Nature or Nurture?
Mozart, the creative and ostensible musical prodigy, composed his first piece at the age of 5, then went on to compose over 600 musical works that would become the foundation of classical music throughout the world. His life is generally regarded as the exemplification of the visionary, right-brained prodigy and genius.
What no one pays proper attention to however, is the fact that Mozart’s father was a successful composer who dedicated himself to teaching Mozart to compose, beginning at the age of 3.
The Overlooked Reality: Nurture as the “Prodigy Effect”
When I say “Prodigy Effect”, I’m referring to the misnomer of child prodigies and natural talent in general. The piece that Mozart “composed” was likely written if not completely by his father, at least in part. This is not intended to discredit the musical art written by the man. Mozart accomplished musical feats that few would even dream of, but I would like to bring the assumption that he was a genetically predisposed genius under question. Could his success have come about partially due to his single-minded focus and dedication of a single path of study for decades upon decades of his life? Could another primary factor of his ability be attributed to his early training from an already masterful composer?
In a separate study (noted in Geoff Colvin’s “Talent is Overrated) comparing music students enrolled in elite music schools with those in regular public schools, it was found that the average number of practice hours needed to reach the same level of skill was the same for all students. Sure, the students in the elite group were often practicing 2 hours a day vs. only 15 minutes a day for the other kids. But no matter how you clocked those hours, quickly or slowly, nobody got there without putting in the same amount of hours.