A few years ago, this video became an internet sensation. Even if you’re not a music lover, you should take a look. At first glance, it seems like a cute preschooler waving a stick in the air. Babies are born loving music and dancing, and this doesn’t seem unusual…until you watch a bit more closely. What’s amazing is that this little guy anticipates (yes, I realize he probably had listened to the recording a million times) the upcoming music and cues the appropriate instrument section.
Bored with the classical music talk? Try this. Click to 1:49 (this is the time marker) where he rubs his nose (perhaps even picks it), without missing a note.
Still not charmed? Click to 4:07 at the very end. He’s so excited by the music that the baton jumps out of his hand. Instead of stopping, picking it up, or continuing without it—he looks at the camera in disbelief, shrieks with laughter, and rolls onto the floor consumed with giggles.
Even the most hardcore (ooh, Ana said hardcore!) anti-classical music and anti-baby person has to find that endearing. Purely from a layperson’s standpoint (rather than a musician’s perspective), it’s touching and endearing to watch someone so absolutely, positively alive with joy. It’s as if every note speaks directly to him, and it lights his body into ecstasy.
From a musician’s standpoint, the video is phenomenal. I’m not a fan of child prodigies (although I am a fan of children and talent), mostly because it often results in weird behavior of adults around them. In my classical music romance Simple Gifts, Leila, as a child prodigy, reflects on the discomfort of possessing a talent disproportionate to her age.
She had made the rounds of local community orchestras as a pre-teen, back when she needed the experience. The level of professionalism had always been very low, but she still remembered the way adults had cried whenever she played. It was as if their lack of talent made them almost worship a child who possessed it. It had always made her uncomfortable, frankly. She almost preferred hearing Krugey howl at her and shouting right back at him that she wasn’t going to be his puppet. Leila smiled, thinking of the times he had threatened to kick her out and never let her come back. Each time, she had practiced harder than ever and forced him to admit at the next lesson that perhaps she wasn’t so horrible after all.
One of the neatest responses I’ve heard to Simple Gifts was, “I get to learn about music!” Of course, it’s a love story between Carene and Leila. Of course, there’s spanking. But in Simple Gifts, the music is almost a third main character.
Little Jonathan Okensiuk, now seven years old, has made the rounds conducting professional and amateur string players. For a wonderful discussion from a professional conductor’s viewpoint, read this article by associate conductor Robert Franz, who met Jonathan recently when he (Jonathan) won a contest to conduct the Houston Symphony.
He will develop and mature into a world class musician, if that is the path he choses. But today, right now, Jonathan has a gift that I have never seen up close and it is a gift I will not soon forget. Jonathan receives music like most of receive air or water. His gift is natural, and pure.
In a previous interview, Jonathan said his wish for his seventh birthday was to receive an orchestra. Dreams big, doesn’t he? 🙂
As Jonathan climbs higher and impresses more musicians with his gift for conducting, I think of Leila. I think of the people in my life for whom music is their entire life. I smile, and I sigh. It’s a tough life to be devoted to a jealous god, but the rewards are incredible.
The problem is, what if you have to choose between your dream job playing first violin for the best symphony orchestra around…and the woman you love?
While you’re waiting for Love’s Reprise, the F/F anthology that will feature the short story sequel, enjoy Simple Gifts. It’s the small things that make life worth living. Such as a three year old falling onto the floor because a recording of a Beethoven symphony makes him happy.
What makes you happy? What simple gift would make you roll with delight in being alive?