabated with the jury out on the creating of a Mozart or Beethoven, the two extremes of reward and punishment, and yet, would ask, which is the name most remembered reverently, even by those that hold of no literate formal education of the classics. And this one was the resonating victory over brutal oppressive musical pedagogy, resounding for all time eternal that of the success of the freedom that is the human spirit, consequently, by foundation classical musical will prevail. Born or made? It would then be requisite of perspective consideration of the inherent competency and/or influence of the environment. My early childhood story is on my profile summary, reference for your academic work, my humble submission for your consideration. By your leave, will post on your WordPress page.

    Most respectfully yours,

    Leonardo

  18. And yet, Maestro, having endured the rigors of innumerable lessons, years of diligent, practice and many teachers, still one is not to be a Beethoven. Recall of a time where he, having suffered the performance of a young pianist, advised the young man ” You will play for many years before you discover that you cannot play.” Bach was obsessive, as to the character that you allude supra, to the point of covertly extracting manuscripts from the family cabinet in the middle of the night with two sticks to roll the pages. Handel surreptitiously secreted a clavichord in the attic against father’s wishes to bear hold of no such “furniture”. As well documented, Beethoven was boxed in the ears, with Herr Beethoven demanding “What is the horrible screeching?! Just play the notes as written!” during viola lessons. Concurred, to an extent, truly, those masters of experience and tenure we know of as Rubinstein or Horowitz, Casals and DuPre, et al, certainly undeniably acquired proficiency through practiced diligence, and superior considerate teachers. What seems to not be reconciliable is that there are those that prevail in high art without any extensive external encouragement or support, indeed, against very adversarial conditions. Would this be a “born” creator, conceivably one that is hardwired at conception? For a personal consideration, Mozart seemed childlike in all of his works until the Requiem, where Beethoven was of maturation by the Eroica and most pronounced evident in the Razumovsky quartets. Still wondering in amazement…

  19. Hello, Maya – I recently attended the Eilat Chamber Music Festival in Israel in March. It was wonderful!! I took some lessons with Hillel Zori while I was there. I am a professional cellist, and I was interested in music from an early age. My mother gave me my first music lessons, and she would sing to me, and she taught me to read music. We had pianos in all of the classrooms in my school, and I would play on them every chance I got. My teachers would tell me to stop banging on the pianos, and I would say “I am playing it, not banging it”. If they could only see me today! My father also sang ballads to me, and he played guitar a little. I would rush home from school to put on my favorite records and listen to them.I did not start formal private lessons until I was about 14 years old. I had to beg my parents for lessons, as they were worried about the money. But they realized that I was serious, and so after a few years of arguing, they paid for lessons for me. I studied cello, piano, organ, and voice. I entered some contests as a high school student, and went on to study music in college, where I got a Master of Music degree. I have been able to travel a lot to foreign countries ( including Israel) and perform as a professional musician. And I am still playing and performing to this day. Music is what has kept me going in life, and I always feel guilty if I miss a day of practicing. I keep learning all the time, and am always working to improve my skills.I am wanting to make aliyah to Israel, and to make connections with Israeli musicians. I am hoping to make another trip there soon , and hope to play some auditions and to meet people. Do you have any advice? I am open to what suggestions you might have. I will also send you a message. Thanks!

  20. First of all, people do have an inborn musicality which is very unusual compared to animals. Birds do have an absolute pitch, but, they don’t have a relative pitch like human beings. Only human beings recognize a song in another tone scale as the same song. Only human beings as far as scientists knows at this very moment are able to synchronize to a rhythm. Chimpanzees or that famous parrot can’t. Also the fact that the sense of rhythm of babies is more developed compared with their parent shows us something.

    The question of Maya Liberman should be answered without any prejudgment. I think that 96% off al the people are born as a musician, but, their upbringing, education and other elements will stimulate or ruin their inborn musical capabilities. At this point every individually story starts with Julian Mincham’s story as a wonderful example.

  21. About animal musical instincts. My cat loves guitar but hates violin or viola. It could be my playing. Also, he has figured out that the music comes out of the amplifier, so when I play, he goes to the amplifier and rubs up against it and acts all kinds of weird.

  22. Pingback: Can’t You be Born a Musician??!! | My Musical Talent

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