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Prodigy, 12, Compared To Mozart
60 Minutes ^

Posted on 11/29/2004 8:27:37 AM PST by MaineRepublic

(CBS) There is a composer studying at New York’s renowned Juilliard School who some say is the greatest talent to come along in 200 years. He’s written five full-length symphonies, and he’s only 12 years old.

His name is Jay Greenberg, although he likes the nickname "Bluejay" because, he says, blue jays are small and make a lot of noise.

Greenberg says music just fills his head and he has to write it down to get it out. What’s going on in Bluejay’s head? Correspondent Scott Pelley spoke with him. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Jay wrote a piece, "The Storm," in just a few hours. It was commissioned by the New Haven Symphony in Connecticut.

When the last note sailed into the night, Jay navigated an unfamiliar stage, and then took a bow.

"We are talking about a prodigy of the level of the greatest prodigies in history when it comes to composition," says Sam Zyman, a composer. "I am talking about the likes of Mozart, and Mendelssohn, and Saint-Sans."

Zyman teaches music theory to Jay at the Juilliard School in New York City, where he’s been teaching for 18 years.

"This is an absolute fact. This is objective. This is not a subjective opinion," says Zyman. "Jay could be sitting here, and he could be composing right now. He could finish a piano sonata before our eyes in probably 25 minutes. And it would be a great piece."

How is it possible? Jay told Pelley he doesn’t know where the music comes from, but it comes fully written -- playing like an orchestra in his head.

"It's as if the unconscious mind is giving orders at the speed of light," says Jay. "You know, I mean, so I just hear it as if it were a smooth performance of a work that is already written, when it isn’t." -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- All the kids are downloading music these days. But Jay, with his composing program, is downloading it from his head.

The program records his notes and plays them back –- that's when the computer is up and running. Jay composes so rapidly that he often crashes his computer.

"It's as if he’s looking at a picture of the score, and he’s just taking it from the picture, basically," says Zyman.

Jay’s parents are as surprised as anyone. Neither is a professional musician. His father, Robert, is a linguist, and a scholar in Slavic language who lost his sight at 36 to retinitis pigmentosa. His mother, Orna, is an Israeli-born painter.

"I think, around 2, when he started writing, and actually drawing instruments, we knew that he was fascinated with it," says Orna. "He managed to draw a cello and ask for a cello, and wrote the world cello. And I was surprised, because neither of us has anything to so with string instruments. And I didn’t expect him to know what it [a cello] was."

But Jay knew he wanted a cello, so his mother brought him to a music store where he was shown a miniature cello. "And he just sat there. He ...started playing on it," recalls Orna. "And I was like, 'How do you know how to do this?'"

By 3, Jay was still drawing cellos, but he had turned them into notes on a scale. He was beginning to compose, and his parents watched the notes come faster and faster. He was writing any time, anywhere. By elementary school, his teachers had no idea how to handle a boy whose hero wasn’t Batman, but Beethoven.

"He hears music in his head all the time, and he’ll start composing and he doesn’t even realize it probably, that he’s doing it," says Robert. "But the teachers would get angry, and they would call us in for emergency meetings with seven people sitting there trying to figure out how they’re going accommodate our son."

Jay has been told his hearing is many times more sensitive than an average person’s. The sounds of the city need to be shut out manually. But Jay can’t turn off the music in his head. In fact, he told us he often hears more than one new composition at a time.

"Multiple channels is what it’s been termed," says Jay. "That my brain is able to control two or three different musics at the same time –- along with the channel of everyday life."

"This child told me, he said, 'I’m gonna be dead if I am not composing. I have to compose. This is all I want to do," says Orna. "And when a child that young tells you where their vision is, or where they’re going, you don’t have a choice."

By the age of 10, Jay was going to Juilliard, among the world’s top conservatories of music, on a full scholarship. At age 11, he was studying music theory with third year college students. Jay also takes high school courses at another school – courses his parents say he will finish when he’s 14.

Elizabeth Wolff is a concert pianist who works with Jay on his piano technique. Jay writes things he can't even play, and he says he wants to perfect his piano playing, even though he doesn't need the piano, or any instrument, to compose.

What happens when he first hears a tune?

"At first, I just listen to it, and then I start humming it. And then while walking, and I like walking a lot when I am inspired," says Jay. "Because I walk to the beat of the music. For example, if the beat is (piano), I start rocking. ...And I often start conducting as well."

Jay’s not a usual 12-year-old, and he knows it. Catching onto baseball isn’t as natural as playing piano. Even though Jay’s a genius, he’s still a kid.

What happens when Jay gets bored? "He gets restless, and then he starts improvising. Last week, he took the Beethoven sonata we’re working right now, and decided that everything would be kind of interesting upside down and backwards," says Wolff. "So he took the volume and literally did just that. He can do it for you right now. And I couldn’t even follow it. But he actually took the clefs and inverted them. The treble became bass, bass became treble, and did it backwards."

How does Jay rank among other child prodigies?

"To be a prodigy composer is far rarer," says Zyman. "You have to conquer these issues. How do you notate this rhythm? What’s the range of the oboe? Can this be played on the piano? How do you compose for the harp? There are hundreds of thousands of bits of information that you need to master to be able to write a piece of music."

Talented composers might write five or six symphonies in a lifetime. But Jay has written five at the age of 12.

When the music enters Jay's head, he has a lot of confidence about what he puts down on paper. Does he ever revise one of his compositions? "No, I don't really ever do that," says Jay. "It just usually comes right the first time."

Sam Adler was a child prodigy himself. Today, he’s an accomplished composer and professor of Jay’s at Juilliard. He agrees Jay can be great, but only if he is constantly questioning his gift.

"Let's take a great genius in the musical world, someone like Beethoven. When you look at a Beethoven score, it’s horrendous. He didn’t have an eraser. So, he had to cross it out," says Adler. "And it looks as if, you know, he was never satisfied. And that is something that comes with maturity. And I think that’s going to happen to Jay."

But is it fair to say the potential is there? "Absolutely," says Adler. "Without doubt."


TOPICS: Culture/Society; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: aolonline; prodigy
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Since I don't think many of you watch 60 Minutes, I thought I would share this amazing, non-political story with you. At least I find it amazing.
1 posted on 11/29/2004 8:27:38 AM PST by MaineRepublic
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To: MaineRepublic

Exactly right! Nice story, great kid, but I don't intend to ever again watch 60 Minutes. It's a matter of principle and CBS' is non-existent.


2 posted on 11/29/2004 8:31:40 AM PST by Big Digger (If you can keep your head when others are losing theirs, you must be a Republican)
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To: MaineRepublic
Just.
Wow.
3 posted on 11/29/2004 8:32:37 AM PST by Publius6961 (The most abundant things in the universe are hydrogen and stupidity.)
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To: MaineRepublic
It's cool that there a new music prodigies coming along.
My only complaint is that there are science and mathematics geniuses that are out there too.
4 posted on 11/29/2004 8:33:17 AM PST by ProudVet77 (Just say NO to blue states.)
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To: MaineRepublic

I caught a chunk of this after watching the Patriots win, as usual. That kid is amazing!I have a lot of admiration for anybody with musical talent, but this kids abilities are beyond simple talent!


5 posted on 11/29/2004 8:33:29 AM PST by Fierce Allegiance (Stay safe in the "sandbox" Greg!)
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To: MaineRepublic

I would love to compare his music with Mozart at the same age....why am I not a believer?


6 posted on 11/29/2004 8:33:42 AM PST by international american (Proudly posting without reading the article since 2003.)
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To: MaineRepublic

I caught it last night while surfing.

The kid is truly amazing, the kind of musical prodigy you see once in a generation. It will be interesting to watch him advance in his skills and career.

Most remarkable when he played his compositions in reverse (upside down and backwards). Even his concert piano teacher was watching the kid in absolute awe.


7 posted on 11/29/2004 8:33:57 AM PST by angkor
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To: MaineRepublic

Its nice to see good news once in a while.


8 posted on 11/29/2004 8:34:54 AM PST by Personal Responsibility (Up is down, Black is white but I do *NOT* love Big Brother)
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To: Big Digger

Cute story, but frankly, his music is CRAP. Typical post-modernist classical noise. Sure, "he's only 12," but the point of the story is that he's some genius. Not so. Don't believe me? Here's a 10-minute radio show with his "9/11 tribute" composition, being performed by the Pittsburgh Symphony.

http://www.fromthetop.org/Files/081503-6.ram


9 posted on 11/29/2004 8:36:02 AM PST by seraphMTH
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To: MaineRepublic

Wow. He certainly has a God-given gift.


10 posted on 11/29/2004 8:36:16 AM PST by Marysecretary (Thank you, Lord, for FOUR MORE YEARS!!!)
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To: MaineRepublic
Did they play some of his compositions?

What did they sound like?

11 posted on 11/29/2004 8:36:26 AM PST by AnAmericanMother (. . . Ministrix of ye Chace (recess appointment), TTGC Ladies' Auxiliary . . .)
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To: MaineRepublic

Wonderful and fascinating story, thank you for posting.


12 posted on 11/29/2004 8:36:28 AM PST by debboo (Stop socialism, vote conservative)
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To: MaineRepublic
I'd have to actually hear his compositions to evaluate the claim that he is comparable to Mozart.

There's a difference between being the next Mozart and the next Saint-Saens.

An amazing story, nonetheless.

13 posted on 11/29/2004 8:37:29 AM PST by wideawake (God bless our brave soldiers and their Commander in Chief)
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To: MaineRepublic
"He hears music in his head all the time, and he’ll start composing and he doesn’t even realize it probably, that he’s doing it," says Robert. "But the teachers would get angry, and they would call us in for emergency meetings with seven people sitting there trying to figure out how they’re going accommodate our son."

As they always do when a student dares to excel.

14 posted on 11/29/2004 8:37:47 AM PST by Mr. Jeeves
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To: seraphMTH

"Cute story, but frankly, his music is CRAP."

Yeah?

So what have you composed lately?

How does it compare and how many people have ever described you as a prodigy?

;o)


15 posted on 11/29/2004 8:38:29 AM PST by BritishBulldog (New Labour - Putting the "National" back into "Socialist")
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To: international american

"why am I not a believer?"

I am a musician with a BA in music. You should believe...I saw the 60 minutes spot, and this boy is amazingly gifted. Perhaps he will give us more than just his music - musicologists have long pondered what made Mozart tick!


16 posted on 11/29/2004 8:39:02 AM PST by Ike
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To: MaineRepublic

Very cool story bump.

In a world filled with so much crap and pain, this is refreshing and inspiring.


17 posted on 11/29/2004 8:39:02 AM PST by finnman69 (cum puella incedit minore medio corpore sub quo manifestus globus, inflammare animos)
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To: AnAmericanMother

I only heard the end of one, and it sounded pretty complicated. The thing is, he composes the score for every instrument in a full orchestra. When he was only 10!


18 posted on 11/29/2004 8:39:55 AM PST by MaineRepublic (Talk sense to a fool and he calls you foolish. -- Euripides)
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To: lupie

ping :)


19 posted on 11/29/2004 8:39:56 AM PST by bassoonmoo
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To: MaineRepublic

Fascinating story. Thanks for posting it, MR.


20 posted on 11/29/2004 8:40:06 AM PST by The G Man (Laura Ingraham: "Where the camera at?")
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To: MaineRepublic

I didnt think the kid was so impressive on the show. Mozart was actually good. His music is lame. Also he never edits his pieces, and another "genius: showed how relentlessly Beethoven marked up his sheets.


21 posted on 11/29/2004 8:41:31 AM PST by montag813
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To: ProudVet77

I enjoyed the piece and have no doubt the kid is a genius but
I ain't buying the part about the kid at 2 years old drawing an
image of a cello complete with bow and he had never seen one
or even had any idea what a cello was.


22 posted on 11/29/2004 8:41:34 AM PST by dwilli
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To: ohioWfan

PING!


23 posted on 11/29/2004 8:42:39 AM PST by Maigrey (Your job is to arrest the killers but if you kill them, then so be it. - Minister Allawi)
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To: seraphMTH

Hmmmm... real audio. Does anybody have a non "Real Audio" format file? I would like to hear it.


24 posted on 11/29/2004 8:42:49 AM PST by Bon mots
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To: seraphMTH
frankly, his music is CRAP.

I don't think it's crap, but it does lack emotive breadth from what little I've heard.

But he's 12 years old, and you couldn't expect much more. Give him 5 years.

25 posted on 11/29/2004 8:43:13 AM PST by angkor
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To: montag813

Mozart's famous works were composed well after he was 12 years old. Mozart was a prodigy too, but the works we hear today were not the ones he composed prior to his teen years.


26 posted on 11/29/2004 8:44:07 AM PST by MaineRepublic (Talk sense to a fool and he calls you foolish. -- Euripides)
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To: MaineRepublic
Stuff that sounds "pretty complicated" always reminds me of somebody's doctoral dissertation in music . . . not something that you walk away humming.

Mozart and Bach have a heavenly simplicity about them even at their most complex.

I'll reserve judgment on the merit of the music til we hear some of it -- that said, it's delightful to hear of a kid being so inspired and working so hard, and his parents supporting him. Hope things work out for him and he has a long and happy life in music.

27 posted on 11/29/2004 8:44:22 AM PST by AnAmericanMother (. . . Ministrix of ye Chace (recess appointment), TTGC Ladies' Auxiliary . . .)
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To: MaineRepublic

God bless Jay.


28 posted on 11/29/2004 8:45:03 AM PST by pray4liberty
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To: seraphMTH

I listened and I believe you are right. There is no depth. Of course it could be that he is channelling music from a simpler time.


29 posted on 11/29/2004 8:46:01 AM PST by debboo (Stop socialism, vote conservative)
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To: wideawake
There's a difference between being the next Mozart and the next Saint-Saens.

Very true! But it was nice Sunday to sing the Saint-Saens "Ave Verum" instead of Mozart's setting . . . just for a change. (Watch the alto section struggle with a chromatic scale!)

30 posted on 11/29/2004 8:46:30 AM PST by AnAmericanMother (. . . Ministrix of ye Chace (recess appointment), TTGC Ladies' Auxiliary . . .)
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To: seraphMTH
Cute story, but frankly, his music is CRAP

Yeah, you're right. I listened, what a waste of talent.

The kid should be writing rap songs.

31 posted on 11/29/2004 8:47:54 AM PST by Popman
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To: MaineRepublic
This kid understands music. There is a lot to be said for that. Of course, he is above average intelligence; many studies have found children with a musical background do better scholastically.

Brian Wilson was another prodigy; although at a different time and different age. He listened to Phil Spector productions until he could write the score and include every instrument that Spector used in his "Wall of Sound" concept.

Apparently Jay has a similar understanding of the complexities of music; reverse engineering a sound in his head (that has never been played before, because he hasn't composed it yet). His keen hearing shaped his desires at a young age. I would imagine that his folks played some classical music while he was young, or even in the womb.

Jay is a prodigy because of this exceptional capability at such a young age. Brian Wilson is a similar prodigy because he was technically deaf in one ear.

Let's hope that Jay's folks let him continue with his first true love, without keeping him in a pressure cooker to use it to support others. This is the death of creativity, when it becomes the creator's responsibility for the existence of those that cling to the creator's talent.

This kind of talent, especially in music, historically has turned out to be a real curse.

By the same token, most truly talented figures in history faced emotional demons due to a society that was so out of step to their way of thinking.
32 posted on 11/29/2004 8:48:30 AM PST by Dalite (If PRO is the opposite of CON, What is the opposite of PROgress? Go Figure....)
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To: MaineRepublic
HE IS THE FIRESTARTER!


33 posted on 11/29/2004 8:49:44 AM PST by jtminton (<><)
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To: international american

The question becomes: is he limited to music in the older classical styles, or will he be able to compose in a modern style.

And if he composes in a modern style, will anyone want to listen?

Is it even possible to write modern music that is listenable, without being accused of simply copying the style of an old master?


34 posted on 11/29/2004 8:49:47 AM PST by js1138 (D*mn, I Missed!)
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To: MaineRepublic
The thing is, he composes the score for every instrument in a full orchestra. When he was only 10!

That's nothing. I once told a dirty joke in front of a classroom of kids when I was only 9! :)

35 posted on 11/29/2004 8:49:50 AM PST by theDentist (Proud Member of FreeRepublic 's "Pyjama-Hadeen")
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To: angkor
I don't think it's crap, but it does lack emotive breadth from what little I've heard.

It's absolute crap. We don't need to wait 5 years. Mozart wrote better stuff than this at age 4. this kid has a brain anomoly which makes him able to compose, transpose and deal with music radically in his own head. that's nice, but too bad he has no actual talent to go along with this. Brain Wilson was similarly gifted, but at least he had talent.

36 posted on 11/29/2004 8:50:00 AM PST by montag813
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To: Popman

LOL!!

Maybe he will get good enough to be in a Vibe Awards brawl.


37 posted on 11/29/2004 8:50:06 AM PST by MaineRepublic (Talk sense to a fool and he calls you foolish. -- Euripides)
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To: Big Digger

CBS is Freddo to me.


38 posted on 11/29/2004 8:50:09 AM PST by Holicheese (MMMMMM Turkey!)
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To: MaineRepublic

Did you see the segment where he took the Beethoven sonata he's been studying with his piano teacher (a concert pianist) and turned it upside down & played it? He mentally transposed the clefs, and played the music upside down & backwards! Didn't sound bad, either! The teacher was properly amazed.


39 posted on 11/29/2004 8:50:32 AM PST by Ike
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To: seraphMTH

I cannot get any sound from this link.


40 posted on 11/29/2004 8:51:33 AM PST by CasearianDaoist
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To: MaineRepublic

bump


41 posted on 11/29/2004 8:51:47 AM PST by Centurion2000 (Truth, Justice and the Texan Way)
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To: seraphMTH
Cute story, but frankly, his music is CRAP. Typical post-modernist classical noise.

It's more polite to say that you don't respond to his music. I, on the other hand, was deeply impressed, both by the lovely and elegant fugue of his they played on the piano (written when he was eight), and the large symphonic piece they performed.

I didn't appreciate much classical music (especially modern) until I had a good music theory course in college. That was a revelation to me. Now I don't just listen to the Beatles or metalcore, or just Beethoven or Bach. I also listen to Ravel, Stravinsky, Scriabin, Varese, John Adams and Alan Hovhaness.

I am eager to hear what he composes when he grows up. They said he is not the kind of prodigy who appears once a generation. He's the kind of prodigy who hasn't appeared in 200 years.

42 posted on 11/29/2004 8:52:13 AM PST by megatherium
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To: MaineRepublic

Never watch that damned show, either..........but I DID watch this piece. The kid is simply amazing; just amazing. No other word for it.


43 posted on 11/29/2004 8:52:21 AM PST by RightOnline
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To: international american
Humor break...one of the funniest lines about music was uttered years ago by Tom Lehrer at a concert in NYC....( either you know who he is, or you don't)..."It is a sobering thought for me to realize that when Mozart was my age, he had already been dead for 20 years.."
44 posted on 11/29/2004 8:52:55 AM PST by ken5050
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To: BritishBulldog
"Cute story, but frankly, his music is CRAP." Yeah? So what have you composed lately? How does it compare and how many people have ever described you as a prodigy? ;o) actually, composition is not my thing, but violin performance is. Many people described me as a prodigy when I performed the Bruch concerto with the Jacksonville Symphony at the age of 11. Many people also described similar praises when I won the State of Florida advanced violin competition at the age of 13 (beating out everyone up to the age of 18). IMO, the last great classical composer was Samuel Barber.
45 posted on 11/29/2004 8:54:07 AM PST by seraphMTH
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To: MaineRepublic

Being a prodigy is helpful, but it does not mean that his compositions will be good. While Mozart was a prodigy, most great composers were not so gifted. They used hard work, re-writes, alcohol, prayer, and research to give the the world their beautiful gifts. Think Tchaikovsky, Brahms, Bach, Handel, Scubert, etc. etc.


46 posted on 11/29/2004 8:55:33 AM PST by pissant
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To: seraphMTH

Oh, OK, we understand now. Prodigy jealousy. Can't have the next young phenom stealing the old prodigy's spotlight can we?

Really, you would think a prodigy would be above this.


47 posted on 11/29/2004 8:55:48 AM PST by MaineRepublic (Talk sense to a fool and he calls you foolish. -- Euripides)
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To: seraphMTH

""Cute story, but frankly, his music is CRAP." Yeah? So what have you composed lately? How does it compare and how many people have ever described you as a prodigy? ;o) actually, composition is not my thing, but violin performance is. Many people described me as a prodigy when I performed the Bruch concerto with the Jacksonville Symphony at the age of 11. Many people also described similar praises when I won the State of Florida advanced violin competition at the age of 13 (beating out everyone up to the age of 18). IMO, the last great classical composer was Samuel Barber."


So....what you done since?


48 posted on 11/29/2004 8:56:59 AM PST by BritishBulldog (New Labour - Putting the "National" back into "Socialist")
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To: MaineRepublic

Wow, thanks for posting this!


49 posted on 11/29/2004 8:57:20 AM PST by The_Media_never_lie
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To: BritishBulldog
So what have you composed lately? etc..

Non Sequitur. One does not, for example, have to be an expert bagpiper in order to discern whether the pipes are being played well or badly ...

50 posted on 11/29/2004 8:57:52 AM PST by ArrogantBustard
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