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Musical Talent: Nature vs. Nurture

For the most part, I don't believe in a "musical gene." I will concede that there is such a thing as a musical genius. But these people, regardless of the field they crop up in, are more the exception rather than the rule.

A child growing up in a musical family will have a distinct head start in a musical career over children who come from a non-musical family. I think that examples of this that are seen in history are largely responsible for this notion of a "musical gene." "Of course Bach was a musical genius. He inherited all those good musical genes from his father." Bach's father and all of his uncles were professional musicians. He was encouraged from a very early age to explore music. Bach's musical accomplishments were loudly applauded by his entire family rather than discouraged and frowned upon. How could the young Bach fail to have, at the very least, an interest in music with this kind of environment?

What is sad for me to see is students that are denied a musical education due to their performance on some kind of "musical talent test." These tests determine a very finite set of skills that are purely the result of previous exposure to music, nothing more. The skills necessary to be a professional performer are very different from the skills of a music teacher or instrument maker. So long as there is interest and determination, skill can be developed.


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