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The Future is Bright

October 16, 2010

There’s a new video just posted of Jonathan, a little boy with a big love for classical music.  Ok, that’s an understatement.  This kid is fanatically enthusiastic about conducting classical music. 

A comment by his parents on their YouTube channel says that “Jonathan was about 8 months old when it became evident he had a passion for classical music. He would literally move his body to the rhythm of the music. At age one, he was hearing the music in his head everywhere. Yes, the playground was no exception. Even when he played in the dirt he was conducting using a stick or piece of grass.  You would have thought our child was crazy waving his arms in the air singing the music he heard in his head... At the age of three and a half, Jonathan was able to read musical notes. He has also learned to vocalize the solfège syllables (do, re, mi, etc).

They expand on this with a further comment: “Jonathan still insists on watching classical DVD’s and listening to CD’s all day long.  It has become virtually impossible to keep up with a child who not only wants to know the name of a piece, but also wants to know which symphony is playing, who is conducting and which movement is playing.  Not only does he want to watch the symphony, but the biography’s [sic] relating to the conductors as well.  This is all very difficult for us to grasp.”

So, what were you doing at three and a half??  I think I was just figuring out that slugs don’t make good pets… or something equally underachieving.

What makes Jonathan so engaging to watch is that he isn’t just flapping his arms like you would imagine a 3 or 4 yr. old would do… you can see his connection with the music in all the expression of his unselfconscious joy.  And he’s connecting us with the music in the process, innocently persuading us to experience the ride with him.  That’s an enviable talent.  Which is why Jonathan’s potential (if he chooses to go this route) is so remarkable.  He’s got a massive headstart, and some explosive excitement to go with it.

Not to make Jonathan the poster boy for the future of classical music, but he’s an encouraging sight in the middle of all the voices that are spouting doom and gloom among the waning classical audiences.  He’s a reminder that if we nurture it, it will be ok, even if the future looks different from what it has in the past.

As we’re already well aware, despite living in this information and media age, the general public simply doesn’t have the breadth of knowledge about classical music that they did even a couple of generations ago.  However, all you have to do is watch the reaction to (for example) Gustavo Dudamel‘s conducting to get an idea that it’s not a lost battle yet.  Dudamel’s success shows that the conductor’s role has become much broader than simply marking the beat or shaping the interpretation of a work.  On the podium, he or she becomes a translator, a visual clue for what’s going on musically.  For people not versed in the nuances of musical language, that role provides the guidelines for how they interpret what they hear and feel.  That’s partly why Leonard Bernstein had such a following.  Same with Herbert von Karajan.  They were brilliant communicators, as are many others standing on the podium today.

Back to Jonathan.  We’ll see what he’s up to in 20 years, but I have a hunch that he might be one to watch…
You can click here to get the new video.  However, I thought I would leave you with the very first Jonathan video I saw – still my fav – of him at 3 years old conducting to the 4th movement of Beethoven’s 5th Symphony.  Wait for 3:25 –  “It’s my favorite part!”

The future is bright indeed.

One Comment leave one →
  1. October 21, 2010 11:06 am

    I think I had quite possibly learned to count to the age I was…goodness! I’m in my 20’s and a 3 year old child is intimidating. I hope I don’t have a child prodigy, I’d be so jealous.

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